For our fifth live chat our guests of honour were Trisha Schofield and Verity Mann, respectively Head and Deputy Head of Testing at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Both are responsible for testing large, domestic appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers and also a number of products and services. Trisha has been doing this for over 27 years, so she a little more than experienced when it comes to consumer products and their performance!
In the chat, we asked them plenty of questions about washing machine tests, how different brands compare and how they test different types of stains in a controlled, accurate and repeatable way. So for all this and much more, go to our chat write-up below!
Q: What kind of checks do you have in place to make sure that the results you get are controlled and consistent?
Verity: We test them on their stain removal with 13 common stains which we buy in so they’re standardised. We measure the stain before and after the programme to assess removal. We measure water and electricity consumption, noise level, spin efficiency as well as ease of user and design
Q: of the 13 ‘common stains’ is poo one of them? Given that this group is particularly interested in nappy washing!
Trisha: I’m afraid that poo is not one of our 13 stains but if you specifically want us to run some tests, we will!
Q: How do you measure a stain?
Trisha: We use standard stains, a photospectrometer to measure depth of colour before and after washing and specialist meters to measure water and electricity. The load size and type is consistent and we use special soil strips which replicate body stains – they smell disgusting!
Q: I guess you have to use the same fabric in all those tests? And the same detergent? And be washing on the same/similar programmes and the same temperature?
Verity: Yes to all your questions. We test cotton in the cotton program, synthetic in the synthetic and so on. Same detergent and quantity and also same programmes.
Q: How do you monitor the temperature that domestic machines reach? It has been suggested that many domestic machines don’t reach 60deg C on a 60 degree wash.
Verity: We test stain removal at a range of different temperatures but we do not measure whether it reaches the exact temperature, as this isn’t something you could do at home.
Q: When you test washing detergents do you use one washing machine, or do you test on a range of different machines?
Trisha: When we test detergents we use a top of the range machine and mass market one and yes the same ones for all the detergents.
Q: Can I ask, what, in your opinion, is the best mass market washing machine?
Verity: From our latest testing, Miele, Samsung and Siemens have performed very well. Do check out our website for the latest results
Q: Modern washing machines tend to use less water. Have you found that this has any effect on stain removal?
Verity: No, machines and detergents have all improved over the years, despite lower energy and water usage.
Q: I understand poo isn’t one of the stains you do your tests on, but what type of washing routine would you say gets the best results in removing those stains that are closest to poo?
Verity: The advice we would normally provide for removing excrement from nappies is to remove any deposits and rinse promptly in cold water. Soak in a solution of bicarb of soda and water (I would recommend 2-3 tbsp per 5 litres) to help remove and deodorize. Then machine wash with biological detergent as the enzymes are most effective on the protein present.
At this point the conversation briefly moved on bicarbonate soda and its many uses in cleaning routines. Verity added that it is also great for removing odours around the home by placing it a shallow bowl in the offending room or sprinkling it on carpets and before vacuuming up.
Another cloth user pointed out how most manufacturers don’t recommend soaking nappies as this might damage the elastic and PUL over time. So it was suggested that if people have nappies that smell but don’t want to soak them, they could try to sprinkle some bicarbonate on, leave it overnight or for a few hours and then wash again. This could be in its own right an experiment the Nappy Science Gang could run!
Q: Did you find that powder performed better than liquid detergent in your tests?
Verity: We have definitely found powder detergents to be better at stain removal.
Q: You mentioned biological detergent earlier – would you say that is definitely better than non-bio?
Trisha: Biological detergents work better on protein based stains as obviously they contain enzymes. They also contain bleaches and optical brighteners so whites look whiter. Since poo is a protein-based stain, we suggest to keep the wash temperature low, so you don’t set it further. Ideally, you would rinse first in cold water and then do a low wash cycle in a machine.
Thank you so much to Trisha and Verity from the Good Housekeeping Institute and I hope everyone found this chat useful. I was particularly happy to see some more ideas for experiments on nappy wash routines emerging out of this chat. Keep them coming!