Why does washing machine take so long to wash?

Waiting All modern washing machines take a lot longer to wash than they used to. Many people blame their particular brand of washing machine, especially after replacing an older one which washed much quicker. However, all washing machines just take a lot longer to wash these days and this article explains why. Also if you are wondering why do economy cycles take much longer to run if they are using less electricity this is also answered later on.

Reasons it takes so long to complete a wash cycle

The gradual reduction in water usage means that rinsing takes a lot longer. Less water makes it less efficient to rinse so rinses have to take longer

The introduction of the energy labels means manufacturers have to focus closely on using less electricity and even less water.

To a lesser extent cold water only washing machines causing washing machines to have to heat up from cold. However, as my article on cold fill machines points out, in the UK most people’s wash times shouldn’t be significantly affected by losing the hot water valve – Should I buy a cold fill washing machine or hot and cold fill?

Also, a lot of washing machines may struggle to balance the load and may have convoluted procedures in place to keep trying to balance a difficult load which can add extra time.

The coveted wash efficiency ratings cause many manufacturers to increase wash times extensively in order to get their machines to pass the test. Washing for much longer helps get better results. The same applies to the common trend of using lower water temperatures and less energy, all of which require longer periods to get the same wash results.

In theory, modern washing machines should wash much better as a result, and the better quality washing machines should be able to wash the quickest.

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Ultimately most washing machines take a ridiculous amount of time to complete a wash cycle now so it’s fairly normal. There are variances in wash times but quicker times may result in not getting laundry as clean. Ironically, most of the reasons mentioned above are to do with becoming more environmentally friendly but taking almost twice as long is bound to shorten the life of a washing machine as well as make it break down more – which is not environmentally friendly at all.

Don’t try to cut down wash times

It seems that most people find the extra long wash times unacceptable. Instead of washing laundry on the correct wash cycle they use the quick wash cycles, or use option buttons to cut down the time. They will do anything to find a shorter wash cycle. This can be very counter-productive and significantly shorten the life of your washing machine. Using mostly the quick, short and low temperature wash cycles can ruin your washing machine by coating it inside with grease gunge and slime causes of grease, slime, black mould and smells inside washing machines.

Wash more with a larger drum

If most washing machines are taking too long to wash, one way of counteracting this is to buy a washing machine with a larger drum capacity which will at least enable you to wash more items at once and reduce the time by doing less loads.

Why do economy programs or options take much longer?

FAQ People are often very puzzled by how using an eco wash program, or selecting economy options on their washing machine, dishwasher or tumble dryer causes it to take a lot longer to complete the cycle. It seems completely counter intuitive. I’ve been asked the following question many times –

Q: How is it that the ‘Economy’ cycles take twice as long as the regular wash? How is that economical? I would have thought that would use more electricity.  ”

Here’s the answer: Heating up the water in a washing machine or dishwasher, or the air in a tumble dryer is what really costs money. When the heater is turned off they hardly use any electricity. For example, a washing machine running with the heater on for just 15 minutes would use considerably more electricity than just washing the clothes with the heater off for hours.

The economy wash programs need to use less electricity to save money, so they use lower temperatures, or in the case of some dryers they use a heat pump to recirculate some of the warm air. And because that isn’t as efficient they have to compensate by physically washing or tumble drying for longer. So although the economy washes and settings take longer, they use less electricity.

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9 thoughts on “Why does washing machine take so long to wash?”

  1. Jacqueline Byrne

    I have just bought a Hotpoint HE8L493P washing machine which is totally useless to me. My son had an Hotpoint Aquarius WMF740 which I borrowed when my old one died. A great machine did a 40%/140 spin wash in 125 minutes, this damned thing which looked exactly the same except it was 8 kg load does the same wash in 185 minutes. It is the only programme suitable for me, none of the others are any good at all, won’t take a 8kg load on the quick washes only 3.5, at this rate I will be washing all day and all night.

