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
98% 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.
Using new measurements which came into force on March 1 2021, washing machine labels now display their energy efficiency on a visual scale from A to G. The new labelling also shows:
- Weighted energy consumption per 100 cycles (kWh)
- Rated capacity for the eco 40-60°C program (kg)
- Spin-drying efficiency class
- Duration of the eco 40-60°C program
- Weighted water consumption per cycle (litres)
- Airborne acoustical noise emissions (db(A) and noise emission class
Washer-dryers now get two ratings, one for washing and one for drying. There is also a QR code on the label for more product information This links to the product on the manufacturer’s website. By hovering a smartphone camera over the the code, a link to the webpage is opened, where the consumer can get more details on the product.
 ONS –Family spending in the UK: April 2017 to March 2018 – Table A45 – Percentage of households with durable goods – 1970 to 2018