What does soil mean in your washing machine?

Updated November 21, 2016

Soil and your washing machine can mean a variety of things. Some may interpret it as actual soil found inside the washing machine, which is typically caused by dirt tracked into the washer by soiled clothes. Other owners may interpret it as the soil level option available on some washing machines, which allows users to set the washer for different settings to handle various soil levels on clothes.

Dirt in the Washing Machine

If there is actually soil or dirt found in the washing machine tub, it is most likely due to dirt or mud that is brought into the machine on clothes or other items being washed that does not fully rinse away when the cycle is complete. Wash the tub by pouring 113gr. of citric acid crystals directly into the washing machine tub after filling it with hot water. Run a regular cycle, and then run a second regular cycle with washing powder to rinse away any citric acid residue. Nonabrasive household cleaner and a cleaning sponge or scrubber can also be used to clean the tub.

Washing Machine Cleaner

Many high-efficiency washing machines offer a "Clean Washer" feature that is specifically designed to clean the tub and remove any dirt or residue. Place a washing machine cleaner tablet into the washing machine, and run a "Clean Washer" cycle. The cleaning tablets are available for purchase in many grocery or hardware stores.

Dirty Clothes

If clothes or other items are excessively soiled, use the presoak or soak cycle on the washing machine to help release the dirt from clothes prior to washing. If the washing machine does not have a soak or prewash cycle, fill the washer tub with water and agitate for a few minutes. Pause or stop the washing machine, and allow the items to soak for 20 to 30 minutes before resuming the cycle.

Soil Level

Many washing machines have a soil level feature that allows users to indicate the amount of soil or dirt on clothes to be washed and adjust the cycle accordingly. The soil levels are typically "Light," "Normal" and/or "Heavy" and increase the cycle time and agitation depending upon the selected soil level, eliminating the need to presoak items prior to washing.

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About the Author

Meredith Jameson writes early childhood parenting and family health articles for various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from San Francisco State University.