Spun Right 'Round: Washing Machines Getting a Leg Up with Technology

When there's rainy weather on a Monday, like it is here in Denver, I always start thinking about how easily we are able to accomplish tasks that previously would have needed a nice, warm day for doing. Instead of waiting for the rain to clear so I can hang out my laundry to dry, or standing over a hot, boiling vat of laundry while I stir the clothes around, I can listen to smooth jazz covers of rock songs while my washing machine takes 45 minutes to wash and spin out an entire load of laundry. Life is amazingly convenient nowadays.

The first modern washing machine was patented as early as 1850. The invention included a wooden drum and a metal agitator that was propelled by hand. This basic technology was built on and developed into a commercial-sized device that debuted in 1876. Commercial washers could run on steam and the use of belts, but home devices were still powered by hand. The well-known brand Maytag was started in 1893, working to develop better personal washers. 1908 dawned with the invention of the Thor, the first commercial electric-powered washer, adding to the convenience the washing machine already provided. Whirlpool, then Upton Machine Company, started in 1911, selling an electric, motor-driven, wringer washer. Spin-dry washers became more widely used from 1947 on, phasing the wringer washer out by 1990.

Of course, each year there are different washing and drying models offered by competing companies. Developments of note over the last fifty years include the System 2000, a top-loading, horizontal axis washer, and the first computer-controled washing machine, the SmartDrive, developed in 1998.

Presently, computer-controlled washing machines dominate the consumer market. Of course, electric-run machines are still supported and sold, but the majority of the machines available today are in some part computerized. This can be a good thing for the consumer. Computerized machines can allow custom loads, release of detergent, programming to wash when you want, even sense the added load to give the most energy-efficient clean.

But where is this all going? Washing machines are being developed to become faster, use less water, be more energy-efficient, and more, all in smaller packages. Soon, you will be able to program your combination washer/dryer to spot-clean your shirt from the comfort of your phone, knowing it will be ready, pressed and folded for you when you get home. How exciting! Below is a link to a few of these such devices that are on the way to you within the next few years.

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