Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Washes Whiter Than...*

Our washing machine celebrated its 14th birthday this month. It has lived a long, virtuous, hard-working life. It washes, on average, 2 loads of laundry per day. It seldom gets a day off, but when it does it ends up making up for it the next day.

Tom has awesome washer repair skillz, so our washer has never had to be seen by a repairman. When it gets ill, parts are ordered from the online parts store and inserted lovingly into it in the comfort of its own home. In its long life it has had only a handful of repairs that I can recall. Early on we had to replace its tacky plastic control dial with a sturdy metal one. And there was the Agitator Dog incident, and also the Spring Failure woozies. Other than that it has remained quite remarkably healthy.

I think it does suffer from some feelings of stress which it resorts to taking out on our clothes. Whirlpools with direct drive agitator systems are like that...sort of the stressed-out firstborn children of their species. Our clothes have been wearing out faster than they should have ever since we've had this washer, but I have been in denial about it because it gets the clothes so clean.

The Spring Failure woozies happened in 2005. One day Natalie and I were doing laundry and found that we couldn't get even the most normal load of laundry to stay balanced. When we pulled a sopping wet load out of the washer to try to get it straightened out we found that the washer tub was swinging around rather wildly. Tom took the whole washer apart and found out that the springs that hold the tub in place had come loose from the frame of the washer because that section of the frame had rusted. He replaced the springs, drilling new holes to attach them...but he said that the next time they came loose they would not be fixable.

Well, that next time might be upon us. Lately the washer has been having a lot of trouble balancing, and the tub is swinging a bit too freely to be good. The other day I was reading some message boards about laundry and I read a post where a man said his washer had "joined the choir invisible". Our washer has not quite reached that point, but it is definitely pining for the fjords, if you know what I mean.

So, in our house, that means research is in order. And researching I have been! Did you know that the government (the same ones who brought us low-flow toilets) have gotten into regulating energy and water usage in washers? Now, I know what this kind of regulation means for toilets, but what I can't seem to figure out is what it means for washers. It sounds like manufacturers have had to change the rinsing procedure, and now instead of filling completely with water the washer will spray water on the clothes whilst spinning. This part concerns me because we have allergies and skin irritations and getting our laundry thoroughly rinsed is helpful in dealing with those things.

Then there's the whole issue of electronic controls on washers. Is it really a good idea to put a circuit board on an appliance that generates that much moisture? We've had problems with boards on a stove because of heat and moisture, so we're not thrilled with the idea of similar problems on a washer. Also, these new controls seem to be designed with some sort of laundry-challenged blithering idiot in mind. I know how to do laundry, thank you very much, and I know how I want to do my laundry. I want to assess the laundry situation and determine on my own what type of cycle to run and for how long. I do NOT want to press little buttons that say things like "boy's denim jeans with light mustard staining and heavy clay on knees". When the washer starts loading itself, handing the washed clothes over to the dryer, and the two of them cooperate on the folding and putting away...then it can take over making the decisions about how things are going to be washed.

So, as I said, research is under way. I've been haunting the Laundry Room forum at Garden Web. This is a scary place indeed. So far, what I've managed to learn is that there are people who are very fiercely attached to their washers and dryers. I've also discovered that to question the efficacy of different brands of laundry appliance, or to question whether front-loaders or top-loaders are better, is to start a holy war that nearly rivals the Mac vs. PC battles.

Anyway, I soldier on despite these obstacles. Because, of course, I'm a perfectionist, and buying a less-than-perfect washer is simply unthinkable. Right now I'm leaning toward a very simple, mechanically-controlled Speed Queen with no wonderful bells and whistles. I haven't seen one in person yet, though, so it's possible that might change my mind. I also need to pick the brains of the salesman (I almost typed salesperson, but it's always a man) about the water restriction issue.

And I shared all this with you, my faithful readers, because I knew you would want to know. :)

*Petra fans may feel free to commence humming rhyming songs now.


Rebecca said...

I'm sure you will get a very bitter-sounding comment about this from my dad, but our (not so old) washer died right before we moved. It decided that it just did not want to stop filling with water...and my dad's room was right next to the laundry room. Some of his 5 billion prized possessions under his bed were moistened. It was not fun. So I used the new, older washer (did that make sense?) this morning for the first time...we'll see how it works.

Beth said...

I eagerly await the bitter comment. It had better include brand names and other pertinent details.

I will be heartless and say that the picture of your dad rummaging under the bed to salvage his 5 billion prized possessions is very funny. :) He does come from a very packratty heritage.

Would the new, older washer be a used one he bought to replace the old/new washer? Or one that came with the new/old house?

Rebecca said...

It's the one that came with the new house.

And an angry man with 5 billion wet guns seems more frightening than amusing to me :D

Beth said...

Well, when you put it that way...

I was picturing it just being the ammo under the bed. If it was both I don't think I want to know...has he ever told you about the "bottle rockets under the car seat" incident?

Natalie said...


Rebecca said...

I've heard about that from other sources...

Jim said...

It wasn't "bottle rockets under the car seat," per se.

See, a couple chaps were lighting bottle rockets in the back seat of the Mustang, and one chap wasn't being too careful... he "lost" a bottle rocket in the car.

Nothing too horrible, except he "lost" it in the other chap's lunch bag of individual firecrackers - a whole brick's worth that had been neatly separated and presented a few hundred wicks for sparks to ignite...

Of course, I'm driving at the time, and I can't just bail out of the moving car. I also don't have the option of covering my ears or eyes.

The rest, as they say - at least I assume they do, as my hearing is now shot - is history.

Jim said...

Just a thought with regard to fixing your current washer... It sounds like the frame is rusted-out enough (near where the springs attach, at least) to give Tom no room to drill new holes.

If that's the case, is it rusted-out a few inches above or below that section? If not, buy a piece of flat steel at the local Homeless Depot and cut it into four 10" pieces. Drill holes in each end so you can secure each piece to the un-rusted areas of the washer's frame (use bolts & nuts). Drill a couple of spring mounting holes before you mount the reinforcing bars.

You might even slap a quick coat of spray paint on the reinforcing bars before installing them so they don't rust out as fast as the original frame members.

You might get another fourteen years out of the beast... :)

mandolinartist said...

You could always go back to the wash board system...

Did I ever tell you I have actually done laundry, WAY BACK, not recently, on a wringer-type washer? Click to see a picture: