How Much Water Does a Washing Machine Use?

With the average home doing a load of wash every other day, washing machines use up a considerable amount of water. Many factors influence the total amount of water that a washing machine uses, which varies according to models and types of loads. With that said, here’s a look at how much water a washing machine uses.

What the Numbers Say

  • Standard washing machines use up to 20 gallons of water per load
  • 16% of a person’s total water usage goes for washing clothes
  • The average American family washes 300 loads per year
  • The Energy Star certified washing machines use 33% less water and 25% less energy
  • Energy Star rated washing machines use 14 gallons of water per load

Washing machines take up a large chunk of a household’s overall water usage. The average home in America washes a load of clothes every 1.20 days and uses up to 20 gallons per load. This comes to approximately 6,000 gallons of water used by a standard washing machine per year.

Washing Machines – Standard vs. High Efficiency

Standard washing machine

Standard washing machines are top-loading machines with the following characteristics:

  • A lid or door on the top which has to be opened for laundry to be loaded into the machine
  • An agitator which forces the clothes to spin in the water
  • The clothes must be completely submerged in the water

These machines have not changed much since they were first introduced over 50 years ago. Although they used over 45 gallons of water in the past, they’ve since become more energy and water efficient, and can work with 40 gallons or less. The most efficient standard machines today can work with as little as 15 gallons

Washing machine drum

Front-loader drum

High-efficiency machines are front-loading machines with the following characteristics:

  • The clothes are loading via a door in the front of the machine
  • They work like a clothes dryer, tumbling the clothes through the cycles
  • They use gravity to create agitation by spinning the clothes out of the water and back in
  • Front loaders use less water because the clothes don’t need to be submerged

These machines require much less water than standard washers, and also use less detergent. They’re also gentler on your clothes. A high-efficiency machine typically uses about 15 to 30 gallons of water per load. On average, are up to 55% more water efficient.

You might be wondering about high-efficiency top-loading models, which looks like a standard washing machine with the drum of a front-loader. These machines can be quite expensive, noisy and have longer wash cycles. However, they are as water efficient as front-loaders.

What Affects Water Usage When Washing Clothes?

Apart from the type of machine you have, some other factors that influence the water usage per load are:

  • The size of the load – Small loads use up less water while larger loads use up more water.
  • The size of the items – If you’re washing large items like thick blankets or jackets, they’ll use up more water.
  • Type of cycle – Washing machines have a range of cycles, from short 15 minute rinses to cycles over 1 hour. The longer the cycle, the more water it uses.

How to Save Water When Washing Clothes

There are many ways that you can maximize water usage in your machine. Here are some:

  • Choose a high efficiency washing machine. This is the best option to get the most out of your water and it’s well worth the initial investment. While high efficiency machines are more expensive to purchase, over time they save you money in water and energy bills.
  • Always fully load the machine, instead of putting in small loads. This saves energy and washes more clothes with a similar amount of water.
  • Choose the right cycle for the load you’re putting in and where possible, always choose environmentally friendly options. Most machines have an Eco cycle which use less water. Skip unnecessary rinses and long cycles whenever possible.
  • Some machines let you choose the water level for the load you’ve put in. Opt for the lowest water level that will get the job done. If you’re always putting in a full load, then don’t feel bad about using the highest level, because you’re putting it to good use.

Washing machine water usage infographic

The Bottom Line

Washing machines use up a lot of water which is why it’s best to maximize each load and make the most of the water you use. Purchasing a high efficiency machine will ensure that you’re using less water per load without compromising on the results. Pay attention to the specifics of each load and cycle to make the most of the water usage.

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