We have a 6-year-old front-loading Kenmore washing machine (actually manufactured by Whirlpool) that I despise. I’ve written at length about my misadventures in laundry with this machine before:
- It’s got expensive parts that need to be replaced more often than they should — its $94 water level sensor went bad a few months after its one-year warranty was up, and it’s now on its third.
- It’s hard on clothes — once or twice a month, something comes out of the machine torn or ripped. I believe this is due to the high spin speeds at the end of the cycle. If I remember to wash stretchy and knit things alone in a load (without other items that have snaps, buttons or zippers) I have better luck.
I have another item to add to the list. It also doesn’t always get the clothes clean! Everyday laundry is fine, but if something’s really dirty, it often comes out of the washer nearly as dirty as it went in. When the washer was new, it performed better than it does today. I don’t know what the exact problem may be now, but just don’t think our washer uses enough water to get the laundry clean. (Based on past experience, I wouldn’t doubt that the water sensor is on its way out again.)
I know the big selling point of front-loading high efficiency washing machines is that they save water, but if the clothes aren’t getting clean, what’s the point? So, for the past year or so, this is how I’ve “hacked” my front-loading washer.
I keep a 1 1/2 gallon bucket near the laundry tub, and before I put our laundry in, I add three or four buckets of water to the machine. It’s kind of a pain, and it’s a little time-consuming, but it definitely helps the clothes get cleaner. I usually fill the machine with water up to the level of the door, put the clothes in, then dump another bucket of water on top.
Front-loading washers decide how much water to add based on the weight of the load inside. The clothing, plus the extra water, seems to “trick” it into adding enough additional water that the load gets cleaner. The first time I tried this, I hung out and watched the machine to make sure it wouldn’t leak water..! Our washing machine is located in an unfinished basement laundry room with a floor drain, so I figured even if it did, it wouldn’t be a big deal. However, the extra water doesn’t seem to cause a problem, and our clothes definitely get cleaner.
I almost always remember to take the time to add extra buckets of water to our machine. Last night, though, I forgot — and today I was reminded of why my bucket ritual has become a necessity with this machine.
Our dog came in last night with dirty paws. Before I could clean him up, the dog ran down the hall and hopped onto my son’s bed, which is his favorite place to sleep.
Whoops. The quilt on my son’s bed was dotted with dirt — not a lot, but enough to warrant being washed. I stripped it from the bed, shook the loose dirt off, and put it in the washing machine. We went to bed.
This morning, I took the quilt out of the machine. This is “clean” — after the heavy-duty two-hour wash cycle:
Oh, how I hate this washing machine. The quilt is back in the washer, this time with four buckets of water. I’m almost looking forward to the day this thing finally dies and isn’t worth repairing, so I can justify replacing it with something better.
I’ve been researching what I would replace my junky Kenmore with at some point, and I’ve many reviews from people who were fed up with front-loaders, as I am and went with a Speed Queen. Speed Queen traditional top-loaders have very good reviews. Speed Queen builds commercial-grade top-loading machines with agitators and high-gallon water capacities, and at this point, that’s exactly what I want. I don’t want electronic sensors to decide when the machine “thinks” clothes are clean, or when it thinks it’s added sufficient water to wash. I also miss having loads done within 35-40 minutes instead of the long wash cycles of my top-loader, which takes two hours per load on the heavy duty cycle.
I continue to be extremely disappointed that our Kenmore is six years old and performing so miserably too. I’ve blogged before about my first washer-and-dryer set — a bare-bones, no-frills White-Westinghouse pair I bought in college. That pair is now 21 years old and still going strong at my father-in-law’s place, as we gave them to him when we bought this Kenmore set. The only reason we got rid of the pair was that the tubs were low capacity. I bought them before we had any children, and they were not the best suited to washing large laundry loads for a family of five… but that simple washer did one thing, and it did it well: it washed clothes and got them clean.
Update: In 2018 I bought a new Speed Queen commercial top-loader washing machine. It is not “high efficiency.” It uses lots of water and power, and it gets my clothes clean. (I LOVE it!)