June 8, 2009 -- It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it: laundry.
Consumer Reports senior project editor Mandy Walker joined "Good Morning America" with the results of the magazine's most recent tests of detergent, washers and dryers.
Consumer Reports looked at how effective the washers were at removing stains while retaining color and tested dryers to see if all clothes were dried thoroughly. The report not only examined effectiveness, it also looked at efficiency, both interms of cost and energy.
After laundering 5,000 soiled swatches, a total of 5,800 pounds of laundry, Consumer Reports published its findings. You can see the results below.
Best Conventional Detergent: Tide 2X Ultra for Cold Water
At 19 cents per load -- about $80 less per year than pricier detergents -- Tide 2X Ultra for Cold Water got out grass and other top stains. It is best used in a standard top-loading washer and since it is made to use in cold water, it will save $60 per year in energy costs, which combines for a total of $140 in savings for an excellent detergent.
Best Green Detergent: Simplicity Hypoallergenic Non-toxic 2X
Simplicity Hypoallergenic Non-toxic 2X costs 17 cents per load, is best used in a top-loader, and cleans well. It is considered "green" because it is made with plant-based rather than petroleum-based ingredients.
About its "hypoallergenic" status, it is important for consumers to know that manufacturers can make those claims without meeting any federal standards. In fact, the safety warning on this detergent says that it can cause eye, skin or respiratory irritation.
Most Efficient Detergent: Cheer 2X Ultra Color Guard
Consumer Reports recommends Cheer 2X Ultra Color Guard. At only 17 cents per load, the Cheer detergent cleaned clothes thoroughly and offered the most value. It is used in front-loading machines.
It may seem strange to test detergent caps, but one of the keys to being economical is using the right amount of detergent. The cap is used to measure detergent and some caps are easier to read than others.
Some caps are opaque making them difficult to read, and could make pouring too much detergent easier. We contacted All about its opaque caps and the company said, in part, that in addition to the fill lines, there is a clear illustration on the back of the bottle as to how much to use.
Best Top-Loading: Maytag MVWC6ES
This Maytag model performed well for gentleness, capacity and vibration, and it's also water and energy efficient. At $500, this top loader is the least expensive overall.
Loading these models with clothes or adding items mid-cycle is easier than in machines without an agitator, however overall, they don't perform as well in our test as front-loaders, can be relatively noisy, and the loads can become unbalanced.
Best Front-Loading: General Electric WBVH5300
Consumer Reports tested the GE WBVH52, which performed very well in tests for washing and gentleness and was excellent for capacity, and water and energy efficiency. Vibration ranked fair, which is only a concern if the washer is placed on a standard wood-framed floor rather than in a basement.
GE says the GE WBVH5300 replaces the WBVH52, which was the model originally tested. This model costs $500.
Front-loaders fill only partly with water, cleaning clothes by lifting them to the top of the tub and dropping them back into the water. They work best with low-foaming, high efficiency detergent. The best front-loaders clean better and more efficiently than the best top-loaders, without necessarily costing more.
Most can handle a 12- to 20-pound load and better moisture extraction in the spin cycle reduces drying time and energy consumption. As a group, front-loaders tend to be very quiet (as are some top-loaders), and many can be stacked with a dryer to save floor space. But watch out for high spin speeds: They can vibrate too much in living areas.
Consumer Reports' top pick for dryers is the Kenmore 800 Series 6982. It has a large capacity and dries clothes thoroughly without over-drying, which can shrink clothes, cause extra wrinkling and is bad for the fabric. The Kenmore is also energy efficient; because it dries so well, multiple cycles are not needed.