Tell your teen, white towels get hot water, but bright colored towels get warm or cold water, to keep them from fading.

Simple Washing Machine Instructions for Teens

by Bonnie Crowe

Does your chore load seem insurmountable, with the thought of tackling one more load of laundry tipping you over the edge? Relax; that’s what you have teenagers for. With some basic direction, your teen can be taught how to use an electric washing machine and clean your family’s clothes to your satisfaction. Get ready to book a spa day with all your new-found free time – you may find that you never have to wash another load of laundry until high school graduation.


Unless your teen wants his white boxers turned pink, you’re going to have to explain sorting: whites go in one pile, colors in another. Clothes that are fragile should be hand-washed, or washed separately under the “delicate” setting. Teach your teen to read clothes labels. Show him where the labels are located and explain that some items have the washing instruction labels hidden in tricky hidden places near the seams.


If delicate items, such as silk or wool have somehow found their way on the washing pile, tell our teen to keep those separate, so they can be hand-washed. Even silk that is washable will run onto other clothes and should be laundered carefully, on its own. Delicates that can be machine-washed should be done so separately, under the delicate setting of the washer.

Heavily Soiled

Clothes that are packed in mud, stained or heavily soiled need to be pre-treated before laundering. Have your teen pour a small amount of detergent on a stain and let the item sit for 20 minutes, then rinse and soak it in cold water. For mud, make sure he shakes the dirt off first, then washes the heavily soiled clothes separately under the machine setting “soak,” using cold water. Always remember to use cold water on a stain, as hot water can make the stain set into the fabric.

Check Pockets

Tell your teen to feel through all pants pockets for stray tissues, pens, change and other assorted items that can wreak havoc on your wash load. If your washer has a lint tray, make sure he cleans it out before putting any clothes into the machine.

Adding Detergent

Have your teen add detergent to the washer’s water first, for all top loading machines. Once the detergent is dissolved, add the clothes and shut the lid. For front loading machines, you can add the clothes before the detergent or after it, it doesn’t matter. Add detergent to the top cup that indicates liquid detergent on it. Front loading machines take low suds, high efficiency (HE) detergent, so make sure your teen knows which detergent to use and warn him not to fill the cup past the fill line.


Tell your teen to set the washing machine to the correct temperature for the clothes being cleaned. The rule of thumb is to set the washer to “cold” for dark, black or bright colors that could fade, for stained fabric, delicates and clothes that you absolutely don’t want to chance shrinking. Jeans should be washed in cold water. Make sure your teen sets your machine to “warm” or permanent press for a typical load of light to medium colors. Have him use the “hot” setting for whites, towels and those clothes that need to be sanitized, but that won’t shrink or fade.

Water Level

If your machine has a setting for water level, instruct your teen to make sure there’s enough water to completely cover the clothes. The clothes needed to move around and agitate freely. It’s better to have too much water than too little to wash your clothes in.

Don't Overload

When you add the clothes, make sure your teen doesn’t jam pack the machine. Explain to him that clothes need room to move around in the machine while they are being churned. Tell him that if you pack too many clothes in your washing machine, they will most likely not be rinsed properly and they could have difficulty getting fully cleaned.

Remove Promptly

When the washing machine is finished with its cycle, make sure your teen takes the clothes out and puts them into the dryer. Warn him that if he leaves damp clothes sit in a washing machine for too long, they begin to smell and will need to be rewashed before he can put them into the dryer.

About the Author

Bonnie Crowe is a mother of two teenagers; a teacher and author of children's books, curriculum and articles on English grammar, literature, technology, art, parenting and career guides for high schoolers. She's a former director of AOL Parenting, a member of SCBWI, and a graduate from the University of California,Berkeley.

Photo Credits

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