What Does Soil Level Mean On A Washer?

If you’ve recently upgraded your old washing machine, your new appliance probably has some features you may be unfamiliar with. When I got my first high-efficiency washing machine, I had no clue what the soil level setting was used for until I looked it up in my user manual.

In this article, you’ll learn what the soil level setting feature does, the differences between soil level cycles, and which soil level you should choose. We’ll also discuss some common presets on various brands of washing machines.

What Does Soil Level Mean On A Washer

What Does Soil Level Mean On A Washing Machine?

The soil level setting on a washing machine allows users to choose a wash cycle based on how dirty their clothes or linens are, with low, normal, and high cycles. A higher soil level means a longer cycle time and increased agitation, so you won’t need to pre-soak your clothes. 

3 Main Soil Level Settings Explained

Now that you know what the soil level feature means, let’s look at each of the three main soil level settings in greater detail.

1. Light/Low

The light or low soil level setting features the shortest cycle with the least agitation. This setting is best for delicate fabrics because too much agitation on these items can cause them to get all tangled up and cause damage to the material.

2. Medium/Normal

The medium or normal soil level setting is the best choice for clothes and linens that are somewhat dirty. This is the setting you should choose for your regular wash loads.

This cycle is longer than the light or low cycle and has more agitation, which helps your everyday laundry come out clean and wrinkle-free.

3. Heavy/High

The heavy or high soil level setting is your best option for clothes and linens with a lot of dirt.

For example, the clothes you wear to the gym or the towels you use to dry your dog after his bath should be washed on this setting.

It has the longest wash cycle and the most agitation to get all the dirt and grime out of your toughest laundry.

What Soil Level Should You Use?

soil preset settings

You should choose the soil level based on how dirty or delicate your clothing and linens are.

For example, you wouldn’t want to put a silk scarf on a heavy soil level because vigorous agitation could ruin the fabric. On the other hand, Fido’s bath towel is less likely to get clean if you run it on a light soil level setting.

Ultimately, you’ll need to check the labels on your garments and choose the soil level based on how dirty the item is and how well it can hold up to agitation in the washing machine.

Does Soil Level Add More Water?

No, the soil level setting on your washing machine does not add more water. The soil level setting determines the length of the wash cycle and the amount of agitation the laundry receives. 

Although it may seem like high-efficiency washing machines don’t use enough water, most have a water level sensor that ensures that all of your items are covered.

Some machines have small, medium, and large load settings that change the water level according to the load size selected, and some have a deep water setting to make sure your largest loads of laundry have enough water.

Soil Level Presets For Common Washing Machines 

Now that you know the basics about which soil level setting to choose for your laundry, let’s look at some of the presets on the most popular washing machine brands so you can be sure to select the right setting for each load of laundry.

brand pre-settings


Whirlpool washing machines have four soil level presets: extra light, light, medium, and heavy.

You can use the extra light soil level setting along with the delicate wash cycle to keep your delicate items safe in the laundry.

Alternatively, get your son’s football uniform refreshed and ready for game day by choosing the heavy soil level setting with the heavy-duty wash cycle.


Samsung washing machines don’t have specific soil level settings. Instead, they have innovative wash modes that improve efficiency by using just the right amount of water for the amount of soil in your laundry.

For example, the 15′ wash load is just right for an average-sized load of lightly soiled clothing you want to wash quickly. 

For everything else, just use the Auto Optimal wash setting. When used in conjunction with the Auto Dispense function, this setting automatically dispenses the right amount of detergent and sets the cycle according to the load and soil level of your laundry.


LG washing machines don’t have separate soil level settings, but most cycles have the option to adjust the soil level to meet your needs in each wash load.

You can’t run every cycle on every soil level, so you should consult your user’s manual to see all the options available on the wash cycle you’ve chosen.


The soil level is preset for each wash cycle on a Maytag washing machine. Some of these preset soil levels can be changed to a light, normal, or heavy soil setting.

Consult your user’s manual to see all the options available for the wash cycle you’ve chosen.


Choosing the right soil level for your laundry is important. When combined with the right wash cycle, the soil level helps to keep your delicate items from getting tangled by heavy agitation and ensures that your heavily soiled items will get the vigorous agitation they need to get clean.

When trying to figure out which soil level is suitable for your clothing or linens, check the tags to see how much agitation the item can handle.

Some washing machines don’t have a separate setting for soil levels; instead, you can adjust these levels after you select the proper wash cycle for your laundry.

Since the wash cycles increase as the soil level increases, choosing the right soil level can also improve efficiency and reduce wasted water.

Shauna Stone