Samsung – fix all faulty fridge-freezers for free

by , Senior Home Researcher Energy & Home 26 July 2011
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
21 - 1
avatar

In the wake of the Beko fridge-freezers scare, if a burning smell was coming from your fridge-freezer, and you could hear the sound of plastic cracking inside, wouldn’t you be concerned? I would.

Empty fridge

And I’d like the manufacturer to send an engineer out pretty damn quick to fix it for me – for free.

It might sound like a far-fetched problem, but according to Samsung’s technical reports, this is exactly what’s been happening with the RSH1 and RSJ1 side-by-side fridge-freezers. Defrost heaters at the back of the appliances get too close to a metal sheet, which can heat up, leading to cracks in the lining and burning.

We understand that this isn’t a safety issue but it’s certainly a design flaw – if there are undetected cracks in the lining, moisture will enter the insulation and performance will be affected.

What is Samsung doing to fix the problem?

Samsung have been fixing the problems by sticking aluminium tape over the cracks, while newer versions of the fridge-freezers have been modified and aren’t affected.

Samsung told us that if the faulty fridge-freezers were within the warranty period, they’d fix the problem for free. But when we asked them about out-of-warranty machines they told us:

‘If the product is no longer under warranty, then customers are encouraged to contact Samsung customer services for further advice and we will do our best to provide a satisfactory solution.’

So despite our requests, Samsung haven’t confirmed whether customers will have to pay for the privilege of having their faulty products fixed.

Fix the flaw for free

This just sounds wrong to me. It’s not like owners of the affected appliances have been misusing their products; it’s a design flaw which means some machines will need to be repaired, and Samsung have admitted as much in technical notes sent to their engineers.

When Samsung’s RS21 fridge-freezers developed a problem which led to them heating up, Samsung agreed to repair this problem for free under an extended warranty covering that fault.

Wouldn’t it be so much better if Samsung did likewise with their RSH1 and RSJ1 and could confirm that all out-of-warranty appliances would have this problem fixed for free?

761 comments

Add your comments

avatar

Gerrard

WRAP has published information on consumer attitudes to product lifetimes – including how factors like brand, price and guarantee length influence purchasing decisions. It’s available at http://www.wrap.org.uk/node/18468

We tracked some real shopping trips and it was amazing to see some shoppers starting to shop around for guarantee length when they’re on the internet. In other research, we found that 80% of householders would like to see a minimum guarantee of 2 years on products, rather than 1 year.

Focus group work suggested that householders see a manufacturer’s guarantee of “putting their money where their mouth is” [sic] so it’s a great opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves when they have good reliability and design. Of course, they would need to balance out heavy and light usage but Defra, DECC and EST recently found in a study that single-occupancy households use as much energy on laundry as multi-occupancy households (sounds crazy, but that’s what the data showed) – so perhaps we’re all heavy(ish) users after all.

avatar

malcolm r

Gerrard, A very interesting report that seems to support many of the comments made in the conversation – assuming it is representative. Consumers consider lifetime important, are prepared to pay more for longer life, would like longer guarantees, choose by brand or previous ownership as a guide. They find information lacking on making a choice (include life or reliability), see life as not just time, but cycles, and also express a view on what acceptable lives should be. Also of interest is that most surveyed consider the products they bought gave acceptable lives. Could it be, therefore, that only a small proportion of products fail in an unacceptable time, and that dealing with these early failures in a fair way by the supplier is not a huge problem?
Forgive me if I have summarised this inaccurately – i’m sure I will be corrected!

avatar

Kenneth Watt

I hadn’t read that one Gerrard.

It raises some interesting questions for me though.

The most obvious being that, if people are so keen on longer warranties they are there to be had so, why then is 40% of the home laundry (washers) attributed to sub-£300 product that, at best, you will get a two year warranty on?

My best guess and, it is merely a guess, is that in order to produce something significantly more durable the build cost increases quite dramatically and then you create a barrier through pricing, which there is little to no way around.

For example we know that carbon brush motors will wear down carbons in a few years if the spin speed is increased to above about 12-1400rpm, or at least this has proven to be true with a number. To increase life you can switch to an induction motor but, to keep the cost even remotely sensible along with energy use you need to use a DC motor. A DC motor is more expensive, yes but, you must also add an inverter card for supply and control as well and, those are not cheap. To do both you can easily add between €30 and €100 without batting an eye at build.

By the time that works through to retail you will likely be looking at, on even a moderate mid-range machine, adding at least £50-£150 to the ticket price.

The same or similar can be found on other elements such as the use of stainless for outer tanks, heavier bearings with better seals and so on. Where you go to town and throw the kitchen sink at it, the cost ramps up quite considerably.

And, all the while you do that you add weight which not only affects shipping costs to a marginal degree but, more it hits you on the WEEE Declaration as well. So if you build better you face a sting on the fact that you become unavoidably more expensive, therefore not as competitive on several fronts. You end up with, great warranty and quality, shame about the price.

You also gain no advantage whatsoever under the current EU Labelling. Other than POS or literature, which is often less visible or requires some research, there’s no discernible or easy to consume guidance for buyers.

The energy thing is interesting, it may be erroneous or it could be the sample, I really can’t say for sure without a heap more data. Even then I don’t know that you’d ever get to the bottom of that one as I have a feeling that it could be a use thing.

What I would suspect although, I do not have enough evidence to prove, that where you have a two person home, perhaps even one, that more care is taken to split loads correctly and/or smaller loads washed more regularly. This is highly subjective though based on much observation of habits.

What I think happens is that young people will split laundry better and/or do smaller loads in order to care for expensive or specialist garments and older people to maximise life as well as being generally more caring of the items.

This is where you see the majority of under loading, spin imbalance and so on type issues.

But crucially, that will inevitably lead to more cycles being run.

Families will tend wash much more in a single load and be far more prone to overloading, incorrect detergent use and so on as the focus changes from having the time to care and do things more correctly to, getting as much done as quickly as possible. Hence in those situations we see far more overloading and damage caused by that and some other common issues than in the former scenario.

This means less cycles per kilo of laundry, if want like to measure it that way, but impacts with poor wash results, stressing the machine and so on.

Both can suffer from extremes either way but in general from my experience this will largely hold true based on what I see back from the field as well as first hand experience.

Were the laundry done correctly in accordance with the machine instructions and also (crucially) the care labels etc. then I suspect you would then see reflected exactly the result that you would expect, which would be that larger households would use accordingly more energy.

That would be the only reason I could think to explain the energy being roughly similar.

The same kind of habit based methodology could be applied to other products such as tumble dryers and on refrigeration there should be little to no discernible difference. Cooking, maybe a more notable difference in some instances.

Thanks for that, made me put the economist hat on and think a bit that one.

K.

avatar

Beryl

At last some light at the end of the tunnel. The British integrity is intact!

avatar

wavechange

Welcome to the debate Gerrard. It would have been very helpful to have your input earlier. I very much support what WRAP aims to achieve. The following comments are intended to be constructive.

1. Is there good evidence that the results of the WRAP studies reflect actual product choice rather than aspirations? If you ask a person how much they would be prepared to pay for a washing machine the answer could be different from what has happened in practice. As Kenneth has pointed out repeatedly, cheap products sell well and it is not difficult to suggest reasons for this. In many cases a purchase will be made because an existing appliance has failed and urgently needs to be replaced, so the purchase has not been planned and budgeted for. Paying more for a potentially more durable washing machine is unlikely to be appeal to anyone who is not paying off their credit cards each month and at current interest rates it may make more sense to opt for a cheaper model and avoid taking on more credit.

2. It would be very interesting to explore the reasons why consumers have chosen a product. Obvious factors include influence of marketing, brand image, brand loyalty, warranty length and availability of products. There are many factors and sometimes people choose a product because experiences of friends and family guide their choice and that is less daunting than making up your own mind. The WRAP report shows that most people would consider buying a Dyson vacuum cleaner. I would love to believe that this is because Dyson offer a decent warranty, but I suspect that it is superb marketing and a distinctive appearance. The Which? ‘Best Buys’ list is not dominated by Dyson cleaners but there is little doubt that Dyson has helped push up amount that we are prepared to pay for a vacuum cleaner.

avatar

wavechange

Whitegoodshelp wrote:

“If they make a printed circuit board, how can 2 or 5 out of every one hundred be “expected” to fail when they are all identical?”

Circuit boards may look the same but they are not identical, mainly because of difference in the components. Many of the boards you replace will have only one or two failed components and the hundreds of other will still be in good working order. :-(

When circuit boards are built they are tested and a certain percentage will either not work at all or not perform adequately. Failure in use is often as a result of components getting hot, which is why it is so important not to use underspecified components. Often failures are seen in new products, which is why most of have experienced ‘dead on arrival’ goods, even if they worked fine when assembled. In use there will be some early failures, which is an inconvenience for consumers but not a major problem assuming that the retailer is helpful.

In use, failures will continue to occur, particularly if components are getting hot. Voltage spikes can cause failure at any time and vibration can cause failure in poorly designed mechanical products.

It’s important to consider statistics. Take a hundred ‘identical’ lamps or any other simple items and some will last much longer than others.

To keep this in perspective, well designed circuit boards can last decades. You just need to build them with decent quality correctly specified components that don’t run hot.

avatar

Beryl

It was interesting to note from Gerrards comments that there is such little difference in single occupancy energy usage. This could be attributed to the multiple programmes available on modern w/machines. Single people after all still have whites, coloureds, delicates, cottons, synthetics etc. to be sorted and as a result a similar number of washes but most probably lighter loads per wash.

If the 60C washing temperature fails to kill off all bacteria and viruses I don’t see the point of wasting energy using it except perhaps for ‘refreshing’ the machines drum. I used to have trouble with a nasty smell when I kept the door closed when not in use as I have an integrated machine, but the problem was easily overcome by leaving the door sightly ajar and always wiping away excess water from the rubber seal after each wash. I never use the tumbler dryer programme as it tends to be a bit of an energy guzzler but would be interested to know whether the heat produced in the drying cycle is more efficient at killing off viruses and/or bacteria.

It came as little surprise to learn of the discernment and the amount of research carried out by consumers generally before making a purchase, although except perhaps of course through more desperate measures in breakdown situations when regrettable and/or unwise decisions are more likely to be made rendering prospective buyers open to mis selling by sales assistants.

I look forward to the follow up from Which? as promised by Patrick and would be very interested to hear the views of other members as to their preferences before making their final decision to buy and how it compares to WRAP research.

avatar

wavechange

We don’t need to kill all bacteria and viruses. It is neither practical or necessary. Our skin is covered with bugs and so is everything we touch. At one time science students did experiments to show how dirty we and our surroundings are, but this is discouraged because it is possible to culture some nasty bugs. I used to teach microbiology, which is why I’m interested in this discussion.

– It is important to separate fabrics that are soiled with faeces or have been in contact with someone known to have an infection. Bleach or some product for disinfecting reusable nappies should be used before they are washed.

– Washing machines should be kept clean, as we have been discussing.

– If someone in the household has been told that they are highly susceptible to infection, then greater care should be taken. Most of us don’t need to take any special precautions.

I doubt that tumble driers will do much to kill bacteria, which become more resistant to heat when they are dry.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

My research into this and smelly washing machines led me to the realisation that you can’t kill them all anyway.

That said, it is important to wash bedding at higher temperatures to kill off critters such as bed bugs etc.

Towelling as well to loosen the fibres to allow particulate stuff to get out as well as to break down skin grease, cosmetics and so on.

Which leads me to, bacteria as such I find to be only one part of the issue and, really, not that big a deal other than as WC points out above. What is a larger concern is that many people don’t seem to understand the amount of skin grease, sweat, skin flakes and other gubbins that gets deposited onto their clothing. And, that’s just from you, not from anything you may touch or spill onto garments.

If that is not laundered effectively it will build up over time and clothing will smell bad and/or loose it’s looks but, it takes time to see that happening.

