The Facts on High Efficiency Washing Machines

High Efficiency, or HE machines, can be top loading or front loading washing machines. Top-loading models look like standard machines from the outside, but like their front-loading cousin, they use different
image of washing machine
types of washing action to get clothes clean using less water and energy. Front-loading models are similar to machines used in Laundromats, which lift and drop clothing into the water instead of rubbing clothes around an agitator. Many HE machines have sensors to monitor incoming water temperature and the weight of the load. They also rinse clothes with repeated high-pressure spraying instead of soaking them in a full tub of water. Both top-loading and front-loading ENERGY STAR certified washers save resources such as gas, electricity, and water. They utilize faster spin cycles to extract more water out of the laundry, reducing dryer time and energy use. HE Facts Water Traditional machines generally require enough water to cover all the clothes in the drum, while a high efficiency washer needs only about a 20-66% of that amount. Wash Time Wash cycle times are generally longer with a high efficiency washing machine, but dryer times are decreased.  

Cleaning the machine

Since water use is low, there's a tendency for soap and soil residue to build. This requires you to run a monthly cleaning cycle. Laundry Detergent High efficiency machines cannot use the same detergent you buy for a traditional machine. High efficiency detergents do the same great job of cleaning but are formulated to work better in a low water environment.  Efficiency Since there's either no agitator or a smaller agitator in high efficiency washing machines, you can also generally do larger, and hence fewer, loads than in traditional machines.   Energy Star Washers with the ENERGY STAR rating use about 35 percent less water and about 20 percent less energy than standard washing machines (15 gallons of water per load, compared to the 23 gallons). Benefits of HE machines
  1. Performance: Great at getting clothing clean. HE machines usually have more customized settings which can provide for better cleaning.  Many newer models of HE washers have sensors, enabling the machines to detect the weight of a load and the type of fabric, so they can run at optimal temperature and water levels.
  2. Less Wear and Tear: Unlike washers with agitators, which actually scrub the soil out of fabric, high-efficiency models toss and tumble through a stream of water to clean the laundry.
  3. Greater Capacity: Due to the removal of the agitator, front-loading washers save space inside allowing for larger loads. Front load machines  can also be stacked with a dryer to save space.
  4. Resource Preservation: Energy Star-rated machines are required to use 30 percent less energy than traditional models, and most high-efficiency washers use 20-66 percent less water.
  5. Shorter Dry Times: Although the wash cycle is longer, the spin cycle removes more water from fabric. This may not be an issue for those line drying in arid climates, but can help for those using the dryer or with more humid climates.
  6. Cost Savings: Although HE machines can cost quite a bit more upfront, they can save money on resources such as energy and water. Keep in mind if using the sanitize cycle on clothing or linens, that this super-hot cycle increases energy use significantly.
Drawbacks of HE machines
  1. Initial Cost and Maintenance Costs: HE machines can come with a hefty price tag. The machines will also have higher maintenance costs, due to the high tech features and cost of specialized parts.
  2. Noise: The spin cycle on HE machines may be a bit noisy. Placing a thick mat under the machine may help.
  3. Mold and Mildew on front loaders: Due to the rubber seal utilized to keep the water in, mold and mildew can grow around the inside seal and in the washer. Cleaning the machine on a routine basis should help, as well as keeping the door open in between uses (make sure small children do not have access to the machine when the door is open). Also make sure to remove laundry promptly after the wash cycle is finished.
  4. Difficulty Cleaning Cloth Diapers: Due to the amount and nature of the soil in cloth diapers, HE machines may not clean cloth diapers thoroughly. This can depend on the amount of water that the machine uses, wash routine, and the make and model of machine.
Common Questions I need to strip my diapers. Does Dawn or other dish soap void the warranty? Maytag says yes. Since dish soap is not low sudsing, it will most likely void the warrany on any HE machine. How hot is a sanitize cycle? Can I use it on my cloth diapers? 160 + degrees Fahrenheit We do not recommend using the sanitize cycle, or any cycle that is higher than 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit on our products, as it can damage the fibers and components. What detergent should I use? Here are our recommended detergents which are HE compatible:   Allens Naturally Liquid Ecover Liquid Ecover Powder Mountain Green Free and Clear Baby Mountain Green Ultra Baby Nature Clean Powder Planet Delicate Laundry Wash Planet 2X Ultra Laundry Detergent HE Vaska   What brand of machine should I purchase? We cannot recommend a specific brand or machine, but if you have an HE machine, please feel free to leave a comment for others to read.   As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions! 888-315-2330 support@thirstiesbaby.com   Sources include: Maytag Customer Service   http://www.laundry.com/en-US/high-efficiency/he-vs-traditional.jspx#2   http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/high-efficiency-washers2.htm http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=CW   Written by Sonya Choron 7/23/13
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41 comments

