Why do washing machines have windows?

  • I'm curious why every front-loaded washing machine I've seen so far comes with a window, while other household machines, like dishwashers, don't.

    From a design or UI/UX perspective, why would one want a user to be able to see their clothes while they're getting cleaned? For me, there is nothing I have to control during the process that a window would be helpful for.

    to differentiate from the front-loading dryer right next to it

    @ratchetfreak: my dryer happens to have a window as well...

    I love the mindset that goes with this question: you've looked at something since you were a kid it never questioned it, and then one day you look at it and go 'but why ???'

    What would you put there if not a window? It a cheapest way to indicate the stage of the washing process beside the indicator on it.

    Obviously because of cats and dogs. They are multiple purpose devices. Washing for humans, TV for pets.

    I'm protecting this question because all the new answers are all saying the same thing but none so far have really given an actual reference for their reason, it's all just opinion. This question is about WHY it is not *'speculate wildly based on no research'.*

    @gerrit. I've never seen one without. But then, I don't think I've ever seen a toploading washing machine either. They're extremely rare in Ireland.

    In an older knowledge show this question was asked. The explained it in the following form: Original washing machines had no window. They also did not sell very well, because most people did not trust them (Jacob Christian Schäffer created one 1766 where many women were against the product). So over the centuries women did not trust new washing machines. They did not believe they really clean anything. Therefore the window (Bullauge) was invented - show the disbelievers what a machine does. Some modern ones no longer have the windows - Even women now trust technic ;-)

    I, actually, *needed* that window here the other day. I had to make sure it filled enough water after I filled it up to its rims with clothes.

    I _guess_ it's **also** for historic reasons. Washing mashines were invented earlier, when people didn't know well (hence trust) technology, so you had to look at what was going on inside. Dish waters came later, when washing machines were already common and "accepted", so no need for a window.

    Without any actual knowledge of the subject, my gut feeling is because it is helpful to know whether the machine is full of water before attempting to open it.

    Has anyone considered the utility of the window in a laundromat? Where are my clothes? Maybe home machines have windows simply because people expect them.

    @JonW after reading some new answers and comments I also flagged this question since nearly every answer is opinion based and many here are giving +1's on funny or/and unrelated feedbacks.

    This seems to me like a legitimate question, and some of the answers contain real, user-experience reasons for it (conveying important info to avoid getting wet, that the visual is interesting and desirable for the user to observe, etc.) The whole thing feels straight out of DOET. If I were a normal user, I'd vote to reopen, I don't want to use my super vote to overrule a mod, but wanted to share my view.

    @PhilFrost yeah it seems like no one realizes the primary purpose of the window is seeing whose clothes are in which washer in a laundromat. Seems to me like front-loading washers are more common in laundromats (as well as dryers with a window), and home machines tend not to have windows.

    By far the best question i've seen on UXSE.

  • In a washing machine the objects that are being washed move around. It's a dynamic process, that is unpredictable and always unique. Watching the movement is fun, it indeed gives a sense of control to the user, even if it is not actually required. Quite a few people even find it relaxing to watch the washing machine. The window also prevents users from trying to open the door when the machine is filled with water.

    In addition, it might be useful to some people to actually see what is being washed. If I come home, and see that the washing machine is packed with white fabric, I know I can wear my favorite white shirt soon.

    In a dishwasher the items don't move. Making a window in the dishwasher would not expose anything interesting to watch at all. Given the working principle of a dishwasher (same water being reused as much as possible), watching his internal process might actually give you a bad appetite and convince you from hand-washing the dishes. A dish washer also does not fill the whole machine with water. It actually uses very little water. Opening the door while this machine is filled with water would not result in water pouring out of the machine.

    Another argument not to have a windows in the dish washer: a benefit of having a dish washer is that you can just put any dirty dish, cup or whatever straight into the machine, thus making the kitchen look more tidy. If you would have a window in the dishwasher you would be looking at dirty dishes again for 90% of the time.

    On the other hand, dish washers with a window DO exist. enter image description here

    Electrolux brought this machine to the market after "market research", but it appears to have been removed from their current product range.

    If dishwashers had windows, there would be less people thinking it fills to the top with water when operated.

    I once was in a dishwasher demo. There the dishwashers had windows. Great delight!