Poor loading, improper detergent use and so on will also give you these sorts of issues.

You will also get effectively zero sanitisation if you couple that with liquids or gels (no bleach as I said) and if you mix that with low temperature you will have issues almost without a shadow of doubt. Might take a while but, it will happen.

Which gets you to fast washes which are generally defined as being for garments “worn once, not next to skin” as they will not clear that sort of muck off or, any really. They are designed to refresh but have been “made” to fit a purpose that they were not intended for, to reduce time and essentially used as a marketing gimmick in my opinion.

If the wash process isn’t correct then it isn’t just your machine that can have problems but your clothing as well and that is thought to be a cause of skin irritation. What does fall off the garments doesn’t get taken away correctly, the muck builds up and I kid you not, you can have a layer of muck and bacteria inside some machines that is up to 1cm thick over the lower 1/3 of the outer tank.

At that point, you’re washing your clothes in a dirty soup.

I can also assure you that having to clear that is one of the single most unpleasant tasks I have ever had the displeasure to do.

K.

avatar

wavechange

The general recommendation is to wash bedding at 60°C if you have a dust mite allergy, so there is a possibility that the 60 setting on a modern machine is not adequate. Frequent washing is certainly recommended.

No engineer should ever have to face what Kenneth has described. Just seeing the photos is bad enough. Bugs grow on the protein and grease in the muck, so washing your clothes. Most of the bug-ridden soup will go into the drain but some will be left on the fabrics. :-)

A hot wash with washing soda should help remove grease that has been deposited out of sight.

avatar

Beryl

I use a combination of washing soda and neat vinegar to clean and unblock drains which seems highly effective so will definitely try the washing soda only machine wash. I also use neat vinegar in the softener compartment which seems to work as a final cleanser and softener [I live in a hard water area] but would refrain from using both at the same time in the machine! Unless previously discussed in other Conversations I don’t recall any referral to the difference between hard and soft water areas and general wear and tear duration.

I do believe there is a danger of becoming too clean and unless your immune system is compromised in some way our bodies can cope with most micro organisms, the most dangerous we now lhave vaccines for.

avatar

wavechange

I suggest you skip the vinegar Beryl. It will just react with the washing soda (sodium carbonate) producing carbon dioxide, sodium acetate and water. As a result, it might even make the soda less effective.

avatar

dieseltaylor

I believe that I have posted this link previously:
http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/
an organisation with a hint of what it does in the title. The latest 62 page review looks at the scientific testing done so far on washing and the killing of bugs and etcs in the interest of hygienic washes.
http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/review/effectiveness-laundering-processes-used-domestic-home-settings-2013

I recommend everyone reads at least the summary. I cannot conceive how anyone who has babies or the elderly with them would possibly want to purchase a machine that is incapable of a “proper” wash. We might also take a view that all machines are required to have a wash that provably meets a criteria for a hygienic wash – and wonder whose fault it is that we do not..

Below is an article from 2011 which confirms my opinion that we are now ill -served by inadequate testing, or the writing up of what tests are done. As of Sunday the Which? site still reviewed the machine that does its 43C wash as a proxy for a 60C wash without mentioning its hygienic downside. I reject strongly any suggestion that the 60 on a machines dial should ever be a proxy for much lesser temperatures.

The article does not actually cover all the bases as it only looks certain bacteria and it does not examine the proposition that 30 minutes at 55C may be better than 10 minutes at 60C or some variation of high temperatures and time. Beko machines generally do not score well with Which? but if I were buying new I am impressed with its wash cycle duration – and for those that did not see the September magazine the point is they showed a handful of graphs comparing the heat and time at heat of various machines.

Effectiveness of Low-Temperature Domestic Laundry on the Decontamination of Healthcare Workers’ Uniforms

objective. Most professionals in the healthcare environment wear uniforms. For the purpose of this study, we concentrated on nurses’ uniforms. In the United Kingdom, many nurses are expected to launder their uniforms at home by using a domestic washing machine that frequently has low-temperature wash cycles. We have investigated whether the use of low-temperature wash cycles results in a microbiologically acceptable product to wear on the wards.

methods. We have assessed the bioburden on uniforms before and after laundry and the effectiveness of low-temperature wash cycles and ironing on removal of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Acinetobacter baumannii. We did not assess the role of
tumble drying. results. We demonstrate contamination of uniforms by gram-negative bacteria after wash, the removal of MRSA at low-temperature wash cycles in the presence of detergent, and the eradication of gram-negative bacteria after ironing.

conclusions. Our conclusions are that laundry in a domestic situation at 60C (140F) for 10 minutes is sufficient to decontaminate hospital uniforms and reduces the bacterial load by more than 7-log reduction, that items left in the pockets are decontaminated to the same extent, that the addition of either a biological detergent or a nonbiological detergent is beneficial in removing MRSA from experimentally contaminated swatches, and that uniforms become recontaminated with low numbers of principally gram-negative bacteria after laundry but that these are effectively removed by ironing.

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2011;32(11):1103-1108

Now it is nice to concentrate on the nursing carer side of the but we also have a very large number of manual workers who on a daily basis are in contact with unpleasant substances such as slurry or sewerage. They also no doubt would wish to buy washing machines that do a very thorough hygienic wash.

avatar

wavechange

Dieseltaylor – Have you any idea of what temperature washing machines washed at before the 60 setting changed from a temperature to a measure of cleaning performance? I don’t but as Kenneth has pointed out, simple thermostats are not very accurate. The time the temperature is held at the highest temperature would also have varied between machines in the past, as it does at present. Unless you measure the temperature/time performance of a particular appliance, you won’t know what is happening.

I’m interested to find out more but suspect that there may not be a problem, provided that we disinfect any obviously contaminated fabrics before washing them. As Bill Grant said in the Which? article, the washing action in combination with the detergent components is a factor, so physically washing away bacteria may contribute more to their removal than killing them.

The article in Infection Control in Hospital Epidemiology is a proper peer reviewed paper, whereas the IFH review is not peer reviewed, nor are any of the ones published by IFH. The bibliography may however provide details of some good quality studies.

avatar

dieseltaylor

wavechange – I am bemused by your statement that 60 on a washing machine dial is not an indicative temperature. I appear to have missed this announcement – please advise details where the general public can read it. We will surely need a vast re-education programme as no one I know believes other than it is a hot wash temperature.

I fully comprehend that washing machines in the past may have had different profiles and temperatures but I fail to see what relevance that has present day machines. Ken has indicated that modern electronics can provide more accurate control and temperature adherence so why are we not seeing it?

If you wish to quote history: ” ‘The old-fashioned way of washing clothes was to boil them at 100c.’ says John Oxford, professor of virology at St Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and chair of the Global Hygiene Council. ‘These days, people are lowering temperatures to 40c or even lower. To be sure of getting rid of faecal bugs, you need to get the temperature back up to 60c.’ Daily Mail 17/10/2011

I can understand your support for Bill Grant as a fellow microbiologist but his research is not wash specific “Since the late 1970s, Professor Grant has been interested in microbial biodiversity in extreme environments, particularly in East African saline and soda lakes. Professor Grant has also worked on the diversity of microbes in salt mines, ancient salt deposits and low level nuclear waste.”

So not directly relevant when talking to the other nasties like bed mites, moulds, viruses and fungi. You and I last year both asked for Which? to provide the exact questions he was asked for the quotes in the article. I assume you had qualms then.

I must admit I would not expect to have a peer review of an extensive summary of all known research on washing machines covering a variety of different specialities that includes the areas outside of Prof. Grant’s particular expertise. I think we can safely say that IFH have extracted what information is available from the last few decades and made recommendations that we would be wise to adopt when there are infants and sick peoples washing to be considered.

This fact-sheet produced by the charity is a concise and well-reasoned and I think good advice.
http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/factsheet/clothing-household-linens-laundry-home-hygiene

avatar

Kenneth Watt

To let you perhaps understand, I have gone a bit beyond what a normal field service engineer (FSE) would normally be expected to know or to hold knowledge in. As much for my own personal curiosity as well as to be able to offer correct advice to people as required.

To that end I have studied this topic in some depth as well as working with major manufacturers of appliances I have also worked with a number of detergent producers.

The short of it is, it is far more complex (as usual) than most would credit and that a lot of the information out there is right, equally a lot is incorrect.

What I try to do, as much as is possible or appropriate, is to try to simplify this so that most people can understand the science behind it. WC is factually correct as are a number of others and several studies but you must be able to pull all that information and data together and make sense of it somehow. That can at times be a bit challenging let alone then translating that so most people can understand it quickly.

All my training says that you need a number of key elements to clean things, in basic chemistry we are taught that you need heat, agitation and detergent. This is at it’s utmost basics.

What you actually need is heat, mechanical action, detergent and something to hold any dirt, grease in suspension so as to avoid redepositing. But, that’s just the very basics of the wash bit. It is high school chemistry.

You also need differing levels of mechanical action or agitation to prevent damage to fibres where you are cleaning laundry. You need differing levels of heat to dislodge and clean effectively along with the care aspect. And, you need detergent suitable for the task and fibres to be cleaned.

Sanitisation on any level is a different conversation.

As WC quite rightly points out, some garments depending on what they’ve been exposed to, will require pre-cleaning before you launder them. Some won’t, they merely need bleach and a bit of heat. Some need bleach and a lot of heat to kill of microbes, dust mites and so on. Some you cannot use bleach at all.

I worked with the scientists in a detergent manufacturer’s lab for a time and, it was an eye opening experience to all of this. I never fail to find this topic utterly fascinating but, I’ve spent the best part of my career dealing with all this stuff. I still do and, I still get the (sic) pleasure of trying to explain many of the common issues people have with laundry.

I have learned that, the reality is, it’s way, way to complex for most people to get a grip of just as P&G, Unilever and so on have as well. Hence the very simplistic instructions. Asides which, internal research shows that even if they did offer more guidance, hardly anyone would read it anyway, so why bother? I did ask.

I have to say though I was told that NHS staff had been told that, in order to save the planet from the impending doom of global warming, that they were to wash their uniforms at 40˚C, how accurate that is I do not know. Knowing what I know and how people do things, that’s like a mandate to spread disease.

Ask any biologist or almost any branch of science dealing with any sort of bacteria or disease and they will almost certainly concur, that is a very, very bad idea.

No pre-sanitisation, nothing. Just chuck it in a bog standard domestic washer at 40˚C or less and. we’re all good. I think not.

Don’t get me wrong, saving energy and resources if you look at what I do, you’ll know is one of my priorities but, I’m not going to put that over cleanliness or spreading MRSA or whatever other infection. That’d be, in my opinion, just staggeringly dumb to be blunt about it.

On a modern washing machine the focus is completely and wholly on saving energy for two reasons, consumer pressure and governmental pressure. My take is that, yet again, the unintended consequences of that policy are ill thought out.

Whether the wash temperature is correct or not and why is open to speculation I suppose. I know that many are, will we say, somewhat questionable.

I know that some do not cheat but I can count those on one hand with digits to spare.

But if the message you give to people is that they can wash at ever lower temperatures with no ill effects but save loads on electricity then what do you think will happen?

Eventually it becomes “accepted wisdom”, whether right or wrong largely no longer matters one jot. Even people that know better start to believe the impossible is, indeed, possible. Physics, chemistry, biology, real science… they’re all wrong.

So we begin to see things like Beryl’s vinegar and, truthfully Beryl you are far from alone, when people get most of this stuff thrown at them it is all too often akin to old wive’s tales. Aside from the fact that you’re using a weak acid in a greater solution and therefore most probably completely ineffective other than odour, you may cause other effect as WC point out. It is like stepping back into the Victorian era, I don’t see that as being a positive move.

Much of it is little more than a placebo.

I am still amazed at times by the chemistry lab that is in many people’s sink cupboard for laundry, it is all too common to see.

A bunch of often very expensive “remedies” to problems that would not exist if the job was done correctly on the first pass.

