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carolynbe_gw

Need help - new front loader not cleaning that well

carolynbe
15 years ago

I just got my LG Steamwash Tromm (model 2487) a few days ago and have been underwhelmed by its cleaning ability. I have three small boys and their clothes are often stained with food - chocolate, colored juice or gatorade, jelly, grass or dirt, and (sorry for tmi) skid marks.

With my 9 yr old top loader whirlpool, I would wash everything on the shortest 6 min wash in cold and most everything would come out clean without any heroics on my part.

I assume there is some sort of learning curve to the front loader regarding wash cycle, pre-wash, extra water level, etc. but would like some help from those of you who have mastered it already.

I live in SoCal so we have very hard water. I bought Gain liquid HE detergeant and have been using the recommended amount - line 1 or 2 based on the load size. Most of my load sizes have filled the tub. I have been using the Water Plus mode to get xtra water. I use the Permanent Press and Cold temp because most of the kid's clothes say wash in cold. For the underwear I have been using the Sanitary Cycle which washes on Xtra Hot. I have also tried moving the Soil Level up a notch from "normal".

Should my goal be to maximize the water level (using Water Plus and Permanent Press cycle) and soil level to get the most water and the longest wash to get the clothes clean? Also, should I use the Prewash feature? Should I switch to powdered detergeant? I haven't tried the Steamwash feature yet but the book says it is for very dirty whites. I have never used that before. I am used to laundry being a no-brainer, now I have to sort carefully and think about all the parameters of cycle, wash temp, and water level before I do a load - arghhh!

Any advice of people who have worked out the magic formula would be greatly appreciated.

Comments (30)

  • looser
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    For very hard water you may need to add a little more detergent. I don't think it is necessary to increase the amount of water, it just decreases the concentration of the detergent. It is hard to believe that you got all of the stains you've mentioned above on a short, cold cycle in a TL. It is best to pretreat stains those kinds of stains with a little spray and wash or oxiclean. For most things the pre-wash cycle isn't necessary. It would be useful for solid soil like sand, lint or dust.
    I would try to wash children's clothes in warm water. I have seen cold wash labels on white cotton clothes which is pretty silly. Cotton can be washed warm or hot, depending on the colors.
    Powdered detergent is a little more abrasive, so it could help remove some difficult stains. Liquid detergents should work fine though.
    I hope you'll get clean results soon!

  • curiousshopper
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Welcome to the world of water-saving front loaders. Now you can spend your days studying laundry chemistry and hanging out on this forum. 90 minute cycles and you'll still have dirty clothes.

    I got rid of mine and went back to a top loader. Best decision I ever made. If it's not too late you should do your best to return it.

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  • looser
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Okay, so TLs do use a lot more water, but they don't really get things clean. Your experience is not typical for the performance of FLs. You can get very good cleaning results without knowing too much about chemistry. A little common sense and maybe a little practice will get you much better results than any traditional TL can give you.
    I think it is ridiculous that the cold setting on the simple TLs uses the water at tap temperature. That can be very cold in winter times. The coolest setting on a European FL is normally 30C and normally a "cold" wash is 40°C (about 100 F). Tell me what fabric can't stand body temperature? You are not going to get much dirt out of anything at 40-50 F...not even to mention any germs. For very lightly soiled laundry you can use the cold setting, but I definitely like the option to do much hotter loads. Like I stated on a different thread, our TL does NOT get the musty smell out of dish rags or towels that have been forgotten in a gym bag. Lots of people argue that the amount of water it uses makes sure that the water is and stays hot, but it is just as hot as the setting of our hot water heater. 125 degrees or so just isn't enough to kill all the bacteria and molds... I would not do the hot washes on all my clothes, but it sure is nice to have the option to do a hot load when necessary.
    Believe me, Europeans are pretty particular about cleanliness and they wouldn't use FLs if they didn't get things clean. There are many people on this forum that have used both kinds of washers. There are mixed opinions about which ones do better. Hey, just use whatever you are happy with!

  • crooks101
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "clothes are often stained with food - chocolate, colored juice or Gatorade, jelly, grass or dirt, and (sorry for tmi) skid marks. ....I have also tried moving the Soil Level up a notch from "normal". "

    Suggest you move up that notch a little more. LOL.

