Consumer Reports' latest tests of washers and laundry detergents yielded some great buys—and a long list of products that do little more than help you pour money down the drain on wash day.
With appliance sales down some 25 percent from their pre-meltdown peak—despite the State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate (aka cash for appliances) Program--manufacturers are pushing new features to help boost sales and profits. You'll also find new accessories aimed at mold and vibration, and new detergents from Martha Stewart and other big names. But some could leave you seeing red:
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•Whirlpool and Maytag rolled out pricey washers that circulate air through a load of laundry and periodically tumble the load to help prevent the odor that can develop when you leave clean laundry in the washer too long. But none of the damp laundry we left in these and other machines for up to two days developed any odor.
•Anti-vibration pads and feet claim to reduce vibration caused by front-loading washing machines placed on a wood framed floor. But products that cost up to $47 didn't provide any noticeable reduction in vibration transmitted to our floor. One $200 anti-vibration platform did reduce the shakes—but that's a hefty down payment toward a new washer.
•Martha's Stewart's new Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent (21 cents per load in conventional washers, 28 cents in high-efficiency machines) is among the detergents with greener claims in Consumer Reports' latest tests. But it cleaned about as well as plain water in conventional machines—and only slightly better in high-efficiency front-loaders. And WIN's uber-pricey High Performance Sports Detergent (64 cents a load) didn't clean exactly like a champ in our tests.
•Purex's 3-in-1 laundry sheets scored only Fair in cleaning in a top-loader and Good in a front-loader. It eliminated static cling (many softeners do) but got our towels barely softer than water alone. A pack of 20 sheets cost $7—more than the best-performing detergents we recently tested.
•The Affresh tablet cleaner, ($8.70 for a three-tablet pack) proved ineffective against a residue on the door gasket of our front loader. We suggest running a cycle with household bleach to help disinfect the inside of your front-loading washer. Thoroughly clean any residue from any gaskets and bellows around the door. If you don't have small children around, leave the door to the washer open when not in use.
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