Can You Add Water to a High Efficiency Washer (There is So Little)?

In summary, the high efficiency washing machine used at a relative's house resulted in much less water being used than on a traditional/regular washer. The clothes were not as clean as they would have been with a non-HE washer, and the washing machine uses more energy than a traditional/regular washer.
  • #1
kyphysics
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I used a HE (high efficiency) washer for the first time today at a relative's house (they're gone on vacation, so no one "warned" me).

I washed a "medium" load of clothes ("medium" for a traditional/regular washer) and to my utter shock, the water level was only about 1/5 or 1/4 (at most) of what it'd normally go to in my home washing machine on their HE washer.

Never used one before and didn't know this would happen until I closed the lid and it started washing. I then panicked and thought it was too late...after the first wash, which I am sure did not clean my clothes well, I had to wash again...even then, I doubt they are clean.

I thought of adding water during the second load, but was scared it'd damage the machine. But, I'm wondering now if it is okay to do so? It's pretty ridiculous how little water is used in these HE machines. I swear I am never buying one for myself. :confused:
 
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  • #2
kyphysics said:
after the first wash, which I am sure did not clean my clothes well, I had to wash again...even then, I doubt they are clean.
Is there a reason you don't think they are clean other than the fact that the washing machine uses much less water than you're used to?
 
  • #3
Drakkith said:
Is there a reason you don't think they are clean other than the fact that the washing machine uses much less water than you're used to?
Oh, yeah, I didn't mention that my clothes were NOT covered by the water.

The water level was so long that I could see the tops of my clothes exposed.
 
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  • #4
But were they actually still dirty or soiled when they were done washing? I have an HE washing machine and I haven't noticed any times where my clothes weren't cleaned properly. Remember that the washing machine agitates the load, so even if the water isn't covering your clothes they are still going to be wet and soapy all over.
 
  • #5
kyphysics said:
I'm wondering now if it is okay to do so? It's pretty ridiculous how little water is used in these HE machines.
The underlying theory is, that the washing phase should be about mobilizing the dirt and needs only that part of the water which is in close contact with the cloth. With less water needs less detergent to maintain a concentration during washing.
Although there is a drain&spin after washing, the final removal of the mobilized dirt happens during rinse.

So at the end needs less water and less detergent.

Actually, even less water would be OK, but then the wear on the clothes would be worse.
 
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  • #6
Check the manual. Mine has a feature that enables you to add more.

P.S. I still hate my HE washer.
 
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  • #7
Drakkith said:
Is there a reason you don't think they are clean other than the fact that the washing machine uses much less water than you're used to?
Independent testing labs confirm they don't clean as well and manufacturers attempt to mitigate the issue by lengthening the wash cycle. :rolleyes:
 
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  • #8
russ_watters said:
Independent testing labs confirm they don't clean as well and manufacturers attempt to mitigate the issue by lengthening the wash cycle. :rolleyes:
So after the longer wash cycle are the clothes as clean as a non-HE washer would get them? Or at least close?
 
  • #9
Drakkith said:
So after the longer wash cycle are the clothes as clean as a non-HE washer would get them? Or at least close?
Yes. There's pro/con tradeoffs across the board. Of course energy efficiency is better with HE. The upside of lower cleaning efficiency is they are gentler on clothes than traditional center agitator washers.

...also, none of this applies to front loaders. They are both better cleaners and more efficient than top load washers.
 
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  • #10
Is there such a thing as a HE dish washer for the masses?
 
  • #11
russ_watters said:
P.S. I still hate my HE washer.
On what grounds? (Or is it New Fangled things that upset you?)

The nearest thing I can quote, to support the HE idea, is an experiment I have done with cleaning a paintbrush with white spirit. Very modest amounts of spirit, applied in several goes (like hardly more than wetting the brush) gives good removal of the paint / spirit mixture, ands is very effective. Much more than single dunking in a lot of spirit.
Using mechanical energy with little solvent seems to get into the paint (aka dirt) and remove it. There is a similar effect when making a flour based sauce from a rou of flour and oil. The whisk has something to 'bite into' with a few drops of milk and achieves good mixing without lumps and you gradually add milk as it's cooking to produce a smooth professional looking sauce, as thin as you want.
All these processes are very non-linear and not intuitive.
 