  • Just got an LG 7200CW washer. It is real important to read a few things about how these washers work and how you defeat the purpose by adding water. This is because it causes the dirty clothes to float off the recycling moving plate in the bottom of the tub. It is this plate that moves the water and clothes! For a certain part of my normal cycle with about 4 large towels and an equal volume of smaller items, it looked like the clothes were staying in place on top! However and after a time, the cycles got much stronger and the big stuff on top surged over and completely submerged for a decent length of time.
    So, read up and figure out the cycles selection that gives you assurance but stay away from extra water. At least my machine has a selection for extra water so it continues to measure the amount so I wouldn’t have to guess.

    Ross Elkins on
  • Just bought a house with an HE washer for the first time. I have read a few articles that list bigger load size as an advantage because of shorter agitators. To my understanding, you are not supposed to load cloths in this “extra” space. You are supposed to stack them around the edge, leaving the middle area open. In my experience HE loads are significantly SMALLER because of this. Like 25 to 50 percent smaller. I have to do WAY more loads and because each load takes two to three times as long, it’s difficult for me to get just one basket of laundry done in a single day. (I also have to time my loads around baby’s nap and bed time because of how insanely loud the machine is) Ugh. It’s the worst. How are people getting BIGGER loads? Am I doing something wrong or do people just not follow the proper loading instructions and cover the short agitator?

    Samantha on
  • Has anyone tried to use the DELICATES cycle. On my GE HE machine the delicate cycle uses the most water of any cycle. If the load is small the clothes actually float. Medium to large loads on delicate cycle get clean. There is rest time between agitations. This keeps the clothes from getting damaged.

    Joe Moore on
  • Maytag Bravos XL washing machine (W 10550277B) is TERRIBLE

    We’ve had this washing machine for almost two years and it’s the worst piece of crap waste of money of any appliance I own. We bought it on the basis that it’s efficient and with the Maytag name you can’t go wrong, right? WRONG. I’ll never buy another Maytag machine again as long as I live.

    The issue is that almost every wash of dark clothes comes out with soap scum on almost everything. This is after numerous adjustments and reading the instructions over and over, and using minimal good quality liquid laundry soap and even running an extra rinse and trying different cycles like the Heavy Duty wash. Sometimes the scum works its way out in the dryer, but often I have to run the items through another cycle with no soap.

    It’s extremely frustrating to pay top dollar for a machine that works so very badly.

    John van Gurp on
  • PLEASE don’t purchase a top load HE machine. We have a Maytag Bravos XL Top-loading High Efficiency
    Model MVWB880BW0. Here are our major complaints:
    Expensive ($800 on sale at Lowes)
    LONG wash times: Minimum 1 Hour up to 1.5 hours for a SMALL load.
    Clothes don’t come out clean: lint in the dryer has a bad smell after drying bath towels washed in
    this washer. This means that the towels were not cleaned properly.
    Clothes are torn up and/or worn out due to excess friction during wash cycle.
    Clothes are tied up in knots at the end of the cycle.
    Zero operator control. After you select the cycle options and start the machine, you can’t make
    changes without the cycle starting all over.

    Summary: After the grandkids visit, it now takes two full days to do the laundry. (Bedding,
    bath towels, etc), and the clothes don’t come out as clean as they should. It used to take one day with our old agitator type Maytag.

    John on

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