    But really, I think this is going to be problem with the 'new EPA 2007" machines. I just got a new Miele W4800, it almost use no water. I don't see how it could remove much yuck without always using a pre-wash. And the front cover of CR magazine had washing machines that don't clean. However, they only picked on the TLs for now.

  • carolynbe
    Original Author
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks for your inputs everyone.

    Looser - you are right, I didn't get all the stains listed out with a short, cold wash. Most of the food ones, however, would come out provided they hadn't sat too long. Grass and baseball clay came out with a hot or warm longer wash provided they were put into the machine right after the game.

    The one stain I am irked about on the LG is from chocolate, on a light blue shirt that got washed a few hours after it was made. I feel that the machine should have been able to get that one out.

    I've always done most of my washing on cold to help prevent shrinkage and wear on the clothes, but after reading this forum will probably switch to doing most on warm.

    I think I will try to set the soil levels higher so the machine agitates the clothes more. My friend has a Kenmore FL and she said she uses the Kids Wear setting most often and it works well to get her husband's softball clothes clean. I see from the Kenmore manual that is a 1 hr 25 min cycle with warm water.

    I really do like the LG machine, I feel it will be a good machine but I have to learn how to use it properly to get stained clothes clean. My old top loader was starting to shred the kids' clothes and was pretty noisey.

  • curiousshopper
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well best of luck. It's tough to admit a $1500 mistake. It took me a while to reach that conclusion about my front loading washer, but mistake it was.

    A $1500 appliance should make your life easier, not harder. I found no advantages whatsoever to front loaders. Extremely long cycle times, wear on clothing if loads weren't meticulously sorted by fabric weights, mediocre cleaning and increased wrinkling.

    I hope you find your magic formula...I certainly didn't!

  • twebbz
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have to pre-treat stains...chocolate, tomato sauce, grass, blood, etc. and add a bit of OXY product to the detergent too. Had to do it with my old top loader and still have to do it with the front loader. You can't expect any machine to clean that type of stuff by just extending the wash time. Also, front loaders ARE different animals and YOU have to figure out how to get the cleanest wash. Reading this forum is a huge help. Don't give up on your front loader. You're doing your part to save water and energy.

  • blazinlo
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Higher water levels are not necessarily synonymous w/ cleaner clothes... Some front load washers actually use the "falling" of the clothing into the puddle of water as a way to "force" water thru the garment/clothing... When using higher water levels, the garment does not "fall" into the water, rather it's just "swished" around and is not necessarily getting water "Forced" thru the fabric.
    I have LG WM0642HW and have had extremely good luck w/ getting clothes cleaned on just the "cotton" cycle (which results in a small pool of water at bottom of washer).

  • sshrivastava
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    More detergent isn't always the solution, and declaring top loaders a "$1,500 mistake" without any further explanation or specifics is simply ludicrous.

    Front loaders wash in a small pool of water, therefore the detergent is more concentrated than in a top loader. Don't increase the water level unless you are washing something very "fluffy" or need to remove pet hair. You should definitely be using a minimum 100°F wash for everything except maybe wool and hand washables. If you want to use cold water, then switch to Tide Coldwater detergent -- Gain won't do it.

    The other factor working against you is hard water. I would try a water softening product such as Calgon, or at some point outfit your home with a whole-house softener -- your water heater and other plumbing components will thank you. Depending on your hardness, you may need to increase detergent by up to 100% in areas of extremely hard water.

    Also, when washing underwear, you should be using an OXY bleach. Don't use Oxy Clean -- it's mostly filler material. I recommend the Ecover product, which is 100% active sodium percarbonate. You will definitely notice a difference.

    I hope you sort out your issues. I have an Asko washer/dryer and I would never switch back to a top loader. NEVER.

  • lulundave
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have to agree with curiousshopper. I too own a HE machine. Although mine is a top loader (Cabrio). I have found that I need to really presort my clothing. Zip up all zippers, do up all buttons etc. It really has made doing the wash HARDER and more time consuming. I found the cleaning results to be very poor on my kids clothing.

