What Does Soil Level Mean on a Washer?

By Nick Evans •  Last Updated: 06/10/22 •  10 min read

What does soil level mean on a washer? Good question! We’re here to help.

Washers have a feature that’s known as the soil level. Soil level settings are there to help you adjust the wash cycle based on how dirty clothing is. Clothes that have mud and other sediments on them require more potent wash cycles, which are high soil levels. While most washers have soil level settings, the exact phrasing differs based on the manufacturer. For example, some washers don’t even say soil level on the machine. Instead, settings are listed as low through high. In these cases, you can use your owner’s manual or best judgment.

Additionally, soil levels can be challenging to use at first. The washing machine doesn’t always list what types of soil and sediment can be washed, so there’s a lot you need to know. The good news is that we’re here to help. We’re going to take you through everything you need to know about the soil level of washers. We’ll also take you through some popular brands like Samsung, LG, and General Electric (GE).

What Is the Soil Level for Washers? 

Soil level settings for washers that help you clean clothing based on how dirty the clothes are. These settings can be used to adjust the intensity of a wash cycle and how long the wash cycle runs. You can also use soil level settings to wash clothing based on the type of clothing. For example, some fabrics like linen don’t hold up as well when used in high soil settings. On the other hand, athletic clothing can handle heavy soil settings. Ultimately, low soil level settings are used for regular cleaning and heavy soil settings are used for cleaning mud and dirt from clothes.

How Does the Soil Level Affect Wash Cycles? 

The soil level can impact how long or short a wash cycle is. Because clothing with large deposits of mud and stains are hard to clean, the wash cycle will be longer with high soil level settings compared to low soil level settings. The soil level settings can also affect how the washer spreads water and tumbles clothing. One example is that LG washers have a downloadable soil level that can specifically target collars and cuffs on button-down shirts.

Does Every Washer Have a Soil Level Setting? 

Most washers have soil-level settings. Still, there are some exceptions. Some smaller, front-load washers might not come with soil level settings because of their size and the number of clothes they can hold. Overall, most larger washing machines for home use come with soil-level settings that range from light to heavy. More advanced washers will also come with better soil settings like extra light and extra heavy.

What Types of Soil Are Safe for Washers? 

Washers are durable machines. While washers can handle most types of mud and dirt, even the strongest washers can get damaged by metal. Most types of sediments that get stuck on clothing are safe for the washer; this includes mud, dirt, and clay. However, sediments with metal and the fine grains of sand can damage the washer.

What Are the Different Soil Level Settings 

Washing machines come with many soil-level settings. These settings determine the strength of the wash cycle, what types of debris the washer can clean, and more. While every washer has specific soil level settings, we’ve noticed that soil level settings are similar and on average include:

On average, light soil level settings are for clothes that have regular dust and debris (minimal stains). On the other hand, heavy soil level settings are designed for clothes with a lot of debris, stains, or even mud (clay).

Extra Light 

The extra light soil level setting is typically found on advanced washers like Samsung and LG washing machines. Extra light settings are used for clothing with fine fabrics that shouldn’t be tossed around too much. It’s also effective at removing dust and debris from delicate clothing that doesn’t have much space for dust to collect. You can also use extra light settings to prevent wrinkles from forming in clothing and it’s perfect for quick wash cycles.

When using extra light soil level settings you’ll also notice that it saves power and water. Because the washer knows that clothing doesn’t need to be cleaned with high intensity, the washer can save water. It’s for this reason that extra light soil level settings are mostly found on advanced washers that have the technology to adjust water level and rotation speed.

Some extra light settings are also gentle enough to clean blazers and button-down shirts if you’re in a pinch and can’t make it to the dry cleaner.


Light soil level settings are used for clothing that doesn’t get exposed to the elements that often. Clothing like pajamas and fine fabrics that you wear around the house should be cleaned with a light soil level setting. The clothing doesn’t have to be delicate but makes sure the clothes that you do wash with the light setting aren’t outside often. Light settings can clean clothes well but won’t remove tough stains and odors.

Light soil level settings come standard on almost every washing machine. When using a light soil level setting you’ll notice a few things. Firstly, the wash cycle is not as long as a normal wash cycle. Next, you’ll notice that the wash cycle doesn’t create as many wrinkles as normal wash cycles. While it’s not as effective for wrinkle protection as extra light settings, it’s good enough for most at-home clothes.

