Whirlpool Duet WFW96HEA Review

Lollygags and devours dollars, but dotes on delicates and steamrolls stains

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If your attempts to chop tomatoes with a heavy butcher knife while drinking red wine alongside your fiery, spitting pot of spaghetti frequently go awry, the may be of interest to you, ya silly face. This machine's most basic cycles performed quite well on stain removal, so even if you lose a finger, splatter sauce, and spill Merlot, at least your shirt will survive your buffoonery—that is unless it's made of fine, Turkish angora, in which case it may be pummeled to death in the wash, depending on the cycle (you really shouldn't be cooking in Turkish angora). No, no, put that fragile top in the Delicate cycle, which handles clothes with truly tender care.

With a rather pocket-emptying MSRP of $1,449.00 (sale price about $1,200), this model fails to altogether satisfy. Its run times are too long, its handling can be too rough, and the estimated annual cost of running it is higher than we prefer, but for all that, the is an above-average worker with some new and notable high-end extras.

Design & Usability

Touch control and straight-forward design are part of what make this machine easy to use.

With the exception of a few minor details such as a sticky door, overly sensitive touch controls, and a lock button that doesn't lock everything (you can still accidentally power the machine off when this feature is in use), this washer is fairly easy to handle.

Navigation is simple and touch-controlled.

To select a cycle, turn a sleek dial and watch as an electric blue LED glows next to your choice. The rest of the navigation is simple and touch-controlled. The overall physical design is mostly pleasant too, with flat surfaces and minimal flourishes. The detergent drawer includes a blue removable compartment to cater to both liquid and powder solutions, while a reversible door offers that longstanding benefit of a front-loader: the ability to watch your clothes wash.

Performance & Features

This machine's noteworthy features are many and it smites stains effectively, though sometimes both roughly and slowly.

Do your worst, Fudgesicles! Prepare to die, rigatoni! The is here to combat the effects of our clumsiness. The performance standout is definitely the Delicate cycle, which—unlike the rest of the cycles on this machine—handles clothes with truly remarkable gentleness. The problems on this Whirlpool are long cycle times, often an hour or more, and some rough handling on nearly all cycles other than Delicates. When this washer meets a stain in a dark alley, it doesn't settle differences with words; it beats the stain senseless and your underpants go down with it.

The most exciting extra offerings are the Precision Dispense drawer and the Fan Dry option.

The cycle with the weakest stain removing powers is the Delicate cycle, but the comes with plenty of customizable goodies to help remedy this, like the Extra Soak and Steam Clean modes.

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Perhaps the most exciting extra offerings are the Precision Dispense drawer and the Fan dry option. Precision Dispense is tremendous because it allows users to store enough detergent in a drawer for up to 36 loads, which the machine then automatically deposits as needed. Maybe it's the six babies we're balancing with one arm, or maybe we're just plain careless, but it's not uncommon to over-pour detergent accidentally, which makes a feature like this quite cost-effective as well. Fan Dry, on the other hand, saves your clothes after they're done washing. This mode uses an already integrated fan to circulate air throughout the drum while items tumble intermittently for up to 12 hours after a cycle. This has the dual effect of gently removing around an additional 25% of water from a load, making an easier job for your dryer, and eliminating unpleasant smells.


So why the chubby price tag? A final look at this Whirlpool's strengths and weaknesses

Comparison shopping is certainly worthwhile, given the price tag.

The is a fine machine with very nice stain removal powers, sometimes less than desirable washing times, and a Delicate cycle so tender it will make your pantaloons swoon. We've seen better costs, better run times, and better overall handling on other models, but in general, this MSRP $1,449.00 ($1,200 on sale) washer gets the job done. Lower your annual cost of running this machine by using the Whites cycle sparingly, because this mode tacks on cost by adding an extra rinse to wash out bleach.

Remember, too, that while performance was effective throughout in terms of stain removal, most cycles won't make your dreams come true as far as handling goes, so be careful what you toss into the wash. While pricey, the range of customizable goodies and extras on this Whirlpool—like Steam Fresh, water hardness control, sleek navigation, and more—definitely put some bang in your buck, but comparison shopping is certainly worthwhile, given said price tag.

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The really drags its feet on a few of its cycles, clopping along for well over an hour in several cases, like an old 1,449-dollar nag. This does not dazzle us. The other problem is handling; while many cycles effectively remove stains, they beat the living daylights out of fabric in the process. The shining exception is the Delicate cycle though, which scored higher on clothes wear than nearly anything else we've seen. Cycle duration and water retention tests also revealed some notable results.

Cleaning & Clothes Wear

The 96 Duet pummels stains, but do fabrics get roughed up in the process too?

Stains cower before this 96 Whirlpool, but so do fabrics, unfortunately. Our stain strips revealed very effective stain removal on White, Normal, and Heavy Duty cycles, and even the Delicate and Quick cycles fared well, but sometimes threads took a real thrashing.

Our mechanical test strips came out of this Heavy Duty wash looking very bedraggled.

If you're an accident-prone chocolate fondue enthusiast, then the Whites Cycle is the one for you, as it performs particularly well on Cocoa stains. It also effectively cleans red wine and sweat, but fails to really do a powerful number on blood stains. The Heavy Duty cycle has effective washing abilities too, but unless you want stains brutally beaten from those underpants, think twice before throwing them into this cycle, because it handles clothes more roughly than any other setting. Our mechanical test strips came out of this wash looking very bedraggled, with loose threads and frayed ends pointed every which way.

This Delicate cycle achieved one of the best test scores we've seen.

The Delicate cycle, at least, was very gentle. This mode may not remove stains with wizard-like power, but it has a magical touch, achieving one of the best test scores we've ever seen. It barely disturbed a thread on our mechanical test strips, so if you have a lot of expensive, delicate items, this is a big-time perk.

Cycle Duration & Water Retention

How long do cycles take and how much work will they leave for the dryer?

Given the weighty price tag, the Normal cycle doesn't exactly thrill us.

Time is a big factor on washing machines today. With both the busy launderer and the available technology in mind, we really like to see cycles stay below an hour, excepting Sanitize modes, which have bigger jobs to do. Unfortunately, this Whirlpool disappointed us several times.

The Whites cycle takes its merry time, skipping along for all of 83 minutes, and the Heavy Duty mode is even worse, tootling around for 92. Given the weighty price tag, the Normal cycle doesn't exactly thrill us either, finishing up in barely under an hour, which isn't particularly competitive for a high-end model. Conversely, the Delicate cycle spins by in 23 minutes and the Quick cycle takes less than half an hour, leaving us more or less half satisfied with this machine's run times on the whole.

The water retention test left us with happy results.

The water retention test left us with happy results though, accomplishing about 50% water removal on every cycle save Delicates. Since water removal requires spinning, and since spinning is tough on fabric, we don't mind the extra water retention in the Delicate cycle—especially one with such superb handling scores. But with an average of 50% water removal on other cycles, this won't be leaving all the hard work for your dryer.

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