I was able to tour the Whirlpool Headquarters last month as part of the Maytag Mom program. It was such a honor and privilege to be invited and to learn the behind-the-scenes work that goes into all Whirlpool products. I’d like to share with you my findings and why Whirlpool brands stand for quality you can rely on.
Real Whirled House
We stayed at the Real Whirled House during our trip. This beautiful condo contains two floors of living space with each space containing it’s own fully functioning kitchen as well as a laundry room. Each kitchen was home to a Whirlpool brand including Maytag, KitchenAid, and Whirlpool. The Real Whirled House is used to train sales professionals. For 12 weeks straight, they live in the Real Whirled House using all of the products and appliances. The thought behind the Real Whirled House is to totally submerged sales personnel into the products. What a concept! It was a beautiful house overlooking the harbor, I wouldn’t mind staying for more than just a few days![slickr-flickr tag=realwhirledhouse]
The Reliability Laundry Lab
Our first stop was the Reliability Laundry Lab at Whirlpool where they do intensive testing on all Whirlpool brands including Maytag, xxxx. Greg Smith gave us the tour explaining how they look for failures in the lab so that consumers don’t at home. The average washing machine last 11-13 years which is 3-7,000 cycles. Whirlpool goes well above that by testing to 20 years or 10,000 cycles. They test the machines in all configurations that will appear in the home like with different drain sizes, on pedestals, voltage, etc.[slickr-flickr tag=reliabilitylaundry]
They use real cloth materials in their washers with detergent, and add 1 TBSP of sand twice daily. They also add other components like paper clips to see if it affects anything. (Sounds like my son’s pockets!) They test washers for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 1 year. Sounds like my household on laundry day but thankfully not 24/7/365! They go through 250 gallons of ALL a week – I hope they use coupons!
While testing the 200+ units, if a failure happens, the machine stops. From there, they determine how the failure happened and how they can improve on it. Environmentalist will be happy to hear that they continue to improve to make their testing “green”, saving water by recirculating when possible.
They also test dryers at the Reliability Lab. They use rubber weights to simulate wet clothes. They also test individual components individually like gears and drive shafts to test seals and engineering the units. For instance seal leaks because if the bearings go out, it is expensive to replace, an upwards of $400. They test products to twice the life of a product; I guess that is why they are so reliable! They even test the electronics by having buttons pressed 50,000 before they can be approved.
I like that they test all parts of the machines at Whirlpool in addition to the machine as a whole. It gives me a better peace of mind. At the end of the extensive testing, they evaluate each part of the machine in a scrap box to see how the components wore and analyze how to improve them.
Performance Laundry Lab
In the Performance Laundry Lab, Mary Zeitles, the lead consumer scientist explained how they test washers and dryers in a manner as consumers actually use it. Here, they verify any marketing claims (like Best Cleaning in the Industry!), test to industry standards and beyond, and test machines with 10 different tests. Not only do they test the Whirlpool brands but they compare and test against competitor products.[slickr-flickr tag=laundryperformance]
I learned that there are 3 components of getting stains out of clothing – something all moms need to understand.
- Thermal – amount of heat used
- Mechanical – settings on machine
- Chemistry – the amount and kind of detergent to use
They compare all their tests to a standardized stain set to test all of the components with the 10 tests the perform. They emphasized buying quality detergent to extend the life of your clothes. They were not at liberty to say which detergent works best but stated not to buy the cheap stuff.
Likewise, Brett in the Dryer’s Performance Lab tests for marketing, competitive analysis, and development of dryers. They test Dryer Performance for Themarl, Mechanial, and Air Flow. They also test marketing claims like “Best Dryer Performance” with Whirlpool brands against competitors.
Performance Cooking Lab and Reliability Cooking Lab
We were able to visit the Performance Cooking Lab and Reliability Cooking Lab at Whirlpool where consumer scientist, Lyn Cook explained how they test kitchen appliances with actually baking. (No pictures allowed in the lab but plenty of fun in the lobby!)[slickr-flickr tag=cookinglab]
They test changes in products and how it will affect cooking with cooktops, built-ins, ovens, microwave and oven combos, and microwaves. They do short term tests with cookies, long term tests with cakes, and hot temperature tests with pizzas and lasagnas. That is a lot of food! I really like that they donate the baked and cooked food to a local soup kitchen – as long as the food items weren’t directly touched during evaluations.
They even test the safety of products by testing the heat radiating from the stove and oven on Cleaning Mode against cabinets, on the doors, buttons, etc. Testing in the lab keeps little hands at home safe. We also learned How to Clean AquaLift Stoves.
Lyn Kitchen Experience
That evening, we enjoyed the Lyn Kitchen Experience at the Real Whirled House. Lyn gave us great tips on how to clean ceramic stove tops, how to pick the best cookware, and more. For dinner, we split up into two groups of 4 to prepare 2 complete meals as a team. It was a very enjoyable experience cooking with 3 other ladies on the amazing Maytag appliances.[slickr-flickr tag=cookingnighthouse]
Lucinda Dishwasher Experience
On our last day, we enjoyed the Lucinda Dishwasher Experience at the Real Whirled House. She talked about loading the dishwasher. We’ve been doing it for years, so what is there to learn? PLENTY! Did you know that if you hand wash your dishes, you are wasting 230 hours a year!? What better things could you be doing with those 230 hours??
Dishwashers are only using 3 gallons of water at a time. Plus, it only cost $.10-12 per load to operate a dishwasher – not counting dishwasher detergent. That is about $31 a year! Several bloggers confessed that their husbands tell them it is too expensive to run the dry cycle on their dishwasher, so they hand dry them. Seriously, the entire load cost only a dime, so run the dry cycle! In fact, consider this permission o run the dishwasher even if it is only ½ full!
Which dishwasher detergents are best? A leading consumer magazine recommends using all-in-one detergents for best performance. Since removing phosphates from dish soaps, manufacturers are spending all their research and money on the all-in-one products, so they are providing better results than powders or gels. Even so, continue to use a rinse aid for proper drying. This is especially important since dishwashers are using less water than ever. The rinse aid helps get rid of bubbles and water.
Don’t pre-rinse. Just scrap the excess food in the garbage and load the dishwasher. This will save you 20 gallons of water per load of dishes! Remember, it only takes 3 gallons of water to run the dishwasher! For tough dishes to clean, face them to the back of the dishwasher since that is where all the jets are!
At the Whirlpool Dishwasher Lab, Mary showed us how they test dishwashers based on soils like eggs, raspberry preserves with coffee grounds, mashed potatoes, and meat with red sauce. They test 12 cycles a day with city, soft, and hard water to determine how their dishwashers will perform.[slickr-flickr tag=dishwasherlab]
They also confirmed that the all-in-one dishwasher detergents are best for washing dishes. This whole time, I just thought the dishwasher tablets were just for convenience!
World of Whirlpool in Chicago
On our way back to the airport, was stopped at World of Whirlpool in Chicago. What a treat! It is home to the most beautiful kitchens imaginable with complete dream kitchen set ups for every Whirlpool brand. The Maytag Moms that received the kitchen was able to see their set of appliances on display. They also learned cool new features about their products from the sales experts at World of Whirlpool. I enjoyed oohing and awing over the gorgeous kitchens.[slickr-flickr tag=maytaghead]
We also were treated to a gourmet lunch by the World of Whirlpool chefs. Delish!
This is just a summary of what I learned during this fabulous trip. I hope you were able to learn a few things through this post as well.
I wrote this post participating in an Maytag Moms Ambassador program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Maytag. I was provided with a trip to the Real Whirled house to facilitate my post.