Steam Appliances

You'll pay more for a steam mode, so is it worth it?

Steam heat can do a great job pressing your clothes but is it worthwhile to have on your new home appliances?

Consumer Reports has tested washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers that feature a steam mode. They're pricey.

Kimberly Janeway, Consumer Reports, says "Some cost twice as much or even more than the best buys we recommend, which don't have a steam feature."

The steam feature not only adds to an appliance's price, it also adds time to wash cycles. For example, for the clothes washers, it added as much as 25 minutes. For the dishwashers, it added up to 45 minutes.

Consumer Reports' Emilio Gonzalez just tested two washing machines with steam modes from Kenmore and Whirlpool. Both companies claim their steam features boost cleaning performance and remove stains better.

"While the washers did better at removing stains when using the steam setting, they still cleaned very well even without the steam," says Gonzalez.

Consumer Reports also tested the steam settings of Kenmore and Whirlpool dryers. Testers used wrinkled shirts exposed to cigarette smoke.

"The dryers got rid of most of the odors and wrinkles from the shirts, although there were wrinkles still left on the sleeves. So it's a refresher, but not a replacement, for going to the dry cleaner," says Janeway.

New dishwashers made by Jenn-Air, LG, Maytag, and Kenmore also have a steam-cleaning feature. Consumer Reports put them through one of its toughest food cleaning challenges: removing baked on brownie batter.

Janeway says "Steam only improved cleaning slightly on all four dishwashers."

So while steam may be the hot new trend in appliances, Consumer Reports says it's an extra feature that's not worth the extra money.

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