The UK's Washing Habits Revealed

Are Brits just shoving their clothes in and hoping for the best?

We find out just how much Britain knows about washing clothes.

Laundry is a part of our everyday home life which we simply cannot avoid. But how many times have you accidentally turned your white work shirt pink, or shrunk your favourite knitted jumper?

We sought expert guidance & surveyed 2,000 UK residents to find out just how much the UK knows about laundry, from washing labels to machine settings.

Just 41% of the UK can correctly identify basic washing symbols.

Even though half of Brits (50%) check clothing labels before putting items in the wash, our results show the majority (59%) do not correctly know what these labels mean.

The worst offenders are those aged 16-24, with only 32% being able to correctly identify three common washing labels. Meanwhile 44% of those aged between 35-44 correctly identifying all washing labels.

Across the board, women correctly identified washing symbols more than men. On average across all three symbols, an extra 8% of women correctly identified the washing symbols than men did. The biggest disparity was with the iron icon where 42% of men failed to correctly identify this compared to just 31% of women.

The national average for correctly identifying each symbol sits at just 38% for the tumble drying icon, 21% for the normal washing setting and 63% for the iron icon. Essentially, though Brits are washing every day, it shows there is more to be learnt across the board.

With 79% of brits unable to identify the correct meaning for the normal wash setting icon spun, it is no surprise then that more of us are turning to Google. In fact, nearly one third (32%) consult the search engine for washing advice.

When it comes to the UK’s most popular queries, some of the most popular focus on the washing products themselves with searches about washing detergent and fabric softener totalling over 7,000 annually.

It’s also clear that unusual/abnormal items also give Brits grief, with questions around how to wash towels, duvets, pillows, and feather pillows all ranking in the top 10 Google searches.

Over half of the UK (62%) don’t know what the three compartments are for in the detergent drawer.

Another popular area up for debate is the contents of the three compartments inside the detergent drawer. Only 38% of the nation are correct in knowing what goes in each compartment.

It seems with age comes knowledge on this topic, as only 22% of 16–24-year-olds can correctly identify what each section is used for, versus 48% of those aged 55+.

Harriette Jarman our laundry product manager comments; “This is one of the fundamental parts of a washing machine, yet clearly the majority of Brits have no idea what actually goes in each drawer. Each compartment does slightly different things and so it’s important that the correct products are placed in the correct compartment- otherwise your wash could be affected. While each washing machine may be slightly different, the compartments are usually labelled 1,2,3 or a star symbol for the third compartment. It’s important to check the manual to identify these.”

  • Compartment 1

    This is used for pre-wash detergent and should be used for cleaning extra dirty clothes. This washes clothes in a pre-wash cycle essentially giving them a really thorough clean.

  • Compartment 2

    This is the main wash compartment which houses either liquid or powdered detergent. This is what will be used in every wash cycle no matter the setting on the machine.

  • Compartment 3

    This is often the smallest compartment in the drawer and is either labelled as 3, a star symbol, or a flower symbol. This is for your fabric softener which helps protect clothes by smoothing and conditioning fibres. It’s very important to read the bottle guidance to not overfill this slot.

The Cities with the best washing knowledge.

By calculating the results from all the washing symbol and detergent compartment questions, we have determined the UK’s best and worst cities for washing knowledge.

Brighton took the top spot with nearly half of the city (46%) correctly answering all questions, closely followed by Glasgow with 45% and Birmingham and Liverpool both with 44%. Edinburgh rounds off the top five with 43% giving correct answers.

London and Newcastle come joint last with only 36% of respondents being able to correctly identify the washing symbols and detergent drawers.

Britain’s Washing Habits

Our research also reveals one fifth of Brits (20%) do not separate their washing into whites, colours, and dark. Those between the ages of 25-34 are the worst culprits, with nearly a quarter (23%) not doing so.

Men are also guilty of separating their washing less compared to women, with 52% of men vs 63% of women.

On par with this, over half (59%) of Brits wash their clothes on a specific cycle when taking into consideration what items are being washed. However, once again this depends on age, with only 52% of those doing so aged 16-34, vs 65% of those aged 55+.

We discovered that the younger generations turn to Google the most to answer their washing queries, with 40% of those aged 16-34 doing so. The next port of call for this age group is turning to parents/family members for washing advice (25%) followed by social media platforms (15%). Younger generations are also more environmentally conscious when it comes to washing, with 47% of those aged 16-24 stating they make eco-decisions with their washing habits, vs 39% of those aged 45-55. 

What Temperature Should You Wash?

For almost half (49%) of the UK, washing is done at 30 degrees, with a further 28% choosing 40 degrees. Although the younger generations are washing at lower temperatures, more than one in ten (13%) state they don’t know what temperature they wash at, relying on the standard temperature set by their machines. As for unusual or delicate items, nearly one in five Brits (17%) would not hand wash an item if the label indicated to do so, with a further 21% not dry cleaning an item if recommended to do so.

Are you guilty of any of the above? Now you can take in comfort from this data that you are not alone in your washing habits. Our wide range of washing machines and washer dryers are packed with features to help you get the cleanest clothes out of each wash.


Unsure of where to start? Our handy buying guide contains all the information you need to match you up with the perfect machine.