Our suite of lab tests comprised more than 18 test loads for the Maytag MVWB980BW, including measurements for hot and cold water requirements, electricity usage, internal drum temperature, and water retention. We gauge stain removal using controlled, pre-soiled testing cloth, and report results relative to the AHAM industry standard. Clothing wear is tested with controlled mechanical action cloths, which fray according to agitation intensity.

Sanitize is the only meaningful difference here

Other than the addition of the all-important Sanitize cycle with steam, the 980's user interface is identical to the next model down in Maytag's lineup: the MVWB880BW. In fact, you'll find this a trend that applies to much of the 980's design and performance.

A large cycle dial is centrally located on the control panel, and bright yellow LEDs make clear which cycle you've selected. Many will find this is all the control that's ever necessary. If you want to get more specific, it's possible to dial in wash temperature, spin speed, and soil level manually, using the Modifiers section of the control panel. Here you may also activate spray rinse and extra rinse, adjust the finished cycle chime, or make the washer aware that you're using fabric softener.

The lid's large window bezel is responsible for some of this washer's extra cost. The lid will stay open at certain angles for loading up the machine, and will slow down right before closing so that it doesn't slam shut.

The 980's most effective cycle was Whites, where it did a passable job exterminating most stains, but struggled with sweat and red wine. Heavy Duty is a better choice for getting rid of sweat stains, while the best choice for red wine is actually... Rapid Wash? It's true, Rapid Wash is this washer's toughest cycle on red wine, though it lags behind by other measures.

Overall the scores are average for a top-loader, and no better than what we'd see from a seven- or eight-hundred dollar machine.
This machine is not particularly efficient. Each Normal cycle will run you about 10 cents, between electricity and water. Based on the average washing habits of a typical American family, we'd estimate an annual operating cost for this machine of $56.51. That's about $10 per year less than the least efficient machines we've tested, and $20 per year more than the most efficient.

On average, finished loads retained 62% of their moisture, which means more work for your dryer, which is more expensive to operate. Delicate cycle loads retained as much as 93% water, while Normal cycle loads ended up most dry at 50% water retention.

Steam clean is nice, but there's no additional performance to sweeten the deal.

This washer will get your clothes clean, but so can its closest competition. We're more interested in how drastically the addition of steam features has affected other cycles, and the answer is "not much."

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Turns out the 980 and the 880 aren't all that different from one another. Our tests confirmed the 980 does a similar job cleaning clothes, the most severe discrepancy was only a marginal, 5% difference in the Power Wash cycle. There were no additional efficiency gains, nor was this washer more gentle with clothing. The 980 retained a bit more water following each cycle, and will cost a couple dollars extra per year in hot water and electricity thanks to its specialty cycles.

For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.

Need to sanitize? If not, save your money.

For every washing machine test that we run, the MVWB980BW failed to beat cheaper models within Maytag's very own lineup. The only difference is a Sanitize cycle, which may come in handy if you've got youngsters or frequent laundry messes. If that doesn't matter to you, and you want a top-loader, save some money and go with the 880 instead.

Meet the testers

Christopher Snow

Christopher Snow

Managing Editor

@BlameSnow

Chris was born and raised less than ten miles from our editorial office, and even graduated from nearby Merrimack College. He came to Reviewed after covering the telecom industry, and has been moonlighting as a Boston area dining critic since 2008.

See all of Christopher Snow's reviews
Christopher Snow

Christopher Snow

Managing Editor

@BlameSnow

Chris was born and raised less than ten miles from our editorial office, and even graduated from nearby Merrimack College. He came to Reviewed after covering the telecom industry, and has been moonlighting as a Boston area dining critic since 2008.

See all of Christopher Snow's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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