  • #12
256bits said:
Is there such a thing as a HE dish washer for the masses?
I think many already are. They only use roughly a gallon or two. See 9:25 in this video:
 
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  • #13
russ_watters said:
They are both better cleaners and more efficient than top load washers.
Definitely true with the tumbling action (like laundry in the river with stones) but it's only the recent (only a few decades) ones with good enough bearings to allow good water extraction at the end. The Hotpoint top loader I had, many years ago was a fab spin drier and the following front loaders were slow or the bearings soon went. The present Miele which cost an arm and a leg is 15 years old and we're looking for another decade at least. The carbon cost is mostly in the manufacture so it's truly green.
 
  • #14
sophiecentaur said:
On what grounds? (Or is it New Fangled things that upset you?)
I'm not an old fogey- I like new tech.

The washing effectiveness thing is not a big deal since it has the deep fill option, and the extra time matches the dryer time so if I'm washing 2 loads it's not too much extra.

The biggest problems are:
1. It corkscrews the load, perhaps an additional mitigation for the water level. So the sheets in particular end up tightly wound, with other laundry in them.
2. Something like 50% of the time it is unbalanced and the spin cycle fails. And ironically after several tries it fills up the tub in an effort to rebalance, negating the water savings!

These may be the same issue.
 
  • #15
I've also been disappointed when I've used those types of machines. I would never buy one. If it were a local regulatory requirement I would try to circumvent it.

The idea is to keep us from wasting resources. It's a noble goal and largely effective. That said, I almost always have to flush our low flow toilet twice (for solids) and I take measurably longer showers at home because of the flow restrictor we have. So while both of these very likely save water they don't work exactly as advertised, at least in my experience.

It's really the total use that matters, not the rate. We save way more water as a result of replanting with drought resistant vegetation.
 
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  • #16
russ_watters said:
I'm not an old fogey- I like new tech.
I know you're not an OF but your reaction was extreme - out of character. Now you have given me experimental evidence, I agree that your opinion is very reasonable.

A true HE dishwasher could only work by taking the pattern of your best dishes very quickly. Alternatively it could work with some very long idle times with the occasional cold water spray.
 
  • #17
Rive said:
The underlying theory is, that the washing phase should be about mobilizing the dirt and needs only that part of the water which is in close contact with the cloth. With less water needs less detergent to maintain a concentration during washing.
Although there is a drain&spin after washing, the final removal of the mobilized dirt happens during rinse.

So at the end needs less water and less detergent.

Actually, even less water would be OK, but then the wear on the clothes would be worse.
Am I incorrect in thinking that the portion of the clothes "above water" is somehow not getting cleaned or, at least, not as well if HE machines only use enough water to cover, say, 50% of your clothes. Suppose I had a wretched pair of stained underwear (and I mean "stained" in all its imaginable glory :oldbiggrin:) and the brown portions were above water and the rest of the underwear was below it. Are you saying that the HE machine agitating process happening below the water line would have so much force as to "shake" loose the "dirt/dirty stuff" on my underwear above the water line too?

I guess in my mind just the thought of my hypothetical nasty underwear stain sitting above the water (as opposed to being totally soaked by it with soapy warm water in my regular washer) makes me feel uneasy and questioning of the cleanliness of the HE machine process.

eta: Or, maybe I should just add less clothes next time to ensure all is soaked entirely?
eta2: Although, if I'm doing more loads with less clothes in a HE machine, that means more "wait time." I sort of hate doing laundry, b/c the wait time doesn't give me a "peaceful" moment to do something important/serious. I have to constantly be on guard for when the cycle stops and I have to take my clothes out. So, that means I kill time often by doing email, watching the news, or some low brain intensity chore/activity. Doing something important w/ a background distraction of laundry doesn't work well for me and this would mean LE (low efficiency) work or free time for me when having to do laundry. Not a trade-off that I like.
 
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  • #18
Usually there is a 'bedding' or 'bulk' cycle that adds water up to a regular fill line for a 'normal' wash cycle
 
  • #19
nsaspook said:
Usually there is a 'bedding' or 'bulk' cycle that adds water up to a regular fill line for a 'normal' wash cycle
In my one experience that night, I did see two water fill periods, but even after the second fill period, the tops of my clothes were still uncovered/exposed. I actually stood to watch the agitator go to work as well and noticed what Russ said that it twisted my clothes all up in big knots...but, did not get the tops of my clothes to submerge beneath the water line. Maybe some of it was wet from water splashing around, but I guess that's not the same to me as getting cleaned from soaking and agitating fully under water. I could have sworn there were at least some parts of the clothes totally above water and no wet at all (or so minimally wet as to be questionable).
 
