Washing Machine Cycle Times
An explanation of why washing times are so long now
We are asked all the time if a certain program time is correct or we get the complaint that a washing machine is taking too long to wash, these days that usually means over two hours to complete a wash program. Either that or we are asked in the forums for the washing machine with the fastest wash, the shortest wash cycle, the fastest fast wash and so on so we thought we'd better explain why people were on the wrong track with this notion.
It is perfectly normal for this to be the case on a modern washing machine, most will take over two hours to complete a normal 40°C wash program. This is due to the changes in EU legislation in an attempt to save energy which meant that most machines you will see today will be "A" class. You will not find one below a "A" class wash now so, in effect, this will pretty much apply to any washing machine currently on sale in the UK or, that has been for about the last decade or so.
Below is a little triangle that is used to show the basic relationship between water use, energy use and time taken. The arrow indicates that you can reduce the time taken but that, at the same time, you must increase the amount of water used and also therefore, increase the energy use as well as you will require more energy to heat the greater amount of water.
You can, in a normal washing machine or washer dryer, move the red line up or down to increase or reduce the time taken but, the effect is that you relationally decrease or increase the water and energy use and there is not really any cheap way around this problem. So the short answer is that under normal conditions, to achieve the A Class wash energy rating in respect to energy use you must increase the time that the wash takes and agitate for longer.
The purple line, whilst it moves, is largely outside your control as the energy use will be determined by the volume of water used or required to achieve the time.
The reason is that the more water you use, the more energy that you use to heat that water and this is the biggest single use of energy on any washing machine by a considerable margin. Therefore, to reduce the energy used by any degree, you have to reduce the volume of water used on the cycle.
There was only one exception to the rule, the ISE10 washing machine. Using clever drum design and clever software ISE has a normal 40°C wash program completed in little over one hour under normal circumstances and yet still achieves an "A" or "A++" energy rating depending on the model.
Perils Of Using The Quick Wash
To cut straight to the chase, we've been horrified by some quick washes and claims being made about quick washes as a heap of them are just pure and utter rubbish.
One manufacturer, Bosch, claims that they can do a quick wash in fifteen minutes! In many cases that's about enough wash time to get the clothes wet, swirl them around a little, drain once, rinse once, spin and drain; there is no time to do anything else and certainly not enough time to actually get anything clean that is even remotely dirty.
But here's the rub, there's no industry standards for a quick wash. None. Nadda. Not a single guideline or standard exists.
So, you can't compare like for like in terms of time taken or performance as all it is really is a claim as to how fast the machine can wash. In other words when it comes to quick washes it really is like the Wild West, there is no law whatsoever and chaos ensues.
Manufacturers can claim whatever they like regardless of how tenuous the evidence or little there is to support it, or in some cases, if it's even true at all! Much of this is marketing spin and should not be believed.
But let us explain what a quick wash actually is as most people simply don't get it and blindly assume that it is a proper wash only faster. If you think or thought that, stop now, it's nothing of the kind.
Quick washes are, for the most part, designed for "lightly soiled clothing" now you are told that and no more but there's a little bit of information missing here. The missing bit of that puzzle is the explanation of what qualifies as "lightly soiled clothing" and the simplest explanation is that it is clothing that is "not worn next to the skin" by most any detergent manufacturer.
Of course this means that there is no sweat residue, no skin flakes, no makeup or cosmetic products, no skin grease and suchlike on the clothes at all or, at the very least, so little of these stains and dirt as makes no odds. A quick wash will almost certainly not remove this sort of dirt and grime and the worst of it is that a lot of it you can't see immediately.
We say you can't see it immediately as you won't for one or two washes this way and the clothes will come out somewhat refreshed with any sweat smells masked by the perfumes in the detergent used so most people just think that the job's done, but it isn't. What happens is that over time if the garments aren't washed properly is that the dirt and grime builds up and you get a greying effect and discolouration in the clothes. In other words, it ruins your clothes faster.
The other reason we see for a quick wash is to "refresh" clothes using the washing machine.
What this means is that if you for example, take out a shirt and it's a bit musty from being hung in the wardrobe for a few months but was previously clean, you can then stick it in on a quick wash and the garment will be "refreshed" saving the need to actually re-wash it entirely.
So far as quick washes go, that's it.
They will not replace your main wash and they will not clean as well as your main wash and, if you do try to wash anything that is remotely actually dirty using them then the job won't be done right and the chances are you will eventually ruin your clothes.
Conclusion On Program Times
The conclusion is very simple, do it right and be done with it.
If you buy a machine and the main wash takes two hours or so, that's perfectly normal for most machines these days and there really is no way around it. Calling an engineer because you think that the washing machine is taking too long to wash will probably not get you anywhere because, they're all like that these days and there's absolutely nothing the engineer will be able to do about it as that is how they all work nowadays. If you want to reduce the energy use in washing machines and washer dryers there really is very little option.
As we often find ourselves thinking, because we're not allowed to say it, "Sure we can fix it, but we can't make it perform any better".
Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but very few, the aforementioned ISE10 machine being the only one we know of that these days will do a normal 40°C wash program in what most people consider to be reasonable and sane. And, you can't even get that any longer.
However the introduction of EU Energy Labelling means that most all A Class energy use machines will take a lot longer to wash and there's nothing that anyone can do about it, you just have to live with it we're afraid.
See also Washing Machine Fast Wash