You buy a washing machine to clean stuff. So how do you know how well it performs and it is doing what it should?
We started doing some science stuff a few months ago and testing, imperially, a bunch of washing machines for review purposes to gauge the performance and claims made.
The results thus far have, frankly, shocked us.
We are stunned by some of the differences between different makers and, shocked at just how bad some of them are and how poorly they clean stuff.
It's also been eye-opening to see that a lot of the stuff we've been boringly banging on about for years borne out in the results. In short, we were right all along, of course, we're not surprised by that but, we now have the actual evidence and test results to prove that we are and always have been correct.
People think that they're all the same; it doesn't matter what washing machine they buy as they all clean clothes.
If that's what you think, you are wrong.
How We Test
We use a single detergent, one powder type only.
We measure the inbound water temperature and note that.
We use a set dose of powder for every test.
We run the same wash programs for each, the most commonly used wash cycles of 40˚C and 60˚C (which is also the standard Euro test cycle) and we also test one nobody else does, the fast or quick wash for each machine.
A standard test swatch with nine common test stains is used, as shown in the image with ballast.
Every machine is subjected to the same tests and allowed to run as specified by the manufacturer and the two main cycles, the 40˚C and 60˚C should operate to HLCC guidelines.
Images do not work well for this as the differences are often very subtle and it's hard to demonstrate other than the glaringly obvious ones. As you can see as one of these is okay (just) and the other totally rubbish:
What We Found
Generally, none of the fast or quick washes cleans well at all.
We would not and cannot recommend that people use these other than for refreshing already clean items that have not been worn.
Using these cycles for cleaning dirty laundry will cause long term issues and will damage your washing machine. It may also cause skin irritation as staining is not removed, and residual powder is left after the cycle is complete.
In the strongest possible terms, do not use these for worn, dirty laundry as they do not clean as many people expect them to and, the faster they are, the worse they are as a general rule.
On all the machines we've yet tested these perform much, much better than fast washes but they take longer. Times vary but generally in a modern machine these will take from 1:30 to 2 hours.
The surprising thing with these was the variation in results when they should all operate to HLCC guidelines so, under the same test conditions, there should only be degrees of a difference. There's not. In some cases, the differences were immense.
In short, what people think they might be getting and what they do may not be aligned will we say, to put it nicely.
For most, these cycles perform better and removed more stains, better than the 40˚C washes with a few exceptions.
The 60˚C wash cycle is an important one, and we're telling you this to keep it in mind as you read because this is the cycle that is used for the determination of energy use etc. in standard EU tests for the energy label. So, the less energy that is used, the better the energy use rating and the more people buy one. For manufacturers and sellers, this is very, very important to be what they want it to be.
What the tests do not tell you is how well it performs.
We have concerns about this as, in our opinion, most modern machines are not reaching the temperature that they should to clean correctly.
Given that bugs, mites and the likes of MRSA etc. are not killed unless the machine gets to the target 60˚C temperature that means that bedding, towelling, workwear (NHS, vets etc.) will not be being properly cleaned and infections may not be neutralised.
Even for normal domestic use, laundry will not be getting cleaned correctly.
For us, this is extremely worrying. It is our opinion that this poses a real and present risk to health.
Sadly, nobody except us seems to care.
It seems to us that the drive for ever-lower energy use has led to this phenomena as reducing the temperature seems to be the only way to reduce it.
This has adversely affected the wash performance of many modern washing machines meaning, you're not getting the performance you think and to get close to the results you should, great care must be taken.
Poor Washing Over Time
Those of us that are of a certain age will recall detergent adverts that brandished "After ten washes..." from years past that seem to have been ditched.
There was a very, very good reason for this.
It takes multiple washes to see actual results and it takes time for bacteria to build up in your washing machine the major cause of a smelly washing machine, you can use it a few times and think it's great. It's only over time you start to notice bad smells, itchy skin and "done" looking clothes.
You won't see that immediately; it'll take time.
Health risk like ineffective bacteria cleansing, skin irritation and more, you won't see immediately; it'll take time.
You might not even think of the wash performance of your washing machine or correct use of detergents might be the cause. Largely as it could be months and months down the road depending on how you use your machine, how well it performs, and how you use it.
There are many variables but, if the fundamental wash programs you use are not performing as they should, the risk is increased of all these issues exponentially and, you can't fix it.