Q&A: Do steam laundry appliances work better than regular washers and dryers?

Consumer Reports News: January 25, 2008 12:36 PM

I've seen a growing number of steam-equipped washers and dryers in stores. How well do these machines work?

As we noted in our February 2008 report "Washers and Dryers: Performance for Less,"€ more manufacturers are adding steam capability to their laundry appliances. (We've also tested steam dishwashers, including the LG LDF9810[ST].)

Three front-loading washers we tested—Kenmore (Sears) Elite HE5t Steam 4778[1], $1,600, LG Tromm SteamWasher WM2688H[WM], $1,500 (shown), and Whirlpool Duet Steam WFW9600T[W], $1,600—€”are equipped with steam modes designed to boost cleaning, sanitize fabrics, and remove stains. Each machine did a better job at removing stains with the steam setting, but these models cleaned well even without steam.

We also tested the steam modes of the matching Kenmore (Sears) Elite HE5 Steam 8772[1], $1,300, and Whirlpool Duet Steam WED9600T[W], $1,100, dryers; they use a water hookup and heat to generate steam. In steam mode, both dryers did a good job of getting rid of wrinkles and odors from the shirts we tested. Note that the steam mode allows only up to four garments per load. Another wrinkle: These dryers cost about twice as much as the Best Buys from our latest report.

Essential information: If you're in the market for new laundry appliances, see our buying advice for washers and dryers. Then check our Ratings of washers and dryers (available to subscribers).

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