    On a Monday I change my bed duvet cover, sheet 4 pillowcases = 1 load 3 hours – I change the bath towells, 2 large bath sheets 2 handtowels, bathmat, cloakroom handtowels = one load = 3 hours. Underwear/nightclothes = 1 load 3 hours – weeks shirts trousers tops = 1 load 3 hours. Which means I shall be washing from 8am to 8pm – crazy.

    I feel so angry that I feel like taking the hammer to the thing, and finding a second hand old one somewhere. What I thought I bought is not what I have, I am a pensioner and cannot aford to buy another machine as much as I hate this thing. Would I have a case with trading standards, as what is the point of a 8kg machine when only 4 programmes can take 8kgs and the others are 3.5 kgs.

    I would be able to handwash and spin a load in half the time the machine takes to do it.

  2. I have the same problem. Im wondering which would be the best programmes to use though & what tempatures on mixed full loads as everyone is telling me different

  3. Hello Sue, the most commonly used program is 40° cottons. Most people put almost everything on that. However it does do a full speed spin at the end and some items may not be suitable for full spin. There may even be mixed load wash on some washing machines. Ultimately though, laundry should be washed according to the instructions on the wash label. Many people rarely look at these labels to determine what wash programs they should be washed on and many modern items have surprisingly restricting wash instructions. Failure to observe them can result in clothes shrinking, getting badly creased, getting damaged, sleeves going baggy, going out of shape etc.

  4. For those of you complaining about washing machines, look at Speed Queen. Speed Queen are old school 1970’s style top loading washing machines that get the job done with no mold, no horrible smell, lets you select the water level, lets you use HOT water, and has a 35-40 minute wash time. They are a bit on the high side though, but they are built like a tank. They have a commercial pedigree, used in laundry mats.

    A dealer in West Texas I spoke with, says he sells 30 a month because people are so fed up with HE appliances.

  5. Helloooo, I’m surprised more people aren’t lamenting about why washing machines take quite so long these days!

    It really is rather infuriating! All this energy saving nonsense – it’s political correctness GONE MAD!
    I simply cannot bear to buy a swanky new machine which takes 2 -3 hours for a wash. I am after all an incessantly busy young man!

    So Andy Trigg from white goods please help me. Which washing machines available in the UK offer the quickest standard cycle?

    Your humble servant who cannot wash his clothes quick enough,

    N.B. I’m not interested in this quick cycle malarkey as I like my clothes crisp and clean (and my housemate does occasionally soil himself).

  6. Hello Abid. It’s impossible for me to keep up with all the features of new models but the best way to check out such features (and whether they are any good or not) is to check out Which? get your Which? trial offer

    In my opinion quick washes are either a gimmick, or misunderstood by many people. I think they are incorrectly named. Why wouldn’t we all want a “quick” wash? They should be named Light Wash which would imply it washes lightly (and therefore less thoroughly) which would hint that it may not be appropriate for many wash loads. The word “quick” just say – hey this cycle is quick, which we all want – but it doesn’t wash them properly which is why it is quick. Those cycles (as you say) are useless for anything but non dirty laundry – maybe a shirt that’s been worn for an evening etc.

    Virtually all washing machines wash exactly the same way, they fill with water, wash detergent into the drum, turn the drum and heat the water. All drums are full of holes and have 3 paddles. Therefore, how can any washing machine wash quicker without compromising wash results? Having said that, if you check out Which?’s many washing machine reviews you will see there are definitely variances in wash quality. It dumbfounds me how so many washing machines appear to not wash very well when they are all virtually exactly the same.

  7. i bought a washing machine and it was from hotpoint it took 3 hours and a bit to compleate a wash cycle a used to have the hotpoint wm22 which was the best machine a think hotpoint did since th new ones have come out they are a compleate waste of time and a dont see how a washer will use less electricity for 3 hours when the hotpoint wm22 had the wash compleated with in 45 mins

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