  • #20
kyphysics said:
but, did not get the tops of my clothes to submerge beneath the water line.
This does not have to be a factor in how clean the clothes get. Just thing about how carpet cleaners work. They spray a small amount of water onto the carpet; you agitate the fibres and you suck out the dirty water. The carpet never sits 'below the water level'.
The agitation releases dirt from between the fibres and the strong suction and high air flow take the dirt particles away.
If you remove the top layer of clothes in the washer, half way through the cycle, you will find (of course) they are not dry and you can squeeze a lot of water out of them. The tumbling action forces the water through the fibres better than just sloshing them about in a top loader. The amount of water admitted by the control is regulated for different fabrics because the level in the tub is monitored.
This is not to say that a HE machine will inherently be better or even as good. That will depend on the design and there are bound to be bad ones about.
 
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  • #21
sophiecentaur said:
This does not have to be a factor in how clean the clothes get. Just thing about how carpet cleaners work. They spray a small amount of water onto the carpet; you agitate the fibres and you suck out the dirty water. The carpet never sits 'below the water level'.
The agitation releases dirt from between the fibres and the strong suction and high air flow take the dirt particles away.
If you remove the top layer of clothes in the washer, half way through the cycle, you will find (of course) they are not dry and you can squeeze a lot of water out of them. The tumbling action forces the water through the fibres better than just sloshing them about in a top loader. The amount of water admitted by the control is regulated for different fabrics because the level in the tub is monitored.
This is not to say that a HE machine will inherently be better or even as good. That will depend on the design and there are bound to be bad ones about.
This is interesting. In real world/practice, have you ever seen a very dirty piece of clothing (stained and all) - with the top portion not submerged in water - get cleaned in the way you're talking about above? Have you stood and observed it (and maybe tested the item later even)?

I nominate you to try a dirty clothes experiment for the sake of science and this thread. Humanity needs an answer! And we need it now!
 
  • #22
kyphysics said:
with the top portion not submerged in water
Which is the "top" portion when the whole load is tumbling all the time?
I'd be the first to agree that some washing machines are worse than others. I remember the comments of my mates who had bought a certain make of cheaper front loader ( in the 1970s). There was a general opinion that the machines had a special grey dye dispenser for the 'whites'. But I also remember they had previously discussed the cheap deals they had found.

It could well be true that the new HE technology has not yet been perfected and that you may be suffering from that. But the water level wouldn't have to be the reason.
Tangling of clothes is also something that can be dealt with in an intelligent machine. Our German machine will stop and re-position the clothes if it starts to detect bunching as the spin cycle gets going. Perhaps that's what's needed in the wash cycle too.
 
  • #23
kyphysics said:
This is interesting. In real world/practice, have you ever seen a very dirty piece of clothing (stained and all) - with the top portion not submerged in water - get cleaned in the way you're talking about above?

This is a case where pictures explain better than words. The HE washer circulates the clothes so that all are submerged part of the time.

1636981935161.png
 
  • #24
anorlunda said:
This is a case where pictures explain better than words
I see there's a bit of cross purposes here. That's a top loader and the last one of those I had was in the early 70's. No proper tumbling action with a vertical axis so the comments all make sense now.
 
  • #25
sophiecentaur said:
I see there's a bit of cross purposes here. That's a top loader and the last one of those I had was in the early 70's. No proper tumbling action with a vertical axis so the comments all make sense now.
Ah I see. Unfortunately, this happens over and over again with online conversations. Omission of a single phrase (in this case top-loading) causes some participants to think about the question with a completely different mental model than others. Miscommunication follows and gets amplified and in some cases, heated.

The only cure for that is for everyone to try to be complete and clear in their writing, and to remember that not everyone who reads your post has the same experience background as you (some people have only top loaders, other people only front loaders, still others wash by hand). That advice is easy to say, but hard to accomplish.
 
  • #26
sophiecentaur said:
Which is the "top" portion when the whole load is tumbling all the time?
Hmmm, maybe MY load had too much clothes, was not very balanced, and/or got knotted up such that the "top portion" stayed the top portion when I watched the wash cycle.

