Published: November 24, 2010
Steam washers step up as futuristic home appliances that won’t break your budget and just might make your iron obsolete.
- Partner in grime. Most steam washers utilize a combination of water and steam in a variety of cycles to do good things for your laundry. Essentially, steam boosts the temperature inside the washer drum, causing fibers to relax and more efficiently absorb water, releasing deep-down dirt and stains. Detergent dissolves quickly and works better in the higher temperatures, too, which also kill bacteria.
- Wrinkle reducer. Like Botox® for cloth fibers, the high-heat steam softens fabrics, which allows wrinkles, deeply embedded during spin cycles, to flatten out.
- Ahh-choo alleviator. High temperatures sanitize clothing and reduce allergens, such as dust mites and pet dander from the Jetsons’ dog, Astro.
Some steamy statistics
Earth-friendly attributes: Because a steam washer boosts cleaning power with steam, it requires less water to do the job. For example, one model uses 9 gallons less water per load than a traditional washing machine. The Jetsons family of four averages 400 loads of laundry per year, so that calculates to a whopping 3,600 fewer gallons of water used.
Using fewer gallons also means that less energy is required to heat the water. Some cycles are typically longer for a steam washer, so you may spend slightly more on electric costs than with a traditional washer, depending on the cycles used.
However, very rapid spin cycles can reduce time in the dryer, making up for some lost energy savings. Compare Energy Star ratings of the various models before you buy.
Price particulars: Depending on the number of cycles and other technology options, steam washers range in price from $545 to $1,900.
Three innovative models the Jetsons are considering:
- Samsung Model WF520 saves time by letting you wash more at once. The 5 cu. ft. capacity, for example, can hold 31 large bath towels. The washer applies steam to any one of seven wash cycles, including the StainAway cycle that eliminates the need to pre-treat stains. Retails for $1,599.
- LG Ultra-Capacity SteamWasher (WM3885HCCA) features a steam-enhanced Allergeine™ cycle that removes over 95% of household allergens from your laundry and is certified asthma- and allergy-friendly by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America. Retails for $1,889.
- Whirlpool WFW9750WW uses 77% less water and 81% less energy than a traditional washer. It can hold up to 18 pairs of jeans in a single load. The FanFresh option prevents odors in wet clothes for up to 10 hours with technology that circulates air in the washer, keeping clean clothes fresh and odor-free so you can wash now and dry later. Retails for $1,299 (in white).
As a devotee of improvements, products, and trends for the home and garden, Jan Soults Walker dreams of the day an appliance (or a REAL Rosie the Robot) folds and puts away the laundry. For 25 years she’s written for a number of national home shelter publications, and has authored 18 books on home improvement and decorating.