High-Efficiency (HE) Washing Machines 101

You’ll discover how HE washers and HE detergents work . . . and how to properly use laundry Detergent Sheets in your HE washing machine.

What is a HE Washer?

HE stands for high efficiency, and is used in reference to house-hold appliances and laundry detergents. It is important because it results in energy and water savings!

How do HE Washers Work?

Unlike traditional agitator washers, most HE washers use a “tumbler” system with no agitator. Because the new systems are designed to be so efficient, HE washers can use low-water wash and rinse cycles. In many models the laundry is washed in a shallow pool of water. In some models, the water level is so low you may never even see a pool of water. Despite their reduced water levels, HE washers can wash the same amount of laundry per load as traditional washers – in fact, many can clean even larger loads.

Are They the Same as Traditional Washers?

Compared to traditional washers, HE washers work in a completely different way. As a result, the detergents used in HE washers also need to work differently. Over the past few years, home appliance engineers and detergent scientists have worked collaboratively to develop HE washers and HE laundry detergents that work together. These advancements have resulted in a harmonized cleaning system that gives consumers improved cleaning performance while continuing to save water and energy.

What about Traditional Washers?

Chances are that the type of washer you grew up with was a top-loading “agitator” washer. It’s the tried-and-true machine that revolutionized “doing the laundry” many decades ago. In fact, these traditional agitator washers are still used today in most U.S. homes. In these washers, laundry is completely submerged in water and an agitator moves the laundry back and forth to loosen soils.

Types of HE Washers

There are two types of HE washers – front loading and top loading. Although each works via a different mechanical method, they both use considerably less water than traditional agitator washers. Environmentally speaking, HE washers are great news!

Front Loading

In front-loading washers, the laundry tumbles back and forth through the water, as the tub rotates clockwise and then counterclockwise, moving the water and detergent through the laundry and removing soils.This repetitive tumbling motion is intended to do an efficient cleaning and rinsing job and is gentle on fabrics.

Top Loading

There are a growing number of HE washers that load from the top. These washers offer gentle motion to do the laundry, using spinning, rotating, and/or “wobbling” wheels, plates, or disks to achieve the gentle wash action. As with some front-loading HE washers, some top-loaders also spray or lightly shower clothes using re-circulated water from wash and/or rinse solutions.

Traditional Detergents and Washers

Detergents are star performers on laundry day. Their primary task is to remove soils and stains, but they do much more than that. Detergents are designed to freshen, remove odors, and brighten fabrics as they clean. Another key detergent function is to hold soils, and any dyes from colored fabrics, suspended in the wash water. This keeps soils and dyes from being re-deposited back onto the cleaned laundry. Traditional detergents are formulated to accomplish these tasks in high water volumes in traditional agitator washers.

Rising to the Challenge

Because of the low-water wash and rinse cycles in HE washers, HE detergents must work differently from traditional laundry detergents in order to be effective. As a result of extensive research, HE detergents are formulated to be low-sudsing and quick-dispersing to get the best cleaning performance with HE washers. Excess suds can cause problems in HE washers by “cushioning” — or even preventing — the tumbling action. This can impact proper cleaning. HE detergents are also formulated to hold soils and dyes in suspension in low water volumes, so they don’t re-deposit onto cleaned laundry.

What Detergent should I Use for my HE Washing Machine?

When using a HE washing machine it is best to use a detergent that matches the type of machine you own. Detergents formulated for HE washers work with energy-saving technology to provide the best possible cleaning in only 20% to 66% the amount of water used in traditional washers.

Use HE detergents to:

  1. Get the maximum cleaning performance that HE detergents and washers can deliver.
  2. Achieve energy and water savings.
  3. Keep your HE washer in top working condition.

Pro Tip: The tumble action of high-efficiency washers creates more suds than the agitator action of traditional washers.

Why should I use only HE detergents in my HE washer?

HE washers are designed to save water and energy resources. To achieve these savings, HE washers are designed differently than traditional washers — for example, they use less water than traditional washers. At lower water levels, cleaning problems can occur if detergents create too many suds or if soils from the laundry can’t be completely rinsed out of both the laundry and the washer. Thus, detergents for HE washers need to be lower sudsing than regular detergents to provide good cleaning and thorough rinsing.

Detergent and washing machine manufacturers formulate and design their HE detergents and washers to work together as one effective cleaning system that gives you optimum cleaning performance while saving water and energy resources.

Are Laundry Detergent Sheets Safe for my HE Washer?

Yes. Since laundry detergent sheets do not contain concentration of suds, as you’d normally find with most liquid or powder detergents, they will also work effectively in high efficiency washing machines.

How do I use Laundry Detergent Sheets in my HE Washer?

Laundry detergent sheets work the same regardless of the type of washing machine you own. It’s simple: detach a strip, put your clothes into the washer drum. Next put the strip(s) on top of the clothes, under the water flow. Select cycle & wash as normal!

What can happen if I don’t use an HE detergent in my HE washer?

Using a regular detergent in an HE washer can create too many suds. These suds can interfere with the washer’s washing/tumbling action by “cushioning” the laundry, thus reducing soil and stain removal performance and rinsing efficiency. These suds can also cause water and/or suds to overflow from the machine.

Excess suds can also cause the washer’s pump to overheat or to add more water — this in turn can lengthen the wash cycle, thus reducing water/energy savings. These excess suds can also lead to residue buildup since they are not as easily rinsed away — and over time, they could lead to unpleasant odors, potential machine malfunctions or damage.

Energy Savings At-A-Glance

HE washers use less water than traditional washers — in fact, they only use from 20% to 66% of the water used by traditional agitator washers. Energy use can be as little as 20 to 50 percent of the energy used by traditional agitator washers because there’s much less water to heat. These savings translate directly to long-term cost savings for consumers — as well as significant long-term environmental benefits.

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