The energy labels on washing machines have several ratings, which this and related pages explains and comments on. This first page looks at the energy efficiency rating, which is not a good indicator of an washing machine’s environmental credentials at all.
Energy efficiency rating
We should all know by now that A is the best and G is the worst. But it doesn’t tell us how much better or how much worse each rating is. It’s not much use saying one thing is better than another without saying how much better.
How much difference is there between an A and a B? It simply says “more efficient” at the top, and “less efficient” at the bottom. By that indicator £100 could be at the top of a chart (A) and £99 could be second (B), but there’s only £1 difference.
You might think that even if A is only slightly better than B it’s better to have the A isn’t it? But not if the B or even C is a much better washing machine. And what if the difference between an A and a B is only £10 a year but the A costs £50 more?
Soon after these ratings came out most washing machines quickly started to rate well on them, and often using trickery (Washing machines not delivering right temperature). As is so often the case, any target results in them being met at any cost – often costs which totally outweigh the whole point of the targets in the first place.
The eco labels have had to be updated several times and they’ve had to add A+, A++ and even A+++ to try and compensate for the fact that almost every washing machine ended up with an A rating, making a mockery of the system.
This has probably come about because people have been focussing on other aspects, which has left rinsing as a low priority. Two explanations spring to mind. Firstly, the focus on using less and less water is clearly impacting on our washing machine’s ability to rinse effectively. Whereas modern detergents can facilitate efficient and effective washing results at lower temperatures and with less water, no such product is currently allowing effective rinsing with much less water. Good rinsing needs plenty of water which is in direct opposition to the current environmental concerns and clamour to be the washing machine using the least amount of water.
The second explanation I can think of is that the eco-labelling system which awards ratings for energy efficiency, spin efficiency and wash efficiency do not appear to take into account rinse efficiency. As such, manufacturers aren’t being judged on how well their washing machines rinse, only on how well they wash and how well they extract water on spin. I’m speculating at this stage, but I can’t see how so many washing machines could be awarded an “A” wash efficiency rating if the tests took into account how well the clothes were rinsed. Presumably, as long as all stains are removed and laundry looks “clean” no one bothers about how much soap detergent residue is left.
It might be a good idea to create a fourth category, “rinse efficiency” on the eco labels, or at least include the rinse efficiency as part of the wash efficiency test.
Ultimately if customers don’t notice an issue then it could be argued that it doesn’t really matter. Maybe it doesn’t for most people, but it surely does to anyone sensitive to wash detergents and with allergies and a lot of people are. There were 581 comments added on this topic from such people before I had to close comments to prevent it being endless.
The current situation is that to anyone keen to buy a washing machine with good rinsing I have no washing machine to recommend because none of the companies producing the best, and the most reliable washing machines currently supply one that rinses above average according to Which? (although this could easily change and you would need to check out the latest to be sure.
Are Which? wrong?
Are Which? being too critical? Are Which? applying too stringent a rinse test? I must admit I’ve not had many complaints from people saying their washing machine isn’t rinsing properly and my own Miele washing machine, which although a Which? Best Buy, didn’t receive a “good” rating for rinsing yet it appears to rinse perfectly well as far as we can see. In fact I remarked to my wife that my clothes don’t smell of detergent like they used to in the old washing machine and deduced that it rinsed much better. However, neither of us have any reactions to washing machine detergent.
The thing about Which? is that they are totally independent. They work only for their subscribers interests and are actually a registered charity. They don’t make any money by recommending any product (even though they could) because they want to be seen as 100% unbiased. They are highly respected and I expect they test products fairly.
I suspect Which? are right and that modern washing machines don’t generally rinse very well because of the reasons I speculate about above. Whether it matters or whether it will change depends on whether enough of the public are bothered, or even notice. The 581 comments added to this article below show that many people do find this a big issue.
NOTE: Which? do rate some washing machines as satisfactory for rinsing and even a couple are rated as good, although unfortunately the few rated good (so far) are not so good on reliability.
Which? are constantly reviewing washing machines so if rinsing is particularly important to you it makes sense to become a member and see all the buying advice. I can’t print their advice for copyright reasons.
Causes of poor rinsing
There are some common causes of poor rinsing even in washing machines that do rinse well that it might be useful to point out. Anyone experiencing poor rinsing problems where washing comes out with detergent residues or white powder streaks should read this –
White streaks or residual washing powder after washing
Modern washing machines that are good at rinsing?
Which? washing machine reviews and test data available to Which? members. £1 trial offer available