    I am going back to the standard agitator model of the Cabrio soon. This way I can set my own water levels.

    I also have found that using a soak cycle helped the kids clothes. It does add 36 more minutes to the normal 5o minute wash. I never had to do this with my old Kitchen Aid TL.

    I guess some people really do like their HE models. I really want to love mine but it has just made my wash days all the more complicated.

    That's my opinion. Thanks for reading.

  • washerman8
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Curiousshopper and lulundave,

    I have to agree with you also. I have had the Oasis HE and the Kenmore HT. I wanted to like both of them but neither could match the cleaning ability of my toploader SpeedQueen. Personally, I think it is ridiculous to have to pretreat clothing, drop clothing in the tub in a particular way, etc.

    I do understand you save water and electricity from the decreased drying time; but what is the purpose if you have to wash your clothing 2 or 3 times. Yes, I had to rewash some clothing in both machines in order to get them clean but stil not as clean as one wash in my toploader. Again, this is my personal experience.

  • looser
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I seriously don't know what people expect if they switch to a FL. No machine can do magic. There are certain stains that will NOT come out without pretreatment, no matter if you use a TL or FL. The amount of water does not guarantee good cleaning results. I can drop my clothes in a large swimming pool that is filled with water and detergent and they wouldn't come out any cleaner than using just as much water as necessary.
    Presorting the clothes is not really necessary, it just gives you the option of washing all of them using an appropriate cycle.
    The zippers and buttons should normally be closed on a TL also. They can tear up other things that are thrown in. I also occasionally have problems with strings being wrapped around the agitator and other clothes and it tore apart one of my bras. If you like TLs, then by all means, keep using them. I can't wait to switch (back) to a FL.

  • jcrowley99
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I must just be really lucky with my Cabrio w/o agitator. I don't really sort my cloths any different than with my old TLer, I just have to do laundry less often to get larger loads. I have always zipped and closed metal closures on cloths, mainly because I hate the sound of them banging of the sides of the dryer. I have always shaken my cloths before putting them in the dryer to cut down on ironing. I still pretreat stains I would have pretreated in my old washer. I do not now and never have used bleach. I do use warm water more often to wash now. I did not trust my old machine to properly regulate the water temp. As for dropping cloths in around the wash plate, when there was an agitator in the middle of the tub I had no choice, I had to drop the cloths around the agitator.

    I guess you could just dump a load of laundry on top of the agitator in an old TLer and then shove it down around the agitator, but that seems like a good way to damage cloths. Besides, mine had a fabric softener dispenser on top of the agitator and I might have stained cloths doing it that way.

    As for kids stained cloths, I always pretreated stains then washed on the heavy duty cycle. Past tense, my son is 17 now, any stains on his cloths are treated just like mine and my husbands. I have always had great luck with spray and wash stain stick. I put it on the stain after the garment is removed and wash on laundry day. Once in a while I have to retreat and rewash, but that is nothing new. Actually, I have only had to do that once since I got the Cabrio, my husband forgot to give me a shirt he spilled BBQ sauce on, I did not notice the stain when I sorted laundry. Almost all the stain came out, and what was left came out after I treated it and rewashed it.

  • washerman8
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have a little boy and he's always outside playing. Needlesstosay, he gets his clothes pretty dirty. I have washed his clothes in the Oasis and the Kenmore HE frontloader. Granted, I didn't pretreat or presoak any of this clothing; but they didn't come nearly as clean as just putting them in the SpeedQueen adding some Tide and let them wash.

  • aquarius2101
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Funnily enough, from a European point of view, I wash laundry of all sorts of soiling day in and day out and laundry is always clean and spotless when taken out of my frontloader with a standard dose of detergent.

    Maybe our detergents are more powerful, I don't know, but in all my time of using a frontloader I've never had to resort to pre-treating or 3 hour sanitary cycles to clean laundry - often a short cycle suffices even for a lot of "heavily soiled" laundry.