I stood literally in front of the HE washer the entire time it ran practically. It was out of curiosity, but also fear that my clothes were not getting cleaned properly.

I'll admit that my way of throwing the clothes in there was not balanced. Some portions were piled up more than others (I think the upper left side). Once the wash cycle began, that already imbalanced load also got knotted up a lot as the agitator was moving my clothes around. So, I so a consistent portion of the clothes stay above water the entire time. I know what you mean that usually clothes get tumbled around a lot such that all portions at SOME POINT go under water. NOT IN MY CASE for this wash (as I watched the whole time).
 
  • #27
anorlunda said:
That advice is easy to say, but hard to accomplish.
Something to aspire to.
Meanwhile, the dialogue of there deaf can be good fun. And we seldom come to blows about it.
On a practical slant. Use of top-loaders in the UK is very low.You don't see them in the stores. The only version of a top loader that I have seen in UK is one with a horizontal drum and a double flap arrangement to allow access from the top. It allows siting the machine in a corner and, with bearings at both ends of the rotation axis, you can get very high spin speeds. I never heard of a problem with the flaps flying outward, which would be pretty horrific - sparks and all.
 
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  • #28
anorlunda said:
This is a case where pictures explain better than words. The HE washer circulates the clothes so that all are submerged part of the time.

View attachment 292331
As I explained two posts above, I watched the entire cycle and the top portions of my clothes never get submerged. They weren't able to be tumbled for some reason and the tops stayed the tops and the submerged bottom parts stayed the submerged bottom parts.
 
  • #29
kyphysics said:
As I explained two posts above, I watched the entire cycle and the top portions of my clothes never get submerged. They weren't able to be tumbled for some reason and the tops stayed the tops and the submerged bottom parts stayed the submerged bottom parts.
That sounds like a really duff design. A horizontal axis of rotation takes care of that nonsense.
 
  • #30
sophiecentaur said:
That sounds like a really duff design. A horizontal axis of rotation takes care of that nonsense.
I have no idea what you mean, but I shall ask my uncle what his model/make are/is and post back later.

What was so weird was how deep the washer drum was vs. the highest level the water went up to. I wonder if it has to be that big? Seems like a big waste of space. The clothes were 1/5 or so the height of the drum.
 
  • #31
kyphysics said:
I have no idea what you mean
I mean that all the washing machines in UK are front loaders and have a horizontal drum rotation - tumbling the clothes all the time.
I seemed to be getting the message that HE machines are top loaders with a vertical rotation axis. It doesn't;t surprise me at all that the clothes do not get turned over enough to get water to everything. (A photo would do, to make it clear which type your w/machine is.
 
  • #32
Oh, I see. I'm not longer staying there, as they are back from vacation. So I'd have to ask what the make/model is...from there I can look up a picture. But, yes, it's definitely a top loader.

Again, ,one solution might be to load less clothes (to ensure all are submerged)...but then, I'd have to do so many loads! Time is money!
 
  • #33
Perhaps the water level sensor failed and washer did not fill all the way.

Or the fill cycle is timed and the water pressure and/or flow rate is low.

(Or a nut-behind-the-wheel problem, with the wrong wash cycle selected.:wink:)
 
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1. Can I add water to a high efficiency washer?

Yes, you can add water to a high efficiency washer, but it is not recommended. High efficiency washers are designed to use less water and adding more water can disrupt the delicate balance of water and detergent, resulting in poor cleaning performance.

2. How much water should I add to a high efficiency washer?

It is not recommended to add water to a high efficiency washer. However, if you must add water, only add a small amount (less than a gallon) to avoid disrupting the water and detergent balance.

3. Will adding water to a high efficiency washer damage it?

Adding water to a high efficiency washer can potentially damage it. High efficiency washers are designed to use specific amounts of water and adding more can cause the machine to overflow or not function properly.

4. Why is there so little water in a high efficiency washer?

High efficiency washers use less water because they are designed to be more energy and water efficient. They use a tumbling motion and concentrated detergent to clean clothes rather than filling the tub with water. This also means less water is needed for rinsing.

5. Can I adjust the water level in a high efficiency washer?

Most high efficiency washers do not have a manual water level adjustment. However, some models may have a "deep fill" or "extra water" option that allows you to add more water for certain cycles. It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions and not add more water than recommended.

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