    First people buying washing machines washed their clothes by hand and knew quite well what work the machine was doing and what relief it was. Same for me with dishwashers. I'd love to see the process and progress!

    @uxfelix: thruth being said, unlike washing dishes, hand washing clothes is a very long and hard work. Anyone that cannot handwash his dishes faster than a dishwasher is doing something wrong. I also hate washing dishes, so I love my dishwasher, but the washing machine does much more for me than any dishwasher ever could.

    That's all fine, but it doesn't actually answer the question of why there's a (considerably more expensive than plain steel paneling) window.

    @Bohemian: sure it does. For safety (prevent users from openeing the door while the machine is filled with water) and for fun. Watching the machine do it's thing is fun because it shows you the work it is taking away from you.

    -1, completely opinion-based

    @Chris H: I knew somebody would say that. Indeed, the lock prevents users from opening. The window prevents users from TRYING to open the door.

    @BartGijssens, but neither prevents me getting well and truly annoyed when it hasn't started, or finished <3 mins ago, and the door is locked anyway. That delay after finishing (and an "end" LED lighting up) before unlocking is the real UX question -- as in WTF? Who though that was a good idea?

    I think that you should put more emphasis on the "The window also prevents users from trying to open the door when the machine is filled with water." - That is the best reason in the entire post

    Why, then, _doesn't_ a top-loading washer have a window? It might be just as fun to watch.

    @MichaelHampton Top loaders rotate around a horizontal axis that is parallel to the front, to reduce the width but keep a standard depth of the machine. So the window(s) would have to be on the sides, where it may be hidden (many top loaders are built for narrow spaces).

    The window does not "prevent users from opening the machine while it is full of water". The automatic door-locking mechanism does. Also, for your point about seeing what's being washed, even if you arrive home just after the machine was started (in which case you could ask the person who started it), most machines take about half an hour to finish. You could just wait and see, it will be done long before tomorrow. It's not like a dish washer, which takes several hours when you need to know if you can eat from those dishes in 20 minutes.

    @Virtlink check this book. The authors quote a major dishwasher company. They say that the window would constantly be wet due to the showering technic. I think **people would believe even more**, that the machines fill up to the top!

    Modern front-loading washing machines do not really fill the drum with enough water for there to be much spillage when the door is opened. If my reasonably modern model is any indication, the filling process stops when you can see any pooling water at all at the bottom of the drum. There's no point in the cycle, apart from spinning, when immediate full opening of the door would be more than a very mild nuisance with a very small amount of spilled water - a few tablespoons' worth at most.

    I think the main reason few dishwashers have a window is because there's usually just one in a home. The window in a washing machine or dryer is primarily useful in a laundromat because people need to be able to see whose clothes are in which machine. But there's no such thing as a dishwashateria so not much need to dishwashers with windows.

  • In the event of a stopped dishwasher (due to electrical fault or buggy software or something) the water in the device streams out of ordinary drains inside, and the water sprayers stop adding more water. If you were to open it after it had shorted out, you aren't going to get soaked.

    That's not true of a front-load washing machine. If one of these is forcibly stopped at certain points in its cycle, then it remains full of damp clothes resting in soapy water.

    Opening one of these without knowing what's inside would lead to a rather unpleasant surprise.

    The window helps you see what's going on inside in the one case when you do need to interact with it mid-cycle: when it's broken.

    I would challenge this: Does a dishwasher really never contains enough water to produce a spillover? Any sources?

    Dishwashers use an incredibly small amount of water. Every dishwasher I have ever owned can be opened at any point in the cycle (if you forgot a dish or accidentally loaded something that really shouldn't be machine washed) without any spillage.

    @MarcelBöttcher It's also the manufacturer opinion (in an indirect way). Every washing machine that I have owned *locked* the door while operating. (Message: it's unsafe to open the door). Every dishwasher that I have owned leaved the door unlocked. (Message: it's safe to open the door)

    My dishwasher (Electrolux ESL4115) manual says of the 'intensive' wash: 1.7kWh and 20 litres of water. That's used up in a prewash, main wash and 3 rinses. Note your usual washing up bowl is roughly 9 litres in capacity. (and the common wash I use in the dishwasher consumes 8 litres)

    @gbjbaanb the manual does not say that it uses all those 20 liters _at the same time._ I bet it uses just a few liters at any given time and replaces it a few times.

