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issue: October 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

The Open Door
Washing Performance—Addressing All the Factors


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by Chris Shanley, Laundry Product Manager, BSH Home Appliances Corporation

For years, U.S. consumers have been led to believe that in order to have cleaner, more sanitary clothes, they need larger amounts of powerful and advanced chemicals. Whether it’s more concentrated detergents or strong chemicals like bleach, the more we add, the better the cleaning performance. As engineers, we know that in reality, these chemicals are but one of five different factors that affect washing performance.
The five factors that affect cleaning results are the water, the amount/strength of chemicals, the temperature, the mechanical action, and the length of time a cycle runs. These factors are of equal importance, and reducing the effect of one requires an increase in the others to make up for the loss in wash performance.
For an example, consider improving the effectiveness of the mechanical action. It has been shown that the tumble action in horizontal axis washing is far more effective in washing than the traditional agitator in the vertical-axis machine. This improvement means that less water can be used for the same amount of time at the same temperature with no loss in wash performance.
Another great example is sanitization. Up until now, the prevailing theory has been that harsh chemicals like bleach are the only way to sanitize clothes. Can sanitization be achieved without using these chemicals? Research has shown that if the machine runs for the same amount of time, with no change in mechanical action, but the strength of the chemicals are reduced, only a significant increase in temperature can offset this loss and provide sanitary results.
BSH has developed a technology that proves this theory. Like any typical program, XXTRASANITARY™ also has wash and intermediate spin phases, and several rinse and spin phases. However, the difference is that at the beginning of the washing phase, the hot water is introduced. A 1,000-W internal heating element then raises the water temperature during wash cycle up to 170°F (77°C) and keeps the high temperature for exactly 3 minutes. Therefore, the clothes are saturated in the hot water long enough to kill most common household bacterium, but not long enough to damage the fibers.
BSH design engineers worked with microbiologists to develop the program, which has been extensively tested for sanitary results. It has also been certified as killing 99.9999 percent of most common household bacterium, such as Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas flourescens and Bacillus subtilis. The program is best suitable for clothes that users want sanitized, such as baby clothes, towels, socks, table clothes, bed sheets, and undergarments.
While the improvements in mechanical action and temperature in the washer are truly important, we can’t completely discount the importance of detergents. The fact of the matter is that it is still the detergent that accomplishes many of the primary functions of cleaning, such as introducing water between all the fibers of a fabric, cutting soils into smaller pieces, removing soils from the fabric, and carrying soils away once removed. The wetting agents and enzymes that accomplish these tasks are very important.
Delicate synthetic fabrics and garments, for example, require effective detergents. While the washer can be set to be more gentle and not heat the water very high to protect the garment, the washing performance would truly be lost without detergents. The same would be true for quick washes. The loss in the time of the cycle can also be made up for with the use of effective detergents.
In the end, no one can argue that laundry designs have come a long way. While detergents will always play an important role in washing, we can now clean more with less detergent than ever before. Front-loading horizontal action washers have increased wash performance while reducing the need for large amounts of water.
Every day, new technologies are discovered that offer unique ways to clean clothes faster and better. The good news is that with five factors on the design board, engineers can continue to investigate innovative ways to produce clean clothes for years to come. Who knows what we will discover next.

About the Author

Chris Shanley is the laundry product manager for BSH Home Appliances, manufacturer of Bosch, Siemens, Thermador and Gaggenau home appliances. Shanley has been with BSH for 2 years in the product marketing department. He has a B.S. in Business from American University of Washington D.C. and is completing his graduate work at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. If you would like to contact Shanley, please e-mail editor@appliance.com

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
BSH Home Appliances
 

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