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How a Washing Machine Works

Washing machines get clothing clean by plunging the clothes through the water and detergent mixture. It is the motion that really helps to loosen dirt. In the old days, they used to beat wet clothes against a rock to get them clean.

In top loading machines the agitator twists back and forth pulling the clothes down to the bottom of the tub. The clothes then work their way back up to the top where the agitator grabs them again. In a front loading machine, the clothes tumble and are plunged into the water over and over again. After the water is pumped out, the inner drum uses centrifugal force to wring out more water from the clothes by spinning at several hundred RPMs.

While the operation of front loading washing machines is substantially similar to that of top loaders, note that the rest of this article addresses only the top loading style of washing machine.

The design of washing machines vary by manufacturer, but the general principles are essentially the same. The controls consist of a timer, cycle selector mechanism, water temperature selector, load size selector and start button. The mechanism includes the motor, transmission, clutch, pump, agitator, inner tub, outer tub and water inlet valve.

The washer has two tubs, the inner tub with hundreds of holes in it and the outer tub which holds the water. During the spin cycle the inner tub spins, forcing the water out through the holes to the stationary outer tub.

The cycle selector controls may include separate or integrated controls for water temperature, water level, cycle selection and a start switch.

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