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We judge cleaning performance based on two criteria: how well a washer removes stains and how gentle (or rough) it is on the clothes.
In order to compare washer performance between machines fairly, we follow a very specific test procedure designed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, or AHAM. You can check out my "How we test washing machines" post for all of the specifics. The basic idea is that standardizing the method this way helps ensure that no washer gets an advantage during testing.
To judge stain removal, we use stain strips. Stain strips are covered in five different tough-to-remove soils -- sebum (skin oil), carbon, pig's blood, cocoa and aged red wine. We use the default "normal" cycle during testing and run three identical tests to rule out any unexpected results (when that happens, we run additional cycles).
Then we use a gizmo called a colorimeter to measure the color, or saturation of the stain after the cleaning cycle, and compare that with its pre-cleaning numbers. A score of 100 is the benchmark for solid stain removal, but machines can also score over 100, so results aren't judged using a traditional 0-100 scale.
For instance, GE's GFWR4805FMC scored an A-, or a 98.15 for stain removal and LG's WM5000HVA scored a B, or a 93.27 for stain removal. Both good scores, but the GE model did a better job overall. Specifically, it scored an A for removing skin oil, an A+ for carbon, a C- for pig's blood, an B+ for cocoa and an A for red wine.
We also use mechanical action strips during testing to determine the washer's general wear and tear on clothes. These are small square sheets of fabric with five holes arranged like on a five-spot die. After a cleaning cycle, we count the number of attached strings that are at or over 2 millimeters long.
The GFWR4805FMC was definitely tougher on the fabric with a total count of 257 attached strings at or over 2mm long. That translates to roughly a C+ for being gentle on clothes. On the other hand, the LG WM5000HVA scored a B+ with a total count of just 229 strings.
Overall, though, we give stain removal more weight than wear and tear because many people use washing machines for the express purpose of removing stains. That gives GE's GFWR4805FMC the edge over LG's WM5000HVA.
If you're looking for a large-capacity machine with solid stain removal capabilities, GE's $1,400 GFWR4805FMC might be right for you. It definitely isn't cheap -- you can find a front-load washers for half the price -- but you're really paying for performance here, as well as its larger capacity and additional cleaning cycles.
Just keep in mind that there are other models out there for roughly the same price that look nicer, offer more features and are easier to use. LG's $1,500 WM5000HVA comes to mind immediately, but there's a downside in that it didn't perform quite as well as the GFWR4805FMC.
Decide what matters most to you and go from there -- but if you happen to prioritize stain removal, GE's GFWR4805FMC won't disappoint.
Interested in a dryer, too? We'll start reviewing those soon, so check here for updates.