THE PATHFINDER TO YOUR WASHING MACHINE
The most important things to know
to choose meaningfully.
Washing machines are home equipment that supports us in doing the laundry more effectively. They require much less water, less soap and, most importantly, less time and space than manually doing this unavoidable home task.
Choosing and using a washing machine suitably is not just crucial for our convenience but especially for our health. As an example, we as users generally want to do our laundry efficiently, so low-temperature programs may seem preferable. However, low temperatures combined with a lack of bleach may let unhealthy microbiome survive our cleansing, being them a source of infections especially dangerous for individuals with reduced immunity such as older adults, children and pregnant women. As well, improper maintenance of washing machines may lead them to be dirty, being mould and limestone the most common issues. This puts the contamination focus directly in the washing machine and, at the same time, decreases the life expectancy of the device.
With the arrival of smart versions, the way we use washing machines may change substantially. Efficiency and ergonomics, mostly in terms of energy savings and sound disturbance, are being further optimised. The development of additional features like the possibility of scheduling the laundry, analysing the cleanings and identifying the fabric type bring further convenience and support at making proper use of the washing machine. Finally, the integration of sensors and the continuous improvement of software that warns us about the state of our device can predict major defects while decreasing the presence of contaminants.
Time saved thanks to the possibility of auto-dosing the washing machine and scheduling the finish of the laundry to avoid waiting times.
Quality of life improved thanks to the elimination of bacteria and allergens such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander, both in clothes and within the washing machine.
Peace of mind increased thanks to the possibility of monitoring and controlling the washing machine from remote and being notified when maintenance is required.
Savings increased thanks to the possibility of optimising water, detergent and energy consumption, scheduling the laundry in off-peak hours and preventing significant damages in the appliance.
Classically washing machines have been of the following types:
These machines get the clothes inside by a frontal (usually) circular door, get partially filled with a solution of water and detergent and spin its drum in both directions around an axis parallel to the ground, so the friction between the clothes is the cleaning mechanism. In most cases their design allows them to be stackable with a dryer, and they have an as good resource-results relation as it gets, as they use as little as 1/3 of the water used by older top loaders. Although front-loaders generally outperform the other washing machines types in terms of efficiency and cleanings, they also present some drawbacks. For example, it is necessary to bend to access the front door (an issue for some people), water is more likely to get trapped on the inside causing odours and mould, they are less affordable, and they have the most extended cycles. Usually only front-loaders are equipped with the smart features.
These are loaded from the top, and they rely on a large agitator which spins in an axis perpendicular to the ground to move the clothes around its tank. The presence of the agitator generally decreases the load size and on the other can cause wear and tear to the garments. They use the most water as the tank is filled with water and soap solution, so they are the least efficient energy and resourcefully-wise. Nevertheless, they are the most affordable ones, water is unlikely to get trapped in the machine, and they generally cut the laundry time by up to 30 minutes on average.
They are loaded from the top as well but have similar efficiency characteristics as the front loader. They do not use an agitator, but a short cone on their bottom and a mobile tank (although it does not spin), thus accepting larger loads than the classical top loader. They do not fill its tank; they use 1/3 as much water as classical top loaders. Their washing cycles last as much as the top loaders.
These combinations have the advantage of occupying much less space at home and enabling the user to cover the whole laundry with a single device. The inconvenient is that the drying loads that these devices can manage are not as big as the washing loads. This, added to the fact that they generally use ventless dryers (a type of dryer that reuses the air and eliminates the moisture instead of expelling hot, moist air and reheating dry new air), make that the cycle time become longer.
To make the most of our new washing machine, we need it to handle a load of laundry we produce most efficiently. Besides that, there are some other variables that we retain worth looking at:
Depending on the number of persons at home and the weather conditions of the area in which you live, you may prefer having dedicated washing and drying devices instead of a washer dryer combo. As well, mobility limitations may bring you to choose a high-efficiency top-loader instead of a front loader, although grabbing that last sock from the end of the drum may still be complicated.
Washing machines have similar weight and dimensions. Just make sure that the one that better satisfies your needs fits into the place you have thought for it. Do not forget about the space required by the inlet pipes and other hoses on the rear side of the machine, as well as the space needed for the door to open correctly. At this point you may want to consider as well the position of the door hinge that defines the direction in which the door opens, or if they present reversible doors, allowing you to swap the direction and giving your further flexibility about where you install the appliance. If you are thinking about stacking your dryer over the washing machine, make sure that it will fit. We do not recommend that option unless devices are of the same brand and have been designed to offer this option, with the eventual need of an additional stacking kit.
