How to use your washing machine more efficiently

Published On: Jun 25 2012 03:01:36 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 10 2012 10:22:26 AM CDT

iStock / pastorscott

By Cris Carl, Networx

If you are not ready or able to buy an ENERGY STAR-rated washing machine, there are a few simple things you can do to increase the efficiency of the washing machine you have. The efficiency goals are to use less electricity, have greater/quicker water flow into your machine, and have as little heat-loss from the water as possible.

Install a Water Filter or Water Softener

If you live in an area with a high mineral content in the water, it helps to have either a water filter or water softener. Minerals such as iron clog the screens in washing machine hoses, slowing water flow and making the machine work a lot harder. Some of us of a certain age remember the old “Hey Culligan man!” commercials. Culligan, founded in 1938, is one of the oldest companies in the country that deals in water softeners. Some companies, such as Envirocon, also offer water softeners made of sustainable/natural materials.

Washing machines have two hoses that have screens on the inside near each end – one to the machine and one to the water source. If your hoses are clean, the machine will run its cycles more quickly. Quicker cycles also cut down on heat-loss from water as the machine fills and drains. 

Keep the Hoses and Screens Clean

If you have high water mineral content, you will want to clean your hose screens at least every two to three months. Filters and water softeners will help, but you may want to check the hose screens every few months in this case. 15 or 20 minutes of your time will be worth it for the energy savings. The job only requires simple tools. Some hoses can be unscrewed by hand, but most are fitted tightly enough to require a wrench.

For this simple DIY plumbing repair, you will need to:

  • Create enough space around the washing machine so you can work.
  • Unplug the machine.
  • Turn off the water supply to both hoses.
  • One hose at a time (to save on confusion), unscrew and inspect the screens.
  • You can use a stiff wire brush to clean off any accumulated debris on the screen.
  • If you have a laundry sink, you can rinse off the debris, or you can use a shop-vac to suction off particles.
  • If the screens are removable, clean-up is even easier. Flush out the hoses, as they may have a build-up of lint or other particles.
  • If the screens are totally encrusted, replace them.
  • Run a fill cycle to further clear any debris.     

More Washing Machine Efficiency Tips


  • Do not over-fill your machine. Your clothes will not be as clean and it strains the machine, using more electricity. Washing machines use only a little less water to clean a half-load as a full load.
  • The lower the temperature of the water, the less energy is used. Even a ten-degree difference can help.
  • Use cold water only. Look for detergents designed to work with cold water for better results.
  • Pre-treat/soak heavily soiled clothes for shorter wash time.

With a small amount of effort, you can make the washing machine you already have more efficient.

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