When you set a front-loading or top-loading washing machine for a specific kind of load—gentle, heavy duty, delicate, or the always-popular normal—the machine will probably tell you how much time it will take to complete the wash cycle. For delicates, maybe it’s 40 minutes.
Fifty minutes later, the washer chimes to signal it’s done. Or, a normal cycle that takes 50 minutes to complete is still spinning out 60 minutes later. Using a washing machine can make you feel like a character in a Christopher Nolan movie. So what’s happening?
Washing machine timers are sometimes in conflict with high-efficiency features like load sensing, which attempts to gauge the size of the load and only use as much water as needed to finish the cycle. That measurement may ultimately affect how much time the cycle needs, making the timer overly optimistic.
There are other reasons timers may not keep their promise. Washing machines can take detours like using more water to balance out a lighter or uneven load. Wash heavy items like jeans with lighter items like shirts, for example, and the weight and distribution of the load will ultimately confuse the washer a bit. These adjustments take both water and extra time to complete.
In the spin cycle, which attempts to expel water to prepare laundry for the dryer, the machine might extend its efforts if its sensors think the load is still too wet.
Fortunately, all of the reasons the washer might take more time are in service of getting your clothes clean. If you want to help the washer along, it’s best to wash similar items together and not mix and match light apparel with heavy-duty clothing. Overloading the washer will also cause extended wash times. Even then, it may be better to think of a cycle timer as more of an estimate than a promise.