Reid Armstrong: Front-loading washing machines – It’s a wash |

Reid Armstrong: Front-loading washing machines – It’s a wash

Reid Armstrong/40 North
Grand County, CO Colorado

There’s nothing like taking a long, hot shower after a day of skiing … favorite soaps and shampoos … a loofa, perhaps … a precious moment away from the fray.

Get out and grab that fluffy clean towel, folded fresh from the dryer and … wait, what’s this? Is it possible that my freshly laundered towel smells like … mildew?

(Go ahead – imagine me as one of those women in the detergent commercial picking up my laundry to smell it, expecting a fresh spring breeze to magically waft through the window … and, then, a horrified, something-has-gone-terribly-wrong look washes across my face.)

The problem, according to Larry Ranft of Alpine Appliance Service in Fraser, is front load washing machines.

“Some people love them and some people hate them,” he said.

The primary advantage of front loaders is that they save water and energy, he said. Newer models come in a rainbow of bright colors and offer highly computerized sensors that can adjust for any type of clothing or condition.

But, there are drawbacks, Ranft added. Washing clothes in less water requires using less detergent (perhaps just a tablespoon or two), he said.

Using too much detergent causes some of the excess to attach itself to the interior of the machine where mildew then grows.

Another issue, specific to Grand County, is water temperature.

“Our tap water is never above 40 to 50 degrees,” he said. Most detergents require 65-degree water to work properly.

“The purpose of detergent is to keep the soil in suspension during the wash cycle,” Ranft said. “This can only happen if the water in the drum is warm enough. If the water is too cold, the soil is re-doposited on the clothes and the machine, which then allows mildew to grow.”

Some fancy washing machines have Automatic Temperature Control, which adds a touch of hot water to a cold load. The rest of us have to manually adjust by either using warm water to wash clothes or choosing detergent specifically designed for cold water.

Ranft also recommends using high efficiency brands, but still suggests cutting back on the amount specified on the bottle. (Experimenting will be necessary, he said.)

If it’s too late and your machine already makes towels magically smell like they were forgotten in the bottom of the pool bag for a week, some brands are now offering special cleansers to remove the mildew that builds up around the drum. (Who knows if these actually work, but it’s probably worth a try.)

Or there’s the Meredith Lipscomb approach … after ruining several sets of towels, she has abandoned her front loader entirely and gone back to a new version of the old-fashioned top loader.

Ranft feels certain that some of these front loader issues will eventually be resolved: “We are living in changing times,” he said. “When people traded in their wringer washers for top loading automatic washers, adjustments had to be made.”

Don’t shy away from front loaders, he said: “Accept the challenge.”

His advice: Follow the instructions. Do some research. And, most importantly, talk to your favorite local appliance service man about what regiment is right for your washing machine.

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