Do washing machines really 'live longer' with Calgon?Which? tests whether the Calgon jingle rings true

26 May 2011

Calgon washing machines

Calgon claims its tablets extend your washing machine's life, but we found no convincing proof that washing machines really do 'live longer with Calgon' when we put it to the test.

Which? simulated three years' washing in hard water - with and without Calgon - to see whether limescale deposits from hard water affect the life of your machine.

According to Calgon, limescale build-up results in the 'early breakdown of equipment and a shortened overall life.' The logic goes that by softening the water - with Calgon - the limescale and breakdown are prevented.

Is Calgon worth it?

We didn't see any sign of breakdown in the machines we tested. The element of the machine using Calgon remained shiny and limescale-free, but the thin coating left on the element where Calgon was absent wasn't enough to cause damage. Nor was it enough to be deemed a good investment in the long run, according to our expert who has 17 years' repairs experience.

He said: 'I've never met any circumstances where Calgon would have been a good investment. It takes six to eight years in hard water for a machine to require attention due to calcium build-up.

'In this time the consumer could have spent £295 on Calgon [washing three times a week]. For me to unblock and service a machine of this age, it would be £49.20, plus any parts required.'

As a result, Which? has submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, asking it to investigate the claims made in Calgon's adverts.

Spend wisely

There are currently 57 Best Buy washing machines on which.co.uk - six of which are under £295. Have a look at our washing machines review to compare the features and prices of the machines we'd recommend.

While washing at high temperatures in hard water can increase the build-up of limescale in your machine, the most common wash temperature today is 40°C. Which? believes that images of limescale build up used in Calgon's advertising are misleading, as they show the effects at 60°C.

Which? subscribers can read the full report, longer-lasting washing machines, in the June edition of Which? magazine. The article also includes practical tips that really will help your washing machine live longer.

DIY washer repairs

Our tests show that limescale build-up is unlikely to cause any problems if you wash in normal conditions. But other faults can occur that might leave you with a £100 bill if you call out an engineer. Our washing machine repairs tool helps diagnose common issues - and tells you how you can avoid unnecessary costs by fixing them yourself. If you need to get an expert, Which? Local has a list of member-recommended repairers in your local area.

Washing detergents contain smaller doses of the softener found in Calgon, so in normal washing conditions they should be enough to counter limescale deposits that can build up in the machine. Our laundry detergent review reveals the best on the market - for cleaning power and price.

When questioned by Which?, Calgon claimed to have research to back up its claims, but would not release even the top line results or methodology - including wash temperatures - for reasons of commercial sensitivity.

Are you annoyed by manufacturers that won't back up their claims? Sick of spending money on pointless products? Join the debate at Which? Conversation.

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