I get a not-so-funny laugh out of one example I trot out all the time.

It isn’t at all usual to see people using non-bio detergent and, in the cupboard, there’s a tub of Vanish or similar. That is basically a big tub of oxy bleach and enzymes, largely putting in what you took out by choosing a non-bio. It’s just much, much more expensive.

My take and, I tell people this openly, is that their lack of knowledge is, to a degree, being taken advantage of.

Simple this topic is most certainly not and that’s even with leaving out a lot.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Dieseltaylor – If you go back to an earlier Conversation, Em told us about IEC 60456. It appears that the EU has pushed washing machine manufacturers to base their programmes on cleaning performance rather than temperature. That is a recipe for confusion and I have sympathy with the manufacturers for having to cope with the change. I missed the announcement too. Perhaps there was no announcement.

You are concerned that Prof Bill Grant might not have appropriate expertise, yet you quote a statement by Prof John Oxford. I think you will find that his specialist area is not exactly relevant. He is well known as a virologist. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that both can make more useful input than either of us. If you would like to see a list of some of Bill Grant’s publications, look for W D Grant on the University of Leicester website and you will see from his list of publications that his involvement with microbiology is very much broader than it appears from the summary you quoted. Think about your own expertise and how you use outside your specialist area.

We are both interested in the same subject and hopefully can work together to learn more.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth – Having read your last post, I think we can find a lot to agree on and hope to have the opportunity to discuss the scientific issues and how to educate the public.

avatar

malcolm r

dieseltaylor, “wavechange – I am bemused by your statement that 60 on a washing machine dial is not an indicative temperature.”. Our Bosch Classixx7 washing machine has the programmes labelled with a temperature – degrees C. I contacted Bosch to see if this meant the wash temperature and they replied: “We can advise that these temperatures are actually achieved throughout the wash”. I hope this is correct – I haven’t bothered to check the water when it is discharged.
Which? – do you check wash temperature for washing machines and dishwashers as a routine?

avatar

wavechange

It was Which? that alerted us to the change from the 60 setting representing peak washing temperature (of unspecified accuracy or duration) to a measure of cleaning performance: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/washing-machines/article/advice/should-i-wash-at-60c

If your machine adds cold water before draining the heated water (mine does this), measuring the temperature of the discharged water will not be useful.

Kenneth told us that some manufacturers are using terms such as ‘cotton 60′ rather than 60C to reflect the changed meaning. As a scientist I deplore confusion, though I do not know how the manufacturers should have handled this change which seems to have been driven by the EU.

avatar

Gerrard Fisher

Hi again,
Thanks for the feedback on the post – consumer buying behaviour is indeed a complex area and we’re keen to work on getting more evidence of actual behaviours post-purchase (of course, that’s not something that’s easy to do but we are working on it!)

We’re continuing to work with retailers and brands to develop better evidence and understand what changes can be justified. I do appreciate the impacts some of those changes have on cost, and there’s certainly a balance between engineering high-end washing machines and improving reliability at the lower end of the market, linked to keeping prices affordable for customers.

There’s a huge amount of experience on this conversation – if any of you are willing it would be great to hear your tips on a consumer-facing site we run that helps people to care for their clothes better, see http://loveyourclothes.org.uk/why-love-your-clothes/care-for-your-clothes/

A few tips on there about the benefits of service washing and managing loads would be very welcome!

avatar

whitegoodshelp

Wavechange wrote, “- Have you any idea of what temperature washing machines washed at before the 60 setting changed from a temperature to a measure of cleaning performance”

Not reaching 60 degrees cuts down on energy use, and gets a better eco label rating. Coincidence? :)

avatar

wavechange

That is certainly a factor since heating water to 60C with electricity will be the greatest use of energy. But I understand that the 60 setting is now a measure of washing performance rather than temperatures.

Being an eccentric, I measured the temperature of my washing machine in the early 80s and it did achieve 60C. I must check it again.

After Kenneth’s comments about what can accumulate in machines I decided to put mine on the highest temperature setting with washing soda in the drum, forgetting that I had already added detergent. I came back to find foam pouring out of the detergent dispenser and down the front of the machine. The poor old thing is now has a yellow stain caused by the soda. :-( Any suggestions?

avatar

John Ward

I am left wondering how to interpret the garment label that tells me a pair of chinos can be machine-washed at 30 degrees. Which setting should we use on the machine to achieve at least that level if the numbers on the dial are not the wash temperatures? We usually err on the side of overheating and small loads, but this could be a problem for those who try to be less wasteful than us.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Hi John,

So far as I am aware the 30˚C symbol is a fairly new addition.

I believe it is used on some special care items and mixes primarily though, usually in conjunction with instruction to use a lower level of agitation by way of a synthetic or delicate cycle. So I’d check the agitation level, denoted by the bars under the bucket, no line for a fine wash, one line for mild fine wash action, two for a very fine mild wash action.

If no line, it is most likely the 30˚C is quite likely an effort to be “green”.

If it’s one, it’s a special care garment and you need reduced agitation.

If it’s two, it is very susceptible to damage and needs a very mild wash action.

If you use too heavy a wash action the finish of the garment will be spoiled over time, often special finishes such as a “brushed” type effect will be lost and so on or, you can physically cause harm with too high a spin etc.

Ginitex and the HLCC etc have been making a lot of noise about not washing as often and also lowering wash temperatures due to eco-pressure I assume as, everyone’s got to be green these days. That’s absolutely fine for a lot of things but certain stains and items require pre-treating in order for that to be as effective.

For years we’ve heard about cold water washing and no detergents the latter is not really possible in some measure but the former is. It is widely done in the Asiatics but they will pre-treat often by soaking overnight before washing cold. To most Western societies this is too time consuming and also usually considered to be impractical. For example, in Japan, clothes will often be soaked in used bathwater overnight with some detergent then washed cold the following day, I don’t see that catching on in the UK somehow.

However, just to add even more confusion to the debate, it is far from uncommon to see items incorrectly labelled, even from supposed “quality” retailers such as M&S, John Lewis etc. It is important to keep in mind that this may not be entirely their fault as, as has been noted by some within the garment industry, some garment producers have been known to put on “whatever labels they have” especially if they run out of the ones that should be on the items.

Also keep in mind that, from those types of retailers in the UK through to global brands such as Nike, Adidas through designer brands like Polo, Hillfiger and so on, very, very few produce much of anything themselves so there is a lot of places where it can go wrong.

We see an increasing amount of sports garments that have a 30˚C label and, in my opinion, that is not enough to effectively clean items exposed to very high levels of sweat etc as they are classed as begin “Heavily Soiled” in the industry.

So my advice is always to follow the care label where it is practical but also to try to use some common sense in addition as on occasion it may be required.

I know this as 99/100 when it goes wrong it will be either the washing machine or the detergent that gets the blame for the issue. ;)

K.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

You are unlikely to get the stain off if it’s the enamelled shell that’s been stained.

To do a maintenance wash you only need to use detergent, anything else is not required or indeed recommended other than specialist cleaning products.

I would not advise using soda crystals or anything else in a modern automatic machine. On occasion doesn’t end well.

K.

avatar

John Ward

This Conversation has performed brilliantly in thrashing the subject, filtering out the fluff, and releasing tubloads of useful information that can now be hung out on the line for all to see. We might still need to iron out a few wrinkles, but I think there is enough here for Which? to compile a useful consumer guide on the four major, and most expensive, kitchen appliances – cookers, fridge/freezers, washing machines and dishwashers – to present the information that for too long has been withheld or deliberately concealed and which we all need to help us make purchasing decisions. Now that so many of these appliances are being bought on-line, with no sales assistant available to answer important questions [mixed blessing sometimes!], this support is more vital than ever, especially for those for whom price or performance or durability are absolutely critical.

Thank you Kenneth for responding so comprehensively about the instructions on care labels. I think the “machine washable at 30 degrees” tag is also used in product descriptions partly to demonstrate ‘green’ credentials but also to appeal to customers who are energy and cost conscious. Obviously something that can be washed cheaply [and more frequently] is more attractive to consumers than clothes that can only be dry-cleaned at considerable expense and, therefore, reduced frequency.

We have generally used proprietary or own-label washing machine and dishwasher cleaners to do a maintenance wash. I was interested to read your advice that these are not needed because I was doubtful of the efficacy and value-for-money of such products. Another con on the uninformed I suspect.

avatar

dieseltaylor

I agree JW to the idea of a complete suite of information on “laundry in the home” would be brilliant. To round it off we do have reports on the dangers of drying indoors carried out by the Mackintosh school of architecture following their examination of household practices in Glasgow.

Drying Cabinets from the likes of Akso, Ise , Maytag and Peko ought to be mentioned along with the benefits of dryers, irons etc.

To cover it self in glory Which? could also usefully start testing that temperatures claimed are met, giving punters sight of the wash profile graphs, and actually testing for a hygienic wash standard.
Obviously no machine will be 100% effective but the log reduction figures would tell a tale. I would certainly take it into consideration as a reason to buy or not to buy.

I did suggest Which? that there ought to be a Whichopedia or preferably CAWiki [Consumer Association Wiki] allowing subscribers to quickly find knowledge based articles and info. For example knowing which washing machines are a front for megacorp limited of the Cayman Islands is of interest to me. If they make unacceptable machines where the drums break-up in service I can see it there.

avatar

wavechange

Though I am keen to save energy and preserve natural resources, the move to lower washing temperatures and using less water has concerned me for years. Like John I tend to washing at or above the recommended temperature. Maybe men’s clothing is more tolerant than what the ladies wear. No doubt I have shortened the fabric life. The only significant problems I have had were were careless mistakes such as washing a woolly jumper or a silk tie at 60C. :-( Accidents happen. There are plenty of other ways of saving energy and it seems pointless to risk inadequate rinsing when we are flushing the loo with drinking quality water. Conserving water is more important in some places than others and there is no shortage where I live.

There are plenty of ways of being greener, such as not putting on the washing machine for a single item. I can think of several people who do this. Driving less. Buying more durable appliances, but let’s not go there again. Giving the fridge-freezer adequate ventilation, as recommended in the instructions.

Kenneth – Thanks for your advice on fabric care. I won’t be using washing soda again and hopefully I have not done any other damage. After trying half a dozen different treatments I can nearly see any evidence of the soda stain.

John – You seem to be trying to compete with Patrick’s pathetic puns. :-)

avatar

Kenneth Watt

No problem.

“We have generally used proprietary or own-label washing machine and dishwasher cleaners to do a maintenance wash. I was interested to read your advice that these are not needed because I was doubtful of the efficacy and value-for-money of such products. Another con on the uninformed I suspect.”

Correct.

There are products out there specifically to bring down the level of “gunk” in washing machines such as Affresh and a couple of others but most of the manufacturer descalers seem not as effective in that regard.

Descaler, such as Calgon are completely unnecessary as if the detergent dose is correct for the load and water hardness calcium is held in suspension and expelled through the drain.

There are a lot of people only too willing to take your money for snake oil.

But a simple maintenance wash once a month or so will negate many problems and, all you need for that is a scoop of powder and the machine run empty on the hottest wash.

Dishwashers require the around the door and the seals to be cleaned as the water won’t get to some of it but grease and deposits will. Not a nice job but, essential or the seal will start to fail.

Other than that, there is no need for dishwasher cleaner or, there shouldn’t be as the detergent will do the heavy lifting there.

Tumble dryers, clean filters after *EVERY* use and you’ll never have issue. Don’t, you will.

Cookers are self explanatory for the most part but avoid abrasive cleaners completely. You will damage the finish, any stencils for functions, temperature etc and possibly cause damage to the glass panels. If the glass gets too weakened by that, it will blow.

Refrigeration is similarly fairly self explanatory but do keep all vents clear of dust build up, just vac the vents ever now and then or you get restricted airflow and for refrigeration, that’s not at all good as they rely largely on passive airflow or they overheat and die.