    @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun oh no, I imagine it uses 4 litres at a time - 5 washes/rinses @ 4 litres each. I was just pointing out the water usage efficiency of the entire thing compared to hand-washing a full load.

  • Just looked up the answer, and quite a few places seem to have the same thought.

    In front load washing machines, the window is given to see what is going on inside. In the top loader machine, you can open it at any time even when the machine is on wash mode but you cannot do so in front load machine, for the water will spill if you open the window on the washing mode. Otherwise, windows do not provide any other functional leverage to washing machines.

    Quoted from http://www.why.do/why-do-washing-machines-have-windows/

    Which actually does make sense. Since you can't see what's going on with your clothes from opening it, you need a window to be able to see.

    As well as @Indofrasier answer, you can see if things are caught in it, if the cycle stopped for whatever reason, or if there's mechanical issues.

    But why would you want to see your clothes while they are being washed? And if there is a need to control the washing process, why don't dishwashers or ultrasound jewelry cleaners have windows?

    @RumiP. There's no need to control it, but you want to see when it's done, what step it's on, how long it'll be, etc. Some machines don't have timers and don't say what cycle it's on, so being able to see inside makes sense. As for the dishwasher, by that logic it could have a window too. I don't manufacture dishwashers though so you're asking the wrong guy.

    @RumiP. you can open a dishwasher that is running, and not flood the floor. A washing machine has a water level the is halfway up the door. No other household machine has this issue. Also Microwaves have windows...

    If the power goes out during a wash cycle, and you aren't home to notice, how wet will you be if the machine is still full of water when you go to put your clothes in the dryer? On a top loading machine, not wet. On a front loading machine with a window, not wet. On a front loading machine with no window? Wet.

    Its a basic feedback indicator - at least you can see that something is happening even if you are not actually sure what the machine is doing at the time.

    @AdamDavis I'm pretty sure that no modern machine will let you open the door if there's still water in the machine. Even after a power outage.

    @JamesJenkins Dishwashers don't have floppy clothes that can fall out of the machine.

    @poke so in the event that their power wire is physically cut or their motor shorts out, they just hold on to your clothes for ever? I find that unlikely. They have to allow you access when there is no power, otherwise if they break, you don't get your clothes back.

    @Racheet I just looked it up in an instruction manual for a random washer by Bosch (known German company). There’s a section that explains this quite well: The door stays locked as long as there’s still water in it—even on power off. If power gets back on, the machine will continue where it left off. Behind a cover in the corner of the machine, there is an emergency switch which allows you to *first* drain off the water, and *then* unlock the door. You need a screwdriver for this, so you can’t do it accidentally either. So fact is that you can’t accidentally open the door—it won’t let you.

    @poke man I wish I had one of those the last time I got stuck in that mess. My washer just cut the lock on the door when the power went out, and I had to soak my floor.

    @Racheet Ouch, that sucks, sorry to hear that :/ Makes me glad that they added this security lock then.

  • The first washing machines did not have a window. Then Louis Zimarik started creating washing machines with windows which were a great success. The idea behind the window was: Zimark found out that it was much easier to put a rubber seal around a glas door than a metal door. In addition he wanted to be able to check the operation of the machine. And therefor he needed a window.

    Additionally people trusted a machine more where they can see what it is doing, when the washing machines where brand new and a bit "spooky" for the people. Today there is no technical reason for the glass door but it is being kept just because of the "traditional" reasons.

    (german) source: http://www.sat1.de/ratgeber/waschmaschine-mit-fenster

    His patents can be found here: https://www.google.de/search?tbo=p&tbm=pts&hl=en&q=ininventor:%22Louis+Zimarik%22

    Louis Zimariks, the inventor of the glass-doored washing machine, doesn't have a Wikipedia page? That should be rectified.

    I agree that this is a bit strange, but the patents are quite clear

    Unfortunately this does not answer the question why dishwashers have no glas doors while washing machines do. But a least your answer has a source compared to many others here.

    The fact alone that this answer covers the 'invention' of the glass door (hence the historical aspect of it) makes it a great answer. Most answers simply repeat the same aspects over and over, this actually adds something to the question. Needs a lot of upvotes!