    Curiousshopper - my normal loads DON'T take 90 minutes. If you cared to pay attention to a lot of the posts on the site, most people report their frontloaders taking an average of 50-60 minutes for a cycle. Heavily soiled loads maybe will take 90 minutes, or loads that I'm washing at high temperatures (bear in mind our washer has to heat from cold to temperature, in aid of supposedly better cleaning with profile washing). The cycles I use last between 0:37 and 1:15... and I'm never waiting around for the laundry. By the time I've left the washer, done a couple of other chores, perhaps have had some lunch or watched some TV, the washer is finished before I know it. As much as I love to watch the laundry swirl round and round, I don't monitor the washer every single minute of every single cycle and so I can't really say I'm fussed about cycle times.

    I'm not biased to any washer - I can't really say much about toploaders because I've been brought up in a country where the frontloader is commonplace, but in all my years I've never walked around in dirty laundry nor have I had any problems with cycle times, pretreating etc. I also don't meticulously sort loads, (though of course I still wash delicate loads on delicates, woollens on woollens but any normal person with a hint of common sense do that with ANY washer), and I've never had excessive fabric wear if any.

    And never, I repeat never, have I ever had to rewash a load because it hasn't cleaned properly. (Yes, I have rewashed laundry before, but that has only been once or twice when damp laundry has been left sitting in a basket for too long).

    Jon

  • looser
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Great post Jon. I agree with you on just about everything you said. However, I have to admit that there are a few stains that I did have to pretreat to get them clean even in a FL. I don't think that it is too much effort to do it and I definitely have to do it more using a cheap TL. Stains like baby poop (sorry, but they manage to miss the diapers occasionally), tomato sauce, coffee with milk, grease and so on are much easier to get out using a little pre-treatment. It doesn't take long to spray or rub it on. The "Tide-to-go" pens (not sure if they have those things in Europe yet) also do a great job.
    I really don't understand why some people find that FLs don't get clothes clean. I bet that a lot of it is just not "believing" that you can get things clean with little amounts of water. Some people are slow to adjust their way of doing things and want to stick to their normal routine.
    Just look at the metric system...it is still not making much progress here even though all the experts and the U.S. government realized that it is a better system! I can't find a logical explanation for that other than that the people just don't want to accept change.

  • asolo
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Reading this thread I'm feeling more and more like the only guy in the world with a washing machine that works. First FL I've ever owned (Duet 9400 bought 27 months ago) and it was a change from decades of experience with traditional TL's. Being unfamiliar, I read the manual and did what it said to do. Everything comes out pretty much perfectly and has from the beginning -- much better cleaning than any previous machine. Tide HE powder. Soft water. Thing works wonderfully and doesn't break. Quiet. Convenient. Efficient. Huge capacity. Gentle cleaning. Saves me time and money. Guests who have used it come away with similar opinions. I don't understand what's going wrong for so many others because their machines are essentially just like mine.

  • julieda14
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thank you curiousshopper for your advice. My Mother who raised 8 children gave me the same advice. She had the LG 2487 in a Florida rental and said it was the worst machine she had ever used. I may just go with the upscale Whirlpool and call it a day.

    Merci,

    JA

  • washer_man
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The thing to remember about front loaders is that all the dirt on your clothes has to go through the holes in the side of the wash tub in order to get properly flushed out. Anything that doesn't pass through these holes gets redeposited back on your clothes.

    Top loaders are different, both HE and non HE types, in that the wash water drains out of big holes or slots in the bottom of the wash tub, and pumping vanes under the agitator / impeller circulates the wash water through these big openings so large chunky soils, and pet hair are flushed out much more easily.

    That's why top loaders ususally do a better job with these types of soils, whereas front loaders perform better with stains that are cleaned better with the higher detergent concentrations you get with low water HE washers.

    This is what makes HE top loaders so interesting, because if the manufactureres can do it right, there's the possibility that HE top loaders could possibly provide the best compromise between soil removal and stain removal.

  • asolo
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    FWIW...the holes in my Duet's drum are pretty much the same size as those in my mother's 15-year-old Maytag TL. I think your thesis is in error.

  • washer_man
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You can't see the holes I'm talking about because they are underneath the agitator. In most cases they are about 3/4" or so in diameter.
    The pumping vanes underneath the agitator suck the wash water through large slots in the center of the agitator and push it through large holes in the wash tub underneath the agitator.