Hope that helps.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Dieseltaylor cited an article in Infection Control in Hospital Epidemiology. That mentions that ironing is an effective way of killing bugs. Since I left home I have always ironed tea towels and pillowcases to kill bugs. I do this straight out of the machine, when they are damp, since damp heat is most effective. Though I have never been obsessed with cleanliness it seemed sensible to make sure that these items are reasonably free of bugs.

Regarding drying, it is important to dry fabrics quickly because a damp environment promotes growth of bugs, more so if it is warm. Line drying has a lot to commend it and judging the amount of lint that can accumulate in tumble-dryers, I presume there is significant fabric wear. If clean damp clothes are left in a bundle they will grow bacteria and may start to smell.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

There really is not an issue with using lower water levels but, there are compromises required to have that along with the lower energy use. For the most part and the one most often derided is the extended wash times but it is completely unavoidable.

The sort of hidden effect of this along with larger drum capacity and so on is that the machines now are also more susceptible to “pilot error” if you like as due to that they are less forgiving of error. That isn’t a fault of the machine, it does exactly what it says on the tin (most of the time) as it was designed, it’s just that to get the result you have to accept the inevitable compromises involved.

With some care you will rarely if ever have a performance issue but if, as many people would appear to do, you slam stuff in, use the same old program and hope for the best it’s likely not all going to go too well.

If you do tend to make heavy use of the cotton 40 wash as many people do, I often recommend using the synthetic 40 instead as it has a reduced wash action, should be about 34rpm drum rotation on wash as opposed to about 54-56rpm so far less likely to damage items. The trouble with that is of course that it perhaps won’t clean as well.

There are of course some caveats as ever in that, some do wash better than others, markedly on occasion as has been noted in Which? as well as other publications.

With large drums these days, some of which are just silly for normal domestic use in my opinion, the mechanical action where the laundry is lifted then dropped is absolutely critical to wash performance. If you load it up too much that will not happen and that mechanical actions fails, so poor wash results. Likewise, strange though it may seem, on a number you get the same on a small load as there is too little in the drum so the clothing sort of lifts up and slides back down the drum, no mechanical dropping action again. That could be attributed to paddle or drum design but the net effect is that loads that are too large or too small are not going to be cleaned properly.

Loaded optimally, rarely ever an issue.

There is no way around the physics of this though other than to try to design the drum and paddles to cope as best possible to try to negate the effect but, that’s the best you can do and I’ve yet to see one that’s completely infallible on small loads better certainly, but not infallible, none are with loads too large.

In days gone by and, the likes of your trusty old machine, the laundry is sloshing about in water which helps massively as you create that mechanical action in the water to a degree. In a modern machine, that is not possible or manufacturers would be hunted down by eco-warrirors.

It’s really all very obvious once pointed out, it’s just that it’s rarely ever pointed out.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth – You are giving us some very helpful advice. One thing that fascinates me are the enzymes used in biological detergents. A neighbour working for P&G chose the name for Ariel.

Schoolkids are taught that enzymes are very easily damaged by heat but not that there are enzymes that are active at 100C. The enzymes we use in laundry detergents are fairly heat-stable and obviously need to be able to withstand detergents (which can destroy lesser enzymes). What I have never been able to find out is what temperature we can use biological detergents at without losing the effect of the enzyme. I have always guessed that it is OK to use bio detergents in a 60C wash because the process is slow and the enzyme will be doing its job as the temperature rises even if 60C is enough to destroy it. Now that bio detergents can contain more than one enzyme, matters become more complicated.

If you have any information or articles I would be very interested.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

A good question and one that I’ll try to simplify an answer as best I can.

The enzymes used in laundry detergent are multiple, the quality is determined by cost and in part that explains the price disparity with different detergents. The cheaper they are, the less of the good stuff is in them as a general rule.

They are designed to operate at different temperatures and activate largely on that as, it’s really the only common factor across all machines. Due to that they work at their optimal performance on a temperature curve, if you expose to hot water instantly then you will kill a lot of them and reduce the wash performance. In some cases quite markedly.

So cold fill is a good thing in this regard, as counter to logic as I know many people find that to be.

Even on any proper hot fill machine what you will get is an initial flush to clear the drawer with cold, then switch to hot to fill so as not to degrade the performance as much as is possible.

Depending on the detergent there can be scores of different enzymes being used to tackle biological staining, i.e. food, mud, blood, grass and so on. Each will have a particular function and each will activate at a specific temperature.

Don’t ask me how that is accomplished as I only have a basic understanding of the science involved in how this is done and much of it is extremely commercially sensitive so, information on the process is highly restricted. Walking around in one of the labs is like stepping into an old war film.. loose lips sink ships, watch for suspicious behaviour etc. posters all over the place.

A common misconception is that these are “chemical” and “bad” but that is not true at all. All the enzymes used in both P&G and Unilever at least are naturally occurring and almost all of them already exist in your body naturally. They are completely harmless to humans and most other animals.

Interestingly we in the UK are the only country in the world that I know of in which non-biological detergent is sold. So, either we’re really special or perhaps we have different skin to the rest of humanity. I’ll leave you with that thought to ponder.

So in answer to the specific question, there is no set temperature at which you get an “all or nothing” type scenario more, you get varying performance based on the temperature curve as you go through the wash cycle.

Understanding that is key to also understanding that some enzymes cannot activate at lower temperatures from what the lab guys told me. I know they worked hard to get some to be as effective at lower temperatures but that effort, when I last spoke with them, was met with varying degrees of success. This because, as you will know, as a natural organism these things will only “come alive” as it were under certain conditions and work effectively.

From what I understood the optimal low temperature wash was about 40˚C, below that you start to see performance issues. I don’t think that it’s a huge impact but knowing the above you can perhaps understand why that, unless there is a specific reason to do so, I will rarely recommend washing items below that threshold.

K.

avatar

dieseltaylor

http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/enztech/detergent.html

Interesting.

avatar

John Ward

This probably is the stupidest question ever posed, but can anyone explain why washing machines have glazed doors and dishwashers don’t? Our washing machine tells us what it is doing and how long it has to go. There’s no need to look inside for the evidence.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Expensive. At least four more points of failure. No practical use. Restricted sizing due to electrical components. Cost.

K.

avatar

John Ward

Thank you K. No reason at all then really, and it all adds up to potential problems.

Looking at the latest 10 and 12kg Samsungs last weekend I was struck by how ugly they appeared as they still use a regular 60 x 60cm cabinet and the glass door is enormous. Two further drawbacks occurred to me: (a) there is much less free space between the drum and the casing so there could be vibration problems, and (b) such a heavy load puts a heavy strain on horizontal bearings [or is the drum well suspended centrifugally?].

avatar

John Ward

Kenneth, you probably know as much [if not more] as anyone else about all the washing machines on sale in the UK, so if you had up to £600 to spend on a new washing machine, using all your knowledge and experience, is there one particular machine you would choose above all others? If so, is that something you could share with us, confidentially of course, through this Conversation? We promise not to reveal our source – only a handful of people read these comments.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

I wouldn’t presume to do that. ;)

It really depends on the requirements.

Broad strokes at the price point to get a reasonable balance of performance, capacity and so on coupled with repairability and durability is difficult unless you look at them model by model or, at least range by range.

Most machines are built on a fundamental platform in much the same way as cars are. So you have a floorpan and a set of engines in you like onto which you build the body shell you need for each purpose only making small tweaks to the basics to achieve what you need. This is very cost effective for manufacturing whilst allowing flexibility with design and so on.

For our industry the equivalent is the tank or tub group and the shell, all the rest you can mess about with reasonably easily.

If you look carefully there are tell tales of that. The door, the drum and the general shell are parts you can see this with often with an untrained eye. Of course I have the ability to usually go beyond the fascia and see what’s actually inside them, what they’ve done and what tank they’ve used, pump, motor and so on and that makes me very biased.

I say that as, as was the case with the JL machine that’s a best buy, I know it’s just a relatively cheap Electrolux in drag pretty much. A few tweaks here and there, a longer warranty but, basically, a low to mid rent Electrolux box and tub.

Put it this way, that sealed tank unit fits well over 100 models used across the EU, largely AEG or Electrolux. Yes, AEG’s have sealed tanks as well in some models.

For not a lot more I can get a lot better.

For the same money I can get an LG which is more repairable, slightly less money but LG like many Asian companies aren’t exactly shining beacons of aftercare service. they have a nasty habit of discontinuing parts although, in fairness, LG aren’t too bad especially on laundry.

Siemens is a non-starter as you can more than likely buy more or less the same thing with a Bosch badge for less money. Unless you really must have the Siemens badge.

Not as easy a question to answer as I thought it might be once you start prodding. But I guess I look at it from a completely different angle as opposed to how most people probably would.

K.

avatar

Beryl

I have today picked up my preferred detergent container and am more than little concerned at what I find i.e “Risk of damage to eyes. Irritating to skin. Avoid contact with skin and eyes. Wear eye/face protection. If swallowed seek medical advice etc.” which prompted me delve further into some of the adverse effects of the toxic chemicals and allergens contained in these detergents. I have learned from a little research what the irritants in surfactants can do not only to the environment but also to people who are susceptible to them. I have also learned from Andy’s 2007 Archives that in an effort to save on water consumption, modern front loaders do not rinse properly [unless you revert to multiple rinses] compared to the older type top loaders which have a greater water capacity in the rinsing cycle and do a much better job at disposing of any leftover residue.
See http://www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/whycantwashingmachinesrinseproperly.

I have learned from ISFHH that “drying of clothes in a tumbler dryer at 40C or more can reduce microbial load.” Also that 60C+ is the only sure way of killing off micro organisms but that 60C does not mean 60C but 48C! That lower temperatures of 30 or 40C used with biological detergent is more efficient at killing microbes than 30 or 40C with non biological detergent.
Also I have learned, [although not entirely convinced] that adding vinegar to the last rinse does nothing to counteract the buildup of limescale deposits in the machine nor does it aid the softening process or refresh the machine.

All this in the name of progress. My 11 year old integrated Tecnik washing machine, although probably now obsolete, has never yet let me down apart from a blocked drainage hose and I am pleased to say that I have never had the unfortunate experience of foam exiting from places where it shouldn’t! There is still much to be done I agree to educate consumers into the pros and cons of obtaining the best possible usage from the new highly sophisticated mass produced machines being churned out on assembly lines today, the main question being: who or what is setting the pace, consumer demand or manufacturers shrewd marketing techniques?

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Modern detergents used correctly are remarkably safe. Unless of course you eat them and, even at that as happened in the USA last year when kids thought Tide tabs were sweets, still not deadly.

I think you may find many warnings are due to the culture we live in.

Your Tecnik was probably made by Candy, BSH or Fagor Brandt, it depends on the model as Tecnik was merely a brand name for Moben Kitchens, they never made a single appliance in all the time they traded, they were just bought in badged up.

“the main question being: who or what is setting the pace, consumer demand or manufacturers shrewd marketing techniques?”

Both.

As well as legislative and environmental pressures.

K.

avatar

wavechange

I would agree that laundry detergents are generally safe if used correctly, at least for most people. If we used them for hand washing they would remove the oils from the skin and cause irritation. Prolonged exposure could cause dermatitis. We can afford to these highly effective products because we don’t have to handle them.

I would like to defend enzymes, which are often accused unfairly of causing skin problems. I do not know why this happened. Any new product tends to attract suspicion. In the early days, enzyme dust did cause problems for those working in factories, but that problem was overcome by changing the formulation to prevent the dust and possibly other measures. It never was a problem in the home as far as I know. Several of the components in a laundry detergent could potentially cause problems for those with sensitive skin or allergies, but individuals differ and may be affected by different chemicals in the product. They are not a problem for most people.

