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 Judy,

    Thanks for the information regarding twin tubs. I haven’t bought one yet but have decided to buy a spin dryer like White Knight (Made in UK!) as i do think that will remove more residue than my machine does even on 1200 spin. I found my old machine got things drier at 800rpm.


  2. I have made quite a few comments on this thread in the past but I thought I should say that we appear to have stumbled on a satisfactory solution (for our particular circumstances at least). We have an old Miele W919 which has a “Water Plus” feature which introduces more water if selected. On its own this feature did not solve the problem. The water level is detected by a tube which dips into the water, and which which has at the other end a pressure sensor. We shortenned the tube to “fool” the sensor and cause more water to be drawn in. Again this on its own did not solve the problem satisfactorily.

    We now use the Ecover concentrated Biological powder with this setup and no longer need to perform multiple additional hot water hand rinses by hand or using machine wash cycles as before. We have NOT found the Ecover liquid to be as effective and nor the non-biological powder.

    Hope this helps. Someone should tell Ecover that they have unintentionally stumbled upon a geat marketing opportunity!

  3. Nikki: I would have thought shortening the pressure tubing hose would decrease the amount of water getting into the washing machine. The longer it is, the more pressure (and therefore more water) would be needed to switch over the pressure switch, and the shorter the hose the less pressure needed.

    Having read your comment about Ecover liquid and non-biological powder not performing well, I would suggest trying the “home made” laundry powder. It is very quick and easy to make – my earlier comments explain “how to” in more depth. Be sure to use LIQUID soap flakes, as the non-liquid soap flakes will foam too much! I now use the home made stuff in every wash and I find it’s MUCH easier to rinse off and it cleans just as well as Ariel detergent did. Now I don’t have to run extra programs just for rinsing or fill every rinse with jugs of warm water. Also I’ve stopped using the programmes which automatically reduce the wash time for smaller loads. Instead I use the standard programmes which wash for longer, regardless of load size.

    As for rinsing, all I do now is press the “Extra Rinse” option on every wash. During the last rinse I pour in 4 to 6 jugfuls of warm water just to be sure; I probably don’t need to do that. Plus I like to be indoors when I have the washing machine or dishwasher switched on and working, having read the horrifying incidents of fires, broken glass doors etc. on this website!

  5. Hello Washerhelp

    The shortening of the pressure tubing was the idea of a Miele engineer in response to our complaints. I guess the way it works is that the water level needs to be much higher before the tube even makes contact with the water? It seems to work because the water can be nearly half way up the window.

    Thanks to WMUser for the suggestion of trying his home made recipe. The only disadvantage of Ecover powder is that it is OK for routine washing but not so good for more persistent stains so I have to resort to using Vanish sometimes. I do not however need to do any extra rinses. How much does it cost per Kg to make your home made recipe?

  6. Hello Nikki: If the Miele engineer suggested it I’m surprised because they can adjust the levels of water that go into a Miele washing machine by plugging in their laptop.

    The way the pressure system works is that as water rises in the drum it also fills a pressure chamber, which is essentially a plastic bottle. As water rises inside this bottle it forces air up the thin pressure tubing attached to the top. The air pressure is eventually strong enough to switch the pressure switch.

    If the pressure tubing was twice as long it should need a lot more water in to force enough air up the tube to switch the pressure switch. If the pressure tubing was half as long I would expect it should need less water to switch the switch over. It’s just the same principle as if you were to blow up a tube to create enough air pressure to switch a pressure switch on. I would have thought the longer the tube, the harder you’d need to blow.

  7. Nikki that is really interesting info on miele machine, will show my husband this .

    As for the home made washing powder if you’re really worried about foam suds using soap flakes, grate a bar of simple soap instead it takes seconds , I have done this with four bars of old fashion sunlight soap which I got on line and put in separate small bags ready for use later as I think I said in early posts ,I put Napisan in one for whites ,this is the old fashion again we used it to soak our towelling nappies in many moons ago ,got this on line too from chemist direct and the cheap too .

    SUMMER NATURALS I bought in bulk even the vinegar from here ,all came yesterday and the postage was good considering the hugh vinegar bottle
    I have been told that even with soap flakes this does not sud up and if your add half a cup of baking soda to the mix it will definitely be no suds .



    The price per kg varies, depending on where you buy these 4 ingredients and I’m looking into buying them in bulk, if that works out cheaper. I got the idea to make this mixture from reading about it on the page about soda crystals on the whitegoodshelp site:


    According to the comments on that page by “Darryl”, if you can buy these items bulk, it can work out at about 6 or 7p per wash, although that was over a year ago now.

    When making this mixture, you will use a whole bag of soda crystals and a whole bag of borax substitute, so these 2 items will need buying in bulk more often than the liquid soap flakes and oxygen bleach – the latter two need just 2 tablespoons each time the mixture is made.

    I’m sure in the long run that making this mixture is much cheaper than using ordinary detergents like Ariel, Persil etc. and not to mention that this home made mixture rinses off easier, so you will save on water costs if you have a water meter and your washing machine will not be working harder with extra programmes used just for rinsing, so it should mean less chance of it breaking down. The cost savings take all of this into account. In my previous comment I say I no longer run the cycles which reduce the time for smaller loads – I used to run these shorter cycles because later I would have to run entire programmes just for rinsing, but now that’s no longer necessary. Adding up to 6 jugfuls of warm water in the final rinse, which takes up about four minutes of my time, is much quicker than waiting for an entire extra programme to finish. I can definitely say that ordinary laundry detergents do not rinse off easily and they foam too much! The foam just never seems to rinse away unless it settles after about an hour of being left idle and then the water drained out.

  9. hi everyone, great information here, although my mind is pretty boggled with everything to consider when buying a machine. MY LG 7.5 kg 5 yrs old has died and its looking that parts could be around the 100 euro mark. I really need to buy a new onealtogether asap but want value for my money and reliability. however I never considered the rinse effectiveness until today reading this blogand i also have a 10 yr old with sever eczema! Now its all thats motivating my purchase along with the 7.5 kg or bigger drum size. Does anyone have the LG model with the medic rinse programme , it is supposedly meant to ensure no detergent is left after each wash.Also I have been looking at the Beko WMB91242LB, it got a S rating from which? on the rinse efficency, not sure is that good enough? and no I cannot afford to sign up to get more detailed info on all washers on which? . has anyone got this washer or know of its reputation?
    thanks all.

  10. @syl

    I’ve read good reviews about the “ISE” washing machines and they can be set to perform up to 7 rinses! ISE machines are also said to be easily repairable without paying over the odds. I’ve not seen many good reviews about LG washing machines and they are made in China! Maybe a reconditioned Miele would be a good purchase? You can set the “Water Plus” to use more water in the washes and rinses apparently. I’m not so sure about buying a brand new Miele as their repair prices are ridiculously expensive now:

    A washing machine’s rinsing performance is an important decision, as any of the chemicals and perfumes in laundry products can cause skin reactions. In any case, my home made stuff has been tried and tested with success (see my earlier comments above) and it has no nasty chemicals or perfumes. It rinses off much easier too.

    Hope that helps.

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