Why can’t modern washing machines rinse properly?

Soapy-water My attention was drawn to rinsing efficiency after noticing that out of dozens of washing machines reviewed by Which? most of them had a poor rating for rinsing. Even those singled out as Best Buys were “poor” at rinsing. Believe it or not, at least one Best Buy was “very poor”. I found that pretty shocking.

From studying the figures it is clear that if “good”, or “very good” rinsing was one of the prerequisites for a Best Buy there would be no Best Buy washing machines or washer dryers at all – not a single one. It appears that Which? have decided to allow the poor rinsing results to be a caveat instead of a best buy killer. Please note however that several Which? best buys are “satisfactory” at rinsing which is something at least.

Out of 125 washing machines and washer dryers tested, a remarkable 75 of them (60%) were rated either “poor” or “very poor” at rinsing with only 3 getting the rating we should expect for all washing machines which is “good”.

The rest were a mere “satisfactory”. To summarise, just less than 3 % of the 125 washers & dryers are “good” at rinsing according to Which?

Since writing this article I’ve discovered Which? no longer give the majority of washing machines 1 or 2 star ratings for rinsing ability, and the majority appear to get 3 or 4 stars. Which? tell me they’ve readjusted their rinse marks to more accurately reflect the degrees of abilities between even poor rinsing machines. However, they are still critical of many of their rinsing abilities in the comments and the pros and cons.

What does this mean?

Well for a start it doesn’t mean that we can settle for one of the three washing machines that are “good” at rinsing because they unfortunately let themselves down in other areas such as with “noisy spin, and poor brand reliability”. However, if you really need a washing machine that rinses better than any other – maybe because of allergies – then at least Which? have identified three candidates out of the 125 they’ve tested so far.

I have to advise though that you should go for them only if good rinsing is your most important requirement and are prepared to accept big compromises elsewhere – as long as it rinses well.

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Why aren’t they rinsing properly and does it really matter?

Surely all washing machines should rinse well? It’s surely quite simple, you just use enough water to rinse them properly. It’s astounding that we have reached the situation where the majority of washing machines and washer dryers on sale in the UK are apparently poor at rinsing.

Save-water 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.

Eco Labels
Eco Labels

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.

Allergies 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 directly 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. However, my understanding is that the do charge for companies to display their “Best Buy” logo!

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.

Which? research

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.

Here’s how they describe their reviews –

We are of course well known for our traditional product testing. And when we test something like the proverbial washing machine, we will ask the laboratory not only to measure how clean the clothes get, but how much water and energy is used? How easy is it to work out the programmes? What is the machine like on specialist cycles? How long does it take? All these things feed into our best buy criteria.

We will devise the testing schedule by looking at things from the ordinary user’s point of view: and if standard industry methods are not good enough we will devise our own methods   ”

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

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546 thoughts on “Why can’t modern washing machines rinse properly?”

  1. Hi. I have the LG with the medic programme but have not used it yet, I will use it on my next wash and let you know, however the normal washes do not remove the powder satisfactory. Most people on here appear to have a problem with soap suds, I do not,, probably because my machine does not take enough water to produce suds, (I think its faulty ?) I add 3/4 jugs of water to the wash and then another 3/4 jugs to the final rinse and only then do I see suds. Maybe somebody can explain why to me. ? Thanks.

  2. @syl
    Hi I have used the “Medic programme and it did rinse better than the normal wash, however i only had a small load to wash. the medic programme only works on certain programmes e.g. cotton, synthetic.cotton quick and babycare. If you scroll to earlier posts you will see comments re. “Which” their best machine was not the best at rinsing, or something like that, I have for the longest while been seriously considering swapping my L.G. for a hot and cold fill reconditioned machine but i keep battling on with it, I am beginn,ing to think i am just unlucky and it is taking on even less than it should.

  3. I’ve had to close this popular article to new comments. I tried loading the article on a different computer, which having not loaded it before (and therefore having nothing cached) simulated how a new visitor would get it and it took so long to load all the comments I suspect many people would abandon it.

    Therefore to prevent things just getting worse I’ve started a topic on my Washerhelp forums. I hope all you lovely contributors will be happy to continue to comment, discuss and help each other over there. Please feel free to start new topics on anything you want as long as it’s appropriate for the forum you post it in, and many thanks for your valued contributions so far – don’t forget all my other blog articles :-)

    Continue the debate – Do washing machines use too little water now?

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