hand wash and delicate cycle

Is Hand Wash Cycle the Same as a Delicate Cycle?

Everyone has their favourite clothing that they like to wear. Unfortunately, clothes wear out over time which can be worsened by a washing machine. There are also fabrics that aren’t suitable for regular machine cycles.

Thankfully the best washing machines offer more delicate cycles which can simulate hand washing, meaning you don’t need to manually wash them yourself. 

The confusion can come with trying to work out exactly what each washing cycle does and which one is the best for you. 

On your machine, you might have both a hand wash and delicate cycle, just one, or neither! Here we’ll look at what their differences are and what cycle is best for your clothes. Let’s take a look. 


Are Hand Wash and Delicate Cycles the Same?

It can depend on your brand of washing machine but in general the answer is no; a hand wash cycle is not the same thing as a delicate cycle. 

The delicate cycle is used for delicate fabrics which can be easily damaged, whereas the hand wash cycle is for fabrics which are prone to shrinking. 

Both need similarly gentle settings but at slightly different parameters.

  • Hand wash – A hand wash cycle has a low temperature, usually 30 degrees Celsius. It is for clothes that can be spun fairly quickly but not at top speeds, usually around 800rpm is a good figure.
  • Delicate – On a delicate cycle, the temperature can be a little higher, at around 40 degrees Celsius. While the temperature is higher, the spin rate will be at its lowest level, usually around 400rpm.

With delicate fabrics, you don’t want the motion to damage them but they still need to be spun. With hand wash fabrics, they are less likely to rip or snag but high temperatures will shrink them.


Are They Interchangeable?

hand wash delicate cycle

If your washing machine has both hand wash and delicate cycles, then refer to your clothing’s care labels and choose the right cycle. 

If your washing machine only has one of these cycles, then you may be wondering if they can both serve the same purpose.

It’s hard to give a straight answer. The reason is due to the big differences between washing machine models. 

In most cases, you’ll be fine putting hand wash clothes on a delicate cycle and vice versa. 

It’s always good to check the manual to see the temperature and spin settings for these cycles before you start. Often modern machines will have a digital interface, making it easy to see these parameters without needing to check the manual.

If you want to check the manual but can’t find it, then check online. Type your make and model into a search engine (e.g. “Zanussi washing machine zfv 1006 manual”) and it’s more than likely you’ll be able to easily download a manual for it. 


What Does the Hand Wash Label Actually Mean?

hand wash cycle

It seems straightforward, just wash your clothes with your hands, right? But why do some clothes have to be hand washed in the first place? 

The hand wash label usually indicates that the item is made out of a material that can be easily damaged by temperature, agitation, or chemicals.

These often include items like lingerie, lace, silk, wool, and others. Your washing machine can be very good at getting the nastiest of stains out of your clothes, but may not leave the fabric unscathed.

While this is not much of a problem for synthetic or cotton fabrics, it can damage your favourite delicate items.  Fortunately, washing machines these days have the option to take a gentler approach that is suitable for delicate fabrics.


Can You Use the Delicate Wash Cycle on “Hand Wash Only” Clothes?

using Delicate Wash Cycle on Hand Wash Only Clothes

So, is there any benefit in washing your delicate clothes by hand as opposed to just throwing them into a delicate wash cycle? 

At the end of the day, the purpose of the hand wash label is to inform you that the fabric can easily stretch or change shape if subjected to a lot of agitation that is often present in a washing machine.

Using the delicate wash cycle is a good idea if you don’t have time to manually wash your delicate fabrics, but washing by hand is always the best option since it will be the gentlest on your clothing.

The right course of action can depend on several factors, including how much the clothes mean to you. If you want to wash a wool jumper that your grandma lovingly knitted for you then washing by hand makes more sense.

If you want to wash that wool jumper that you got from a high street shop, then you may be more inclined to throw it in the machine. 

Gentle washing machine cycles are hugely convenient but hand washing some personal items may still be the best idea. 



hand washing clothes

You should always be careful before mindlessly throwing clothing labelled with “hand wash only” into the washing machine and putting it on a wash cycle. 

If you want to be safe, it is always the best idea to wash your clothes by hand. If you don’t mind the risk of reducing your delicate fabric’s longevity then go ahead and save yourself some time.

The reality is that handwashing any fabric would prolong its life but is a huge inconvenience. With their more gentle cycles, washing machines have become brilliant at closely replicating hand washing and therefore are a good option for all fabrics.

It’s always best to take a little time to check the label and then decide whether a ‘delicate’ or ‘hand wash’ setting would be better for your fabrics. 

There are subtle differences between the two cycles, and choosing the right one will give you the best results.