Laundry Products That Waste Loads of Money

The worst washers, dryers, and detergents from Consumer Reports' tests

Laundry iStock-155350113

Consumer Reports’ tough tests continue to find that some laundry detergents clean only slightly better than water—and that some washers use lots of water yet leave clothes dirty and dingy. Some dryers have a tough time doing their job, too, taking longer than usual to completely dry a load.

Such unimpressive performance means that you'll be throwing money down the drain by doing extra loads and running up your energy bill.

Laundry appliances that don't stand the test of time will cost you, too. That’s why we incorporate lab test results, predicted reliability, and owner satisfaction into one Overall Score in our ratings of washers and dryers.

Here's a quick look at the models and products that don't quite cut it, to put it mildly, in our tests of washing machines, clothes dryers, and laundry detergents.

Washing Machines

The Electrolux EFLW317TlW, $765, is currently the lowest-rated model of the dozens of full-sized front-loaders we tested. It earns a Very Good rating in washing performance but is the roughest on fabrics, earning a Poor rating in gentleness. It's also the noisiest and vibrates more than many models we've tested.

In addition to performance, we also rate washers on how reliable they are, based on results from our exclusive member survey. For reliability, Asko and Whirlpool compact front-loaders earn Poor ratings, so CR does not recommend these brands.


High-Efficiency (HE) Top-Loaders
Many HE top-loaders, the type without an agitator, earn a Very Good rating in washing performance, their primary function. The Samsung WA45N3050AW, $630, however, earns only a Fair rating in cleaning, leaving many of the stains on our swatches.

Agitator Top-Loaders
Many agitator top-loaders we test rate a Good in washing performance, meaning they do a decent job of cleaning, though they may have trouble with heavily stained items. (Pretreating will help.)

The GE GTW330ASKWW, $430, however, earns just a Fair rating in washing performance. It left much of the stains on our test fabrics. So did the Roper RTW4516FW and Amana NTW4516FW, despite using more water than a number of the other agitator machines. In fact, these two machines earn a Poor rating for water efficiency. Both cost around $400.

The Kenmore 20232, $485, earns a Good rating for washing but a Poor for both water efficiency and energy efficiency, which means, in part, that it extracts less water from laundry, so dryer time is longer.

Clothes Dryers

Any dryer will get the job done—eventually. But a money-wasting dryer might take longer, use higher heat, or even overdry laundry. All of this is harder on fabrics and uses more energy.

Models toward the bottom of our ratings earn just a middling Good rating in drying performance. The LG WM3997HWA, $1,800, is even worse, earning just a Fair rating for the job. It's an all-in-one washer/ventless dryer machine.

In terms of how reliable dryers are, Fisher & Paykel scores the lowest, according to data from our member survey. Full-sized electric dryers from this brand earn only a Fair rating for reliability, and CR doesn’t recommend them. Fisher & Paykel's gas dryers earn a Fair rating for brand reliability, and Hotpoint's earn a Poor rating. Our dryer ratings offer all the details.

Compact dryers sold today are electric, not gas. In our survey, Asko and Blomberg compact dryers get knocked for reliability, earning a Fair rating, so CR cannot recommend them.

Laundry Detergents

With laundry detergents, you can waste money a couple of ways. Now that detergent is concentrated, it's easy to use too much if you don’t measure it. This can also waste water, because a surplus of suds can cause the washer to extend the rinse cycle.

And then there are detergents that are no match for common stains, such as body oil or dirt, including Arm & Hammer for Sensitive Skin, Era 3X Oxibooster, Gain Original, Purex Natural Elements, Sun Triple Clean, and Tide Simply Clean & Fresh.

You'll find much better options in our laundry detergent ratings.

Should You Wash Clothes in Hot Water?

Think your clothes come out cleaner with hot water? Consumer Reports' appliance expert, Emilio Gonzalez, explains to "Consumer 101" TV show host Jack Rico why it might not be necessary to wash clothes at a higher temperature.

Kimberly Janeway