A solid performer at the price, the Whirlpool FreshCare FWG81496W balances great wash performance and load-sensing smarts against slightly high resource consumption and so-so spin performance.
- Great cleaning performance
- Simple to use
- Efficient with half loads
- Easy-to-read display
- FreshCare+ works well
- Higher running costs than expected
- So-so spin performance
- Creasing on full loads
- Not that quiet
- Review Price: £379
- A+++ energy efficiency
- 8kg load capacity
- 1400 spin speed
- 14 programmes
- 6th Sense technology
- FreshCare +
- 15 degrees super-cool wash
- 2-year guarantee
- 10-year guarantee on motor
What is the Whirlpool FreshCare FWG81496W?
Whirlpool’s FreshCare+ FWG81496W is an A+++ energy rated machine, with 8kg capacity and a 1400 spin. It’s bristling with tech that has trickled down from some of the brand’s top-spec machines. 6th Sense wash-sensing technology, a high-tech inverter motor and the FreshCare+ post-cycle tumble are all great features.
The FWG81496W delivers excellent wash performance and great stain cleaning, but does so with slightly high running costs and rather average spin performance, noise and garment creasing. Energy and water usage decrease linearly with load size, which is ideal for smaller families washing compact loads, but there isn’t much else here to stand out from a very competitive £400 washing machine market.
Whirlpool FreshCare FWG81496W – What is it like to use?
The FWG81496W is one of three models from Whirlpool that pack in the features for a not eye-watering outlay. The 8kg model here sits in the middle of the range (the others are 7kg and 9kg), boasting 6th Sense wash-sensing technology, a raft of features and an asking price that’s comfortably under £400.
The big headline is the A+++ energy efficiency, promising to save resources and money with super-low running costs. As with most machines promising top-grade efficiency, the very lowest consumption is only available when using the dedicated Eco programmes. That said, Whirlpool trickle-down technology such as the inverter motor and the 6th Sense tech mean running costs should be fairly low across the board.
The uncluttered fascia is all curves and rounded edges, with a basic but easily legible display. The central control knob turns smoothly with defined clicks, and having the power and start/pause buttons either side of the knob is a nicely different touch. The latter button flashes or illuminates to let you know the overall status.
The equally curvaceous and slightly bulbous door surround conceals the handle. This unlocks with ease, opening to reveal a decent-sized porthole opening. The drum is a fairly basic pressed stainless-steel affair with little in the way of fancy patterns of paddles. It looks a reasonable size for an 8kg machine, and our standard 80% of claimed max load (6.4kg) of cotton clothes went in fine.
The soap drawer at the top is unusual in that its three compartments are arranged in two distinct halves, but it’s easy enough to get used to. Below the kick-plate cover at the bottom is a pump opening cap that allows you to remove those coins and hair grips from the impeller. The cover plate is a bit of a faff to remove and replace, so better to check pockets before washing.
Whirlpool FreshCare FWG81496W – How noisy is it?
This high-tech Whirlpool seems relatively peaceful when the wash load first begins and the drum is turning slowly sensing the load. The energy label figures for noise are nothing to write home about, though, coming in at an average 52dB for wash noise and nearly 80dB for maximum spin noise.
Sure enough, once the FWD91496 gets into its washing stride, the motion of the drum combined with sloshing water averaged around 50dB noise output in our tests. That is heading towards the same noise level as the gentle burble of a large office. We’ve tested quieter machines, but it isn’t a bad result for the price point.
Ramping up to its full 1400 spin speed, the Whirlpool defied the energy label figures, recording a solid 5dB less than the stated 79dB. We never measured more than 73-74dB throughout the spin cycle. While that still isn’t super-quiet by modern machine standards, it isn’t bad for the price level and certainly won’t rock your house at full speed.
Whirlpool FreshCare+ FWG81496W – What programmes does it have?
As befits a washing machine at this respectably priced end of the aisle, the programmes list is nothing too out there or fancy, but it covers all the key bases. Headliners include the usual Cotton, Whites and Eco Cotton cycles, all of which will handle a full 8kg load.
As is typical of ultra-efficient machines, the Cotton Eco programme is a lengthy option, running for 3hrs 40mins. The Synthetics programme is unusually limited to a smaller load capacity of 4.5kg.
Special materials programmes include Sport, Duvet and Jeans, with low-capacity programmes dedicated to Wool (2kg load max) and Delicates (1kg load max). There’s a do-it-all Mixed cycle for loads up to 4.5kg. The Colour’s 15 programme helps to maintain the colour vibrancy of clothes using a very gentle wash at just 15ºC. That might be a challenge in the height of summer when your cold tap water might be as high as 20ºC… but you get the idea.
If you need a speedy clean, the Whirlpool also offers the Rapid 30’ programme, washing a lightly soiled load of up to 4.5kg in just half an hour. The rest of the 15 programme count is made up of a combination of rinse, spin and drain cycles.
The options list is super-simple, scrolling through adjustable temperature and maximum spin speed by repeat pressing the relevant button with the numbers displayed on screen. The Intensive Rinse option allows you to add an extra one, two or three rinses to remove the last remnants of detergent residue, while Clean+ trims the wash parameters of programmes for intensive, daily or fast bias.
