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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   Sources include: Maytag Customer Service   Written by Sonya Choron 7/23/13
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  • Bought a Whirlpool High Efficiency Low Water No Agitator Washing Machine. Horrible!
    Leaves soap scum on black clothes, doesn’t get the clothes as clean as my old washing machine with an agitator and everything is wrinkled. Permanent press isn’t permanent press when you use this type of machine. A wrinkled mess! I have complained on numerous occasions, E-mail, telephone and in person to the appliance store and also manufacturer. Lots of suggestions – slow spin cycle, how to load clothes!?, hotter watter, am I using HE detergent (of course) The Internet is loaded with complaints about this machine. Whirpool does not stand behind their product. I wanted an exchange. This machine should be taken off the market.

    Lynn on
  • I to was unfortunate enough to buy a May Tag Bravado Series HE washer. First thing we noticed was that the whites were not white anymore. Then the food spots on shirts and blouses did not come out. Had tech’s come out everything was per factory. He told me my experience was common with HE machines. I have tried less soap, more soap, cold water, hot water, about every detergent made for HE. The only thing that has worked so far is to take the clothes to my mothers old agitator washer and they come clean every time we have taken them there after our new washer failed to clean them. As far as I am concerned May Tag’s new HE is the best sales person Speed Queen has.I am just going to bite the bullet and go get me a machine with an agitator in it. May Tag will not help you neither would dealer. Hope this saves someone some money and grief.

    Jeremy WIley on
  • This was very helpful!

    Alexandra Piccioni on
  • For those who are tired of the headaches with HE machines, research Speed Queen. Old school “real” washer. 24-30 minute wash time,tub fills all the way to the top.

    Art on
  • I relate to the comments from Andrea and the others who are having problems with HE machines. Logically, if these machines do not get diapers clean it suggest they do not get other clothes as clean as they would get from a traditional washer.

    I have recently had to use an HE machine and it is the worst thing that has every happened to my laundry. Yes, I want to conserve, but it is pointless if my clothes are not getting clean. I am hoping to have access to a traditional washer that actually works. In the meantime, I am resorting to hand washing most items just to get them cleaner. My recommendation DO NOT buy a high efficiency machine. They don’t get the clothes and towels clean.

    Sarah on

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