Two freshly dried shirts hanging in front of a Whirlpool® washing machine

What is the delicate wash cycle?

The delicate wash cycle uses high levels of cold water and a low spin speed for carefully tending to undergarments and delicate fabrics that need to be handled with care, like lace, lingerie or silk.

Using delicate wash and other laundry cycles on your washing machine properly is important to getting the best clean for your clothes. Learn how the delicate cycle on a washing machine works and how to use it to give your family’s clothes the best clean possible.

A woman folding laundry cleaned with a front load washer and dryer set A woman folding laundry cleaned with a front load washer and dryer set

The difference between delicate and normal wash

The major difference between delicate and normal wash cycles is agitation or tumbling speed. Compared to normal wash cycles which use higher agitation or tumbling speeds for casual items, delicate wash cleans items using low agitation or tumbling speeds, along with cold water, for gentle cleaning and reduced wrinkling.

Before doing laundry, it’s important to know which washing machine settings to select for your clothes. Identify any garments marked with “Machine Washable Silks” or “Gentle” on their care labels before selecting a wash cycle. It’s recommended to use the delicate wash cycle on your appliance when cleaning these and other items such as undergarments and delicate fabrics like lace. Use the normal wash cycle when cleaning moderately soiled cottons, linens and other mixed fabrics.

Delicate wash cycle

Normal wash cycle

Water temperature* 65–75 ℉ 120–140 ℉
Agitation/tumbling speed Low agitation/tumbling speeds are gentle on fabrics High agitation/tumbling speeds give a deeper clean to thicker items or clothes that are more heavily soiled
Clothing type Delicate or fragile clothing items like undergarments, lace or silk Cottons, linens and other mixed fabrics with moderate soiling

*Exact water temperatures may vary by model and your water inlet temperatures.

Various cycle options on a Whirlpool® washing machine Various cycle options on a Whirlpool® washing machine

Is delicate wash the same as the gentle cycle?

On some washing machine models, the delicate cycle may be marked as "Gentle," but the setting functions the same: both the delicate cycle and gentle wash cycles are characterized by colder water temperatures and low agitation or tumbling speeds.

Swash® laundry detergent poured into the dispenser drawer of a Whirlpool® washing machine Swash® laundry detergent poured into the dispenser drawer of a Whirlpool® washing machine

What clothes are considered delicates?

When doing laundry, there are several fabrics that should be considered delicate due to their sensitivity to the washing action of the washing machine. Fabrics that should generally be washed as delicate include lightly soiled sheer fabrics, lingerie, sweaters, blouses, pants or anything recommending a “gentle” cycle on the tag. To give knitted hats and scarves or fragile bedding pieces a gentler clean, run these items through the gentle or delicate cycle on your washer.

Delicate clothing items can also be sensitive to certains types of detergents, which is why it’s important to find a product that’s gentle on clothes but also keeps them looking and smelling great. With a cleaning solution like Swash® laundry detergent,1 you can ensure the right amount of detergent for each load through a pre-measured pour that not only cleans your clothes, but also limits detergent residue and other build-up created by product overdosing.

A gray front load Whirlpool® washer and dryer set in a modern laundry room A gray front load Whirlpool® washer and dryer set in a modern laundry room

How long is a delicate wash cycle?

When cleaning clothes using the delicate wash cycle, you can expect your washing machine to take between 45 minutes to an hour and twenty minutes to clean items such as blouses, jeans, lingerie, pants, sheer fabrics, sweaters or anything with a “gentle” cycle recommendation on the tag. 

Learn how long each laundry cycle on a washer takes to make managing laundry days for your family easier.

Shop Whirlpool® washers

Knowing exactly how much detergent you need based on the load size, soil level and wash cycle of your laundry is important to making sure your clothes get the best clean possible. With features such as the Load & Go™ Dispenser or the Detergent Dosing Aid Option on select washer models by Whirlpool brand, you can meet your family’s laundry needs with greater control. Browse the full collection of Whirlpool® washers to find the model that’s right for your home.

Learn more about Whirlpool® washing machines

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1. Swash® brand products and the recommending brands’ products are all owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.