In 1874 American merchant William Blackstone gave his wife a surprise birthday present – a machine which removed and washed away dirt from clothes. This original washing machine consisted of a wooden tub, inside which there was a flat piece of wood with six small pegs. Dirty clothes were hung on the pegs and swished about in hot soapy water. Mrs Blackstone was delighted, and soon all her neighbours wanted a washing machine too. Mr Blackstone started to build and sell washing machines for $2.50 each, and by the 1890s moved his company to New York where it is still producing washing machines today.
The UK washing machine market
96% of British homes have a washing machine , almost all of these are front-loaders.
Most of the energy use in washing machines comes from heating up the water from cold. As appliance manufacturers have invested in improving the efficiency of the water usage in the system so the required temperature has dropped. 30C is a standard wash for many machines and progressively detergent manufacturers have adapted their products to wash effectively at this temperature and even colder.
Washing machine labels display their energy efficiency on a visual scale (currently D to A+++). The annual calculated average energy use is also shown in kWh (electricity units).
The label also shows:
- average annual water consumption (in litres)
- laundry capacity (kg)
- energy efficiency of the spin cycle (G to A)
- noise emitted in-use for both the wash and the spin cycles (dB).
 ONS – Family Spending 2013 – Table A45 – Percentage of households with durable goods – 1970 to 2012