What Is the Permanent Press Cycle on a Washing Machine?

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The permanent press cycle is gentle on synthetic and permanent press fabrics.

The permanent press cycle on a washing machine is used for synthetic –- otherwise known as manmade –- fabrics which include nylon, rayon, spandex, polyester, acrylic, latex and acetate. This cycle is also used for permanent press, wrinkle-resistant materials. However, there are specific guidelines to follow regarding the treatment of these fabrics, and even though a garment may be labeled as a permanent press item, improper laundering will countermand the wrinkle-resistant state of the fabric. This makes it important to understand when and how to correctly wash garments on the permanent press cycle.

Permanent Press Gently Washes

Synthetic and permanent press fabrics tend to lose their wrinkle-resistant capacity when heavily agitated in the machine, and some garments are prone to stretching out of shape, getting snagged on machine parts, tearing apart and piling. However, the permanent press cycle uses less agitation than a normal wash cycle and this gentle motion contributes to the longevity of synthetic and permanent press articles.

Permanent Press Removes Discoloration

According to Ohio State University, permanent press and synthetic material has a tendency to attract and absorb oily stains. These materials also become dingy, yellow or otherwise discolored when they are washed in the wrong temperature and with the wrong amount of detergent. To restore the color, Ohio State recommends washing the clothes "in a permanent press cycle with hot wash water, a cool-down rinse and a cup of water conditioner instead of detergent."

Permanent Press Prevents Wrinkling

Permanent press and synthetic fabrics are susceptible to heat and have a tendency to wrinkle if they are not allowed to "cool down" before the spinning portion of the cycle begins. These articles can actually get permanent wrinkles during the spinning process if they have been washed on a regular setting with hot water. However, the permanent press cycle activates a cooling process before the spin cycle begins and this helps to preserve the original shape of the clothing while resisting wrinkles.

Other Factors to Consider

There are several other factors to consider in maintaining the effectiveness of using the permanent press cycle to launder synthetic and permanent press fabrics. Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services recommends that you avoid overcrowding the washing machine as this causes wrinkles, and use either the medium or high water level to ensure there's enough water circulating through the clothes. In addition, don't put heavy and lightweight permanent press items in the same load since the heavier items will wrinkle the lighter fabrics. Also, use the permanent press dryer setting to ensure the continued gentle treatment of your synthetic and permanent press clothing.


Terri Williams

Terri Williams began writing professionally in 1997, serving as media manager for a large nonprofit organization where she also edited books and created promotional content. She has written extensively on business communication, ethics, leadership, management, education and health. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.