Washing Machine Jargon Buster – Which?

Self-cleaning detergent drawer

Some manufacturers, such as Miele, have select washing machines with self-cleaning detergent drawers that flush themselves out to help stop the build-up of detergent and mould. While the self-cleaning helps, you will still need to occasionally clean the detergent drawer yourself – just less frequently than a detergent drawer that does not have a self cleaning feature.


Semi-integrated washing machines are a very small subset of integrated washing machines. They are still built into a cupboard in your kitchen, but the cupboard panel over the front will not hide the control panel at the top. This means you can alter programs and settings without having to open the outer door. If the machine has a time-remaining display, this should also be visible.

Service wash

A service wash, also known as a maintenance wash, is a wash cycle to help prevent the build-up of mould and bacteria in your machine – which is a common problem. A few washing machines have dedicated service wash programs, while others instruct you to run a hot temperature wash. In both cases, you will not add detergent or clothes to the drum. If you have noticed a musky smell coming from the drum, see our video guide on how to fix a smelly washing machine.


Very gentle wash program for fragile items such as silk.

Softener compartment

Typically the third compartment in the detergent drawer, marked with a symbol that looks like a flower, to which you add softener. If you use the softener compartment, make sure that when you clean the detergent drawer, that the syphon at the rear of this compartment is cleared. For help on cleaning your detergent drawer, see our video guide on fixing a dodgy detergent drawer.

Speed mode

Speed-mode is not a program – but a function that alters other programs to make them quicker. For instance, if you choose a 40°C cotton cycle, and then activate the speed-mode, the washing cycle should become quicker. But the compromise is that it will be less energy efficient, so will add slightly more to your bills. See also: Eco-mode

Spin speed

The maximum spin speed is the revolutions per minute that the drum will rotate at to remove water from your clothes at the end of a cycle. Max spin speeds are typically 1000, 1200, 1400 or 1600rpm. Machines with the faster spin speeds may be more expensive to buy – but we’ve seen a 1200rpm machine do a better job of wringing water from clothes compared with a 1600rpm model – so always check our washing machine reviews before spending that extra cash.


A tailored wash program for sportswear. Some washing machines, including a lot of Indesit models, also have the option to wash trainers.

Stacking kit

A stacking kit will allow you to place a tumble dryer on top of a washing machine.

Steam refresh

For washing machines with a steam function: a steam refresh program can be used to remove odours from otherwise clean clothing. This is not an actual wash, but help rejuvenate those items that have been in the back of your cupboard for longer than you want to admit.

Steam wash

For washing machines with a steam function: adding a steam function to a wash cycle may have several intended effects – some steam cycles will be designed to remove creases from clothes, increases stain removal or remove allergens such as pollen and dust mites from laundry. Steam cycles differ from one machine to another, so be sure to check your instruction manual to see what your machine is capable of.

Synthetics capacity

This is the maximum amount of clothes you can add to the drum before running a synthetics (or easy care) program. Like almost all wash cycles outside the cotton programs, you will not be able to completely fill the drum as these programs have a limited capacity. For instance, a washing machine with a maximum capacity of 7kg (on the cotton programs) may only be able to wash 4kg of clothes using the synthetics program.

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