How Do Washing Machines Work?

If there’s one household appliance most of us could not do without, it’s the washing machine. One of the first things people notice about you is what you’re wearing. And this doesn’t just mean what style you choose to dress in, but also how clean or dirty those clothes are. Because our clothes are so important to us, we put a lot of energy and money into keeping them clean and presentable. If you’ve ever been without a washing machine for a few days then you’ll know how hard and tiring it is to wash every single piece of clothing by hand. Washing machines, with the help of detergent, help to separate the dirt from your clothes and then rinse it away. But how exactly do they work? Why do they have all of those different settings and how does one vary from the other?

We’ve come a long way since washing machines were first invented! The Union Washing Machine, patented in 1860, consisted of a hand-cranked device that rubbed clothes between two washboards inside a bin of boiling water and soap. Yikes!

Antique-Washing-Machine

The way that a modern washer works is actually pretty simple: it sloshes your clothes along with the laundry detergent you choose for a while. After a little while, it spins fast to remove the excess water. Voilá!

Parts of a washer: The washer consists, firstly, of two drums -one inside the other. The inner drum is the one you can actually see when you open the washer door or lid (and the one that you need to clean regularly!) In a front loading washing machine, the drum stands horizontally. You open the front door, drop all your clothes, place a bit of liquid or powder detergent in the detergent drawer, and the then the whole drum rotates on a horizontal axis. On a top-loader, the drum stands upright, you open the lid and drop the clothes into it. On this type of machine, the drum is mounted about a vertical axis and doesn’t actually move. Instead, there’s a tower in the center (called an agitator) that moves the clothes around in the water. Both types of drums have a lot of little holes around it that let water in and out, on spin cycles.

The second, bigger, outer drum has the purpose of holding the water while the inner drum or the agitator rotates around the clothes.

How clean your clothes get during the washing cycle actually depend on various factors. One of these is how effective your laundry detergent really is. If somehow you’re not happy with the cleaning that your washing machine gives out, could be time to change laundry detergent and choose, maybe, a natural laundry detergent or some laundry detergent tablets.

Laundre-laundromat-5-810x1215

The other factor that determines how clean your clothes really get is the:

Cycle settings: Depending on the types of clothes you’re going to throw in, it’s best to read the labels on your garments, figure out the best temperature for washing, the length of the cycle and how vigorous does it have to be. Have doubts about what do those symbols on your clothes mean? We’ve got you covered! Check out this post we recently did about that.

A word of caution: Even though modern washing machines can last a couple of decades, some of their parts actually require regular maintenance and even the best washing machine breaks down eventually. Belts and hoses often go ignored until they start breaking apart, as do filters. Remember to clean out or replace the filters in your washing machine and from time to time give that big girl a good cleanse. There are various washing machine cleaners available and, of course, various home remedies.



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* Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation