After a week or two in Seoul, you might find yourself looking for clean clothes. While Korean washing machines look complicated, they’re actually pretty easy to get a hang of once you know what the buttons mean. There are many different types of washing machines in Korea but the basic settings are the same.

Here are some photos of the various controls you might see.
washingmachinesThe first time I came face to face with a Korean washing machine, it was intimidating. In the US, all the washing machines I’ve used only had three or four knobs let alone several buttons. Korean washing machines often have both.

The good news is, if you’re staying at a goshiwon, guesthouse or somewhere with a shared washing machine, most of the settings will already be set where you want them. Some might even have translations taped onto the machine depending on the amount of foreigners. It doesn’t hurt to check the options though and you can do so by making sure the light shows up next to the options you want.

Here is a quick run-down of the common options on a Korean washing machine you might come across.

전원 (jeon-won) – on/off
동작 (dong-jak) – start
일시정지 (il-shi-jung-ji) – pause

물높이 (mul-nop-ee) – water level
강/고 (kang/goh) – strong/high
중 (joong)- medium
약/저 (yak/jeo) – low

급수 (geub-su) – water supply
세탁도 (seh-tak-doh) – temperature
온수 (ohn-soo) – hot water
냉수 (naeng-soo) – cold water

울 – wool
불림 – soak
세탁 – wash
헹굼 – rinse

Below is the washing machine I use at my goshiwon. I’ve labeled what the buttons mean. They should be common so check your machine for similar labels. The settings here are the ones I usually use.


Here are the steps I usually go by, which can be common/different from yours depending on your machine.

1. Pull out the detergent tray.
2. Put in one cap of detergent and close tray.
3. Load clothes and close lid of machine.
4. Click the “on/off” button.
5. Click the ” water level” button until the light lands where you want it, depending on the size of your load.
6. Click the “course” button until it lands on basic or other, depending on your type of load.
6. Click the “start” button.

Frabic Softener
My washing machine has one tray for detergent and fabric softener would be put in when it comes to that part in the cycle. Many washing machines have more than one tray for fabric softener if you choose to use it.

The majority of Koreans hang their clothes instead of drying them. If you’re living in a shared space, there will be a hanging area. You’ll have to wait to wash your clothes when there’s space to hang your clothes up. If you need to buy a metal clothes rack. If you’re in Seoul in the summer, you shouldn’t have to wait too long for them to dry as it gets pretty hot outside.

In my goshiwon, we have a laundry basket for people to move hanging laundry that is done drying to make room for newly washed clothes.

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