Which? have just investigated wash temperatures on washing machines, I’m not sure why they thought to, but they’ve discovered something which on the face of it is very surprising and puzzling. What they’ve discovered is that many washing machines do not reach anywhere near 60 degrees on a 60 degree wash. After a little thought there’s an obvious explanation, and it’s not for our benefit.
60 ° isn’t too hot after all
One Hoover washing machine tested only reached an unbelievably low 43 degrees. Only 43 degrees on a 60 degree wash? That’s pretty staggering. Which? say –
In our test of 12 machines, eight of them did not actually reach 60C on the 60C cotton program.
Those that did only maintained that temperature for either a few minutes or a few seconds, as washing machines typically only reach their hottest temperature for a very short time.
Why would they want the washing machines to heat to a lower temperature?
Since energy usage of washing machines has become a focus everyone is obsessed with the lowest energy usage figures and using as little energy as possible. Consumers are likely to be swayed from one brand or model to another if it looks like it uses less electricity. As energy labels are calculated in part by testing on a 60 degree wash then obviously not bothering to actually heat up to 60 degrees will use less energy. As is often the case in life, manufacturers doing the honest thing and actually heating the water to 60 degrees will get comparatively bad energy usage ratings compared to another manufacturer who is only letting theirs heat up to 43 or even 55.
Why does energy usage vary so much?
They all have the same parts all of which are virtually identical. They all just take in water, swish it around and heat it up. The only part which uses any significant electricity at all is the heating element and I can’t see how you can make one which uses less electricity. If you make one smaller (so that it does use less electricity) it won’t get as hot and will take longer to heat the water and end up costing the same. I’ve assumed it must be differences in the amount of water taken in, but these days they all use pretty much as little as possible so this is certainly one explanation as to how can it cost less to heat a set amount of water to 60 degrees in one washing machine than it does in another.
Did the energy label testing not actually check the washer actually reached the right temperature?
Presumably not, which is a bit slack to say the least. They probably didn’t expect manufacturers to be so sneaky, but when anyone is ever tested and judged on targets and stats, some will always find ways to bend the system. There could be another explanation, I just can’t think of one.
Does it really matter?
According to the Sale of Goods Act, goods should perform as advertised, so if they say the 60 degree wash cycle washes at 60 degrees but it only washes at 50 or less then it’s not doing what they promised. If this causes any issues I would expect you would have a valid complaint. If the temperature is only out by a few degrees most people wouldn’t worry but some are significantly lower.
It can make a difference in various ways relating to bacteria, which is explained in detail in the Which? Report including which brands they tested and the results.
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