Laundry

Kenmore Elite 31512 Washing Machine Review

Big but bland, one of Kenmore's largest washers is still a compelling option for families.

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Kenmore’s 31512 (MSRP $1,059.99) may cost more than many top loaders, but the extra cost translates into only a few extra features: My Cycle, for customized wash settings, and Save Energy, which uses less hot water. Otherwise, this is a machine that's purpose-built with one consideration in mind: capacity. At 4.7-cubic-feet, the 31512 has one of the largest wash drums of any top loader, suitable for large families or those who don’t have time for a second batch.

Stay tuned for our review of this washer's matching dryer, the Kemore Elite 61512.

Design & Usability

Other than its size, there’s not much else to distinguish the LG-built 31512 from the competition, both in terms of design and feature set. The control panel is rather bland, and certainly doesn’t appear “elite” to us. At least the button functionality is simple enough. Modifiers for wash temp., spin speed, and soil level reside on the right side of the panel, while other options are off to the left. These halves straddle the central cycle dial, which is used to select among only seven available cycles.

One minor source of confusion may be the options buttons, some of which have secondary functions printed in a smaller font on the same button. But which function actually gets enabled depends on what the washer is doing. For example, to adjust the chime signal’s volume, you’ll need to press the Add a Garment button. Again, both functions are labeled, but it’s easy to miss that secondary function.

Performance & Features

Solid stain removal for Whites and Delicates

The 31512’s Whites cycle was by far the most rigorous, and spent 80 minutes throughly removing dirt, cocoa, and red wine stains. Unfortunately this cycle, and indeed all of the washer’s cycles, were weak against sweat stains.

After Whites, the slightly faster Heavy Duty cycle is your next best bet for maximum stain removal, followed by Normal at 63 minutes. Heavy Duty uses twice as much hot water as Normal, yet there’s very little difference between the performance of these two. Generally speaking the 31512 is not particularly efficient. We’d estimate an operating cost of over $54 per year. The washer did a bad job spinning out excess water too. That burdens your dryer, which is more costly to run.

Normal vs. Delicates

Left: Red wine stain. Middle: Normal cycle results. Right: Delicates cycle results.

We do reserve some special praise for the Delicates cycle, which went easy on clothing but still managed to lift stains. Removal of blood and red wine, for example, were each on par with the Normal cycle (which is five times more harsh on clothing).

Related content

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

The Verdict

Front

It's big.

The Kenmore 31512 is big and... well that’s about it. This isn’t a bad washing machine, but it doesn’t stand out on the basis of performance either. Were it not for the gigantic 4.7-cubic-foot drum, this washer would’ve been entirely average.

But being average isn't always a bad thing. Compared to that 25-year-old machine in your basement, the average new washing machine is pretty darn good at getting stains out of clothes. But if you were looking for elite design or elite features to match the "Elite" brand name, then you’re looking in the wrong place. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a big family, an occasional load of delicates that need gentle handling, and don’t mind the tradeoff of sub-par efficiency, we think the 31512 is fairly priced.

By the Numbers

Our suite of lab tests comprised more than 16 test loads for the Kenmore Elite 31512, 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.

Cleaning Performance

The 31512’s best cycle was Whites, which was strong against carbon (dirt), blood, cocoa, and red wine, but weak against sebum (sweat). Overall, this cycle was 2% more effective than the Heavy Duty cycle, and 4% more effective than Normal. All cycles seemed to struggle against sebum stains.

Normal Cycle - Before & After

Before and after using the Normal cycle with all our test stains. From left to right: sebum, carbon, blood, cocoa, and red wine.

Notably, the Delicates cycle was only 6% less effective than the Normal cycle, and posted especially strong results against blood and red wine stains. Clothing wear was relatively high for a Delicates cycle (10 frayed threads, on average), but this is still an impressive result for those who frequently clean fragile fabrics at home. By comparison, both the Normal and Heavy Duty cycles averaged around 59 frayed threads, while the Whites cycle was much more harsh, fraying an average of 83 threads.

Efficiency

Based on the average laundry habits of a typical American family, we estimate the 31512 will cost you $54.35 annually to keep running, between the costs of cold water, hot water, and electricity. That’s not particularly impressive. Consider that Kenmore's best washer, the Elite 41472, costs only $35 to run for one year. So over the course of five years, you'll have spent almost an entire extra Benjamin that the more efficient washer would've saved. Ouch.

The issue is compounded by wash cycles that don’t leave your clothes very dry. Overall water retention averages 62% across all cycles, and the more water that’s retained the more work for your dryer, which is much more expensive to run.

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