Laundry

Whirlpool WFW90HEFW Washing Machine Review

The people pleaser

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You sort your laundry, wash it, then hustle it into the dryer before it gets musty. Next week, you do it again—and it never stops. We know your pain because we do the same thing in our labs, every day, for hundreds of washers.

That's why the Whirlpool WFW90HEFW is such a breath of fresh air. It's designed to take the stress out of two of those steps: sorting, and timely drying. ColorLast is a no-sort cycle—perfect for busy people or laundry beginners—and FanFresh tumbles finished laundry for 12 hours, preventing stale scents while you go about your day.

Sure, the WFW90HEFW has some strong competition. Its quickest cycle is still a few minutes faster than LG's TurboWash, and—as long as you select Heavy Duty—the newest Electrolux flagship does an ever-so-slightly better job removing tough stains.

But neither of those washers offers the kind of flexibility that this Whirlpool does. For such a thorough and efficient washer, we think the WFW90HEFW is easily worth its $1,000 asking price.

Cleaning Performance

We use mechanically coated bolts of cloth to test cleaning. Individual stains like cocoa and red wine are represented on these bolts, and we place them into 8-lb. loads consisting of towels, bedsheets, and pillowcases. After the test load goes through a wash cycle, we remove the strips and let them dry for 24 hours. We then scan the strips with a photospectrometer to determine how much of each stain has been lifted.

Stains

An example of a before and after stain strip wash. rom left to right: control, sweat, dirt, blood, cocoa, and red wine

The 1-hour 13-minute Heavy Duty cycle came out ahead across all stains, and had a 6% edge over the next best cycle: Whites. Although the Whites cycle lasted around the same length of time, it used less hot water than Heavy Duty. Normal came in third at 10% behind Heavy Duty, and that's a pretty common distribution among machines of this class and price.

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Overall, the WFW90HEFW had more trouble dealing with greasy stains, but did well against cocoa and red wine. That was especially true of the Normal cycle, during which the WFW90HEFW cleaned the cocoa stain 16% better than the grease stain.

Design & Features

Fresh and the familiar

Accenting the WFW90HEFW's white exterior is a tinted glass door with chrome trim, plus a matching chrome dial. If white's not your thing, there's a "Chrome Shadow" (gray) version available for $100 more.

Regardless of how it looks, the WFW90's control panel is laid out sensibly. The dial has enough cycles to cover every base, but not enough to overwhelm or confuse. The options menu is full but organized, and capacitive touch controls let you manually adjust temperature, spin speed, soil level, and pre-soak. We wish the buttons were a little more sensitive, but they'll usually work after the second press. We didn't have any issues getting them to register when our hands were damp, either.

Design
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan

Whirlpool has perfected the pleasing front loader design.

ColorLast and FanFresh are what set the WFW90 apart from other washers. ColorLast uses a combination of gentle action and lower water temperatures to keep colors from running or bleeding even if you don't sort your clothes into lights and darks. In fact, it's the perfect cycle for introducing your kids to a fun new chore—no sorting required. Aren't they lucky?

FanFresh keeps laundry from getting musty when it sits awaiting the dryer. It does so by circulating air and occasionally tumbling your laundry for up to 12 hours after a cycle has finished. That means you can start a load when you head off to work, come home to a completed cycle, and then pop fresh laundry into the dryer. It's a good fit for the family on the go... so pretty much every family.

And if you have an infant at home, the Sanitize cycle is perfect for cloth diapers. We measured temperatures in there of up to 123°F. Combine that with a detergent, and you get a powerful bacteria-fighting option.

Efficiency

Efficiency in washers usually refers water and electricity usage. We take it a step further and include residual moisture, which is how much water is left in a load after a cycle's finished. After all, the less time your laundry spends in the energy-hogging dryer, the better.

The Whirlpool WFW90HEFW will save you money on both fronts. We hooked up this washer to water and wattage meters to measure how much each cycle will cost you. Extrapolating those numbers out of the course of a year using average national cost and use patterns, we estimate the cost of doing your laundry will be about $32 annually. That's about half what a top loader costs.

The numbers for water retention were equally promising. On average, the WFW90HEFW spun out around 46% of excess water. Anything around 50% is good enough.

Does It Get My Clothes Clean?

Yup!

Steel
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan

The steel bubbles on the side are how the WFW90HEFW cleans without destroying your clothes.

As is typical, the Heavy Duty cycle cleaned best, followed by Whites, and then Normal. Heavy Duty was also the longest cycle, clocking in at 1 hour 13 minutes—about a full hour shorter than machines from Electrolux and Maytag that did a slightly better job removing stains. In that time, the WFW90HEFW scrubbed away everything we gave it, and was particularly adept at removing oil stains. We attribute the high stain removal to all the heat the WFW90 used–water temperatures got as hot as 114°F.

For everyday cleaning, Normal is up to the task. It required just 43 minutes to finish, which is about 13 minutes longer than LG's TurboWash. And like other Whirlpools, the Normal cycle did best against protein-based stains. The default temperature setting was cooler at 77°F: not too hot, not too cold.

If you're in a hurry, there's a 25-minute Quick cycle. For a small load, you're going to get a comparable clean to Normal, but more rigorous agitation subjects clothes to 14 percent more wear than they would get with the Normal cycle.

Like it or not, the WFW90HEFW gets this all done without using too much water: about 13 gallons for a Normal cycle and 18 gallons for Whites. Altogether, expect an annual operating cost of around $30. That's on the efficient side for a front-loader.

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

Warranty & Manual

Warranty information and an electronic version of the instruction manual can be found on Whirlpool's website. In general, the one year of full covrage is on par with the competition, and user reviews of Whirlpool front-loaders show no major issues or design flaws.

Why We Like It

Takes the worry out of laundry

Front-loading washers need to balance speed, stain removal, and capacity. The Whirlpool WFW90HEFW has the ability to do a small load in 30 minutes or a regular-sized load in 43. Combine that speed with a 12-hour window of fresh laundry, and you get a washer that's flexible enough to accommodate any schedule.

There are cheaper washers out there that still have the same cycles and FanFresh options, like the Whirlpool WFW87HEDW, but you're not going to get the stress-reducing ColorLast cycle or the spacious, 4.5 cu. ft. drum.

Would you pay a small premium for all that? We would.

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