What the Delay Start Function on Your Washing Machine Is, and How to Use It

published Oct 18, 2023
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Laundry is not supposed to be complicated — especially considering what our ancestors had to endure before the modern washing machine was invented. Still, with hectic schedules and frazzled minds, some days all you can do is just get a load of clothes in the washer, add some detergent, and start the cycle. 

Quick Overview

What Is the Delay Start Function on Washers?

Delay start is a feature on some washing machines that allows you to schedule the end of a wash cycle for a later time. You simply press the delay start button once for every hour you want to put off running the cycle.

And if you’re anything like me, you promptly forget about it. Hours — or, yikes, perhaps even a day — later I’ll wonder where all the towels have gone and find them in a sad, soggy tangle in the washer.

My washing machine has a bunch of settings I mostly ignore, but there’s one button I recently “discovered” and regret not doing sooner: the delay start. If you’ve got this option on your machine, here’s why you should start using it.

What is the delay start function on washers?

The delay start function, also labeled as delay wash, is really more about scheduling the end of a wash cycle for when you’re good and ready to transfer those clothes to the dryer. It’s also a downright game-changer if you’ve got hang-dry clothing that’s usually in a wrinkled heap when you finally remember to take it out of the machine. It’s simple to use, too; while machines vary, you typically just have to press the delay start button once for every hour you want to put off running the cycle.

What are the advantages of using delay start?

The ability to schedule laundry for when it’s most convenient is arguably the main reason to use the delay start button. But there’s an even bigger perk: You can save money by taking advantage of off-peak energy rates, says Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly Company. Off-peak hours for electricity, for example, vary by time zone and season, but it’s worth checking with the utility companies in your area and scheduling your laundry accordingly. 

I also conducted a scientific study (just kidding — I asked friends on Facebook) to learn about other benefits of using the delay start. Here are some other reasons to consider using this washer function.

  • Prioritize hot water usage. If you’re taking a shower or running the dishwasher, you might need to hold off on laundry for a hot second — or, rather, an hour.
  • Pretreat laundry. Need to let something sit with a stain remover treatment for a bit? Dab it on the offending garment, add it to the delayed wash, and you’re good to go.
  • Delay the noise. If your primary spot to eat/work/relax is near a noisy washing machine, you can hold off on running the cycle when you’re in another part of your home.
  • Use it with any detergent. The delayed wash makes a great case for using detergent pods or laundry sheets (I love these from Spot), but friends have noted you can still use liquid detergent without it dripping down onto clothing before the postponed wash. 

What are the drawbacks of using delay start?

If this all sounds too good to be true, well, it can be. If you still aren’t able to get to the laundry after the cycle is done (no judgment here), your clothes are still at risk for mildew, warns Shimek. “Also, if the machine malfunctions like in an out-of-balance situation, you will not know until you go to get the finished load [that the machine] stopped in mid-cycle and has to be restarted,” he says.

Technology is a marvelous thing when it works. My workaround to any unforeseen mishaps with the delay start button is to ensure I am at home for when the laundry is supposed to finish. It’s not too difficult — even if you are away for many hours during the day; just set the laundry to finish when you return from work or wake up in the morning. This way, if something is preventing the machine from getting through a cycle, you’ll know sooner rather than later.