Whirlpool makes much of its FreshCare+ feature on this machine. Gone are the days of coming home to washing that’s been sitting in the drum for hours after the cycle has ended, only to be greeted with a damp stench. FreshCare+ promises to keep your garments fresh and odour-free for up to six hours after the cycle has finished by gently tumbling and massaging the load with steam.
Considering this machine also has a delay start, FreshCare+ might be limited to those who never remember to unload the washing machine. Since that includes Richard, it’s no bad thing.
Whirlpool FreshCare FWG81496W – How well does it wash?
Our regular test-stain strip with dried-on blood, coffee, turmeric, ketchup, cranberry and engine oil was left out to dry for 24 hours to seal home those stains. We set the Whirlpool on its regular Cotton programme, chose 40ºC and filled the drum with a full load. Using a leading brand non-bio detergent, we let the wash run its course with no further options engaged.
Digging out the strip from the rather damp and twisted load, we were impressed with the machine’s stain-shifting abilities.
The blood, coffee, ketchup and cranberry were almost completely eradicated, with just the faintest of shadows remaining on the blood and ketchup spots. The turmeric and engine oil had been reduced to coloured shadows of the original stain, which is close to as good as a result you can expect with a 40-degree wash and non-biological detergent. This is very good stain-shifting abilities that will translate well into daily wash performance.
There were a couple of ancillary gripes. The whole test load felt quite damp, and more substantial items such as sheets had been twisted up into tight knots. This left most of the cotton items with serious wash creases that suggested ironing was going to be heavy going. The same level of creasing can be seen on the test strip itself.
The damp load was confirmed by measuring the weight of the load after the wash and comparing it against the dry weight. Across the Cotton and Eco Cotton programmes set to the maximum 1400 spin, the machine regularly saw the finished load retaining up to 40% extra weight in water. We’d expect a good 1400 spin machine to be around 35% or lower. The FWG81496W’s energy label only claims a B rating for spin efficiency, so the results tie in with those figures.
Half loads proved a much easier task for the Whirlpool to spin-dry, showing solid if not outstanding spin efficiency. Most loads saw between 30-33% extra weight of water retained in the load. That’s nearer the average for a 1400 spin machine, so nothing to really sing about.
The basic drum design is probably the culprit here. More affluent models would utilise fancy drain channels, patterning and paddles to maximise spin efficiency. Your washing may need a little longer on the line or in the dryer then.
Leaving the load in-situ for a while, the FreshCare+ system worked well. Even after five hours the load felt like it had just finished the wash, more so since it was also slightly warm rather than cold from the final rinse. It’s an interesting feature, but a “rinse hold” function – leaving the final rinse until you came home – would do much the same thing within the maximum six-hour time frame that the FreshCare+ will work for. Hmmm, not convinced.
Whirlpool FreshCare FWG81496W – How much will it cost to run?
Running costs on sensor wash machines are always tricky to calculate since they adjust energy and water use relative to how large and how dirty your washing loads are. Full loads of lightly soiled shirts and blouses from office wear will use far fewer resources than the same load of builder’s overalls and mucky footballing kit covered in winter mud and grass stains.
No surprise, then, that the running costs we measured during a month of testing ranged from super-frugal to seriously costly. Our standard full load Cotton wash came in at an average of 1.3kWh and 90 litres of water, which is on the high side for an 8kg machine.
Half loads on the same cycle halved the running costs. That’s unusual since most machines with a half load use about 70-80% of the energy and water of a full load. This would suggest the FWG81496W is one of the few washers that’s just as efficient per kilogram of washing on half loads as it is full loads – a great benefit for smaller families.
Switch to the Cotton Eco programme and the running costs shrink again, although not by as much as you might expect. Our full load on the Cotton Eco test used 1.1kWh of electricity and 87 litres of water. This isn’t a whole lot of saving over the standard Cotton wash considering the cycle takes nearly four hours to complete.
We generally average out a year’s washing in a busy family household as 240 washes, split 200 full loads and 40 half loads. Our test loads are very light soil (we do a lot of washing, it’s difficult to make it all really dirty!), so running costs will be at the lower end of the Whirlpool’s dynamic range.
Using just the standard Cotton wash, that annual cleaning bill will be 286kWh @ 15p/kWh (£42.90) in electricity and 19,800-litres of water @ £3.50 per cubic meter of water and waste (£69.30). That’s a serious bill at over £110 per annum.
Switch to the Cottons Eco programme and the maths looks marginally better. That would be a slightly more frugal 242kWh (£36.30) and 19,280 litres of water (£67.48). That’s still over £100, which is a little off the pace compared to other 8kg machines we’ve tested. Whirlpool’s energy label shows electricity consumption of 137kW/h per year and water consumption at 11,900 litres.
Why buy the Whirlpool FreshCare FWG81496W?
Running the risk of damning the Whirlpool FWG81496W with faint praise, it washes very well, it’s easy to use and will comfortably handle the billed maximum load. It isn’t a machine to wow you with spectacular results, though, and some of the features are of questionable value in real-world use.
Yet nor does it do too much wrong. The spin efficiency could be a little better, clothes could emerge with a little less creasing, and the consumption results in our tests could be lower.
Overall, then, a solid performer with some interesting features for the money, but it isn’t a super-star performer against the Best washing machines competition at this price.