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Smart, digital washing machines

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Washing machines are getting very smart.

“They are like a smartphone,” says Tremitchell Wright, a Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science engineer. “Many have LED touch screens and there are apps to guide you to getting the best performance. They offer personal customization.”

The dials on a washer used to click to only hot, warm and cold. Now there is so much more: Use a jean cycle so skinny jeans don’t shrink, or a cycle that keeps clothes smelling fresh, even if you leave them overnight. Some models wash 31 towels at a time; others have an 18-minute option for doing one soccer uniform in a panic. A stuffed animal setting keeps the whole family looking its best.

Poll:If your washing machine could have a custom setting, what would it be? Vote now.

WHAT’S NEW?

· High-efficiency (HE) top loaders. Popularity of low-water, low-energy front loaders has spurred manufacturers to create top-loading versions with similar energy-saving technology.

· Power foam. Some Samsung models mix water and air with detergent to create deep-cleansing foam. The foam distributes detergent more thoroughly for better cleaning.

· Steam. A steam feature helps remove stains and eliminates pre-treating.

OPERATING TIPS:

· Air it out. Leave the door of your HE front loader open between washings to help prevent mold and mildew.

· Rinse cold. To save energy, use cold water to rinse, even if you wash in hot.

· Use proper detergent. Use HE detergent if your machine is HE and always measure any detergent carefully.

LOW, MEDIUM, HIGH

We asked Todd Bleckley, Lowe’s merchandising director for laundry appliances, to recommend three levels of washing machines from the aisles at Lowe’s.

Roper Top-Load RTW4440XQ

Traditional agitator washer with eight cycles. Speckled porcelain wash basket resists nicks and stains. 3.1 cubic foot capacity. $349.

Whirlpool Cabrio HE Top Load in platinum WTW8800YC

Washes up to three baskets of laundry in single load. Energy Star savings are $2,017 in lifetime water and energy costs. 4.6-cubic-foot capacity. $1,099. (Also in white $999. Available now at Lowes.com and in stores in October.)

Samsung Stackable HE Front-Load Washer in platinum WF350ANP

Vibration Reduction Technology provides quiet operation and flexibility of installation such as on a second floor. Steam cycle option loosens soil and dirt. Self-cleaning cycle runs hot water through spinning drum to remove dirt and detergent residue. 3.7 cubic feet. $1,099. (Also in white, $999; pedestal with drawer $229)

SHOP SMART:

1. Choose a washer based on your household size and washing needs. If you have four kids or plan to wash California king-size comforters, go for a larger unit. The range is from about 3.1 to 4.7 cubic feet.

2. If you choose a HE front loader, you will have to bend down to load and unload your clothing, unless you get a matching pedestal drawer to raise it up, usually an additional $200 to $300. Consider looking into the new top-loading HE models.

3. For maximum performance and if you can afford it, buy a matching HE washer-dryer pair. According to Bleckley, your clothes come out almost dry from HE washers and if you put them into an old-school dryer, you might overcook your laundry. The matching dryers are made with multiple moisture sensors to dry the load only as much as needed.

BY THE NUMBERS:

14

Average life expectancy in years of top-load washers. For front loaders: 11 years. (Source: Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers)

3 Things you should do to clothes before putting them in the washer

1. Zip zippers
2. Unfurl socks
3. Turn sweaters and T-shirts inside out
Source: Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home by Martha Stewart/Clarkson Potter)

50%:

The amount less water Energy Star-qualified washers use vs. regular washers. (Source: EPA/DOE)

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