Front Loader Wash Routine

Front loader washing machines use less water, have longer cycles than traditional top loaders, and most heat their own water.

Wash Routine overview

  • Rinse soiling
  • Pre Wash Cycle (30 – 60 minutes)
  • Main Wash Cycle (2.5 – 3.5 hours)
  • Dry


Rinse soiling, night nappies and dry pail.

Prewash cycle with detergent, within 1-2 days in 40-60°C water

Choose a short wash cycle (not just rinse and spin), 40-60°C, ideally around 30 to 60 minutes in length (eg. Quick Wash).

If you are using night nappies either run a daily 60°C prewash cycle that lasts at least an hour, or hand wash night nappy in hot water with a small amount of laundry detergent, spin in the washing machine and dry pail until prewash.

Our Washing Machine index lists pre and main wash cycles to use for 58 different washing machines.

Run a prewash cycle within 48 hours. Running a daily prewash cycle with detergent reduces the likelihood of ammonia development and reduces smells in the laundry significantly.

Loading does not matter for the prewash cycle, only for the main wash cycle.

Use the quantity of detergent and water temperature listed in the Detergent Index (usually half the amount listed on the packaging for heavily soiled items), use the highest spin speed and automatic rinse setting.

Nappies do not need to dry between prewash and main wash. Dry pail the prewashed nappies in your dry pail. If mould is or becomes an issue, hang over the side of the dry pail to dry out, then pail.

The benefits of a separate prewash cycle

A separate prewash cycle removes excess soiling from nappies, so that the main wash is done in clean water which produces best results.

Most ‘prewash’ functions on the washing machine don’t do a rinse and spin following the agitation part of the cycle, or remove the dirty water before the main wash.  If the machine has a separate detergent compartment for prewash, agitates, removes the prewash water, rinses and spins, then try this function in addition to the main wash cycle, instead of a separate prewash cycle. If smells, stains or other issues occur, revert to a separate prewash cycle.

See Wash Routine Basics for more information.

Main wash cycle with detergent, within 2-3 days in 40-60°C water

Choose a long cycle, between 2.5-3.5hrs (eg. Cottons or Heavy Duty).

Use the quantity of detergent and water temperature listed in the Detergent Index, and choose spin speed and automatic rinse settings.

See Hot vs Cold water for more info on why hot water works better.


On the line, clothes airer, clothes dryer or a combination. If drying shells or All In One nappies allow them to cool in the dryer before stretching the elastics.

When line drying avoid putting shells in direct sunlight as UV damages PUL.

Correct Machine Loading

Load the machine for the main wash cycle between 2/3- 3/4 full wet for ideal agitation. This equals being loosely full dry.

To increase the quantity in the machine, small items that are ideally light in colour to prevent colour run, can be added to the main wash cycle. Large items such as towels will wrap around the nappies preventing them from being washed.  

Sufficient surface area and friction, along with detergent and water remove soiling. Correct machine loading for the main wash is important because the surface area influences the amount of friction that occurs. Too little in the machine results in inadequate surface area and excess suds, the surfaces of the items don’t hit each other, and therefore not enough friction occurs to remove soiling.

Too much in the machine and the items don’t move around freely, again the surfaces don’t hit each other, therefore soiling isn’t removed.

See Excess suds in Front Loaders for more information on preventing excess suds. Having excess suds in prewash is fine, but excess suds in main wash is not, as they prevent agitation.

Optimal loading

This video is an example of what level of laundry loading will provide sufficient friction to remove soiling. As the cycle continues, the laundry in the machine will compress, and suds will increase with agitation over time. Check the loading approximately a third of the way into the cycle to see if loading is accurate.

Perfect loading in slow motion

Slow motion loading video showing laundry moving inside the machine.

Underloaded machine and excessive suds

There isn’t enough in the machine to provide sufficient friction to remove soiling. As the cycle continues, the laundry in the machine will further compress, and suds will further increase with agitation over time. Excess suds cushion and prevent friction, which further prevents the removal of soiling.

Overloaded machine

There is too much in the machine, there is not enough space for the items to move around to create sufficient friction for soiling removal. There are items that are getting pushed into the door seal and get periodically stuck, that is a sign there is too much in the machine. The items in the center are not making their way out, they remain in the center. There isn’t a sufficient level of suds in the cycle.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Common questions about our front loader wash routine recommendations.

Should I extend my main wash time by pressing the eco button?

No, eco washes usually reduce the wash temperature or change the agitation or rinsing pattern which typically doesn’t benefit your cleaning power.

Should I add extra rinses to extend the wash time?

No, adding an extra rinse doesn’t clean the items more – cleaning happens in the ‘wash/agitation’ phase of the wash cycle.