The warnings that Beryl mentions really apply to the product as supplied and not relevant to any residues on clothing. To give an analogy, acetic acid will burn the skin and damage the eyes, yet it is harmless at the concentration present in vinegar. Hydrochloric acid also burns the skin and produces harmful fumes but we have it in our stomach.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Funnily enough, I know the answer to that question.

Before my time, back when bio detergents were first introduced, legend and evidence has that this is how the fear of enzymes came about…

P&G for sure and perhaps Unilever in response decided that a good way to market these new far more effective detergents was through the TV, at that time in black and white as I’ve seen some of the old adverts. The adverts show little bug like things eating stains basically.

People got it into their heads that the detergent had bugs in it. The power of advertising.

The medical profession would often attribute skin issues of almost any kind to detergent or, suggest that as a possible cause of an irritation, rash etc. Recently an institute of dermatologists in the UK published that this was, basically, claptrap and detergents are extremely unlikely to have any effect whatsoever on human skin.

Over time however this became one of my accepted wisdoms and lots of people still think that this is the case.

Hence, we have non-bio in the UK. Even although we don’t actually need it.

I have looked at the testing that’s done by the companies above and I can honestly say that I completely believe what the lab guys say, you have more chance of winning the lottery every week for a year than experiencing any ill effect from the use of their products. They are extremely well engineered and tested to the Nth degree before they see the light of day.

K.

avatar

Beryl

I can accept detergents are safe but they can still produce an allergic reaction in certain individuals especially if they remain within the fibre of clothing through I assume insufficient rinsing of the machine. i.e. Shampoo is declared safe but can cause allergy in certain individuals. I read recently of someone with a family history of allergy problems who owned a top loader machine with no problems. It was only when he bought a new front loader did the allergies surface. He eventually traced the problem to the inadequate rinsing of the new machine and it was only when he managed to find an old second hand top loader did the allergies stop.

If there is residue left on clothing after washing through insufficient rinsing I would consider my washing to be unclean irrespective of whether they caused an allergic reaction or not.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth – Fascinating. I love how advertisers present science to the public. :-) I’ve had a quick trawl through old ads but I can’t find anything like that. The enzyme in the first bio-detergents (a protease, which breaks down proteins) was produced from bacteria, which might have provided the ad writer with inspiration.

While I agree that detergents – if properly used – are unlikely to be a problem for most people, they are aggressive chemicals. A friend’s mother ended up with industrial dermatitis, believed to be as a result of working in a factory that produced a well known washing-up liquid marketed for years as being kind to your hands. The product now carries good advice on how to avoid problems. Laundry detergents are safe because we should not be coming into contact with them.

I am opposed to use of fabric conditioners simply because they remain on the fabric after the washing process. I have no evidence that they are causing problems but having miscellaneous chemicals in contact with the skin does not seem like a very wise thing to do.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Yes, much truth in that some people can have an allergic reaction to many, many things.

However, without a proper skin test by a doctor to find out exactly what the cause is it’s merely guesswork and hearsay really.

Could be anything from diet to incorrect wash programs so things aren’t cleaned correctly, detergent, perfumes, atmosphere, weather until you pinpoint it you really can’t be sure. I was actually quite surprised at the sheer number of possible causes of skin irritation it is truly bewildering.

I have had this discussion with a number of people many times over the years and, upon testing, I have never had a single case that had a shred of proof that either a washing machine or the detergent was the actual cause.

But if you have detergent left in the clothes after washing then, to be blunt, you’re most probably using too much detergent or, you’re using a poor quality one that isn’t dissolving correctly. There should be little to no trace, even after only three clean water rinses.

Using too much detergent is a very wasteful and expensive thing to do and, it doesn’t make the wash process any more efficient.

It is also common when overloading occurs as the central mass of laundry will not get rinsed effectively.

K.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

That is *exactly* what they did and, paid the price for it for decades after.

Fabric conditioner was described to me, the best I’ve ever heard, by one of the chaps at a lab who when we out doing things in a big green supermarket for research. I asked what conditioner was all about and what it was, his response, “it’s a big tub of grease with a nice perfume basically”.

It cannot and shouldn’t be used for towelling and I strongly recommend not for bedding either as it inhibits the absorbency of the fibres as its grease based.

It is utterly and completely not required.

But people have been sold the notion of soft things that are nicely perfumed and so it’s a market worth millions.

You can save a fair bit by just avoiding it, I never use and discourage people from using it wherever possible. So far as I am concerned, it’s a waste of money.

Asides which that is left on your clothes, it’s designed to be. With a strong perfume.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Beryl – I agree that some people have a problem with clothes that have gone through the washing process, but before condemning the laundry detergent it is worth considering possible other causes. As Kenneth has said, a machine has to be used correctly for best results, and that includes proper rinsing. Using the correct amount of detergent is also important.

Many people who are concerned about inadequate rinsing use extra rinses. That can do no harm but perhaps we should follow Kenneth’s advice and be more careful about how we use our machines.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth – I am glad that you have introduced the term ‘skin irritation’ because the term ‘allergy’ is vastly overused. An allergy is a more serious problem.

“But if you have detergent left in the clothes after washing then, to be blunt, you’re most probably using too much detergent or, you’re using a poor quality one that isn’t dissolving correctly. There should be little to no trace, even after only three clean water rinses.”

Obviously you are correct about the need to avoid overdosing and overloading but traces of laundry detergent will remain on the fabric. Different components will adsorb to the surface of fabrics to different degrees. The fact that the washed clothes smell of ‘perfume’ betrays the fact that rinsing is does not remove all the detergent.

The term allergy is often used to describe skin irritation, a relatively minor problem. Skin testing can help to some extent but as consultants have admitted to me, it has its limitations. My interest is because I suffer from severe allergic asthma for most of my life, but detergents are not a problem.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Yes, there are always minute traces but I think you’d need to put the garments under heavy scrutiny to find them.

The perfume is a different thing as it is actually an extremely complex component, the most complex in the entire process really. This as it has to survive storage on the shelf and all that entails as well as the wash process and to leave the odour on the laundry afterwards. Additionally it has to remain after ironing and for some time after that.

It is quite amazing that this is even possible.

What’s even more surprising in some ways is that research by the detergent manufacturers shows that if things don’t come out the machine smelling “fresh” many people will not accept that it is clean, so it is essential. The reason is obviously a degree of brand loyalty as many prefer the smell of one brand over another but also to save people rewashing things needlessly as they don’t think that they have been cleaned properly.

Critically however and, I’m sorry about this, the fact that the perfume remains is not an indicator nor can it be taken as one, that there is detergent still present in anything but monumentally small traces as it is specifically designed to remain there, the rest is designed not to. This is very deliberate.

To be honest, I was completely unaware of much of this until it was all explained to me.

I was quite taken aback with the effort that goes into this one single element of detergents, such is it’s importance.

Most people take detergent and washing machines etc for granted, we’re all too used to it I suppose and think little of the technological marvels that they actually are.

A modern detergent will contain upwards of 100-150 constituent components with some of the more advanced ones topping out at over 200 ingredients. They are ludicrously complex and the science involved in them is just staggering.

But then, consider what we want them to do, all the different things that we want them to clean all those different fabrics and with varying temperatures and agitation levels. Then it has to work in a raft of machines spanning back two decades and more. The possibilities are almost infinite.

Atop which they have to pass through all manners of legal hurdles, work in massive regions of the world and not cause any harm to the machines and the people that use them.

Your humble washing machine is only one single element of that process and a lot less technical than the detergent in many ways as, after all, all it has to do is provide the heat and agitation, little more on a most basic level.

Obviously it is more than just that but, you will understand the point I’m sure which is that the washing machine is a marvel, yes but it is only automating and making better the manual wash process that has been in existence for hundreds, if not thousands of years. You can do the same thing without one, if you are so inclined to step back in time, with a large bucket or drum and a stick, aka a paddle.

And so we have a wash “drum” and “wash paddles”. It’s nothing new. Sure the methods have altered, it’s all more automated and there’s a heap more science in it but at the most basic level, it’s still the same mechanical process.

These days it’s just a whole lot easier and a far more robust, reliable and consistent process with the corresponding results. The actual fundamental process is little changed though. The method, yes, quite different as it has been automated.

Detergents though, they’ve changed out of all recognition from what they were a few decades ago let alone over the same sort of timespan. Our expectations of what they can achieve has also changed dramatically as we expect massively superior performance but with massively reduced effort courtesy of our washing machines.

K.

avatar

whitegoodshelp

Samsung must be rubbing their hands with glee at how off topic this has become. ;)

avatar

malcolm r

Quite right wgh. It would be useful if anyone would report success or otherwise in getting a free repair for their out-of-warranty fridge-freezer.

avatar

Beryl

Wavechange: if you read Andy’s report recommended in my previous post you will observe that tests carried out by Which? indicate that only 3% of the 125 machines tested “are good at rinsing.”

I have no doubts about which version I have confidence in.

avatar

wavechange

Beryl – This has been my understanding for years and it is the main reason why I’m keen to hold on to my ancient machine for as long as possible. It uses loads of water. The downside is that less is removed at each spin so I might be deluding myself in thinking it is better at rinsing. :-(

We could probably discuss rinsing all day but what really matters is whether residues of laundry detergent are actually causing skin irritation or allergy. (I keep using the term laundry detergent because detergent is just one of the chemicals present and others are present to help with the cleaning process.)

I believe that some have a genuine problem with laundry detergents but that the media has greatly overstated the problem.

Incidentally, one of the reasons why I would not want to use a bug-infested washing machine is that even harmless bacteria and moulds can cause allergic reactions in susceptible people. As someone who is allergic to some of the moulds commonly found in the environment (walking in the countryside once landed me in hospital). I’m more concerned about this than the risk of an infection.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

This may be true but I don’t know how they were tested or what with as in, load, detergent and so on.

I know at times I can be a real pain for it but, without the relevant data it is impossible to get to a conclusion and a big part of what I on occasion find myself doing is hugely about details and facts. Opinion is irrelevant other than where you cannot completely nail down the cause and you are forced to extrapolate.

I find it somewhat unlikely, possible but I’d think unlikely, that so few rinsed adequately and when you see a result like that it begs questions on the test itself or whether the thresholds are correct.

I do think that the skin irritation thing is blown out of all proportion and, on balance with the evidence I have, there is little (if any) to support the conclusion that either washing machines or detergents are any sort of problem to worry about. At least where they are used correctly.

I acknowledge that where they are not then yes, it is possible. However, that is not the fault of either.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth – Detergents, the most important component of laundry detergent, are routinely used in research to damage bacterial and animal cells. There is no doubt whatsoever that they have the potential to harm humans. But used correctly, there is little doubt that laundry detergents are safe.

As a scientist I will not dismiss the possibility that laundry detergents are a cause of skin irritation and allergies, but I have not seen any strong evidence in the peer reviewed literature to support this. There are one or two articles that support your view and mine that the problem is overstated, for example:

Enzymes, detergents and skin: facts and fantasies
By: Basketter, D. A.; English, J. S. C.; Wakelin, S. H.; et al.
BRITISH JOURNAL OF DERMATOLOGY Volume: 158 Issue: 6 Pages: 1177-1181 Published: JUN 2008
I have read the full paper but unfortunately only the abstract is available free of charge.

From what you have said, maybe we need to make sure that users are aware of the need to avoid overdosing and overloading their machines.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth wrote: “Most people take detergent and washing machines etc for granted, we’re all too used to it I suppose and think little of the technological marvels that they actually are.

A modern detergent will contain upwards of 100-150 constituent components with some of the more advanced ones topping out at over 200 ingredients. They are ludicrously complex and the science involved in them is just staggering.”

On the other hand, this is 100-200 components that could cause problems. My first degree was in chemistry and in the last 40 years I have been aware of the number of chemicals that have been withdrawn from use in the domestic environment, sometimes because they have been found to be carcinogens, teratogens or mutagens. Many of the components will not feature on the MSDS because there is no known hazard. I wonder if those who formulate the products give this a thought.

“The perfume is a different thing as it is actually an extremely complex component, the most complex in the entire process really. This as it has to survive storage on the shelf and all that entails as well as the wash process and to leave the odour on the laundry afterwards. Additionally it has to remain after ironing and for some time after that.

It is quite amazing that this is even possible.”

Perfumes are not the only chemicals that can survive rinsing. As I mentioned before, fabrics will adsorb different chemicals to different extents. An obvious example is a dye, and no amount of rinsing will remove that. The more chemicals you have in the cocktail, the greater chance that something that will cause a problem will survive rinsing.

I had no idea that laundry detergents were so complex. That may make them superb at cleaning but I do wonder how many of the components may be withdrawn in years to come.

Thanks very much for an interesting discussion Kenneth. I’m now on holiday for a fortnight.

avatar

Beryl

I have this week carried out my own independent test and my front loading washing machine definitely does not rinse properly.

I did a full white wash being very careful not to overload the machine using my normal Which? recommended 3 in 1 detergent sachet. At the end of the washing cycle I separated one towel and hand rinsed it in the sink. I was very surprised to see the water was far from clear having a murky consistency with numerous bubbles. I then replaced the washing back into the machine and gave it another rinse. I carried out the same test again with another article with a much better result.

I did not use any fabric softener during the wash cycle but I have to say the white washing looked really clean and bright. The downside being I now feel obliged to use the extra rinse cycle in future washes to make sure there is no detergent residue left in my laundry.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Hi Beryl,

You need to start with the machine clear.

All too often when we run appliances on test we get loss of lather from leftover detergent in the tub. You can’t see it but, it’s there. If the machine is clear, after the first fill as the wash action starts the water should be completely clear, if it is not then you have leftover detergent in the machine.

This is more prevalent where people use tablets or capsules as you cannot alter the dose, you’re stuck with whatever you have. Therefore, you cannot adjust for soiling level, water hardness, load capacity or load size. There are variables in there that you need to account for or, yes, it is all to possible and perhaps even probable that you will have detergent residue after the cycle completes.

That isn’t an issue attributable to the machine and any washing machine can exhibit the same behaviour with similar conditions.

It is also very common with liquids and gels as, for whatever reason, people seem to overdose with those much more.

Part of the reason I advise people to try to avoid tablets, capsules, liquids and gels.

K.

avatar

wavechange

On the other hand, Beryl might be right and her machine is not rinsing properly. We need to be able to use our washing machines to do an adequate job even if they are not used precisely as intended. Many users add one or more rinses.

One of the reasons that users choose tablets, capsules, liquids and gels is that powder can remain in the detergent dispenser, with the possibility that it can go in with the rinsing water.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

“On the other hand, Beryl might be right and her machine is not rinsing properly.”

It will be doing pretty much the same as it was when installed ten years ago.

“One of the reasons that users choose tablets, capsules, liquids and gels is that powder can remain in the detergent dispenser, with the possibility that it can go in with the rinsing water.”

And another is that they are far more lucrative for detergent companies as well as supermarkets get more revenue from less shelf space, if you happen to be of a cynical persuasion of course. ;)

K.

avatar

malcolm r

As an innocent bystander with regard to the washing machine, it seems to me that a gel or liquid detergent placed in the drum is much less likely to leave a residue than solid detergents as it should dissolve more readily. Am I wrong in that assumption?
Looking at the gel we use, the dosage range is given on the label, dependent upon water hardness and load soiling, and only varies from 30-35ml with a simple measure so should not be that easy to overdose. Is it a case of “if all else fails, read the instructions”?
An intervention in ignorance – interested to hear more facts in what has long been a very inmformative conversation.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

That I would think is the assumption of many people Malcolm but, it isn’t correct as it’s not so much about how well the detergent dissolves as such. Again, I’m afraid, it’s more complex than that.

There are nine major ingredient groups in a detergent, these all bar one or two are present in all.

Some are there are clean, others to hold dirt etc in suspension, perfume and so on.

If there is not enough soiling, some have nowhere to go so remain in the tank. Same if the water is not hard and there’s too much what they call “builders” in there, same with chelants, alkalinity agents, surfactant and so on.

So what happens is that the excess will often attach themselves to the outer tank, slowly build up over time and you end up in a position where every wash can be overdosed.

Liquid, powder or whatever format makes no difference. Its a chemical thing, not a mechanical issue.

The washing machine only does the mechanical part and no more, everything else depends on what you put in it and how it is used. in respect to program etc.

The whole “washing machines don’t rinse as well anymore” is most often due to not understanding this and how to dose, what program should be used and so forth. Not for any reason other than the volume of water used has been significantly reduced and detergents have changed so, what you used a few years ago for both machine and detergent, is substantially changed in practice although it is the same task.

Let me put it this wary, even Which? have a rider on all detergent reviews that says that the formula can change without notice and often. The reason is that the formulas can change in a space of a mere few months and, very often will. Sometimes it’s only a small change, other times it can be quite significant.

For own label, they can even change who and where it is made with no warning.

So Beryl’s washing machine will be doing exactly the same as it did when it was installed, they are designed specifically to repeat the very same task over and over, they do not alter. So the same amount of water, the same rinse time, number of rinses, spin assuming that nothing has been altered such as the pressure switch. All that can affect it is either modification or, what’s left in it.

New machines are tested with optimal loads. They can’t consider every possible variable as I have explained previously and, it is unreasonable to expect that. So, if they get the wrong volume of laundry and/or detergent, sure you can get residues.

K.

avatar

Beryl

Leftover residue in washers would indicate the machine has not been rinsing properly on previous occasions.

I will carry out the same test this time using bio powder but will first do a clear rinse to ensure no residue remains before starting. It is extraordinary that 1 small capsule in a full load wash has not been tried and tested in hard and soft water before being marketed for sale.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

“Leftover residue in washers would indicate the machine has not been rinsing properly on previous occasions.”

Not really.

In any I have looked at it is symptomatic of consistent overdosing. This leaves a residue of undissolved or excess detergent on the outer tank, more so on modern plastic tanked machines which do seem to be more sensitive to the issue.

Capsules and tabs are tested in various conditions but, ask yourself this simple question Beryl…

Why is it that the recommended dose on powder varies dramatically dependent on load, drum capacity, water hardness and load and yet caps and tabs are supposedly one size fits all?

The next question to ask is, how on Earth can the machine or could even be expected to work that out?

K.

avatar

wavechange

At least the pre-measured capsules and tablets ensure that the user puts in a fixed amount of detergent, removing one of the variables.

I believe that it is better to err on the side of rinsing more than necessary. Water is a precious resource but on the basis that we are flushing our toilets with water of drinking quality, I see no point in risking inadequate rinsing of clothing. Skin conditions such as eczema are very unpleasant and could be exacerbated by detergents, so there is no point in risking poor rinsing.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

“At least the pre-measured capsules and tablets ensure that the user puts in a fixed amount of detergent, removing one of the variables.”

As explained however, a washing machine cannot compensate for that without a myriad of sensors. That’s been tried from Miele down, it doesn’t work, introduces much complexity, multiple failure points and causes more harm than good.

Tabs and caps, to me, are terrible things.

In areas Manchester for example, where the water is ludicrously soft, you can only use 1/4 to 1/2 of a standard tab or you will have masses of foam. This causes all manners of issues.

Incorrect doses from them as one size does not suit every wash or even location and often horrifically expensive to boot.

It’s all very well having a fixed dose, if it works.

K.

avatar

Beryl

Kenneth

If you dissolve 1 capsule of detergent in half a sink of water you will be surprised at how little detergent there is. I just fail to comprehend why this small amount cannot be rinsed away in a machine that is supposed to do just that! I will reserve further comment however until after carrying out my next test.

Will keep you posted.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Not at all, I’ve spent time doing that for training demos Beryl as well as research.

You’d be surprised how much is there you cannot see.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Beryl – I assume that you are judging the amount of detergent by the amount of foam present, much as you would with washing-up liquid. When front-loading automatic washing machines were introduced, new laundry detergent formulations were produced because the ones used in twin-tubs and for hand-washing produced far too much foam, resulting in various problems including poor cleaning and rinsing.

I assume that powders, liquids and gels all contain a component (referred to as a defoamer or antifoam) to help control foaming. The sort of chemicals used are ones that are more likely to stick to fabrics in the same way that perfumes do, so will not rinse away as well as other components.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Incorrect assumption I’m afraid.

Foaming agents are added because, if Western customers do not see “bubbles” they don’t think things are clean, in much the same way as if they don’t come out “smelling nice”, the presumption is that they are not clean.

You are correct in that detergents for twin tubs and top loaders are very different formulations.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth – Are you saying that no antifoam/defoamer/foam regulator is present in laundry detergent formulations? I find that very difficult to believe.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

No.

I’m saying that foaming agents are added on purpose due to customer requirements.

As I explained, so far as I am aware, in some regions it is not added but for the EU and USA/Canada it is so far as I know, but certainly for EU.

And, if you prohibit foam people won’t see it, think things haven’t been cleaned and rewash or switch brand so, counter productive from a detergent maker’s perspective.

Impossible to judge how to prohibit it even were you to try I expect, too many variables involved.

K.

avatar

Beryl

Wavechange

No foam just a few bubbles when I hand rinsed the towel following machine wash. The water in my area is extremely hard, lots of limescale deposits. You need to use more detergent in hard water areas as I am sure you are already aware. The water was a murky grey colour with a few bubbles, nothing like I would consider acceptable in a normal wash and rinse cycle. Amazingly the whites were really white and smelled very fresh, you would never know what was lurking within until you hand rinsed them in the sink.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth – I think if you study the formulation of laundry detergents designed for front-loading machines you will find that one of the essential components is there to prevent excessive foaming. They are antifoams and not something added to create bubbles.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Uhm, I kinda have done, at length, with the people that make the stuff!!!

And I know a heap about what happens in the field including discovering some of the issues in the first instance.

I am therefore quite confident that my information as given is correct.

There is no need for visible “foam” in a modern detergent, it is a component added for aesthetics.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Beryl – I think you are absolutely right to assume that your machine is not rinsing properly. Foam is not necessarily a good indicator that detergent residues remain. As Kenneth has explained, it is difficult to judge how much detergent to use, so perhaps there is a case for using our intuition and if in doubt, doing an extra rinse.

Hopefully a hot maintenance wash will help keep the innards of the washing machine reasonably clean.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth

“I am therefore quite confident that my information as given is correct.”

Please could you tell us what components are commonly included to control the amount of foam present in laundry detergents.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

No.

For two reasons.

One, I don’t know if there even are any, I am unaware of the requirement for them.

Two, even if I was privy to the ingredients, for reasons explained previously I would be under an NDA and couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Many ingredients are listed on MSDS (material safety data sheets) and I don’t believe there are any great secrets in the world of antifoams, or there were not when I used to lecture on the topic. There is information about their role online. I’m not going to expect Which? to approve links when we are misusing this site by having a private discussion well off the intended topic. Anyway, I’m on holiday. :-)

avatar

Kenneth Watt

I thought you were not aware of how many ingredients were even in a detergent? At least, that was the case a few days ago.

I’m a bit confused. As now, you apparently are an expert, at least on one component from over one hundred, of a secret and unpublished formula.

To be honest, it’s this sort of thing that stops businesses from getting involved in many discussions and why I often bow out as, I can’t be bothered to get into a senseless debate about what I know to be factual with “truths” gleaned from the web somewhere. I have neither the inclination or time to do so.

So, I will allow you the satisfaction in that, as you lectured in an educational capacity you must know more and be smarter than I must be as, after all, I’m just a washing machine repair guy. And, with that, take my leave unless there is something of interest to respond to.

For now, I’ve given you more than enough information to work it all out.

You either you do or you don’t. Either way, it’s no odds to me whatsoever, I’ve no stake so I don’t really have to care.

K.

avatar

dieseltaylor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laundry_detergent

Gives a very full account of laundry detergents and the science of enzymes.

