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How Do They Work? Washing Machines

How a Front Load Washer Works:

washing machine

There are certainly similarities between top loading and front loading washers. Both use a stainless steel inner drum as well as an outer wash tub, a motor, control system, drain pump and rotational spinning to remove water from the clothes; and there the similarities end.

Front load washers work by filling the bottom of the inner tub with a small amount of water and using the rotation of the tub and gravity to move the clothes through the water.

The rotation action is similar to the tumbling action found in a clothes dryer. The side paddles on the inside drum lift the clothes and move them in and out of the water. This provides the mechanical action (scrubbing) needed to remove soil from fabric.

Front Load Washers and Water Usage:

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, front load washers cut water use by nearly 40 percent. An average top loading washer uses about 40 gallons of water for each full load.

A full-size front load washer uses only 20 to 25 gallons. For the average household, having a front load washer will save as much as 7,000 gallons of water per year. That also translates into  for operation.

Front load washers always fill the the same low water level during the wash cycle no matter how many clothes are loaded into the washer. If the load is larger and absorbs much of the wash water – causing the level to drop – more water is added to maintain the set water level.

The water on most models is added to the drum during the tumbling action of the clothes to rapidly saturate the clothes so that less additional water must be added.

The washing machine program:

All the important parts of the clothes washer are electrically controlled, including the inner drum, the valves, the pump, and the heating element. The programmer is like the conductor of an orchestra, switching these things on and off in a sensible sequence that goes something like this:

1. You put your clothes in the machine and detergent either in the machine itself or in a tray up above.
2. You set the program you want and switch on the power.
3. The programmer opens the water valves so hot and cold water enter the machine and fill up the outer and inner drums. The water usually enters at the top and trickles down through the detergent tray, washing any soap there into the machine.
4. The programmer switches off the water valves.
5. The thermostat measures the temperature of the incoming water. If it’s too cold, the programmer switches on the heating element. This works just like an electric kettle or water boiler.
6. When the water is hot enough, the programmer makes the inner drum rotate back and forth, sloshing the clothes through the soapy water.
7. The detergent pulls the dirt from your clothes and traps it in the water.
8. The programmer opens a valve so the water drains from both drums. Then it switches on the pump to help empty the water away.
9. The programmer opens the water valves again so clean water enters the drums.
10. The programmer makes the inner drum rotate back and forth so the clean water rinses the clothes. It empties both drums and repeats this process several times to get rid of all the soap.
11. When the clothes are rinsed, the programmer makes the inner drum rotate at really high speed—around 80 mph (130 km/h). The clothes are flung against the outside edge of the inner drum, but the water they contain is small enough to pass through the drum’s tiny holes into the outer drum. Spinning gets your clothes dry using the same idea as a centrifuge.
12. The pump removes any remaining water from the outer drum and the wash cycle comes to an end.
13. You take your clothes out and marvel at how clean they are!
14. But there’s still the problem of drying your wet clothes to figure out.

Front Load Machines - Versus - Top Load Machines.

In a front-loading clothes washer…

1. There’s a fixed outer drum (blue) and a rotating inner drum (red) with small holes around its edge. The drums are mounted on a horizontal axis.
2. The inner drum is held to the frame of the machine by heavy-duty springs. That’s because, when the clothes spin, they can make the drum shake violently; the springs help to absorb the vibrations.
3. Hot and cold water enter through the detergent tray at the top.
4. The inner drum turns back and forth. The plastic paddles on the inside (shown here by gray triangles) help to slosh the clothes through the detergent and water held by the outer drum.
5. An electric motor turns the inner drum, typically using a long rubber belt (yellow).
6. A heating element heats the water as necessary.
7. When the wash cycle is finished, the pump sucks the water away.
8. The water empties down a tube to the drain.

In a Top load Washing Machine…

1. You lift the lid on top and drop your clothes in from above. We’re looking here from one side.
2. Just like in a front-loading machine, there’s an outer drum (blue) and an inner drum with holes in it (red), but they’re mounted about a vertical axis.
3. Hot and cold water enter through pipes near the top, passing through the detergent tray and flushing the detergent into the machine.
4. During the wash cycle, a large plastic agitator (green) turns around, moving your clothes through the water. Both drums remain stationary.
5. The agitator is powered by an electric motor using a rubber belt.
6. During the spin cycle, the same electric motor turns the inner drum (red) at high speed, throwing water through its holes into the outer drum.
7. When the wash is finished, the pump drains the water from the outer drum.


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