    In the case of the Cabrio these holes aren't circular they are actually slots that are about 1/2" wide and 2" long. In the case of a Whirlpool / Kenmore direct drive washer they are 3/4" holes.

  • stbonner
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    For what it's worth, my experience with my new FL has been totally positive. I bought a Bosch Nexxt 500 about three weeks ago, and I am amazed at how clean my clothes are now. I bought the FL because of it's water saving capacity, and I assumed it would clean like my old TL did. Boy was I wrong! My whites are now dazzling white, old set in stains have disappeared from my husband's "garage and fishing" shirts, and my sheets feel like heaven. I am amazed that there is such a difference in cleaning capacity between two types of washing machines. I will never return to a top loading washer again, now that I know what truly clean laundry looks and feels like.

  • stbonner
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I wanted to add I have found that when I overfill the tub my clothes have not gotten as clean as I like. I read so much about how FL machines can do huge loads of laundry that I overfilled my washer a few times in the beginning, with not so great cleaning results. Is it possible that you are trying to do too many clothes in one wash?

  • jcrowley99
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    When I briefly owned a FLer I was shocked to find that it did not hold much more than my old TLer. After all I had heard about how much you can put in one it was a bit of a disappointment. I suppose if you had owned a very small TLer before it would seem like a lot. It probably is very easy to over fill a FLer since most people have heard about how much they can hold. It might be worth a try to put smaller loads in and see if that works better.

    Thanks for the washer info washerman. I did notice that the FLer did not rinse rabbit hair as well as my old TLer. I wondered why, especially after I exchanged the FLer for the Cabrio. It does an even better job of removing things like rabbit hair than my old TLer, but uses less water; so I figured it was not water volume causing the difference.

  • aquarius2101
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Again, your mileage may vary, but I always fill the tub to capacity in my washer and I don't have trouble with cleaning or rinsing.

    Funnily enough, my washer is a Miele with honeycomb drum and micro-holes, and I don't have any problem at all with sediment or hair left behind in the drum or on the laundry.

    I think those that are having problems with frontloaders must be misusing them in some way or another, I must state that all these "problems" with frontloaders are more or less unheard of across Europe where they are commonplace.

    Yes, you do get crap brands of frontloaders which produce abysmal machines as you probably do with toploaders (some cheap brands of frontloaders here are dismal compared to better models), so it is also unfair to brand all frontloaders as "crap" if someone has only had the experience with the one brand for a short amount of time.

    (It's funny to read that the some of the few people who had problems, only owned them "briefly", hence didn't take the time to find out what they were doing wrong and rectify their problem).

  • janiceme
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If I had the space (my laundry closet isn't deep enough). I would definitely buy a GE Harmony. I have had Bosch Axxis for over 2 years and while I can appreciate the level of engineering, I agree with curioushopper's post about the world of FL washers -- ho, hum -- and here I am still reading posts looking for answers.

    My daughter bought a Harmony last year and loves it. I used it when I was visiting her. It passed what I called an "acid test" -- large chocolate stain on front of my all-cotton pink turtleneck. Without any pretreating, I tossed it into the Harmony by itself and set the program for "chocolate stain." It came out perfectly clean and not wrinkled. This is something I would not trust my Axxis to do without a lot of extra work on my part.

    Since I only know the Axxis, I can't compare it to larger FLs, but I am impressed with the Harmony.

