Cleaning clothes in a washer and dryer seems simple enough: Put them in, add some detergent, watch them tumble and spin, and voilà! Fresh laundry. But while most machines get the basic job done, not all washers and dryers are created equal.
The agitator, for example—–that protruding stem in the middle of traditional washers—–is a merciless stretcher of garments, while scratches on a dryer’s metal interior wall can cruelly snag threads and tear delicate articles. It’s better than toiling over a washboard and bucket, but the road to machine-clean clothing is fraught with danger.
Luckily, home appliances compare with computers and cars when it comes to technological and material innovation. From agitator-free washers to snag-proof dryer walls, the list of risks is shrinking.
In addition to treating garments with greater care, new machines have also made significant strides in water and energy efficiency, saving operating costs throughout their life spans. Though dryers still run neck and neck with refrigerators—–and hot on the tail of air conditioners and water heaters—–in the competition for greatest domestic energy hog, they’re leagues ahead of where they once were.
This month we selected five of the newest models of front-loading washers and dryers to take for a spin. We enlisted one of the leaders of clean, Eric Ryan of Method, to help us separate the suds from the duds.
When not working in design, Sarah Rich writes, talks and forecasts about food and consumer culture.