  • The authors of the book Warum gibt es kein Katzenfutter mit Mäusegeschmack? asked Miele and Bosch, both German manufacturers of washing machines and dish-washers. These are their answers:

    • Miele

      • Dish washers are usually used in kitchens as built-in appliance beneath the work top. To have an homogeneous/uniform front for all devices next to each other, the dishwasher is mounted with a similar decorative element.
      • Washing machines are mostly positioned (free-standing) in bathrooms or basements. They don’t need an extra decorative element
    • Bosch

      • Loading both devices is done in a different manner (bunch of clothes vs. separate/one-by-one) So the mounting possibilities differ.
      • The cleaning methods also differ. Washing machines use motion and friction, dish washers shower. Some customers (and their kids) often want to watch the mostly colorful washing being swirled around. Due to the showering-technique of the dish washer the front window would constantly be wet and not see-through. And therefore less interesting.

    While I think the answers given by Bosch and Miele probably aren't the best, this answer is one of the few here that actually does cite a reference or source. So, pedantically speaking, the little blurb about not citing any references or sources is wrong.

    @MichaelBurr to be fair, I had a completely different text here before I found that source.

    You're right, that reference is a good one. I've removed the citation message (As mods we don't get automatically prompted when such edits are made so if it happens again once edits have been made you can flag the post with 'Other' and request a mod remove the message).

    I'll second this for the word 'decorative'.

  • I call it a debug window, an almost life-saver in many situations:

    • The machine was not rotating the clothes (when the engine is used and has not enough power). In effect, the clothes from the top were not washed at all! Without the window you would be very suprised what has happened.
    • You've used wrong pulver, and the clothes are strongly dyeing. You can stop washing machine quickly before it's too late.
    • You've forgotten to remove some hard object from your trousers. You see it's smashing againsts inside and can damage it. You can react.
    • An extreme case: your pet is inside.
    • You are sure the machine is loaded before starting.
    • You see immediately if water is flowing into machine, even without special indicator.
    • If it's broken, you see if the water is still inside and you should bring basin before opening the door.
    • and many more

    Without debugging window, it would be hard to figure out the situations above.

    Or, worse, your kid is inside!

    Sorry, son, it's three minutes until I can open the door.

    I don't know what washer you're using, but when mine is going I can't see jack all inside there. It's a big white and red blob of whirrrrr.

  • You can see if anything is caught in the door seal so you can stop the cycle.

    You can see if the water has emptied if there has been a fault, say from an electricity cut.

    This makes sense, you don't want to open a machine full of water because of a sensor going bad, do you? :D

  • As the son of an ad man, I'd go with "Because the window is such a wonderful selling tool for the machine."

    As an engineer, I'd go with "So you know whether there's a problem with unusually high water or suds level BEFORE you open the door and make a mess."

    Neither of those is as much of an issue for a top-loader.

  • I think the comments in Mike's answer get the closest, but don't quite reach the reason. Most here seems to be forgetting that front-loading dryers also often have windows, so it's not solely a matter of the water.

    This is something I have to deal with almost every single week:

    The window lets me know beforehand when the spinning motion of the machine has accidentally piled my clothes up at the front of the machine. If I open the door without knowing the clothes were piled up, they are far more likely to fall out and onto the dirty floor. But because I can see them piled up as I approach the machine, I know they're positioned badly and I have to open the door slowly and catch them.

    Dishwashers (hopefully) don't have anything flopping around where they can pile up against the door, so there's no need to see where everything is before opening the door.

    My washing sometimes falls out, sometimes it doesn't. I have my hand there in any case. I don't need the glas window for indication, as I noticed yesterday.

    @uxfelix and how did you learn that?

    I just always put my hand underneath the door because every second time the washing looks like it won't fall out, it will.

  • I personally think it is for safety.

    Since things move around there. What if some object accidently gets in there? A cat or a toddler? Or if something is left inside your clothes? Your cell phone. You would obviously catch a glimpse of it and turn the machine off.

    Same with a red sock among the whites.

    The same could be said of a dishwasher (which dangerous due to the high water temperature) - a cat or toddler could have snuck inside while your back was turned. I doubt you'd notice a cell phone in the washer before it's too late to save it from the water unless you are very lucky and it falls against the glass door.

    @Johnny Cellphones don't usually hang out on dishes, though. They prefer soft pockets.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM