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Getting the most from your clothes washer

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Jean Ince | County Extension Agent Staff Chair

The average American family washes an average of 400 loads of laundry each year according to the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture. With so much usage, it makes sense to choose and use your washer as efficiently as possible to get the most from it. With the Energy Star labels and all the options available to consumers when purchasing or using a washer sometimes it can get overwhelming and confusing on which option is both energy and cost effective.
I am sure you have seen the label ENERGY STAR® but may not know what it means. ENERGY STAR® is a label that lets consumers know that the residential clothes washers they are looking at meets the minimum Modified Energy Factor (MEF) of 1.72 for ENERGY STAR® models. The MEF measures the energy used during the washing process, including machine energy, water heating energy, and dryer energy. Higher the MEF, the more efficient the model will be. In addition, ENERGY STAR® models have a maximum Water Factor (WF) of 8.0. The WF measures the gallons of water used per cycle per cubic foot. The lower the WF, the less water the machine uses.
As consumers we have basically two designs when it comes to purchasing a new clothes washer: Front-loading and the more familiar Top-loading version. Front loading machines are those which open up at the front of the machine and are typically seen in many commercials advertising washing machines. Many laundromats have front-loading machines.
If you are in the market for a new washing machine, here are some suggestions to look for whether you are choosing a top loading or a front loading machine.
1. Set a budget. Clothes washer prices vary widely. Think about the features you really need and want and look for clothes washers with those features in your price range.
2. Determine the configuration. You can buy a top-loading washing machine or a front-loading washing machine. While a front-loading machine will use a third of the water of a top-loading machine, the top loading unit may cost less.
3. Look at the size of the clothes washer. If you have a big family, you may want a larger model to accommodate a lot clothes at one time. This will cause the price of the unit to increase. A smaller model may be cheaper but will be able to fewer clothes at once.
4. Consider any added costs. Think about how much more money adding a clothes washer to your home will add to your utility bills at one time. A clothes washer uses a great deal of both water and energy and will cause both of these bills to increase.
5. Look at the energy efficiency of clothes washers. A less expensive clothes washer may use large amounts of water and power to operate, while more expensive models may be energy efficient and use much less water and energy.
6. Use a measuring tape to find out how much space you have for your washing machine. You don’t want to purchase it, then bring it home and find out it doesn’t fit. Record the height, length, and width of the space and take those measurements with you to the store.
7. Decide whether you want a front-loading or top-loading clothes washer. Top-loading washers are convenient because you don’t have to strain to bend over when loading them, but front-loading washers use less energy and are better for the environment.
8. Know how much laundry you need to do on a regular basis. A family of four will most likely generate a moderate amount of laundry, while one with a dozen kids will make enough to keep a commercial-capacity washer busy. Naturally, the more capacity you require the higher the price.
9. Consider the features each washing machine offers. Are there small, medium and large options for setting the water level? Is there a heat setting to allow you to wash colors in cold water and whites in hot? Are the knobs manual or digital? These are all features you should take a look at when deciding which washer is for you.
10. Read the energy-star label, which explains how efficient the washer is. These models typically use less water, making them a great option for those who rely on a public water system and are billed for their water usage.
11. Make sure the clothes washer has a compartment for bleach and fabric softener. These handy features allow you to set the cycles and forget about your soiled clothes until they are clean, without having to check back to add these products.
12. Look for the best price. Once you have decided on a make and model, shop around and compare prices until you have found the best deal.
Whether you have a brand new machine or are still making do with an older model, there are some things you can do to get the most from your machine.
1. Fill it up. Clothes washers use about the same amount of energy regardless of the size of the load, so run full loads whenever possible.
2. Wash in cold water. Water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to operate a washer. Washing in cold water will generally do a good job of cleaning. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut energy use. Using the cold cycle reduces energy use even more.
3. Use a drying rack or hang clothes outside. Where and when possible, air-drying clothes instead of using a dryer not only saves energy, but also helps them last longer.
4. Avoid the sanitary cycle. This super hot cycle, available on some models, increases energy use significantly. Only use it when absolutely necessary.
5. Activate the high spin speed option. If possible choose a high spin speed option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture in your clothes after washing to reduce drying time.
6. Leave the door open after use. Front-loading washers use airtight seals to prevent water from leaking while the machine is in use. Leave the door ajar for an hour or two after use to allow moisture to evaporate.
7. Rinse the washer every month. Some manufacturers recommend rinsing the washer each month by running a normal cycle with 1 cup of bleach to help reduce the risk of mold or mildew buildup.
Appliances, including the clothes washer, are expensive, necessary items in our homes. Take time to get the most from it by following these recommendations. For more information regarding ENERGY STAR® check out the website www.energystar.gov or the American Cleaning Organization at www.cleaninginstitute.org/ . You can always contact our office, the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit us on the second floor of the courthouse.
Recipe of the Week
Here is one of the winning recipes from the recent 4-H Dairy Foods Contest. This recipe was prepared by Peyton Hilliard.
Mississippi Six
1 lb. bread bowl
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
1 ½ c. sour cream
1 jar dried beef, chopped
1/3 c. chopped green chili peppers
½ c. chopped green onions
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off top of bread bowl and scoop out the inside. Place bread pieces in a bowl for later. In medium bowl combine cheddar cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, dried beef, green chili peppers, green onions, and Worcestershire sauce. Put mixture in bread bowl. Place top on bowl. Wrap bread bowl in foil and bake in the oven for 90 minutes. Serve with pieces of bread.