We set out to discover which type of washing machine generates the most "tissue shrapnel": a top loader, or a front loader. Watch our test:
We also asked consumers about their experiences with forgotten tissues. Our survey found 79% of consumers had experienced a tissue in the wash incident, with women (85%) more likely to be hit by a "pocket bomb" than men (73%). We also found those aged between 35 and 44 years were the hardest hit age group, with 85% experiencing the problem.
"This is not to be sneezed at, with the weekly wash a source of frustration for many consumers as tissues squirrelled away in clothes pockets explode in the wash," says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey.
No state or territory was immune from this washing woe. NSW consumers (82%) were the most affected, followed by West Australians (81%), Victorians (80%), Queenslanders (78%), Tasmanians, Northern Territorians and Canberrans (76%) and South Australians (70%).
Tissues in top loaders vs front loaders
When it comes to the type of washing machine causing the problem, 58% of consumers reported experiencing the issue with a top loader, while only 34% had with a front loader.
"The good news is consumers with front loaders are less likely to experience tissue shrapnel distress, due to the clothes not being submerged in water during the washing cycle," says Godfrey.
How to define this washing woe
We contacted the publishers of the Macquarie Dictionary to see if this modern consumer bugbear has been named. They told us:
"We're not aware of a term for this exact example. The basic term to describe what happens to the tissue is 'disintegration'. It's not quite 'flocculation'. Neither of these cover the resultant adhering to clothing."
So to help consumers express their frustration, we're asking the public to name this weekly occurrence. For example, could it be a form of ... wait for it ... "tissintegration"? To submit your suggestion or vote for your favourite word, visit choice.com.au/tissueissue.
Explained by science
If you'd like to know the science behind why tissues break down in the wash, our whitegoods expert Matthew Steen will guide you through it:
How your washing machine cleans
Over many years of CHOICE testing, we've found that the technology to clean clothes differs substantially between top and front loaders.
Top loaders usually have an agitator in the centre of their drum which twists and turns the clothes, creating the cleaning action. This tends to be rougher with clothing and tissues left in pockets. The sheer volume of water, an average of 126 litres, used in this method of cleaning tends to redeposit pieces of tissue on all the clothes rather than just keeping it in the pocket of the article of clothing they were initially left in.
Front loaders tend to wash by dropping clothes on top of one another, creating a gentle friction and cleaning action. The small amount of water, an average of 56 litres, used in this mechanical action tends to leave soggy tissues neatly contained in pockets.
Read more about how we test washing machines.