Washing machines have always seemed to me the best aid of all, and essential in the modern kitchen or laundry room. Even one perscn generates a huge amount of washing in a week (think of sheets, tea towels, towels, underwear, shirts, jeans, table linen). Unless you relish the idea of a convivial hour at the launderette, a hard morning at the sink or a huge bill from the laundry, you will want a washing machine. Twin-tub washers which are not fully automatic and where you must transfer the wash from one tub to another for spin-drying are still available. They are cheaper than a fully automatic machine and have a shorter wash cycle. But they take up a good deal of space and seem to me incomparably less desirable than a fully automatic machine. The latter can be plumbed in to the hot and cold water system, or attached manually if more convenient. They can be top or front loading, and the latter are usually in standard exterior sizes to fit below or flush with kitchen work surfaces, coping with loads of 4-5 kg (9-11 lb). There are such variations in shape as a very narrow tall model which might solve some space problems, and a compact model which is about half the size of normal automatics in every dimension including performance time.
As with dishwashers, washing machines come with a variety of programmes – one has twenty two! – to cope with different types of wash. But again I think they have been overdone and that the absolute maximum reciuirement is the nine programmes suggested by the International Textile Care Labelling. Other programmes will probably never be used, so why pay for them? Micro eIectronic washing machines are in their early stages and developments, as in other branches of the chip business, will probably be rapid. Time, temperature and agitation are precisely controlled in this type of machine, faults are self-diagnosed and there is a resultant saving in time and money. Some washing machines have integral tumble-driers which, although expensive in terms of electricity consumption, are invaluable for those with no indoor or outdoor drying facilities, as well as for those who are unable (by reason of ill health or even idleness) to pin up clothes on a line.
Many have a reverse action which removes creases to the extent that some fabrics, such as cotton polyester, need virtually no ironing. The best also have a condenser which consumes the steam generated, so that the machine does not need to be vented to the outside world. Separate tumbIe-driers are also available, many matched with washing machines of the same make so that they can be ranged alongside or stacked on top of them. Some of these have integral condensers and some can be programmed to take your washing to the exact stage of dampness required.
Whilst we’re in the washing department, separate spin-driers are available for those who must do their washing by hand and want some assistance with the wringing-out. They do seem an anachronism – almost as archaic as mangles – and I think it is worth moving heaven and earth and every cupboard in the place it necessary to make room for an automatic washing machine. The design of control panels is good on the whole, but if you are choosing a model with one of the extensive program lists I have mentioned, make sure the graphics and switching instructions are perfectly explicit.