Medium (Normal) 

Medium soil level settings are what most washers use as the default setting or normal setting. The normal setting is for clothes that you wear to school, work, social gatherings, and other events. Some examples include work shirts, t-shirts, socks, underwear, and athletic clothing. Normal soil level settings can damage clothing over time but it’s not noticeable in the short term.

When using the medium soil level setting you still need to be careful. While it doesn’t impact the wash time and wash intensity like other soil level settings, it can be too much for some clothing on default settings. For example, you might notice buttons that fall out of polo shirts and pants pockets. So, make sure you check the owner’s manual to determine what clothes are considered normal for medium soil level settings.


Heavy soil level settings are designed to increase the intensity of the wash cycle. This means that the wash cycle will use more water, last longer, and blast clothing with more powerful streams of water. Heavy soil level settings come standard on most washers and should be used for clothing that’s very dirty or outdoors a lot. Clothing that’s been used for working out at the gym or playing outside should be cleaned with the heavy soil level settings. 

Some work clothing should also be cleaned with heavy soil level settings. Jeans used for tasks like panting, construction, and farming should be cleaned with heavy soil level settings. When using these settings, we recommend keeping clothing that requires high soil level settings together. This will prevent damaging other clothing.

Extra Heavy 

Extra heavy soil level settings are mostly found in advanced washing machines. The extra heavy setting is perfect for clothing that’s been exposed to mud, clay, dirt, and other types of outdoor grime. Extra heavy soil level settings are also great for sports apparel and equipment like football jerseys. We also recommend cleaning towels, sheets, and other blankets with extra heavy soil level settings to clean them deeply.

When using extra heavy soil level settings you need to be extra careful. Placing clothing with less durable stitching in these cycles will damage the clothing quickly. We only recommend using this setting (if your washer has one) for exceptionally dirty clothing.

Soil Level Settings for Different Washing Machines

Every washing machine has unique soil level settings. Even washers from the same manufacturer, like two Samsung washers, can have different soil level settings. Still, most soil level settings are consistent depending on the brand of washing machine you have.

Soil Level on Samsung Washers 

Samsung is known for making advanced appliances and Samsung washers are no exception. Typically, Samsung washers have more soil-level settings when compared to other washers.

The most common soil level settings for Samsung washers are listed below: 

It’s important to note that some Samsung washers may vary, especially front-load appliances.

Soil Level on Speed Queen Washers  

Speed Queen is well-known for manufacturing washers with strong cleaning capabilities. While each Speed Queen washer is unique, many of the soil level settings are the same. We’ll take you through the common soil level settings for Speed Queen washers below:

Speed Queen also provides instructions within the owner’s manual for proper use cases. For example, clothing needs to be sorted by the soil level and hot water is recommended for heavily soiled clothing.

Soil Level on Whirlpool Washers 

Whirlpool washing machines vary but come with a few settings to help with soil level adjustments. These settings are designed to extend or shorten the length of a cleaning cycle. Therefore, the soil setting you choose determines the length of the wash cycle. Below are the soil level settings for whirlpool washers:

For regular wash cycles, you can leave the soil setting on normal. From there, you can make the wash cycle longer by setting it to heavy or shorter by setting it to light.

Soil Level on GE Washers  

General Electric (GE) has been making appliances for decades. The company’s washing machines are durable and capable of cleaning heavily soiled clothing. Most GE dishwashers have three soil level settings, which we list below:

The soil level settings on GE washers can impact the wash time length and GE recommends separating clothing based on the soil level.

Soil Level on LG Washers 

LG washers are similar to GE washers and Samsung washers. Keeping that in mind, there are a few differences. Primarily, LG washers allow users to download cycles for apparel baby clothing and the collars on dress clothes. When downloading these settings LG washers can feature new soil levels.

Luckily, the soil level setting doesn’t change much. The most common soil level settings for LG washers are listed below:

Depending on the type of LG washer you have these settings may change.

Say Goodbye to Dirty Clothes 

When you know how to use the soil level settings on your washer you can take your cleaning experience to the next level. Instead of washing each piece of clothing with the same wash cycle, you can separate clothing with deposits of mud or stains and give them a proper clean. Cleaning your clothes this way is better for your washer, your clothing, and your hygiene. 

Make sure you check your owner’s manual for more information about soil level settings, especially if your washer doesn’t have the word soil written on the machine.

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