Which? have just investigated wash temperatures on washing machines. They found that many washing machines do not reach anywhere near 60 degrees on a 60 degree wash. After a little thought I think 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?
Washing machines all have the exactly the same parts. All of which are virtually identical. Trust me, if you strip a dozen different brands down and place all parts side by side there’s hardly any difference. All washing machines just take in water, swish it around and heat it up. (continued below..)
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.
Differences in the amount of water used on the wash cycle could explain a difference in energy usage. But these days they all use pretty much as little water as possible.
How have the energy label overseers not noticed?
Did the energy label testing check that the washing machines 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 though, I just can’t think of one.
Does it really matter?
According to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, 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 very 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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