This site gives a breakdown as percentages
http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/enztech/detergent.html

Table 4.1 Compositions of an enzyme detergent

Constituent Composition (%)

Sodium tripolyphosphate (water softener, loosens dirt)a 38.0

Sodium alkane sulphonate (surfactant)25.0

Sodium perborate tetrahydrate (oxidising agent)25.0

Soap (sodium alkane carboxylates)3.0

Sodium sulphate (filler, water softener)2.5

Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (dirt-suspending agent)1.6

Sodium metasilicate (binder, loosens dirt) 1.0

Bacillus protease (3% active) 0.8

Fluorescent brighteners 0.3

Foam-controlling agents Trace

Perfume Trace

Water to 100%

avatar

wavechange

Thanks Dieseltaylor. Note the presence of foam-controlling agents. These may be present in very small amounts, but that is all that is needed to do the job.

The number of components is not hundreds, as was suggested earlier.

avatar

dieseltaylor

I don’t take this example as being proof that all detergents are of a small number of ingredients just it seemed of interest. The addition of an anti-foaming agent I see as an admission that the detergent will produce foam naturally – : ) – so a trace of anti-foamer is probably necessary in soft water areas.

Incidentally wavechange, as I know you felt the IFH review was lightweight you may place more faith in this 2011 report:
Effectiveness of Low-Temperature Domestic Laundry on the Decontamination of Healthcare Workers’ Uniforms
“Our conclusions are that laundry in a domestic situation at 60C (140F) for 10 minutes is sufficient to decontaminate hospital uniforms and reduces the bacterial load by more than 7-log reduction,”…
Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2011;32(11):1103-1108

avatar

wavechange

Dieseltaylor – Thanks for alerting me to this paper in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, which mentions that nurses are expected to launder their own uniforms. I hope this is not common practice for staff working in wards with patients suffering from serious infections. In the university department I worked in, all lab coats used by those handling microorganisms were collected for professional laundering and those used by staff working with hazardous organisms were autoclaved at 135C (which is well above the temperature needed to kill all bacteria) prior to being sent for laundering.

As has been pointed out in the Which? report, the washing process removes rather than kills bacteria. That may be perfectly adequate for the vast majority of the population, provided that reusable nappies and other contaminated fabric is treated with bleach etc. prior to washing or washed at 90C.

My main concern is that as a result of low temperature washing and the popularity of laundry detergents lacking bleach, some washing machines have been allowed to become heavily contaminated with bacteria and moulds. I have no idea whether this poses a health hazard, but it certainly does not seem wise to be using a machine that is heavily contaminated.

Most human beings coexist happily with the bugs that cover our skin, are present in our homes and on everything we touch. It will be very interesting to find out whether or not the way we use our washing machines presents any danger to our health.

avatar

dieseltaylor

wavechange – I thought we had covered the fact that a large proportion of nurses DO wash their own uniforms last year which is why I am quite exercised by machines that wash at low temperatures when the user believes they are doing a 60C hygienic wash.

I believe it is on the IFH site that there is a paper detailing several instances where communal laundries operated at incorrect temperatures and spread disease. Apparently at one childrens home a sexual disease! Unlike the tobacco industry I believe that with a reasonable amount of proof one can be fairly sure that erring on the side of caution is a good idea. Waiting for proof absolute is a very unwise course of action.

Incidentally I have a friend with many young grandchildren where babes, children , parents and grandparents have all had serious gastric upsets recently – not all at the same time and not from eating the same food. My guess is one of the noroviruses however I did query the washing practices! I see him tomorrow for an update on whether the washing machines ever see a high temperature to clear the biofilm.

avatar

wavechange

Commonsense suggests that clothing, towels and bedding from someone with an infection should be disinfected before laundering, as one would do with reusable nappies.

Norovirus can easily be transmitted from person to person, very much like cold and ‘flu viruses can.

Washing machines have never been designed to achieve an accurate 60C or to hold the maximum temperature for a fixed length of time. They should not be relied on to kill bacteria.

I would be interested to know how common it is for nurses to be expected to wash their uniforms.

avatar

dieseltaylor

wavechange – A simple search will reveal lots of information on nurses washing uniforms at home:
http://www.hcais-conference.co.uk/forum/23-reducing-hcais/604-washing-healthcare-workers-uniforms-at-home
for one.

From memory of last year a figure of a third of nurses springs to mind. However carers in old peoples homes I imagine is another great area for diseases and weakened individuals.

As to the claim that washing machines have never been designed …. etc…. I guess you mean domestic washing machines only : ). However if you get the magazine wavechange the September issue showed the graphs for two of the machines and the response from Beko was all machines had the same wash profile – and in their case above 55C for 30 minutes.
The Indesit briefly hits 67C which again compared to a Hoover machine that briefly reaches 43C would seem far more likely to show a large log reduction in viable colonies, or bed mites.

I see it as a complete no-brainer that all machines should have a hygiene wash that actually can do the job*. If there is to be a pretend 60C wash then surely it should be identified separately as in EU wash [ for whites?].

* It does seem a shame that the EU and the BEUC in their desire to reduce water and electricity usage failed completely to discuss the implications for hygiene. Also the desire for EU uniformity rather missed the point that many countries in the north do not suffer water shortages, and many in the south have solar heated water. This they cannot use as virtually all machines now have a single cold water inlet. If one ever wanted examples of unintended consequences that surely takes the biscuit as a Spaniard with a tank full of free hot water is still using electricity for his wash.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/greenproperty/7948751/Green-property-hot-fill-washing-machines.html

avatar

whitegoodshelp

No offence, but is this a conspiracy by Samsung to completely remove all focus from this topic? Or a Guinness book of record attempt at the most off topic posts in a single article?

avatar

dieseltaylor

wgh
Like any good conversation it has developed beyond the original point. I think anyone who has been following it is much much better informed than previously on white goods, particularly for washing machines and the washing process. This is a good thing surely? : )

avatar

Beryl

If HCW and in particular nurses uniforms are being home laundered at 40C in w/machines that do not kill bacteria but only washes them away in 97% of machines that fail to rinse properly (3% of 125 tested by Which?) then surely there is need for concern about cross contamination in our hospitals.
Could these findings be the reason why this conversation has endured beyond the original point?

I am in agreement with DT that I am “much better informed than previously on white goods, particularly for washing machines and the washing process.” I intend however to carry out a second test when I next do a whites wash in a clean (free from detergent) machine to establish once and for all the efficacy of the rinsing process in my particular machine.

avatar

wavechange

Beryl – I certainly don’t want to discourage you from carrying out your own tests, but rinsing is very difficult to judge. You mentioned grey water and foam as indications of poor rinsing. Grey water is certainly an indication of inadequate rinsing but the absence of foam is not. Foam formation is dependent on many factors including softness of water and whether foam inhibitors are present. These are used in laundry detergent and oil/grease helps kill foam.The other issue is which component (see DT’s list above) are we testing the rinsing of. Those components that tend to stick to the fabric don’t rinse as well as other components. It is even likely to depend on the type of fabrics we are rinsing.

I would love to know how Which? assess the effectiveness of rinsing and whether or not they even consider the possibility of some components sticking to fabrics more than others.

I know clinical microbiologists who may be able to find out about current practice for laundering nurses’ uniforms. It is difficult to believe that it is commonplace just to pop them in the home washing machine at low temperature with no prior disinfection.

avatar

Beryl

Wavechange: I am aware that anti foam agents are added to detergents and more especially in soft water areas but my common sense tells me (and I have raised four children) that grey water for me is not acceptable in the final laundry rinse whatever it’s content. Most peoples w/machines are now plumbed in so they never get to see the quality of the water draining away. As long as the laundry looks clean and smells fresh common sense tells them that will suffice.

If 60C is the required temperature to kill off most bacteria in a home laundry situation then common sense tells me that 60C should mean 60C and not 48C. I have a niece who is a retired nurse so I will contact her to establish who was responsible for washing her uniform but in the meantime have to oversee repairs to my roof any minute now.

avatar

wavechange

Beryl – The fact that rinsing water looks clean and clothes smell fresh does not show that they have been adequately rinsed, but that is probably what we are intended to believe.

Have a look at the HSE recommendations that I have mentioned below and you will see that nurses uniforms should be treated with bleach or washed at a higher temperature than 60C. I believe that in the interest of safety, laundry should be done via the hospital or provided by the employer, as it was in the university department I used to work in.

avatar

wavechange

Beryl and Dieseltaylor – Google “Laundry treatments at high and low temperatures” which will provide a link to current HSE recommendations for dealing with contaminated linen. Hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite is the active component in common bleach.

A washing machine capable of 60C is simply not sufficient for laundering nurses’ uniforms or for eliminating the risk of passing on infection in the domestic environment.

I see these recommendations as common sense. On the other hand, I think we would know by now if laundering our clothes at 30 or 40C was a significant factor in the spread of disease among reasonably healthy individuals.

avatar

Beryl

I have carried out a second test to establish the rinsing efficacy of my w/machine, this time using bio laundry powder (measured in accordance with instructions) instead of gel, with a full load of towels on a full wash cycle at 40C and the result was worse than with gel. I had to resort to two extra rinsing cycles in order to clear away the concentrated accumulation of suds after hand rinsing in the sink, but there was a slight improvement in the colour of the water being of a ‘milky’ consistency but far from clear, but this could be attributed to less soiled laundry. Again I did not use a fabric softener.

What is the point of designing a washing machine (and detergent) with the intention of saving energy and water consumption if it does neither effectively? The majority of people I have spoken to are blissfully unaware of the problem as Wavechange picked up from my previous post that the finished laundry usually looks clean and smells very fresh. No one would be any the wiser if not for the few unfortunate sensitive people who have experienced allergic skin reactions which, in all probability, brought this problem to the attention of consumer associations such as Which?

I have spoken to my niece (a retired nurse) who confirmed that she was responsible for laundering her own uniform during her working days. As a student nurse many years ago however, she informed me that nurses uniforms were always washed in the hospital laundry, which raises questions again about the danger of cross contamination in a hospital/care facility situation and in particular with vulnerable patients such as the elderly and the very young whose immune systems maybe compromised.

I would strongly advise consumers to carry out their own tests in order to establish the efficacy of their w/machines as Which? maintain only 3% of machines tested rinsed properly. If the remaining 97% failed the test the question arises, could this be categorised as an inherent design fault?

avatar

dieseltaylor

wavechange
I find it difficult to accept to accept the HSE recommendations:
“*Washed with detergent using the hot wash cycle of a domestic washing machine to a temperature of at least 800C; or”

: )

I have no doubt that the other figures offered may be meaningful and provide a useful target that the EU should look to for setting a hygien wash standard. My only slight niggling doubt is that I am curious if 55C for 30 minutes equates with
65C for 10 minutes or 71C for 3 minutes.

HSE do not provide links to any research so the figures are rather bald and I see date back to at least 1995 and possibly earlier. Overall it looks like the drive to water and energy efficiency has rather ignored the need to make sure there is an effective hygienic wash cycle.

avatar

wavechange

Dieseltaylor – I would have mentioned the HSE recommendations earlier if it had not been for this unfortunate error and also lack of knowledge if they are in general use.

The time taken to kill all bacteria is well understood (and is well above boiling temperature) but what is needed to kill just harmful organisms is more difficult to be sure of. We should certainly be paying special attention to nurses’ uniforms and anything that has been in contact with someone with an infection, and faecal contamination, but I remain unconvinced that we need to worry about bugs most of the time. Our skin is covered in bugs and so is the world around us. We are designed to cope with this.

avatar

dieseltaylor

I thought I would see how the German consumer testing organisation was responding:
http://www.test.de/Waschmaschinen-Was-die-Waesche-kostet-4542962-0/

“When purchasing a washing machine make sure many customers ever more on the consumption of electricity and water. The energy label allows you to compare the devices. The efficiency class A+++ for example is “particularly low” – so you’ve learned it. What many people don’t know: the efficiency class reflects only the consumption of two programs, the “label”programs, 40 and 60 degree cotton. What is the energy consumption of other programs, does not show the label. This is because many do not take advantage of the economical programs, as shown in a survey on test.de quixotic. Another problem: The 60-degree of austerity measures of the devices offer not the temperature, which it says. No washing machine actually reached the 60 degrees in the last test. But how is it in the default program? Stiftung Warentest has once again brought the 13 machines in the lab and examined.

