For half a century front load washers were only found in commercial laundry settings, with a few minor exceptions such as the Westinghouse and Bendix brands. All that changed in the late 90’s. With looming EPA standards pressing for higher energy efficiency, all the major manufacturers were spending lots of money on research and development trying to come up with the most penny pinching design for a washing machine. Whirlpool introduced the Duet front load washer and took the market by storm. The machine was first marketed under the Sears Kenmore Elite brand name. Apparently Sears had a deal with Whirlpool that Sears would be allowed to sell the machine for 6 + months under the Kenmore Elite name before Whirlpool allowed all their other retail outlets to sell the Duet. As a result, Sears captured a large portion of the initial front load sales market.
The Sears Kenmore Elite and the Whirlpool Duet have numerous wash options, use about 1/3 the amount of water compared with their traditional top load washer. They hold roughly twice as many clothes and spin at a much higher rate of speed which removes a great deal more water from the garments, thereby reducing the amount of time required to dry the load in the dryer. All in all, the Whirlpool Duet was and is a huge win for the company. The only challenges Whirlpool and the entire industry initially faced with customers was trying to re-educate them to use the “HE” or High Efficiency detergents the Whirlpool Duet machine required. Traditional top load machines used a much higher sudsing detergent in order to get the clothes clean. Front load technology uses an elongated cycle allowing detergents to be much more concentrated and require less sudsing. Once soap companies started to produce the HE detergents in all the popular brands, customers have been more willing to purchase the front load washers.
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