  • luvmylg
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I am truly amazed at some of the comments here! "Front loaders w/small holes", "Hour+ averages for wash cycles". I will not criticize anyone's experience other than the two "evangelical top loader zealots"!!!!
    I am not that knowledgeable about hard water vs. softwater, but I live in Raleigh NC and I have a FL (LG2487) traded in my 2277 (wanted more features). I use Gain and Tide HE and believe or not, I have had good success w/Purex HE.
    I have been amazed at the cleaning ability of my washer in light of the fact that the water usage is so much smaller in comparison to TL's. Generally I use the "Normal" cycle which is 55 mins. I have a very active 7y.o. daughter, I work out 3+ times a week, cut the grass and other yard work. Never need to pre-treat. My only knock is that not all comforters can be washed. We have a king sized comforter in the guest room and I had to almost force the door shut to get it in. I used the "water plus" and "extra rinse" and I was not pleased with it being clean enough. But that goes to common sense after the fact because the item was so big it could not tumble so naturally it would not be clean. Trial and error.
    Just to echo some of the earlier comments; as much as I like Gain I hear it is not the best for tough stains. Don't overfill the washer. Please for God's sake....use warm water to wash.
    Despite what the "Front Loader Haters" say I always and you should too, close zippers and button shirts. I cant tell you how many bra's my wife has lost to the center agitator in the traditional tl's. We started using a pantyhose washer bag for her bras. My washing habits have not changed from using the TL to the FL. They are wonderful machines.
    I digress for minute because I think we as consumers have given up a great deal of power to these manufacturers. I have seen a great deal of horror stories from folks here dealing with all the major brands. These machines cost toooooo much money to be malfunctioning within 7-8 months and then having to haggle with companies to get them working as they should!
    LG, Miele, GE, Whirlpool, Maytag, Bosch etc. needs to recognize and understand that this type of practice CANNOT be condoned!!!

  • tcake
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Has any one elected to return your HE washing machine? Did you see a saving on your electric or water bills?

  • jimtew
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I did all of the typical Internet research before replacing my twelve year old Sears top loading washer and matching dryer. I was tired of a dryer that took twice as long as the washer to complete a cycle---laundry room backup. I had heard all sorts of rumors about the front loaders not getting clothes clean, bad smelling clothes, mold, mildew, repair issues and so on.

    After narrowing it down to LG, Whirlpool and Bosch, I went with the Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer in the 9200 series. In that brand we are talking a level below the top price point. I am confident that Bosch and LG make fine machines. LG Electronics, a South Korean company has been making front loading washers for decades. Front loaders are typical in the rest of the world---only in America do we see so many top loaders. Remember: the very first automatic washers were front loaders.

    The more you pay, the more cycles and features you get. There is a point of diminishing returns not to mention the fact that more gadgets can mean more things to go wrong. One name manufacturer has a dispenser system which you fill with detergent and bleach and it dispenses the stuff through multiple loads. A technician who services that brand informed me that the feature is---from a repair call perspective---a weak link in an otherwise fine piece of equipment.

    After decades of doing so, we all think we know how to wash clothes. The most important thing I can recommend is to READ THE OPERATORS MANUAL! Secondly, do some research and if the sales person doesnt seem to know what he is talking about, go somewhere else. Ask whoever you buy from if they actually set up the machines or just drop them off in your laundry room. If they dont level the machines, hand them a level and make sure they do so, which leads me to vibration.

    These machines spin at a very high RPM; 1,000 RPM is very typical while the top of the line LG machines (Tromm) spin at 1,320 which is why the clothes come out nearly dry and dry so quickly in the dryer. Mounted on a concrete floor or modern trussed floor, leveled, spaced a couple of inches apart and without the pedestals, the vibration during the spin cycle will not be an issue---these machines are remarkably quiet. Each variable you add will increase vibration. On solid flooring even with the pedestals if all else is equal, the noise and vibration factor should still be less than typical top loaders. However, on wood flooring, on a upper story in an older structure with an unbalanced load, on pedestals, unleveled and too close together---the darn thing is going too shake the house. Several manufacturers make machines specifically for upper stories with lower spin speeds.

    HE detergent is not an option---it is a mandate! Simply using less regular detergent doesnt work. In fact, if you read the HE detergent label it indicates that you should use barely a quarter to a third of a cap for normal loads. A friend who services appliances told me to use even less than the detergent maker recommends. More detergent will not get your clothes cleaner in a front loader. Suds from conventional detergents will ultimately screw up the machine, not get your clothes clean and drastically extend the wash cycle and your energy usage because the machine has to enter a SUD cycle to get rid of the excess suds. If you use the minimum recommended detergent for most loads the HE is not more expensive than convention detergent of the same brand---it may well end up being less expensive. Cheer, Gain and Tide are all available in HE and more are being added.

