High Efficiency (HE) Washing Machines: Everything You Need to Know!

he washing machine

Laundry is a big part of our life here at Clean My Space. We seem to be in a constant state of laundry because of all the videos we shoot, and all the cooking and cleaning we do. So, it’s no surprise that we get a lot of questions regarding high efficiency washing machines (or HE washing machines). What exactly are high-efficiency washing machines, and are they an improvement over traditional washing machines? Let’s take a look.

High Efficiency Washing Machines 101

Okay, first off—what exactly is a high-efficiency washing machine? HE washing machines started out as an alternative for those who liked a top loader but wanted to use less water, less detergent, and to save on energy. The only alternatives at the time were the more expensive front-load machines that had been popular in Europe for some time.

Current HE machines are available as both front-loading and top-loading machines. The distinguishing feature of these machines is that they lack a central agitator. Instead, they use a soft “tossing” motion inside the machine to get clothes clean. This results in both a gentler wash for the clothes and the use of far less water to get the job done. High efficiency machines are also quieter, which makes them a great choice for condo dwellers, and for those whose laundry area is located near living spaces like a bedroom or kitchen.

he washing machine control panel

HE Machines Evolved

Some of the advantages of high efficiency washing machines include:

  • The lack of a central agitator means that these machines naturally have greater capacities, which means you can wash more clothes at one time.
  • Spin cycles are super-quick and get clothes much dryer, so you can cut drying time.
  • Modern models have sophisticated settings with weight sensors, so they know exactly what kind of load is running and how big it is, and can tailor the cycles accordingly.

However, before you get seduced by all the adorable options, like those cute little drawings of the various kind of loads you can run, consider your family’s needs and whether you’ll really use all the special functions. For instance, a sanitary/steam cycle—an option on many newer models—can kill bedbugs and all sorts of germs, but unless you’re operating a hospital or B&B, you might find that you’ll never really use it.

HE Top Loaders vs HE Front Loaders

HE top loaders should not be confused with front loader washing machines (manufacturers sometimes call front loaders “high-efficiency” too, which makes this even more confusing). Yes, front-loaders are technically high-efficiency, since they meet the criteria of using less water, detergent, and energy; but they have drawbacks that HE top loaders do not: namely, a much higher price tag, and lots of vibration during the spin cycle. HE top loaders do cost more than old-fashioned agitator top loaders, but they cost less than front loaders, and the cost savings from their, well, high efficiency, makes it worth it in my book.

High Efficiency Laundry Detergent

You can’t just buy an HE washing machine and toss in your regular old laundry detergent and hope for the best. This will result in poorly-rinsed clothes, and possibly even damage to the machine. It is essential to choose a detergent that specifically says “HE” on its label, and to follow dosing instructions to the letter—most manufacturers recommend no more than a tablespoon of detergent.

Machine Cleaning Cycle

HE machines occasionally need some regular maintenance, since they use so much less water than traditional machines. You can do this by running the “tub clean” cycle on the regular, and leaving the door and dispenser trap open when not in use to maximize air circulation.

Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


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