Appliance science

Dear Ace: How long do clothes need to wash to be clean?—Jim Patient

Jim: Mother Atkins, is that you? Ace thought he told you not to bother him at work. He assumed that you learned your lesson back when he refused to answer, “What do you do when your grown son won’t return your hourly phone calls?” But you know too well your pride and joy’s weakness: a laundry question always gets Ace heated under the collar. Ever since he taught himself to get the farm soil out of the seat of his pants, Ace has been a bona fide clean clothes fanatic.

To answer this question properly, Ace called the washing machine experts at Sears in the Fashion Square Mall. These large appliance guys don’t mess around when it comes to cleaning drawers. One savvy salesman quickly got down to business explaining the difference between top loader and front loader washing machines. Top loaders wash faster because they come equipped with agitators that beat the spit out of clothes. A six-minute wash cycle (rinse and spin not included) might brutally banish even the toughest of stains. Front-loading washers take a lot longer—sometimes 100 minutes—because they utilize sweet tumble action. But this 100 minutes of cleaning also uses a third of the water and half of the overall energy of a traditional top loader.

For reasons that are abundantly clear to Atkins, Europeans tend to prefer the long, gentle cycles of front loaders while Americans tend to prefer the wham, bam, thank-you ma’am of top loaders. It seems that American clothes are very busy and cannot allow time for sensual washing pleasures. But ladies, rest assured that Ace only wears the finest of Mediterranean cotton blends.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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