One of the first things you need to decide is either the appliance will be freestanding or integrated. Freestanding washing machines are the most common and can be placed anywhere close to a water supply and drainage. Integrated or built-in washing machines instead are placed behind a cupboard door, typically between kitchen cabinets.
Washer and dryer maximum loads are different, and they generally move between 5kg and 13kg. Again, the capacity that you need depends on the number of persons living at home, the weather conditions of your area and specific habits that you may have, like doing sport every day. If you are a couple, you may not need a machine that can handle loads of 10kg, but you might be ok with a smaller one. Larger capacities mean washing more at once and therefore saving time, increasing efficiency and decreasing costs, but remember, you need to fill the washing machine. As well, machines that can handle large loads generally come equipped with additional programmes to handle large items like duvets or curtains. As a rule of thumb, you can consider that 5 T-shirts make 1kg.
Washing machines are used quite frequently, and therefore the impact that they can have both on the environment and our pocket can not be neglected. Take a look at their energy and water consumptions, together with other indicators like the spin efficiency. All washing machines in Europe present an energy rating (the energy label) in which you can find this information together with their energy classes (A to G or A+++ to D). Even if you do not live in Europe, you might find this label on the product as its' use is being also adopted by non-EU countries.
Take a look at the noise emission of the washing machine. As a reference, you can consider that when we talk, we stay between 50-60dB. As well, you may want to look for a washing machine that incorporates any kind of technology that reduces vibration.
Some washing machines present more than one drum so that you can do two laundries at the same time or use each of the two drums for different purposes. For instance, you may want to use the main drum to do the weekly laundry while keeping the secondary drum, generally smaller, to wash daily, delicate or sports clothes.
This speed refers to how many times the drum spins round in a minute. It is measured in revolutions per minute (rpm) and the higher the spin speed, the more water will be removed at the final of the washing cycle, shortening, therefore, the subsequent drying cycle. Spin speeds can vary from 400 rpm to 1600 rpm, and the washing machine automatically selects the right spin speed according to the chosen programme or type of fabric to be treated.
Washing machines come with a standard range of programmes like the ones for cotton and synthetics, but they also offer a wide choice of special programmes. Some of these programmes are specific for sports clothes, allergen removal, delicate fabrics, wool, bed linen, duvets, curtains, etc.
Some washing machines inject steam during the wash cycle to eliminate bacteria and allergens such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander. At the same time, steam provides a higher degree of softness and fluffiness to the clothes decreasing the ironing efforts.
Usually, all washing machines come with a fast wash programme that offers the possibility to do a complete wash cycle for a reduced load of about 3kg in about 30 minutes or less. As well, some other washing machines offer additional time-saving programmes that allow completing washing cycles faster while keeping the same quality output.
Some washing machine automatically doses the right amount of detergent and softener depending on the soiling degree, fabric type and load detected. By combining auto-dosing and automatic programmes, it is achieved a saving in terms of detergent, softener and water.
Several washing machines offer the chance to add garments into an on-going initiated cycle. The way it works, however, can be different. It can be distinguished between the following main options:
- Pause + Charge. You stop the machine (as long as the programme selected allows it), open the door and insert the forgotten item. Then you close the door, and the cycle will continue. Important to notice that all the water within the drum will be lost.
- Start + Pause + Charge. It works the same way as the Pause + Charge. However, if you pause the machine at the beginning of the cycle when the water level is still below the door, the drum will not be emptied, and therefore that water will not be lost.
- Pause + Charge + Save. You stop the machine (as long as the programme selected allows it), open a secondary door of the washing machine and insert the forgotten item. Then you close the secondary door, and the cycle will continue. In this case, there is no need to empty the drum, and therefore the water will not be lost.
Most washing machines will notify you once it has arrived the time to perform "standard" maintenance actions like, for instance, cleaning the drum. These are repetitive actions that need to be done after a specific number of washing/drying cycles, and it is known as preventive maintenance. Some other washing machines will also detect and notify you of any potential problems like blocked filters that could trigger higher damages, saving you money and time. This is known as predictive maintenance.
Some washing machines come with cleaning programmes for the drum so to eliminate the agents that cause a terrible smell. As well, some detergent drawers present water jet rinse systems to remove the residual detergent left after each use.
Some washing machines provide final users with information about the use of patterns and energy consumption data.