How auto-dosing washing machines can save you time and money
What is auto-dosing, what are the benefits of an auto-dosing machine and are they worth the extra cost?
Auto-dosing is one of the newest high-end features that manufacturers are adding to their washing machines.
Which machines auto-dose?
Miele has its TwinDos system and Bosch has i-DOS, but LG wins the award for worst name: the ezDispense system. There are also models from Fisher & Paykel, Beko and Samsung that have dosing systems. These systems are currently only available on front loaders and generally are only on higher-end models.
What is auto-dosing?
Firstly, I will come clean. We have just bought a new Bosch i-DOS machine for our laundry at home, so I do have first-hand experience of an auto-dosing system. Also, our Consumer NZ laboratory has recently tested the Miele TwinDos system; we’ll get back to that later.
With a manual detergent dispenser, invariably you add just the amount that feels right, with an extra part-scoop if it’s a slightly larger or dirtier load. Not exactly scientific, probably wasteful and not necessarily good for your clothes either.
When the wash cycle starts, water is pumped into the dispenser, flushing the detergent out of the dispenser and into the drum.
Auto-dosing systems take the guesswork out of this part of the laundry process. Instead of estimating the amount for each wash, the user just fills the dosing compartment(s) right to the top, and the computer control system in the machine doses the correct amount into the drum depending on the washing load’s weight, the selected cycle program and type of fabric. Some systems even adjust for the degree of soiling. Clever, eh?
The benefits of auto-dosing
You will use less detergent (Miele claims its TwinDos system can save up to 30% on detergent compared with manual dispensing). And you’ll probably use less water as there won’t be as much rinsing required to remove the excess detergent.
It’s also way more convenient not to have to fill the dispenser every time. The Bosch i-DOS machine we have takes about 1.3 litres of detergent, so at 50ml per normal load, that’s around 26 washes before you have to refill the detergent dispenser.
These machines are generally more expensive because they tend to be paired with other high-end features. If you want to use the auto-dosing systems, they can only be used with liquid detergents. This posed an issue in the Wall family household, as we have only ever used unscented laundry powder (our youngest son suffered from bad eczema in his preschool years so the fewer irritants the better).
The majority of liquid detergents available are scented to some extent, and the ones that aren’t perform so badly in Consumer’s detergent tests that they just aren’t really worth using.
Therefore, we had to choose a scented detergent. The first wash stank to high heaven but I guess we will (have to) get used to it. There are options in auto-dosing machines to reduce the amount of detergent used – every detergent pack has a recommended amount for a normal wash, usually around 50ml.
You can dial this down or up depending on how dirty your clothes are generally. For example, if you regularly roll around in mud for fun, as I do, you will likely want to increase the dose a little. In our case we have reduced the amount to cut back on the aroma a little. No more mud wrestling for me.
So there is still some manual fiddling you can do to finetune your wash. (Update: We’ve just discovered an unscented liquid that scores well for auto-dosing cleaning so will be using that once we’ve done our 26+ washes!)
Some systems allow you to have two different detergents in the machine, so you could have a wool wash detergent in the second drawer for when you are washing delicates. But most users will only have detergent in the single drawer and use the second for fabric softener. (Straw poll: Does anyone actually use fabric softener any more?)
Fear not, if you do still want to occasionally use a powder or different detergent to the one already loaded into the dosing system – all of the systems have manual dosing compartments as well.
Miele has taken a slightly different approach with its TwinDos system. It has developed its own proprietary detergent which is currently only available from Miele stores or online. These come as a pair of capsules that are loaded into a separate compartment at the bottom of the machine below the door (not exactly user friendly, Miele!).
The first capsule contains UltraPhase 1, an enzyme-based detergent for dissolving dirt and stains. The second capsule has UltraPhase 2, an oxygenated bleaching agent for more stubborn stains.
Credit to Miele for developing its own system, but in our lab test we found that the results with Miele’s own detergent were no better than using a good supermarket-bought one in the TwinDos machine. And the other detergent was 50¢ cheaper per wash too! You can opt to buy empty TwinDos cartridges for $40 each from Miele and fill them with your own detergent to save this 50¢.
Alternatively, the TwinDos also has a traditional dispensing compartment up top, but this has to be filled for each wash separately. Some Miele machines also have the Capdosing system, with single-use capsules designed to dispense the correct amount for a wash – basically Nespresso coffee pods for washing machines. The ultimate in laziness but also terrible for the extra packaging waste. Avoid.
Should you buy an auto-dosing machine?
Well, I am biased somewhat as I have already got one. But if you live in a busy household and can afford the extra cost for the more expensive machine, I think it’s definitely a good idea. Not only are you going to save time, but you should save money by using less detergent.
This type of machine is also going to benefit the elderly or those with disabilities, such as arthritis, which can make it difficult to put detergent into the machine. If you only have to fill up once every couple of months, you can get a friend, relative or caregiver to do it for you.
Auto-dosing machines are also going to include all the latest washing tech, so you will be getting a machine that is going to be gentler on your clothes and have better water and energy efficiencies.
Some machines will also have smart capabilities so you can control the washer and get notifications via a smartphone app.
Eventually the dosing tech will likely filter its way down to cheaper models so we can all benefit from this innovation.