Washing Machine Features Demystified
Washing machine technology gets better every day, and there are a whole host of features available on modern models. Exactly what you get varies with the brand and model. Usually the more expensive and high quality the machine, the more features it will have.
This section of our buyers guide explains what these features do, from time delays to fuzzy logic, so you can compare machines more easily.
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Displays and Controls
Most washing machines have a control panel with all the buttons, switches or dials used to set the machine.
Indicator lights tell you what settings you’ve chosen and how far through the cycle the machine is. Some machines also have a memory button, which lets you save your favourite wash settings to use again.
Pause buttons are another useful feature – especially when you’ve found an extra sock to go in the wash when the cycle has already started.
Some machines have an LCD or LED display instead (or as well as) indicator lights. These are clear and well lit for good visibility, and often have a countdown timer to show how long the wash will take. Advanced models may even have touch screen controls.
You may want a model with a time delay, which means you can set a programme to start or finish exactly when you want. This is useful if you have cheaper night-time electricity rates or don’t like your damp clothes sitting in the machine for hours while you’re out.
Efficient Use of Resources
With green issues a huge concern these days, washing machine manufacturers are adding features that make their models more efficient – in terms of electricity, water and even detergent usage.
Some clever machines use sensors to calculate the exact amount of energy and water required for a wash cycle. This is a very efficient way of washing and helps to lower your bills. Siemens iSensoric models are just one example of machines with this technology.
Automatic dosing features make sure only the correct amount of detergent is used in each wash. The machine determines how much detergent a particular wash programme needs based on the material type and weight, then releases the amount from a reservoir. This saves you money on detergent, and makes sure the water doesn’t get too foamy.
Various safety features come included on many washing machines to ensure against floods or accidents.
Child locks stop curious fingers altering programme settings once a wash has started, and door locks stops them opening it and making a mess.
Overflow and leak prevention systems have sensors to detect any potential problems and will cut off the water supply if they find something, so you won’t come home to a flood. Many machines also have overheating protection for the water heater or motor, which helps extend their life span.
If you add an excessive amount of detergent to a wash it can cause an overflow of foam or bubbles. Anti-foam technology prevents this as it automatically adjusts the length of the cycle to compensate.
New technology is creating the quietest washing machines ever. Modern brushless inverter motors eliminate high frequency noise for quieter, shorter and more efficient wash programmes.
Self-cleaning detergent drawers and drums are handy additions to some higher end machines. They use powerful water jets to flush out any residue after a wash, to keep your machine clean for the next use.
Variable spin options let you manually alter the spin speed of wash programmes. This is ideal if your clothes and sheets are coming out very creased: just lower the spin and they shouldn’t get so tangled.
If you have uneven floors, look out for levelling legs. These are adjustable, and ensure the machines sits level. This is important in getting an evenly distributed wash and ensures the machine is quiet and doesn’t move around.
Wash Cycle Extras
An anti-stain feature is a great addition for messy households, as this uses carefully controlled temperatures to remove everything from red wine to grass. This is a particular feature of some Hotpoint machines, although other brands have similar functions.
If you want the best performance with the minimum fuss, it’s worth looking for a machine with Fuzzy Logic. This is a sensor system that monitors and controls conditions inside the machine, including the washing process, water intake, water temperature, wash time, rinse performance and spin speed. The machine automatically assesses the type of fabric, soiling levels, water hardness and weight of load, then alters the wash conditions for optimal results. How clever is that?
Concerned about hygiene? A service/maintenance wash helps keep your machine as clean as possible. This cycle runs at a very high temperature (about 90°) to sterilize the inside of the machine and remove bacteria, soap scum and mould.
Bosch and Siemens washing machines often have a feature called VarioPerfect, which allows you to select either a shorter or a more eco-friendly wash. However, other brands have quick and eco functions too. These are great if you need something washed quickly or have more time and would like to save some electricity.
Some washing machines have a steam refresh option. This isn’t a wash programme as such, but a cycle where your clothes are steamed to remove odours and freshen them up. This option can be added on to the end of a wash cycle to help reduce creases, and remove particles that may irritate people with allergies or sensitive skin..
Concerned about hygiene? A service/maintenance wash helps keep your machine as clean as possible.
The Future of Washing Machines
Wi-Fi enabled washing machines are the latest trend. Although there aren’t many models currently available with this feature, they’re tipped to become much more common in 2016.
As long as you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can remotely monitor and control your washing machine using an app on your Smartphone. Start, stop, pause or receive an alert when your load has finished, all at the touch of a screen.