    Many service techs recommend powdered HE detergent over the liquids and claim that powders dont leave the film that most liquids do---which forms a basis for mold growth. I cant personally attest to it but it seems to make some sense. If you use powder, you can add Borateam or Oxyclean to the dispenser with the powdered detergent. If you stick with the liquids, any powdered additives should be placed in the bottom of the drum before adding the clothes.

    Throw away your fabric softener! It gunks up machines worse than any other additive---it has wax in it for gosh sake! It makes towels less absorbent. It leaves a film on the outer drum that you can get to to clean. If you have hard water, consider buying Calgon Water Softener available in the supermarket and adding it to the rinse water. You might also consider adding some 20 Mule Team Borax or Borateam either with the detergent if you use a powder or in the bottom of the drum if you use a liquid detergent.

    Front loaders have to seal completely or the water will leak out---unlike top loaders. That means that the interior stays damp after you close the door. Leaving the door ajar for an hour or so after you remove the load will help it dry out completely---leaving it cracked open all the time makes even more sense. Consider keeping a spray bottle of something like Sams Clubs OdoBan and a rag next to the washer and wipe off the seal periodically---to include underneath and the front lip which faces inward. If your machine has a machine cleaning cycle, run it as recommended. The newer machines tend to have this cycle and it specifically jets water around and under the seal to clean and sanitize it thoroughly.

    If you start getting excessively long wash cycles or fault codes, it is possible that someone didnt empty their pockets and something is clogging the pump filter which also tend to preclude complete drainage and add to the potential mold and mildew issue. If you are going to spend two to three grand for a washer dryer pair, seriously consider a service contract---$120/unit for five years in my case but you can often negotiate these down with the salesman.

    The average service call to clean out that filter is $115. If you are handy and confident, you can unplug the machine, remove three torq or hex screws on a bottom panel and do this task in a couple of minutes. I would not buy any brand in which this pump filter is not "reasonably" accessible. If you have a service contract, then they will handle the task but you may have a deductible.

    Very cold water doesnt wash clothes very well; at 60 degrees Fahrenheit and below, detergents just dont emulsify as they should. Many front loaders have an internal water heater so that even if you select cold wash, it will heat the water just enough to make it work with detergent. This is a very valuable feature in ensuring proper detergent dispersion and helping prevent mildew.

    The typical front loader uses a quarter of the water that a top loader does. If you are using cold water to save money, youve already save 75% of the cost of heating water for a load. Warm water will always wash better than cold.

    Mold and mildew: if you leave a wet load of clothes in a front loader overnight or all day while you are at work, you are asking for mildew problems. Its a sealed container; unless the clothes have been sterilized or at least sanitized, the drum---and clothes---will grow mold and mildew. Use the delayed wash feature available on many machines---most will tell approximately how long the cycle will take---so that the wash cycle ends right before you leave the house or come home.

    Follow the recommendations in the manual for proper loading and mixing of items. Put your baby socks and thongs in mesh bags---they end up in the pump filter too easily. As with any washer, full loads are preferable but front loaders dont typically handle very small loads as well as top loaders. If you need to do a small load, consider throwing in a couple of those designer towels that have been hanging in the bathroom for who knows how long. If your family insists on throwing their wet towels on the floor or shoving them in the bottom of a hamper, you are going to start with mold and mildew problems. Molds, yeasts and mildews are very hard to get rid of once they start to grow. Short of very hot water and chorine bleach---over multiple cycles---you are fighting a lost cause.

    Are front loaders "harder" on clothes than top loader/agitator machines? The opposite should be true. One measure of how much of a beating your laundry is taking is the amount of lint that collects in the dryer lint filter when you wash a relatively new, predominantly cotton item. Occasionally I buy 100% cotton rags (terry) to use around the house and in the garage. I always wash them thoroughly before I use them to get all of the starch and chemicals out. Two dozen of these relatively low end, imported rags used to throw of so much lint after a full cycle in my top loader that I had to clean the lint filter several times during the initial drying cycle. The first time I did a load of new rags in the front loader I was astounded at how little lint buildup there was.

    I used to be in the hospital bedding and apparel business and have visited numerous fabric mills---you dont even want to know what it takes, chemical wise, to produce a sheet, towel or item of apparel. You really want to get that stuff out of the fabric before it touches your body.

