What is the Bulky setting on washers? (EXPLAINED!)

How to Use Bulky Settings on Washers

One of the simplest pleasures in life is getting into a freshly made bed with clean sheets. So you can enjoy the comforting smell and feel of laundered linen, we’re going to teach you how to clean them!

Luckily, we’ve come a long way from beating bed sheets with paddles or rocks. Most washing machines have a setting for this—the Bulky cycle.

Here, we’ll find out what the Bulky setting on your washing machine is and how it cleans your clothes. We’ll also show you when and how to use it.

What is the Bulky setting on washers?

The Bulky setting on washing machines is for laundering large items, such as bedding, outerwear, and small rugs. It gives ample soak time to fully submerge the laundry and distribute the detergent.

In most washers, it uses low spin speeds and extra water to ensure gentle yet thorough cleaning.

Quick Note:
Some washers have a Sheets cycle for large and heavy items instead of a Bulky cycle, while others offer both.


Before the main wash cycle, your washing machine your washer fills up with enough water to fully submerge the laundry and distribute the detergent. It gives your items ample time to sit and soak up the soapy water, which helps loosen dirt and grime.

High Water Levels

Compared to other cycles, a Bulky cycle will use more water to fully soak large laundry loads and bulky items. It also ensures enough room in the drum for the items to get washed.

The high water level will also help keep the drum stable and balanced while the load is tumbling or spinning.

Low Spin Speeds

Along with high water levels, a Bulky cycle agitates and spins your laundry at slower speeds to deliver gentle, even, and efficient cleaning. 

It prevents your sheets and other bulky items from getting tangled up inside the drum. It minimizes creasing and protects delicate fabrics from damage.

More importantly, the slow tumbling and spinning speeds keep the load balanced throughout the wash cycle. It won’t put too much stress on the internal components of your washing machine, which can avert malfunctions and prevent component failure.

When to Use the Bulky Setting on Your Washer

Run a Bulky cycle for items that get too heavy when wet, such as quilts, comforters, large coats, and throw rugs. It fills the drum with extra water and runs at lower speeds to keep the washer balanced.

To prevent premature component failure, use a Bulky cycle whenever you’re washing heavy clothes.

Quick Note:
Since a Bulky cycle uses a lot more water and energy than your normal cycle, it’s not for everyday use. You should only use this whenever necessary.

Here are some of the instances that call for a Bulky wash cycle.

Large Laundry Loads

For large loads that aren’t necessarily heavily soiled, a Bulky wash cycle can ensure efficient cleaning in a single wash by using high water levels, slow spin speeds, and longer run times.

On a high-efficiency (HE) washer, a large load is at least 11 pounds, which fills up ¾ of the drum. An extra large load fills the entire drum and may reach up to 21 pounds.

Make sure not to overfill the drum. Your laundry must have enough space to tumble freely inside or else it will only overwork your washer without producing your desired cleaning results.

Bulky Items

Sheets, towels, and other articles of clothing that become very heavy when they soak up water should be washed with a Bulky cycle. 

Since it uses higher water levels than other cycles, it ensures that all the items are fully soaked and evenly doused in detergent. It also gives the items enough room to rotate and rub against each other, which helps loosen dirt and remove stains.

Excessively large items that can’t fit inside the tub should not be packed or pushed down just to make them fit. Your laundry needs to move freely in the tub in order to get cleaned.

Water Resistant or Water Proof Items

Some washers will strongly recommend against washing water-resistant or water-proof items like coats or jackets. However, if your unit has a Bulky setting, it most likely will allow you to wash these items.

The low-speed settings and high water levels can help clean the items and protect the properties of their fabrics.

Always refer to your user manual if you aren’t sure. 

How to Run a Bulky Wash Cycle

To run a Bulky cycle, wash similar items together and distribute them evenly in the drum. Never mix large, bulky items with smaller ones.

Use the right kind and the amount of detergent to ensure a thorough wash. If needed, run an Extra Spin cycle to speed up the drying process.

Balance the load.

Regardless of the items you’re laundering, you need to keep a balanced load to increase the efficiency of your washing machine. 

For example, if you add a single bed sheet to a large washer, it can cause the drum to shake violently during a cycle. Add too much and the laundry won’t spin, preventing the detergent from dissolving properly.

Here’s a quick guide to help you determine the average load size for a washer.

Type of WasherCapacityAverage Load Size
Compact1.5 to 3.4 Cubic feet4 to 8 lbs. per load
Standard3.5 to 4.4 Cubic feet12 to 16 lbs. per load
Large4.5 to 5.0 Cubic feet16 to 20 lbs. per load
Extra Large5.1 to 6.2 Cubic feet20 to 25 lbs. per load

Aside from measuring the size of your laundry load, you need to distribute the clothes properly. That’s because oversized items can easily cause a washer to go out of balance. 

To prevent this from happening, make sure to distribute the load evenly and loosely around the impeller or wash plate. Refrain from covering the center of the impeller.

Quick Note:
Sheets should be washed separately from towels and comforters to prevent pilling, which refers to the tiny knots of fibers that form on your clothes. This is also to prevent lint from building up and leaving undesirable brown flakes on the laundry.(brown flakes on clothes after washing? how to fix)a

Measure the detergent for your load size.

Using too much or too little detergent can lead to poor results, which may force you to run another load to correct the error. 

Generally, less is more when it comes to laundry detergent. However, to determine the right amount for your load, there are three factors that you need to look into.

  • Load size: The larger the load size, the more detergent you’ll need. However, it will also depend on the concentration of the detergent you’re using.

As a rule of thumb, you only need about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent with regular concentration for 4 to 6 pounds of laundry.

  • Soil level: If your clothes are heavily stained, you’ll need more detergent to remove all the dirt. However, you can also opt to pre-soak your clothes to loosen up dirt before the wash cycle.
  • Hardness of water: The high mineral content in hard water interferes with the cleaning action of detergent. Thus, for hard water areas, more detergent is necessary to clean even a regular load of laundry.

Since not all detergents are made equal, always check the detergent label’s recommendations.

For a regular load of laundry, take a look at this guide for reference. 

Type of DetergentTraditional WashersHE Washers
Pod1 per cycle1 per cycle
Liquid2 tablespoons2 tablespoons
Powder1/4 cup or 1/3 cup for heavily-soiled clothes2 tablespoons

Aside from the amount of detergent, you need to pick the correct type to ensure the best cleaning results. HE washers require HE detergent, while traditional washers can use both HE and regular detergent.

Quick Tip:
Skip the fabric softener because it isn’t necessary, especially for bed sheets. It only affects the ability of fabrics to absorb water. 

Add an Extra Spin cycle.

An Extra Spin cycle is an optional setting on most washers. When selected, it adds an extra spin cycle at the end of the wash cycle to help remove excess moisture from the laundry.

Since a Bulky cycle uses a lot of water, an Extra Spin cycle can help squeeze out the excess water in your bed sheets, coats, and other bulky items. It can help speed up the drying time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Bulky and Heavy Duty wash cycles?

Heavy Duty is similar to the Bulky setting on your washer in that it utilizes more heat and longer run times. However, it is meant for heavily-soiled and odorous garments, not necessarily bulky items like comforters, large coats, and mattress pads.

What should I wash on a Bulky cycle?

Heavy loads and bulky items are best laundered using the Bulky cycle. This includes comforters, bed sheets, towels, bath rugs, and pillows.
You can also clean water-resistant or water-proof articles of clothing like outerwear using a Bulky cycle.

How long does a Bulky wash cycle take?

A Bulky cycle may take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the make and model of your washer. The duration of the cycle will also depend on your load size, as well as your washer settings.

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