washing machine dial on eco mode

Why Does an Eco Wash Take Longer?

Everything has a price. If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s definitely, indubitably, without any whiff of a question, no such thing as a cost-free way to save the planet.

However, it may just be the case that a method delivering the ongoing habitability of the earth warrants a certain investment. Possibly more than you’d be willing to stump up for lunch.

It’s all a matter of priorities.

The good news is that an eco wash costs more, but we’re only talking in terms of time.

In other ways, it will save you money on its way to saving the planet. Doesn’t sound too extortionate for such an impressive result, right?

We’ll take a look inside eco washes to see what goes on in there. By the end of it, you’ll not only know why they take longer. You’ll be wondering why they don’t take even longer than they do.


What Is an Eco Wash?

eco cycle wash

If you’re lucky enough to own a washing machine with an eco mode, you might well have looked into what it involves.

It’s important to know what makes an eco wash an eco wash. One of the main reasons for this is that machines with eco wash programmes can cost more to buy than those without.

So, if you’re considering splashing out on one with eco but not sure what they deliver to justify the cost, well, we’ll tell you.

What happens in a normal wash?

A normal wash uses agitation and high temperature to get the most of the detergent’s cleaning power. Temperatures of 30, 40 or even 90 degrees Celsius are common, because in general, the hotter the water, the more likely certain kinds of stains are to shift.

It’s also a given that agitation helps with cleaning. It’s a matter of abrasion and letting molecules freely mingle. Just as stirring a beaker full of agents helps precipitate a chemical reaction, agitation will enable the cleaning process to take place far more quickly and effectively than non-agitation.


What happens in an eco wash?

We should make it clear that different washing machines have different ideas about eco washes. When they get together and start arguing over which one’s the best, things can get, ironically, quite heated.

At the risk of airing dirty laundry in public, let’s dive into what the disagreement can centre on.

washing machine setting


Cool and crazy

One eco wash approach is to stay cool, but give it plenty of action. So, the water stays unheated, but lots of agitation is applied. This can have some good results.

Seeing as how it is the act of heating the water that is responsible for most energy usage in standard washes, losing the heat is clearly a good way to save energy.

How much of the energy are we talking about? A total of approximately 90% of the entire energy use of your washing machine can be down to heating the water. Blimey.

To take the place of all that wasteful heat, the machine will need to agitate for a little longer than it would with a standard wash.


Cool and calm

Another eco wash approach is to take the heat saving and go one better. Agitation is also minimised in order to save on energy used. For detergent to do its thing, especially in a cold setting, you need to give it an extended duration.

This, then is the nitty gritty of why an eco wash takes longer than a standard wash.

You’re basically turning your machine into a cold soak box. Nobody hand-washing clothes ever expected miraculous de-staining results from a quick dunk in a cold detergent solution.

Nope, you need to leave that fella in there for a decent period of time for the detergent to fully dissolve, find the offending molecules, and show them the door.

Just as with a manual cold soak, if you’re short of time, you can certainly help enhance the action by giving it a stir with a stick. But, if you can’t or won’t stir things up, you’d best be prepared to leave everything be for a while.

pressing eco mode in washing machine


How Much Longer Do Eco Washes Take?

This varies a lot from machine to machine. Some eco modes can take as long as six hours, compared to the two or three hours that a standard wash usually takes. Most machines offer an eco wash period of around four hours.

Of course, there are exceptions. The Samsung Eco Bubble, for instance, gives an eco wash option that, at two hours, is actually shorter than its standard cotton wash, at three hours. Even more reason to go eco.


Why Use an Eco Wash?

washing machine eco wash

So, just in case it’s still not clear, we should run down why an eco wash would be favoured.

1. Saves money

If you’re not heating the water and possibly not moving the drum around as much, you’ll be saving yourself some cash.

How much of course depends on frequency of use, but estimates of £50 per year are common, and, with the rise in utility bills, ever more significant.


2. Saves clothes

Give clothes regular doses of heat treatment and they don’t like it. Shirts get quite shirty and shorts can be nothing if not short.

Don’t skirt the issue. Garments live longer if washed on an eco-setting. Cool clothes are where it’s at.


3. Helps the planet

Washing machines contribute 62 million tonnes of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere every year. If you’re cutting out all that water heating, you’re cutting out lots of the energy required, and therefore a whole bunch of those greenhouse gases.

Another point we haven’t touched on is that eco washes tend to use less water too. This is only going to get more important as we move into a water-starved future.


Tips for Good Eco Washing

eco-friendly fabric softeners

Use the right detergent

If you get poor results from an eco wash it might not be the machine’s fault. Some detergents are better than others with low temperatures. Choose wisely.


Don’t overload your machine

It’s tempting to cram as much in there as you can. Don’t. Your machine needs a little room in order to do its thing. Give it space.


Plan ahead

Make sure you’ve allowed enough time for the green clean routine to take place. If you need clothes washed in, like, 30 minutes, then you’re going to need to opt instead for whatever express option your machine offers.


Clean Machine

eco mode in washing machine and dishwasher

It’s not often that something that’s good for the planet can also be good for your pocket (and the rest of your trousers, come to that).

Energy saving and cash saving come in one easy-to-apply process, so why wouldn’t we all want to use it? 

It’s the same with the eco option on your dishwasher, so give it a try.

Final tip: try sticking it on overnight. As long as it doesn’t keep you awake, this can save further on utility bills, and gives you your washing ready to hang out in the morning.

Eco washing is a terrific option for those who want an economic return on their efforts to save the world. All it requires in return is a little time.