Attention shoppers. In the washer and dryer aisles you'll see models loaded with fancy features. Some are useful but paying for others is like throwing money down the drain. Don't be swayed by promises of more cycles that you may not need or a machine that claims to be a greener cleaner. Here are five features the experts at Consumer Reports say you can do without.
Eco-cycles. Who doesn't like to save energy? It's good for the planet and saves you money. Eco-cycles are supposed to reduce a dryer's energy use, but our tests continue to show that the savings are negligible. One eco-cycle we tested used significantly more energy than the normal cycle because the dryer took nearly three hours to dry a 12-pound load of towels, jeans, and other cotton garments.
Digital time displays. Some dryers display an estimate of how long it will take to get the job done. That would come in handy if the displays were reliable, but we found the dryers under- or overestimated drying time by up to 20 to 30 percent. Why? The dryers don't know what type of fabrics you're drying or how wet they are.
Special cycles. Thirty-three cycles and counting, that's how many we've seen on some washers in our labs. Think about the fabrics you wash and the problems you're trying to solve. For example, to kill allergens such as dust mites the wash water needs to be about 127 degrees F for 12 minutes. So check the manufacturer's claims and keep in mind that the basic cycles and settings can handle most washing needs.
Steam settings. If you're looking to do less ironing and you think the dryer's steam setting is the answer, think again. We found using the steam option left our shirts with some wrinkles. But if what you need is an odor eater, the steam did remove more odors than conventional dryers. As for washers, past tests showed that steam settings cleaned stains slightly better, but these machines cleaned very well even without the steam.
Vent-blockage indicators. Lint-filled dryer ducts increase drying time and energy costs. These indicators are designed to sense when a vent is blocked but past tests found that they were too inconsistent to rely on. It's better to remove and clean or replace the duct regularly to prevent clogs and fires, and to clean the lint filter after each load.
Before shopping see our Ratings of washers and dryers and be sure to check our buying guides for useful tips. Then visit manufacturers' websites to look for coupons and rebates.
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