Washing Machine Use Levels
How much people really use their machines and why it is important when buying a new one
Working out what washing machine, dishwasher or tumble dryer that you need can be a bit of a problem for many people since, as we all know, there is rarely any solid information for you to use in making a good purchase decision.
Whilst the information in this market is UK specific it may well help in other countries as we would doubt that the rest of Europe, Canada and North America will differ all that greatly in the figures that are used to demonstrate just how good or bad a choice you can make.
The figures can be applied to a number of different appliances and you can tell, largely from the price points, what to expect in quality level and, ultimately, long term durability.
In short however, choosing the correct appliance is all about use.
Why We Use Averages
Mass market manufacturers make washing machines etc to averages and it is really important to understand why.
Generally speaking, they do not cater to minorities and allow for almost no individual personalisation and, like most mature markets, it has settled largely on competing in certain key points.
So, what you will see is loads of information or claims on being the lowest energy use, the largest drum capacity, the fastest spin and so on with actual durability for the most part completely ignored. The only two brands in the UK that will talk openly about durability are Miele and ISE, beyond that the best you will get is the offer of a longer warranty.
This is because most manufacturers play the odds.
The odds are based on average and the calculation runs that, on average a washing machine or any other appliance will get used "on average" for a certain number of hours based on the factors below and that anything outside that falls outwith these industry averages and regarded as "abnormal" use.
Of course the low use products will fail far less, compensating for the higher costs on the ones that fall outside the average on the high use side to some degree. This offers the manufacturer a "mean" cost on warranty provision.
For the mass market with products that are best described as "average" it's the only way to calculate the cost liability for warranty repairs.
The problem is, that's not what most people that have an issue or end up reading this article will be doing. Many people that come across this article will already have an issue and quite likely be making the case that they only use their washing machine in an "average" way and that it should have lasted longer after it is broken.
Average UK Washing Machine Use
Working out the average level of use in the UK really wasn't that hard, all we needed was the average level of use figures and the average number of people per home. So we gathered these figures from the sources mentioned and worked it out for you and, it is important to note that we did not supply any of these figures ourselves, they are all independent figures from highly trusted sources that will be correct.
The size of an "average" household in the UK is 2.3 people according to figures from The Economist and the Office of National Statistics per home.
There are approximately 27 million homes in the UK, most will have a washing machine among other appliances.
The average number of washes per home is 270 washes per year using figures from the Energy Savings Trust and Which? And that has risen from 250 in previous years.
This means that, at best the normal average use for any washing machine is going to be a shade over 117 washes per year, per person.
This average of 270 washes per year, per household is considered to be "normal domestic use".
A typical family will have the obligatory two adults and two children now, using the numbers above you can quickly see that the use will leap to 468 wash cycles per year, almost twice the normal average use.
That means that a typical "average" family will be expected to burn through washing machines at twice the "average" rate and that, regardless of how you want to argue otherwise. This would be considered to be a "heavy use" situation, not average by any stretch.
Factor in over-sized loads, use and people's general habits such as washing things that don't really need washed, people washing cotton nappies and so on and that figure can jump up quite dramatically.
For example just think about bedding. In a completely random poll which was totally unscientific we learned that most people wash bedding once a week. But some people wash it twice a week. For a family of four that's at least an extra two loads of washing, per week or over 100 extra cycles a year. The same people also washed towels more often with a similar result meaning that their use was if not quite at commercial levels, was very close to it.
Now have a read at our article on washing machine lifespan and also on how the costs are worked out as well as how much a washing machine should cost to see just what you can expect depending on your own use and needs.
We would tell you though that, buying a washing machine that isn't suitable for your needs is very liable to prove more expensive and a lot more hassle with breakdowns given that many are not designed for more than three to five years "normal average domestic use" which is often far short of what most people expect.
Washing Machine Use Levels By Household Size
A single person will almost always be low use for a washing machine and will be under the normal average use.
A two person home will usually be around about the normal average use figures used by the industry.
This can be moved up one where it is a single parent family with one child as, very often, a child can often mean higher volumes of laundry that require cleaned.
Above Average Use
Most three person homes will exceed the average use figures for a washing machine by some margin, especially where there is a child in the family.
Almost every home with four people will be considered to be heavy users washing almost twice the national average in their washing machine. It is therefore reasonable to expect to get half the life from the washing machine in terms of time as well as twice the number of faults or problems.
Very Heavy Use
For homes with five or more people the use is considered to be very heavy use that is actually at best bordering on commercial use if not being full blown commercial levels of use. Where you have more than six people sharing a washing machine it is considered to be full commercial use.
If this is your situation you will need a good high quality washing machine as any of the cheaper models will probably self destruct in short order.
The reason for this, which many people may well find to be shocking, just as we were surprised when we started looking into this, is the huge downturn in household sizes over the past few decades demonstrated quite clearly by the following graph that uses figures from the national census, the Office of National Statistics and the Labour Force Index.
As you can see, homes with more than two people are actually a minority these days, not the average at all!
When you delve into the figures you quickly come to realise that, in actual fact, only about 20% of homes in Britain have four or more people living in them so, they are by far and away the minority and not the "norm". Which also means sadly that, when it comes to appliances and especially washing machines, that these larger homes will burn through washing machines and encounter more faults than most people will.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule but, for almost all cases this is liable to prove to be correct.
Our completely unscientific experience however would tend to agree, people that use their machines heavily will end up on first name terms with the engineer or, they get a good loyalty discount because they are buying new machines regularly. It is far from ideal.
Your Next Washing Machine
If you want your next washing machine to last more than a few months beyond the warranty then it may well be worth considering the use that you are putting it to now, if you plan to have a family or even if you are liable to have long term guests etc before you buy one. If you do trip into the higher use brackets then it may well prove very worthwhile to consider a better quality machine than the one you might have bought.
If you have special needs or you simply wash a lot, buy a better machine.
If you have a really large family or the machine is being used by multiple tenants then you really ought to be looking solely at a top end washing machine or a light commercial or whatever you buy is liable to have issues.
Just remember, other than the brand reputation, there is usually no other guidance available on how long a machine will last and, irrespective of what you buy it will only last based on how much you use it.