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Why are we being outsmarted by our washing machines?

Given all of the hype surrounding the Internet of Things and intelligent devices you might think that consumers would be keen to make use of all the latest options.

However, a new study by UK online retailer Appliances Direct (opens in new tab) suggests that for many people even mastering their washing machine is too much.

The survey of 1,000 British homeowners shows that only 1 in 10 users surveyed made 'regular' use of all of the settings available to them, while only 21 per cent understood when to use every setting.

Despite the average British family running on average 250 wash cycles each year and over 2.6 million washing machines being sold annually, 20 per cent of homeowners surveyed claimed to use only one of the settings available to them most of the time. 70 per cent regularly use between just two and four settings. 1 in 3 respondents confessed to 'rarely' using the 30 degree setting meaning they could be unwittingly wasting money and energy by using a higher temperature setting than is required.

A startling 60 per cent admitted to making use of professional laundry services for some prized, delicate items, when they could utilize of the features of their machine to do them themselves.

"With household bills on the rise, it’s important that families are making the most of their washing machines and other household appliances to keep costs to a minimum. The numerous settings are there to make life easier for users, and to ensure items are being washed in the best way possible, such as the often featured 'Heavy Duty' setting - a welcome option for those looking to deep clean towels, bed sheets and perhaps gym-wear," says Mark Kelly, marketing manager at Appliances Direct. "Although the settings available on the latest models are there to suit the needs of the modern day family, they must be fully understood in order for the product to reach its full potential - and those who take the brief time required to acquaint themselves with these options will find they reap numerous benefits, whether it’s longer lasting garments, lower bills or more effective washes".

When you inhabit a high tech world it's easy to assume that offering more features is always better, but it seems that approach may currently be lost on consumers. Does the answer lie in better education and clearer instructions? Or perhaps an even smarter machine that can read garment care labels? The answer might be to make a much simper machine with just the settings people actually use - the first manufacturer to do that could clean up.

Image Credit: Ljupco Smokovski (opens in new tab) / Shutterstock (opens in new tab)

Ian Barker worked in information technology before discovering that writing about computers was easier than fixing them. He has worked for a staff writer on a range of computer magazines including PC Extreme, was editor of PC Utilities, and has written for TechRadar, BetaNews, IT Pro Portal, and LatestGadgets.