Front Loader Wash Routine

Front loaders 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.

Pre Wash Cycle

Choose a short cycle (not just rinse and spin), ideally around 30 minutes in length (eg. Quick Wash).

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 highest spin speed and automatic rinse setting.

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

No need to dry nappies between pre wash, before main, just dry pail damp. If mould is or becomes an issue, hang over the side of the dry pail to dry out, then pail.

The benefits of a seperate pre wash cycle

A separate pre wash 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 pre wash cycle.

A daily pre wash cycle with detergent is an option that is beneficial as it reduces the likelihood of ammonia development and reduces smells in the laundry significantly.

See Wash Routine Basics for more information.

Main Wash Cycle

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, 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 to be 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, 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 pre wash is fine, but excess suds in main wash is not, as they prevent agitation.

Perfect 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

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 which 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.