The results of subsequent tests customers this can compare machines now also the true temperature, power consumption, wash time and cost savings and standard programs for normally soiled laundry.”

Well that is an improvement from not mentioning in a review that a machine cannot reach 45C on a nominally 60C wash. When I have more time I will be buying and translating one of their full reports.

Given we are fully aware of the need for hygiene washes it would seem that the various organisations and the EU agreed a required standard for this to be explicitly shown on a washing machine dial. Allergen washes could also be usefully identified as multiple rinses rather than just high temperatures are a cure. As with all things there is no absolute figure or zero possible but a 7 log reduction seems eminently feasible.

I fully concur that for most people we are resistant to most nasties but what is occurring is antibiotic resistance and more toxic versions of existing :

Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile and ESBL-producing
Escherichia coli in the home and community: assessing the problem, controlling the spread
An expert report commissioned by the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

A well argued piece though an updating would be nice as it is 2006 vintage. The fact that the US has the biggest showing of CA-MRSA may be because of antibiotic overuse ….. but for the full picture:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methicillin-resistant_Staphylococcus_aureus

avatar

malcolm r

On the subject of product durability, I see that Citroen have agreed to replace the air suspension component on Picassos up to 10 years old or 120 000 miles. These were failing in only 5 years. So manufacturers can recognise when they supply something that fails through lack of reasonable durability, and then do the right thing for the customer. Good for them. Lets hope they are not alone.

avatar

wavechange

Citroen has not issued a recall because they claim this is not a safety issue, but owners should be alerted to a problem via a warning light. Citroen does need to do something to maintain the confidence in their products because they have issued a fair number of recalls on safety issues.

Which? has alerted us to some important recalls for kitchen appliances, but perhaps we should use Which? Conversation to help spread the word about recalls and manufacturers taking responsibility – as Citroen has – for products with durability problems.

avatar

dieseltaylor

I do think that a Consumer Association should actually have a repository of recalls, warnings etc. so that any subscriber/viewer would have one port of call whatever the product. For instance I suspect that some cheap shops import many varieties of plugs, cheap electronics so if you thought to shop at xxx an decided to check on the Web you could see the number of products recalled in total and if your intended./actual purchase was listed.

Obviously if the normal Connect subscribers were also filling in what they owned then e-mail advisories could be sent where relevant. The larger vision remains that there is large number of subscribers supplying [and receiving info]. The Logik readers reviews highlights that consumer use in the field is very useful and can contradict BB status. What we do not have is how many Which? subscribers have bought the product and are having no problems. If we had this information we could have a very good feel of the incidence of the problem – which seems to be a poor design.
http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/home-appliances/reviews/steamers/logik-l90sss11/customer-views/

Hi all, thanks for all your comments on this thread. Our washing machines expert has written a new Conversation about minimum lifespans, and also reached out to manufacturers about the length of their warranties: http://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/washing-machines-faulty-broken-lifespan-lifetime-warranty-guarantee/

avatar

wavechange

Beryl – You have rekindled my concern about skin irritation and allergy could be caused by laundry detergents and fabric conditioners. My particular interest was the enzymes in biological products because they did cause respiratory problems for those working in the factories, but that back in the 60s. Many things trigger my allergic asthma and I did not want to risk developing eczema, which is more common in those who have allergies. To cut a long story short, after establishing that there was no significant evidence of a link between enzymes in laundry detergents and eczema or other skin conditions, I switched to bio detergents and have had absolutely no problems.

In a post on 19 June, Kenneth told us: “There should be little to no trace [of detergent], even after only three clean water rinses.” I don’t understand this statement in view of the fact that – as you have pointed out – some machines are better than others at rinsing, and – as Kenneth has pointed out – the effectiveness of rinsing is highly dependent on dosing and load.

On the ISE site you can see a short video about a washing machine that has the option of seven rinses, for the benefit of anyone who has allergies or sensitive skin.

My own concern is that it seems that we are considering only the rinsing of the detergent component of laundry detergent and not all the other components. As I have mentioned previously, some chemicals tend to adhere to fabrics more than others and the retention of the ‘perfume’ through rinsing is an indicator of this. It appears that Which? assesses the alkalinity of water remaining prior to the final spin, but I wonder if Which? has established that rinsing is as effective at removing ALL the components of a laundry detergent and not just the detergent.

As with the washing temperature/duration that we have discussed, rinsing seems to need some professional scientific investigation.

avatar

Beryl

Wavechange:

I have managed to find a list of laundry detergent chemicals for your research:

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
Dioxane 1,4 – dioxane
Linear Alky Benzene Sulphanates (LAS)
Nonylphenol Ethoxylate (NPE)
Petroleum distillates (aka napthas)
Phenols
Optical brighteners
Artificial fragrances
Phosphates
Ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA)
Sodium Hypochlorite (household bleach)

Apparently the majority of people are not affected by any of these chemicals (according to tests) – at carefully measured levels, only a sensitive minority with allergy problems. What does concern me however is, if machines fail to rinse properly causing a constant build up of these potentially toxic chemicals in ones laundry, the effect they could have on some hypersensitive people when they eventually reach toxic levels. I assume tests carried out in laboratories did not take into account the possible risks to skin as a result of detergent accumulation over time. I have yet to find a shampoo that does not cause a reaction each time I wash my hair as rinsing is obviously not the problem here. According to Allergy UK, allergies are becoming more widespread and there are several causes depending on the individual person ( as I am sure you are already aware) and perfumes seem to be the worst culprits

I was far from happy with the amount of suds left in my laundry after machine washing and by far the worst offenders were the towels. I must emphasise I was very careful to follow the measurements contained on the detergent packet according to the hardness of my water supply when using powder and did not use fabric softener/conditioner.

You can however learn more about this very complex problem on the Allergy UK website.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

You really have the bit between your teeth on this rinsing thing Beryl.

But look at it with a more pragmatic outlook and I think you will find some of your assumptions shaken up a bit.

For a start the pack instructions are generic as in, they are intended to be a guide, not cast down on tablets of stone as the requirement will vary based on soiling level, water hardness and volume. Some will tell you that for a large capacity machine you need to use more but, that’s about it.

You therefore have instructions intended and, little if any changed, from the 1970/80s but the technologies in the detergents as well as the machines themselves have changed.

Drum volumes (weight is an irrelevance) have increased dramatically. Water and energy use have reduced dramatically.

The instructions therefore apply to a 40l drum as much as a 60l drum or even an old 30l or less drum.

What I think Which? have likely done or, the test house used, is not to alter the dose to account for that. If you put too much in at the start, it doesn’t have anywhere to go so, it will redeposit or there will be insufficient rinsing. Importantly though, that’s not an issue with the machine but one with the user controlled dose level.

I simply cannot accept that these results from Which? are completely without flaw. Makes a great headline though.

The main point being that dose will vary based on the variables, you cannot state that any particular dose will be either adequate or inadequate with absolute certainty across a single person or family’s washing let alone across multiple machines.

It is however far, far more common to see overdosing in the field as opposed to under dosing and, asides the waste and potential damage to the laundry as well as the machine, it’s costing the user a small fortune over the years.

K.

avatar

Beryl

I am convinced by what I saw. My eyes do not deceive me.

First wash completed with sachet gel – result grey water and suds.
Machine rinsed empty to clear drum no detergent used – as Kenneth instructed.
Second wash powder used as per packet instructions – result milky water and lots of suds.
Third wash reduced powder – result more suds and milky water.
Fourth wash back to gel extra rinse applied – result less suds and water better but not quite up to my required standards.

Conclusion: Machine does not rinse properly – all future washes to be carried out with extra rinse. Machine fails to comply with environmental energy and water saving expectancy.

No further comment.

avatar

wavechange

Beryl – I’m not sure where your list came from. Dieseltaylor provided us with a list of components on 26 June and provided a link (see further up the page). I happen to know the author is/was an expert in enzyme technology (I used to recommend one of his books when teaching in the 90s) but I don’t believe that he is an authority on other components. Even if this list was up-to-date for one example, manufacturers change the formulation of their laundry detergents from time to time. One of the biggest changes has been the removal of phosphates, which have created huge problems in our watercourses. We have the EU to thank for some huge improvements that most people are unaware of. I am relying on the EU to bring manufacturers into line to stop them producing third rate machines that are not durable. The quest for laundry detergents that are effective at low temperatures is another reason for change, and so is the cost of materials because that obviously affects profits. With different products on the market and no way of knowing their components it is difficult to work out what is causing skin irritation or allergy. Studying MSDS (hazard information) I have discovered that Calgon and Oust (kettle descaled) have both changed their formulation in recent years. MSDS is a help but does not list all components.

All I can recommend is experimenting with different products over a reasonable time period, so that you give them a decent chance. Fabric conditioners are best avoided because they are intended to stick to the fabric and are not rinsed off. Unless you know that all the detergent is rinsed out of the drawer promptly put it in the machine instead, or you could find some detergent going in with the rinsing water. In my opinion, some of the information on the Allergy UK site is very good but any site that mentions homeopathy, as it still does, has to be treated with caution. :-(

If that isn’t complicated enough, even new fabrics come pre-loaded with certain chemicals (optical brighteners for whites, for example), which have been suggested as causes of skin irritation/allergy.

I know I have criticised others for being negative about what can be achieved regarding consumer protection and the poor quality appliances on sale, but there is still a lot to be learned about skin irritation and genuine allergies.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Was it rinsing okay or causing any problem before Which? insinuated that there might be some form of an issue with “modern” machines?

I suspect not. Had there been I am quit sure you would have voiced concern before now given the machine you say is ten years or more old. It hasn’t altered since day one.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Kenneth – Maybe Beryl did not look at the drain water from her washing machine until she became concerned about skin irritation. Though I have studied the operation of my machine in some detail, I cannot recall doing this myself.

Anyway, I am looking forward to your explanation of why you think that three rinses are adequate yet sell machines that do seven.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

“Anyway, I am looking forward to your explanation of why you think that three rinses are adequate yet sell machines that do seven.”

My apologies, I didn’t know you wanted that.

Dead simple really, some people like to rinse more thoroughly often as they hold that it helps with skin irritation. So, the option is included.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Thanks Kenneth. Is there a standard procedure used in the industry for assessing the effectiveness of rinsing? If so, it would be useful if Which? was using this unless they have evidence that it is inadequate.

From the limited information on the Which? website, they are measuring the pH of the water prior to the final spin and comparing this with that of water, on the basis that the detergent component is alkaline.

avatar

Kenneth Watt

Most manufacturers only test in house so, there is no standard as such that I am aware of. You will therefore get variance.

K.

avatar

wavechange

Thanks. That explains why I cannot find an EU directive or other information. Though I think the Which? tests should do more than measure the alkalinity of the rinse water (perhaps they do, but we have no way of knowing) I expect they are conducted under conditions that allow useful comparisons to be made.

Perfumes and optical brighteners are examples of ingredients that won’t rinse away as well as the detergent itself. I wonder what else.

Back to top

Post a Comment

Commenting guidelines

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked

Tired of typing your name and email? Why not register.

Register or Log in

Browse by Category

Consumer Rights

752 Conversations

9258 Participants

26483 Comments

Energy & Home

623 Conversations

6901 Participants

23582 Comments

Money

801 Conversations

5874 Participants

15234 Comments

Technology

762 Conversations

7283 Participants

18899 Comments

Transport & Travel

594 Conversations

4686 Participants

13248 Comments