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Washer Technology Spins Forward

Posted March 10, 2008

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— Washing machines tested last year by Consumer Reports were mostly mediocre.

Cleaning ability slipped when manufacturers struggled to meet new energy standards, but this year testers found more to like.

Testers put both front- and top-loaders through the wringer. To check how gentle the machines are on clothes, they washed cloths with precisely cut holes.

"After washing, we then counted the number of loose threads. The higher the number of threads, the rougher the machine was on the clothing,” Consumer Reports tester Emilio Gonzalez said.

Testers also found most front-loading washers are gentler on clothes and use less energy and water.

Consumer Reports named the $650 Frigidaire washer a best buy.

"Top-loaders are usually less expensive and they have shorter cycle times, but they haven't been cleaning as well as front-loaders. This time in our tests, we've found several inexpensive top-loaders that did clean nearly as well,” Consumer Reports tester Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman said.

Consumer Reports named the $480 GE top-loader a best buy. Both of the best-buy washers have high capacity so you can do fewer loads.

A tough stain test assessed washing capability.

"We get swatches of cloth that are uniformly stained with various substances and tested how well the washers removed those stains,” Gonzalez said.

"This is how the swatch looked before, stained with wine, cocoa and blood. This is how the swatch looked after it was washed. And this is an excellent result,” Gonzalez said as he showed the swatch.

Front-loading washing machines have longer wash cycles than top-loaders, with some running an hour and a half or more.

But the best-buy Frigidaire is an exception. It takes just over an hour.


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