Washing machines. Without a doubt, the most self-defeating thing you can do when shopping for a 60cm wide box of gears and electronics is to drive straight to the shop floor for a casual wander.
Seized by largely useless aesthetics, hypnotised by deals, scanning QR codes, and eyeballing your phone screen while corralling the kids? Do the research before you put that pedal to the metal.
There’s actually a lot to be excited about. As consumers, we have forced change. Banal and highly sophisticated improvements in the performance, durability and efficiency of washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, and cooling devices (even counter-top electrical goods) have permeated every tier of branding.
Competition among producers of white goods is relentless. Features reserved for the most aristocratic German engineering five years ago are now commonplace inclusions for washers under €400, and there’s an affordable choice to actively lighten every household load. Let’s see what’s out there for washers to clean up.
Manufacturers have surrendered to the fact that hard-pressed, time-hungry parents and millennials dashing out to work carry out those short, half-loads. We are committed to lower temperature cycles of 30C as standard, but we don’t always behave. Instead of hectoring us to be that eco-friendly angel all week long, brands are responding with flexible programs that use fuzzy logic to save water and energy every wash.
Zanussi’s CleanBoost 60C washing program offers powerful, penetrating steam at the end of its cotton cycle, to ensure a hygienic run reducing allergens and bacteria that can leave challenging clothing still reeking under the arms. Thirty minutes together with drying times can still add up to a 90-minute panic.
Look out for its whip-cracking 14-minute Refresh cycle, to condition clothes between thorough washes. Clothes “conditioning” is something to familiarise yourself with in wardrobe care, as interim treatments can come down to a stroke with a hand-held steamer.
I’m impressed by Zanussi’s FlexiTime button, which allows us to speed up individual cycles according to the demands of the day. Tap to activate, and again to subtract some cycle time. You can do this three more times — every time chopping off more of the cycle’s standard duration. Ex-display models of the ZWF942E3PW with its inverter motor start at less than €470 for an 8kg machine.
Don’t shy away from ex-display models that have never run and still carry their full warranty. D-rated, the ZWF942E3PW is an excellent performer with the new EU A-G energy efficiency labelling (70kWh for 100 eco cycles).
For a brilliant B-rating (55kWh for 100 Eco cycles) the Samsung 8kg Ecobubble, in a lip-licking platinum-silver, offers steam-cleaning as standard, and a Formula One 1400rpm spin speed. It also includes the signature 30-minute bubble soak which teamed with your cycle of choice, takes detergent deeper into the fabrics at lower temperatures loosening blood and grass stains left from GAA heroics.
I really appreciate Samsung’s simple Add-Wash for that lost pair of knickers after the cycle has left the station. Where you do buy into a pause/reload, it’s designed to keep the door safely on lock-down over 50C and/or if the machine is full of water, so don’t worry.
Samsung’s rare 10-year warranty on components and engineering means there’s no need for a pricey in-house extended warranty from your supplier; from €460, multiple suppliers.
So, you want your suds smart? Just starting the machine with stabs at the phone while standing in front it — well, I would argue this is just short-cutting brain power (save your money). I have never met anyone who is actually monitoring their washing machine from their phone.
Beyond remote tickles and nonsense, Haier has some intriguing helpers for that tangle of various textiles in the hamper. The washing-lens function on its hOn App decodes the washing symbols on your clothing and creates a virtual inventory to provide the best washing treatment for each garment. Handy as it’s linked back to your model and potential cycles.
Haier’s i-Time, again changes the run speed to your need, and for prices over €600 for a range of models, you’ll be offered an internal drum light to find that thong hiding behind the drum paddle.
There’s just the extra sprinkle of sugar for a more elite branding, but Haier is a mid-range quality that’s a good choice to compare with four-figure choices by Miele, LG and Siemens; Haier I-Pro Series 5 HW100-B14959U1, €599.99, currys.ie.
Bosch Series 4 machines with SpeedPerfect whisper-quiet EcoSilence drives are still getting a lot of positive attention from reviewers this year. Again, it’s due to sensible, intelligent detailing for real-life.
Its start/pause/reload function on my now six-year-old machine was life-altering (with lower water usage, it’s so useful to be able to pop open the machine to re-balance heavy linens or to rescue a coin or credit card). With SpeedPerfect on the latest Bosch inverter machines, you can wash up to four kilogrammes of mixed laundry up to 65% faster. That’s just 46 minutes, and this hurry-up function can be combined with most other programs.
Bosch, like all makers, emphasises its frugal water usage, and if you don’t think this matters, remember every litre used has to be heated and spun out, so it does influence the energy rating.
For a monster, budget machine, I’m vouching for the Beko 10kg WTL104151W this year. Not only does it use recycled plastic bottles in its drum, but with variable spin speeds, with that essential 1400prm included, a 2kg, 14-minute Quick Cycle or 10kg Daily Quick of just 28 minutes there’s a lot to love in this honest beauty.
Used without the crutch of an app, this machine is a real-life saver for a busy clan with a cliff-face of washing and disgruntled teenagers to deal with.
A 10kg model is large enough to ingest a reasonably large duvet or double blanket, and with a brush-less inverter motor, it should last up to six-eight years without any major maintenance issues.
Just like a top-shelf machine for twice the money, Beko includes an anti-allergy program, endorsed by Allergy UK, which will savage cat, dog and pollen allergens, as well as bacteria and fungi in the load; €400 from multiple suppliers with a B-rating (59kWh per 100 eco cycles).
My top feature picks for washing machines do not include remote app wonders, but as I’ve said, I am intrigued with one or two handy tools that might matter from time to time. Concentrate otherwise on what’s really helpful — 1400 spin speeds, start/reload functions, steam cleaning, and anti-bacterial deep cycles and refresh cycles.
Between A and D energy ratings you are just splitting a fraction of a kWh per cycle. Don’t get hung out to dry on A ratings. They can add a couple of hundred euros on upfront costs to save no more than 20kWh per year (often the real difference between an A and a D-rated machine).
Instead, throw that money at a well-rated heat-pump tumble dryer skimming under 3kWh per load, and use delay-start, a common setting with most washers to spank those time-of-use energy tariffs with your smart or Day/Night meter.
High-spin speeds are appearing on budget machines, 800rpms or more, are vital to reduce the run times of the kWh gnashing tumble dryer. A good wring is more important than weather reports from a washer’s app whispering that “it’s a good day to hang out a wash”. Use higher revs only when you need them.
Technician Maurice Kiely advises: “High-spin speeds wear down your machine, hammering the drum bearings. If you take the spin down a notch or two on a nice spring day and dry outside, ie 1000rpm or even 800rpm, this will give you years extra on the life of the machine with imperceptibly different results.”