Adventures in Laundry: “Hand-Wash Only”

Occasionally, amidst all of the coupon blogging here, I like to share a few Cataldo-family misadventures. This is one of those days…

Two weeks ago, our very nice, less-than-two-years-old, front-loader high-efficiency washing machine stopped working. It showed a water level sensor error code on the screen and… that was it. Without boring you with all of the details, apparently this sensor error is common enough to be discussed in hundreds of forums online for Whirlpool and Kenmore washers. And, of course, the washer is now out of warranty. Whirlpool will come and replace the part for $300, but the replacement sensor is $94.

Being a pretty handy girl who likes fixing stuff AND likes saving money, I figured I’d tackle this one myself and save $206. It doesn’t hurt that there is an entire series of YouTube videos showing how to replace this sensor too. Got to love living in the Internet age!

So, I ordered the part. Apparently the problem is so common that Whirlpool has trouble keeping these sensors in stock. It’s backordered for four weeks. Incredibly, Whirlpool said they could not send a tech any sooner than that either because (surprise) they too have no water sensors in stock for these machines. So, we wait.

But back to the laundry. The day that the washing machine quit working, it of course had a half-washed load of wet laundry in the drum. What do you do with a drippy, wet, soapy load of clothes? I threw the wet clothes in a laundry basket and brought them upstairs to the bathtub. And, my kids and I finished washing, rinsing, and hand-wringing the clothes in the tub.

Incredibly, my boys found this to be great fun.

A few days went by, and it was time to do another load of laundry. Yes, we could have gone to a laundromat, though the closest one is 20 minutes away. And sitting around watching clothes wash and dry is not exactly my cup of tea — it would cut into my super-coupon queening time immensely! After sorting the clothes into “absolutely has to be washed now” and “maybe could wait to be washed until the machine is fixed” piles, we did another load. And another.

Now, aside from hand-washing single articles of clothing here and there, I can’t recall ever doing entire loads of laundry by hand in my life. (And certainly not in the bathtub.) But being the Jill-O-Matic for the last couple of weeks hasn’t been too bad. It seems to appeal to the pioneer spirit in my little laundry helpers too. And hey, the dryer’s still working! We are hanging a lot of the clothes to get some of the water out first as we’re not doing anywhere near the job of spinning water out of the wet clothes that our machine does.

I have to say, too, that washing this much clothing by hand certainly makes me appreciate the job that the washing machine DOES do when it’s working. Wet laundry is heavy and requires a lot of agitation to get clean – no surprise there. But I was surprised to note how dirty the water is too once we pull the wet clothes out to drain the tub and do a “rinse cycle.” These are all things you just don’t witness when you put dirty clothes in a machine and pull out clean ones!

Lastly, I have to give an unsolicited positive review to CVS’ Just the Basics laundry detergent too — it’s what we’ve been using for all of our hand-washing since this laundry misadventure began. Being that we have a high-efficiency machine, I have a very nice stockpile of All, Wisk and Tide HE detergents that I didn’t exactly want to “waste” on hand-washing things in the tub. (Admit it, you too are protective of the “good stuff” sitting on your stockpile shelves!) A few months ago CVS sent over a box of their house-branded products to try out and share with my readers. I gave away nearly all of them in classes and on the blog, but I’d saved the detergent because it was heavy and it had a dent on the bottle from the box being banged up in shipping. (Hey, I try to give away products that are in new, perfect condition!) But this bottle of Just the Basics is a non-HE detergent, it’s a nice “Tropical Scent,” and it’s doing a fine job of getting the clothes clean.

I would guess though that the people at CVS may not have anticipated someone using it in quite this way though.

And now, back to working on “Deals of the Week” for tomorrow. Rest assured, hand-wash laundry time isn’t cutting into coupon-deal-writing nearly as much as you’d think. :)


  1. Resurrection Praiser says

    This is the exact reason why DH and I bought the service contract on our new front loaders. I wonder if we’ll have this problem. After having used a wringer washer and done the “bathtub” thing for many years in another country in another life, I LOVE using the washer and dryer. Good luck at replacing the sensor once you get it!

  2. palatino says

    Jill we finally got to your class today in our hometown of Palatine. The way you write is exactly the way you talk! I liked your story and think you will be impressed some day with what your kids have learned from you. Not being afraid to get your hands dirty, do what needs to be done and make the best of the situation are great life lessons. So is teaching them not everything has to be fixed by a repairman.

  3. quiltty66 says

    A friend of mine is an engineer at Whirlpool in Michigan specifically with their washing machines. He invented something that makes the cycle more effective than its been in years. I’ll have to ask if he knows about the part.

