If you have stepped into an appliance retail store looking for a new washing machine, you probably have seen a steam washer. These advanced washing machines are typically front-load units and are significantly more expensive than their top-load counterparts. Steam washers might provide some benefits, but you have to decide if they are worth the extra money.
Steam washing machines are typically front-load washers, in which you load the laundry in the front of the machine rather than in the top. According to the website Washing Machine Wizards, front-load washers use up to 60 percent less water and 68 percent less energy than their top-loading counterparts. Another feature common with steam washers is a washing drum. Unlike traditional washers, steam washers typically feature a tumbling drum instead of an agitator to move clothes during wash cycles. A drum is easier on clothes than an agitator, without sacrificing cleaning ability. Of course, the main feature of a steam washer is the steaming action, which you can use in the pre-wash, main wash and post-wash cycles. You can select when -- or if -- the washer uses steam on a particular load.
Perhaps one of the main benefits of a steam washer is its efficiency. Best Washer Dryer reports that steam washers use less soap and water during a standard washing cycle than non-steam washers use. This can avoid damage to sensitive fibers or colors. Steam opens fabric pores, which helps the washer remove deep-set stains without excessive soap or detergent. A steam washer also can eliminate many common household allergens. For example, the LG WM3360HVCA Steam Washer eliminates more than 95 percent of allergens during its steam cycle, according to the manufacturer's website.
Seam washers feature technologies that traditional washers do not, but you pay for these advancements. As of 2011, the average steam washer costs more than $1,000. For example, the LG WM3360HVCA Steam Washer costs $1,259 as of 2011, while the Whirlpool WTW5800XL 6th Sense Top Load Washer -- which has a comparable washing drum and advanced washing system but no steam -- is $900.
A steam washer can help you save energy and money on energy costs, it can help remove allergens and it can help remove wrinkles. However, you can buy other, less expensive, washers that also are energy-efficient. If money is less important, you might consider a steam washer. If you are counting your pennies, consider a traditional top-loading machine or a front-loading machine without steam.