Saturday, October 1, 2011

Smelly Washer

We've been having a few problems lately with our washing machine. Unfortunately we inherited it when we bought the house, so we didn't pick it out. After the washer showed us some interesting dance moves, burped out some suds and flashed some error codes, it was time to get it fixed. Turns out we needed a new rotor position switch. Just expensive enough to be annoying but not so expensive to warrant a new washer. Great.

So while the repairman was installing this very expensive yet very small piece of plastic, I asked him a few questions about all the things I hate about our washer.

1. Why does my washer leave a flaky brown residue on my clothes? Turns out this is from overuse of fabric softener. But I don't use liquid fabric softener, I said. Apparently the previous owners did, and when the washer sat idle for a few months after they moved out and before we moved in, it had a chance to congeal into the lovely sludgy residue that gets all over everything. Turns out a lot of these types of detergents can leave buildup over time. Residue builds up between the drums and can get into the washer and onto your clothes - especially if you don't clean the filter. Also, the drain tube in the back was pushed down too far, which means air could get trapped in the tube and prevent the tub from draining completely.

2. Wait, what do you mean I have a filter I'm supposed to clean? Yep, my washer has a panel in the lower left corner of the machine. You know, the panel with no labeling and no visible access point. Pry it open with a flat screwdriver and inside is a filter that kind of resembles a brita filter. Pull it out and run it under the faucet to clean it off every couple weeks. Again, lots and lots of gunk poured out. Gross. The repairman said this simple step can greatly extend the life of the washer. TIP: Put a towel down when you open the panel because a bunch of water will pour out.

3. Why does my washer smell so bad? Again, the residue. I have an LG front loader and you have to leave the door open or it STINKS. The door is surrounded by what the repairman called a hood - I think it's more of a gasket. Well the gasket gets all mildewy and sludgy over time because some water can sit in some of the crevices. Nasty.

4. What's the best way to clean the smelly washer? In the past I've bought all kinds of things to try to curb the stench - Washer Magic, Tide Washer Cleaner and just plain old bleach. They've had various levels of success, with the bleach being the most effective against the smell by far. And the cheapest. However, nothing has been able to get rid of the residue. According to the repairman, the bleach will kill the mildew but it won't remove the residue. Vinegar is an acid, and so it will dissolve the gunk.

We set the washer to high temp, high soil, with prewash and then filled the detergent and prewash dispenser drawer with vinegar and turned the machine on. After the washer had filled, we opened the door (it's an HE washer so "full" is still only a couple inches a water) and poured in about 1/2 gallon of vinegar into the drum and into the crevices in the gasket. He recommended doing this vinegar wash about once every couple weeks or so, depending on how bad the buildup is. I'm thinking of doing alternating vinegar and bleach cycles each week until the residue goes away. I am hopeful this will work - and thankful that vinegar is cheap!

5. Why does the spin cycle make the whole house shake? Whoever designed our house thought they were being so smart putting the laundry room upstairs next to the master bedroom. And it certainly is convenient. But the room is small and it echos and the washer doesn't stand as solid on a wood floor as it would on a concrete floor. Anything beyond a medium spin will cause the whole house to shake. The repairman suggested opening the window. Not sure that's the greatest advice, but who knows. He also suggesting putting some of those foam floor puzzle pieces under the washer to absorb some of the vibration.

6. What kind of washer would you recommend buying? He suggested a basic toploader with mechanical and non-electronic buttons and knobs. They're cheaper to buy and cheaper to fix and there isn't enough of a difference to warrant a more expensive machine. Good to know.

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