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How Do Washing Machines Work?

A collage of washing machine operation.

You are probably wondering how a washing machine works? The operation of a washing machine is simple. There are several models of washing machine, but overall, the operation of a washing machine remains the same.

The Differences

First of all, we must differentiate between two types of washing machine:

  • “top” washing machines: opening the machine from the top with a lower washing capacity.
  • “porthole” washing machines: opening from the front, allowing a larger quantity of laundry.

A washing machine allows you to wash clothes with hot water and detergent by stirring it.

Related: Why Does My Washing Machine Smell 

The Elements

A closed shot of parts of washing machine.

You will find several elements in a washing machine:

  • A drum: it is a metal cylinder in which we put the laundry to be washed.
  • The product tray: this is the tray in which you put the detergent or other washing products (stain remover, softener, etc.)
  • A motor: the motor allows the rotation of the drum and, therefore, the mixing of the laundry.
  • A pump: the pump allows you to empty the water once the wash is finished.

The Process

As a large household appliance essential in modern homes, the washing machine, however, is generally unknown to its users. Between filling, stirring, and spinning, let’s explain everything!

 1. Loading

A hand putting clothes on washing machine.

This first step, which precedes the start of the machine, consists of placing the linen to be washed in the drum before starting the appropriate washing cycle. Here, it is essential to respect the weight conditions imposed by the device, but also the maximum load not to be exceeded depending on the machine.

For example, the “fast” wash mainly provides only a light load, often equal to half the weight supported by the machine during a “normal” cycle.

2. The beginning of the cycle: locking

After having added the appropriate quantities of detergent and softener in the dedicated compartments and closed the door, selecting and confirming the type of wash leads to the start of the wash cycle. The washing machine door then locks automatically and remains locked throughout the entire procedure as a safety measure.

3. Filling

Pouring water on washing machine.

Through the solenoid valve, in charge of opening or closing the passage of water, the washing machine fills gradually. The water also carries the laundry toward the drum. Finally, a pressure switch or a flow meter control and commands the stopping of the filling when the necessary water level is reached.

4. The washing cycle: heating the water and stirring the laundry

It is at this stage that the washing cycle really begins:

  • The machine motor drives the rotation of the drum via a belt,
  • The laundry is optimally stirred through rotations that alternate in both directions,
  • The three drum blades distribute the laundry,
  • The immersion heater heats the water to the programmed temperature while a thermostat controls this value.

5. Emptying

Woman's hand emptying the washing machine.

Once the linen has been washed, emptying consists of the evacuation of wastewater via the drain filter, the drain pump, and the drainpipe. The rotation of the drum will make it possible to stir and wash the laundry. It is this mechanism, with the help of the detergent, which will wash your laundry.

The hotter the water, the more effective the washing will be. But be careful to choose the right washing temperature so as not to over-consume and damage your clothes.

6. Rinse

To rid the laundry of detergent residues, the washing machine will again fill with water, stir the laundry and drain. The number of rinses varies according to the program.

Draining is when the wastewater is evacuated from the machine via the drain pump and then the drain pipes. The washing machine will then fill with clean water to rinse the clothes.

7. Spinning

A spinning washing machine.

Once the rinse is done, the drum will turn very quickly to spin the laundry. The faster the drum rotates, the better the laundry will be spun. This is called spin speed. You often recognize this step because the drum is spinning very fast and making a lot of noise.

During the spinning phase, the washing machine uses centrifugal force to press the laundry against the walls of the drum and rid it of the water accumulated during the wash. The higher the speed, variable between 400 and 1,800 rpm, the more the laundry is spun.

8. The end of the cycle: unlocking

Once the water has been drained, and the laundry has been spun, the machine will stop, and you can retrieve your laundry. When you have taken the laundry out of the washing machine, put it to dry immediately to avoid bad odors. After performing a final drain, the door of the washing machine unlocks.

Making a Purchase

When you buy a washing machine, be sure to look at the different washing cycles that it offers you. Do not hesitate to ask a salesperson for advice, because each machine can have a different use. It depends on whether you live alone or have a family, or if you mainly wash clothes or sheets.

To save money, choose a machine with low energy consumption. And so that your washing machine can wash your clothes efficiently and last a long time. Remember to maintain it regularly.


In summary, the washing machine connects the steps and uses many components to ideally wash your laundry and return it to you as clean and as dry as possible. In the event of a breakdown or malfunction, do not hesitate to call the experts!