How Does a Washing Machine Work?

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General Workings of a Washing Machine

  • Washing machines have come a long way and have quite a history. The modern evolution of the washing machine has brought us to two main types of machines, the top loader and the front loader. With either machine you fill it with your clothing or other linens, put in some detergent and turn it on. They are directly hooked to water lines which bring water into the drum and mixes with the detergent. Then they agitate or bounce the clothing through the soapy water, thereby cleaning out the dirt and soil. The machines go into a spin cycle and pull all the water back out of the clothing. Once more, water fills the tub and rinses out the remaining soap. Again, it spins out the water and leaves your clothing ready to be dried. The process is pretty simple, but your decision on how you want your clothing washed, and how much energy you want to use to do that, may not be so simple.

Top Loading Washing Machines

  • Top loading machines use two vertical drums with a post down the center that has a special design to pull the clothes down in the center as it moves back and forth. The center then pushes them back up on the outside of the basket. This motion is repeated for a determined amount of time. The inside drum is able to move and is perforated so water can escape. The outer drum actually holds the water. In modern washing machines, there are computer chips that tell the washing machine when to do what. Top loaders normally use more than one rinse cycle to make sure all the soap is removed. They are also known to be harder on clothing and fabric because of their motion. Big objects don't get as clean because they can't be pulled down by the agitator, and top loaders use much more water than the front loaders do. However, they are much faster than the front loaders and have fewer maintenance and mechanical problems.

Front Loading Washing Machines

  • Front loading washing machines have horizontally mounted drums and the door is on the front. Sometimes the door has a window to see inside the washer. There are paddles inside the drum, which lifts the clothes and then drops them. Between this motion and the rotation of the drum the clothes are agitated. Less water is needed, because the clothes do not need to be suspended in water; they just need enough water to get them wet. There are even front loading machines now that use only a cup of water or just steam. By using less water, they need less detergent, making it less expensive to do laundry. However, they take longer to do a load of laundry and require more maintenance and repairs than the top loading machines. If you are deciding on what kind of washing machine to buy, you should do some research as to what is important to you. Clothes will last longer using a front loading machine.

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