  4. allboyz says

    All I have to say is it made me laugh!! I went thru a similar thing just before July 4th camping trip with my dryer. 14 year old dryer stopped dry clothes. It was going to be $200 just for a tech to come out and look at it. Went on-line found a site that said what the problem probably was so I ordered the $10 part. Did a few dryer loads at the laundry matt the day we were leaving for vaca. The part came in a few days later, and voila’ my husband had it fixed before he hooked up with us in Wisc. for camping. Gotta love the internet nowdays.

  5. LilBlossom says

    Nope. Stuff is meant to break down. It’s what capitalism is based on. Here’s an interesting documentary just about that:

  6. babyj says

    We had the same problem with getting parts for our front loader. I found out what the actual part # was and searched for it on ebay. We found it super cheap and in stock and because the savings was so great I paid extra for express shipping. There are many reputable parts companies that sell on ebay.

  7. says

    wonder if my dirty laundry works with that Jill-O-Matic, mind if i stop by and drop off a few loads to see?? hmmmm hoping that Jill-O-Matic folds them also when done

  8. fabbyk31 says

    Reminds me of our family home in Mexico. Up until this year, the house did not have a washing machine. We would wash our clothing in the “pila” (concrete water basin). The water was always cold and we had to scrub, scrub, scrub until the clothing was clean. Then we would hang the clothing to dry out.

    I’m so glad my mom decided to buy a washing machine now, but she’ll still hang the clothing to dry on the clothes line.

    Here’s an example of what it looks like:

    We do have a sink in the kitchen for the dishes and a sink in the bathroom to wash one’s hands and teeth. Not sure why someone would use this as a sink to brush their teeth in (yikes).

  9. J.R. says

    Have you tried other local parts sources for the sensor?

    I’ve got lots of odds & ends from Sundberg in South Elgin, which shouldn’t be too far for you. They are just east of the Fox river at teh bridge in downtown South Elgin.

    If they can’t help you, e-mail me. I know a few other places that aren’t as close but would be worth checking out.

    And if you go that route, I’d expect any coin-op laundry these days would have WiFi :-)

    Of course we haven’t patronized one for a long time, since our washing machine was leaking water. Turned out to be an old hose that just needed to be reconnected and secured with a clamp. At 30 years old our Maytags are just barely broken in. I doubt anything we could replace them with today would have the quality of the old stuff anyway.

  10. mbalas says

    I too had a premature issue with my front loading Kenmore HE and decided to fix on my own! The rubber seal in the door opening started to crumble after a year and eventually it tore. Sears wanted to charge almost $200 for repair. I scoffed, found the part online for $40, and replaced it on my own thanks to Yahoo forums & other how-to sites. I remember the salesman said as long as I can close the door, I can fill up with as much clothes as I could. Obviously not the case! Now I keep the spin setting at medium or less and only use high if load is less than half full.

  11. Charlie Q says

    Although it wasn’t necessarily meant to fail, I had a door hinge that needed to be replaced.
    I found that I could buy a new one from the dealer for about $20 or find one at the junk yard for about $15. I opted for the new one.
    I went to do the work myself and found that of the three bolts, two were on the outside and one was on the inside. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the one on the inside so I had to take it in to get repaired.
    The service manager explained to me to get to the bolt on the inside a normal person would have to remove the dashboard. Luckily the have a really small mechanic that is able to get to it by only removing half of the dashboard.
    It ended up costing around $200 in labor to replace the $20 hinge.

  12. moredhead says

    I grew up with a old fashion washboard and the big black kittle to heat water and lye soap.
    so be grateful lol

  13. Linda Reding says

    Thank you so much for the information. Sorry you are having trouble.
    Do you have a generic appliance parts supplier near your home? If so, give them a call,
    with your model and serial number. They may be able to get a replacement part for you
    faster and cheaper than the original manufacturer.

  14. Sonicwarrior says

    Hi Jill, ///The machine might not be broke./// The same thing happened to me. I googled the heck out of it (problem code) and realized that spinning the tub (when emptying load) to let loose a stuck sock or whatever makes the code trip. I was able to reset the system, and it cost me nothing. I was saved replacing the sensor by resetting it. I don’t have the instructions handy and did search through hundreds of googled links and forums, but part of it was unplugging the power and that alone might reset it. Hope you find it before spending any $$.. BTW, 2 months ago I replaced a swim pool pump on amazon and saved $90.00 over what the exact same company was charging with coupon and percent savings and I get their catalogues weekly. So figure that.

  15. Coupon Maven says

    I am pleased to report that upon returning home from Atlanta today, there was a small box from with my $94 washer part inside.

    It took less than three minutes to replace.

    I am also pleased to report that the washing machine is now washing clothes again. Hooray!

    (I do have second thoughts about ever buying another front-loader again though.)

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