    I digress---back to the smelly towels and such. You can try Oxyclean, OdoBan or Borateam---or all three---but on fancy, designer towels you probably wont be willing to risk either Chlorine bleach or super heated water. Drying them occasionally outside in the bright sun helps. Using soft water or a liquid water softener (Calgon ) may help. Getting all of the fabric softener residue out of the towels will certainly help. Drying them completely is essential, particularly with heavy towels. If your towels are smelly indicating the existence of mold, yeast or mildew, you may not notice it when you take them out of the dryer but probably will the first time you use them and get them damp. It is easier to prevent the mold and such than it is to eliminate it. If youve already got it, it will probably take several cycles to get rid of it.

    Another approach might be to explain to family and guests that the designer towels are just for show. Go to Costco or Sams and buy pure white, hotel grade towels, bathmats and washcloths. Theyre really not expensive---and they are made to be washed in institutional laundries at very high temperature with both peroxide and chlorine based bleaches at high concentrations. Run them through the washer on the highest temperature possible, often called a sanitize setting.

    Washer technology had improved dramatically in the last decade---dryer technology really hasnt changed much. If you have gas, consider using it instead of electric; the dryers cost fifty to a hundred dollars more but in many---not all---parts of the country gas is cheaper than electricity so you will recoup the difference fairly quickly. You should be able to get information from your utility company, from a local appliance service or on line regarding the cost differential. If you live in an area where electricity is produced using coal, than electric may be break even or even cheaper. If you live in the southwest or Texas, natural gas is generally more cost effective.

    A couple of companies make hybrids---top loading without the agitator---but there seem to be issues with those machines either in design---or in the fact that people dont know how to use them.

    In summary, assuming you can reeducate your family, the most important things you can do to prevent mold and mildew in a front loader and the resulting smelly clothes are:

    Read the manual.
    Leave the door ajar long enough for the drum to air out or anytime the washer is idle.
    Use HE detergent only.
    Stop using fabric softener.
    Run the machine cleaning cycle as recommended. If your machine doesnt have one, run a regular cycle with hot water and bleach---no detergent---periodically, at least once a month or more often if you do a lot of laundry.
    Dont leave wet clothes in the washer all day or all night.
    Follow the loading recommendations.
    If you have hard water and dont want to/cant install a water softener try using Calgon , Borateam or even baking soda in the wash water.
    Vinegar (white, pretty cheap by the gallon) can be an effective fungicide but its going to take more than a tablespoon; try it instead of softener in the rinse cycle.

    Havent tried the idea of using some powdered, enzyme based dishwashing detergent to clean the front loading washer but it makes sense. I called my friend who services all sorts of appliances and he indicated that he even recommends it even though the manual doesnt. There is also a commercial product available on line at www.smellywasher.com that many repair techs seem to endorse.

    By the way, if you prefer scent free HE detergent I know Tide has one---not sure who else does.

    We love our Whirlpool Duet front loader washer and dryer. Laundry room backup is a thing of the past. Comforters that used to take two hours to dry are dry in under thirty minutes. The clothes are really clean. Our electric bill has gone down. There is less lint in the dryer vent---because the clothes arent getting as beat up as they did by that center agitator on a conventional top loader. They are both remarkably quiet but making the switch requires some reeducation.

    When I read complaints from people who wont read the manual, wont allow the drum to dry after each use, refuse to use the right detergent and cant be bothered to perform a few seconds of preventative cleaning and maintenance, I throw up my hands in frustration. If that is you---dont buy a front loader!

    I dont want to sound like a commercial but no matter what other detergents I try---because they are on sale or whatever---I always end up back with what my mother and grand mother used---Tide. I made the switch to liquids a few years---smaller package, easier to measure, less spillage but also too easy to use too much!

    Based on what I have read and heard from several appliance techs, Im switching back to powder because I believe it works better in front loaders and cause far less film buildup than liquid. Also you can add powdered additives---Borax, Oxyclean, washing soda, baking soda---with them in the dispenser.

  • kenmorewasher
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Very well said JimTew!

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