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Ask the expert about washing machines

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Ask the Expert
Last updated: 31 May 2022
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Door dilemma: Leave open or closed?

Whitegoods expert Ashley Iredale: It is with some trepidation that I type this reply, as I am all too conscious of the serious and long-term implications a definitive ruling on such a dispute can have on the interpersonal dynamics of a household. But you are, in fact, correct: the door to your washing machine should most definitely be left ajar between cycles. 

Firstly, it helps the seals maintain their shape and effectiveness, and secondly, it allows air to circulate in the washing machine, helping to reduce the incidence of mould, corrosion and foul odours. 

I would go further and add that, particularly if like most Australians you only wash in cold water, you should also run the occasional hot cycle (with or without clothes) to help clear out detergent residue (scrud) and mould spores from your appliance. 

I would also suggest leaving the door to your fridge ajar if not using it for long periods. Again, it will help seals retain their shape and allow air to circulate. The plastics in fridges do also absorb odours from their contents, so this air circulation will help make this less noticeable. 

I hope this helps, and for the sake of your marriage, please be gracious in your victory.

Front loader making cottons 'crunchy'

Whitegoods expert Ashley Iredale: No, gentleness does not equal fluffiness – rather, it's a measure of how much a washing machine beats up and damages your clothes (or how little). 

We test gentleness by washing 100 x 100mm loose weave fabric swatches (it's actually cross stitch fabric, as specified by the Australian standard). 

After washing, we trim all the frayed edges and measure how much smaller the swatch is than when we started the test – the more that has frayed off, the less gentle the machine. We find front loaders as a category to be more gentle on your clothes than top loaders.

The biggest reason your towels might be coming out of the wash without the desired level of 'fluffiness' is high spin speeds. Modern washing machines, particularly front loaders, can spin your laundry much faster than washers of yore. This is great if you're using a clothes dryer as it extracts more water first, reducing the time and therefore energy required to dry your clothes, but high spin speeds can flatten the pile of fabrics (like your towels), and cause more creasing. If you're line drying your laundry then you could dial down your spin speed. 

Two other options are adding vinegar or fabric softener to the wash – vinegar you've already tried, and fabric softener, while it will get your towels soft and fluffy, is best avoided. Among other things, fabric softeners actually reduce the water absorbency of your towels, which makes them less effective as a towel. 

What we would recommend is line-drying your laundry, but throwing your towels in the dryer for the last little bit of the drying process – the hot air and tumbling will fluff your towels up nicely, but you still get the benefits of line drying. 

I'd also suggest making sure you're familiar with the various different programs on your washing machine and their intended purpose – you may find you're happier with your towels if you use a gentle program, or possibly just something a little lighter than a full cottons wash.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.