Chapter One: Care and Control of the Washing Machine
How difficult can it be? You add water and detergent, drop in the clothes, select the cycle and walk away. When you come back the clothes are clean. Okay...but have you ever considered how clean your washing machine is after all that hard water and all those dirty clothes?
Your washer needs some TLC from time to time, especially if you have hard water in your area. So if the clothes seem dull and gray, maybe you don't need that new and improved detergent. Maybe all you need to do is clean the washing machine. Here's the easiest way I know.
Fill the washer with hot water. Add 1 quart of chlorine bleach (no detergent, please). Run the washer through the longest wash cycle. When the washer is still wet -- this should be immediately after the bleach cycle -- add 1 quart of white vinegar and run the washer through the same cycle again. This will clean out soap scum and mineral deposits from the spin basket and also from the hoses. If you live in an area with hard water you really need to do this every three months -- otherwise, every six months will do. You'll be amazed at the difference it will make.
If you start to notice little brown, rusty-looking spots on clothes when they come out of the washing machine, well, it probably is rust! Look your spin basket over carefully when this occurs, and check for any chips in the finish. Chipped areas rust and transfer to clothes, and the only way to remedy this problem is to replace the spin basket. Check with your appliance dealer and be sure to get the right basket for your machine. And a word of caution: Take care when using detergent balls or fabric softener balls. They can chip the spin basket with their weight.
For information on removing rust stains from clothes, turn to the spotting section. It's easier than you think.
Quick Clean Method
When you don't have time to give your machine a really thorough clean, just fill the washer with hot water and pour in 1 gallon of white vinegar. Run through the entire wash cycle.
Cleaning the Fabric Softener Dispenser
Clean the automatic fabric softener dispenser every month to 6 weeks to keep it working well and to prevent it from leaving softener stains on clothes. (Liquid softener can leave blue spots on clothes; marks from dryer sheets can look like small grease patches.) To clean the dispenser you first must warm 1 cup of white vinegar (I use the microwave), and pour it into the dispenser as you would softener. Make sure you use warm vinegar, and make sure you do this when the washer is empty. Large pieces of sticky fabric softener will occasionally be flushed out during cleaning, and they could adhere to clothes. Not a pretty sight. I suggest cleaning the fabric softener dispenser when you are cleaning the machine with one of the methods recommended in this chapter.
Cleaning the Bleach Dispenser
It is equally important to keep the bleach dispenser clean. Clean any removable parts by washing with hot water and dishwashing liquid. When you clean the washer with white vinegar, be sure to add some to the bleach dispenser too.
Use less detergent and you will have less soap buildup on
clothes and in the washing machine. Use 1/2 cup of Arm and
Hammer Washing Soda™ -- and about half the amount of detergent
you would usually use. Adjust this formula by increasing or decreasing detergent per your individual needs.
Tips on Buying and Placing a New Washing Machine
If you don't have space for a washer and dryer to sit next to each other, remember that you can buy some very efficient stackable units. Just make sure to measure the area before you buy.
A front-loading washer is definitely a space saver -- the top makes a great work space for spotting clothes. You'll need to protect the top of the washer if you are going to work off it, though. A plastic breadboard is ideal.
Another good feature of front-loading washers is the way they tumble clothes. They generally tumble clothes the way a dryer does, and that's gentler on fabric than agitating. It is also less wobbly when spinning. The downside is that front-loaders generally have a smaller capacity than toploaders, and they're usually not as good at cleaning heavy, ground-in dirt.
There are many top loaders to choose from. Consider your needs carefully. You may want an extra-large capacity washer if you wash large loads of towels and sheets, but do make sure you don't overbuy. It's a waste of money to buy bells and whistles you don't need -- and there's more to go wrong, too!
Give your washing machine plenty of room to vibrate. Allow an inch of space all the way around the machine.
To keep the exterior of your washer and dryer clean and shiny, make sure you apply a coat of Clean Shield® (formerly Invisible Shield®) as soon as you buy your machine. This will put an invisible nonstick finish on the surface that will keep it looking like new. Water will bead up and wipe off, as will detergent and spotters. Re-apply as needed.
Important: If your washer's power cord does not reach the outlet, have the outlet moved or the power cord replaced with a longer one. Absolutely never use an extension cord between the washer's power cord and the outlet. If water touches the connection between the extension cord and the power cord, you could be electrocuted.
Do not install your washer in an unheated garage or utility room. Water that is trapped inside can freeze and severely damage the machine.
One last installation tip: If you are installing a washing machine in a vacation home that is not heated during cold weather, have it drained completely by an appliance service technician before shutting up the home for the winter. Again, trapped water can freeze and damage the machine.
If I can leave you with a final piece of advice concerning washing machines it would be this: NEVER leave home when the washing machine is running. It only takes seconds for a hose to break or a malfunction to occur and that can cause damage and flooding in your home. I cannot tell you how many water damage cleanups we did when I owned my cleaning and disaster restoration company in Michigan. The amount of water that can pour from a small hose is unbelievable. So is the damage that can be done -- not only to things that can be cleaned or replaced but also to precious treasures that can never be saved. It's heartbreaking.
Copyright © 2001 by Linda Cobb