Is it time to buy a new clothes washer?

We have had our fancy front-loading Frigidaire clothes washer for almost as long as we’ve been in this house, well over a decade.  (It took a couple months to save up to buy nice appliances, so we spent some time going to the laundromat after moving here rather than buying the cheapest models right away.)

Throughout this time, DH has replaced the electronic board, the motor, the door handle, and I’m probably forgetting what else.

Most recently the washer developed an internal leak which we discovered this summer after getting back from a week long conference/vacation and finding the drum partly full of water.  DH replaced the internal part that the leak likely sprung from, but the occasional load of laundry still smells musty.*  Worse than that, I appear to be heavily allergic to whatever is causing the must smell– I develop instant hives, particularly on my stomach area, and lately have been fearful of putting on clothing.  Our first step was to follow online instructions for cleaning and we did a hot vinegar load.  Then we did a hot bleach load.  Then DH did a deep clean of every part of the washer that didn’t involve taking it apart (likely the problem is something yucky still underneath the drum).  Most loads now are fine, especially when I also add vinegar in the fabric softener/bleach inputs.  But there are enough occasional loads that are somewhat off that I currently have ugly looking red marks where my pants hit my stomach.

DH’s final attempt was to do a load with an industrial solvent called CLR (for Calcium, Lime, and Rust).  Since then I’ve been able to wear clothing that’s been washed, but I’m (understandably, I think) still worried.  Plus the clothes washer itself still doesn’t smell great all the time.  (I wonder if we should suspect another leak…)

Now, DH could take apart the entire clothes washer and give it a thorough internal scrub… but it would eat up a weekend and who knows what the next thing to break will be.  (We could also pay someone to clean it, but I suspect a repair person would just tell us to get a new machine.)

I am really tempted to just get a new machine.  DH had decided if the CLR load didn’t result in wearable shirts for me that he would buy a new one over the weekend while I was gone at a conference.  But then I was fine with the next load.  So now we’re undecided.  Figuring out what front-loading washer to buy next is going to be a pain.  None of the “best of” lists seem to agree with each other, and I think we probably *don’t* want a smart model because I am willing to be that will be the part that breaks first while being non-trivial to repair.  But who knows, maybe we do?

We still have our ancient refrigerator.

How do you decide to get new appliances like washing machines?  If you can afford it, is removing potential emotional distress a viable reason?  (But what about the potential distress from potentially buying an expensive new lemon?)

*Between loads we leave all the doors open to air out, and always have.  We’ve been using best practices to avoid must problems.  DH reads the manual to whatever new appliance we get and follows it.

36 Responses to “Is it time to buy a new clothes washer?”

  1. becca Says:

    Over the weekend there was a twitter link to a scientific article where they blamed newer high efficiency models for the transmission of Klebsiella in a NICU. I think it’s skewing my read on this issue.
    (for the record- NICU babies will never be carbon neutral. We should accept that and cut elsewhere.)

    We add bleach to every load. Only a little to colors. There are some clothes with dyes that look terrible with this. Weak clothes that require pampering do not live in our home.

    That said, as a (among other things) biofilm microbiologist… you simply are not going to get rid of some microbes once they are there. I mean, you could hope the biofilm is hiding in the washer and not in the washer-pipe connections, and thus will be gone when you change out the machine, but there’s no complete guarantee.

    However, the shopping problem for washer/dryers is real. They are making them differently than they used to, and a good chunk of people will simply never like e.g. having to keep their door ajar. They are much more complex than they used to be. We have a 20 year old gas dryer and it broke, so I dutifully went on Consumer Reports and Bogleheads but got so overwhelmed with Opinions that were not reflective of my priorities and reviews from people with less than 1 year old machines that I ended up on Youtube repair videos and fixed my dyer. I got tired of hanging clothes out to dry after like 2 loads. I am so spoiled these days. I’m very proud of my Youtube video watching skills, but I would like a nicer washer/dryer. The thought of paying Trump Tax on them and doing the shopping has kept me off though.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      So overwhelming! And we paid the $10 for consumer reports for the month and they really don’t match at all what any of the other review sites were choosing and they don’t give much detailed information. And yes, I do not CARE how well the bluetooth works because I don’t want my washer to use bluetooth! But people care.

      I do wonder if some of this problem could be stemming from the whole house filter filtering out the chlorine that used to be in our house water.

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I tried baking soda and H202 this weekend as well.

  3. rose Says:

    I think you are facing the new machine problem. I am very very sorry. Is a top loader impossible in your laundry area? At least it sounds like the cost of a new machine is doable in your household. Very best wishes and real sympathy for needing to solve this problem. Please share your research on appliances and options.
    Becca: IF it is/could be in washer-pipe connection is there anything that could be tried while old machine is disconnected to reduce that terrible possibility? (the idea is awful but not imaginary.)

  4. xykademiqz Says:

    Just buy a new machine.

      • Cloud Says:

        We’ve had our Bosch for 12 years and (knocks furiously on wood) haven’t had to repair it once. It did get a musty smell one time, but we bought some stinky washer cleaner and run an empty load with that now and then and it seems fine. It is smart but not overly so – it detects whether it needs extra rinse time and has several different settings (including an extra sanitary that is useful if anyone in the house gets norovirus or some other stomach bug) but it is pretty intuitive.

        It being a Bosch, it is energy and water efficient and while I don’t love it with the passion with which I love my Bosch dishwasher, it is a pretty good washing machine. And it outlasted the dishwasher.

      • xykademiqz Says:

        *walks to the bathroom to check* We have front-loading washer and dryer, 12 yrs old, both Kenmore Elite smart wash QuietPack9. Washer model is 110 45091 401. I don’t think they make it anymore, but I am sure there’s something similar. I think Kenmore front-loaders are made by LG.

        Good luck!

  5. Abigail Says:

    Definitely time to buy a new machine. You shouldn’t live in fear of clean clothing. (Or any clothing, I suppose.)

    I should probably eventually replace my current units, but I’m tempted to wait until they die. They’re about 13 years old, so they could have a year (or less left) or could have the better part of a decade. It’s hard to say, which makes me reluctant to replace them. Besides, the longer I wait, the more I build up money in my washer/dryer fund. Which is at around $1,200. That’s not enough for both units, I’m sure, so why not keep socking away the money? Or so my frugal brain tells me. Who knows if it’s the logical part of my brain as well, though.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If it’s just age that makes units replaceable, then our washer and dryer are both teenagers. But I do worry that new stuff isn’t necessarily as carefully made as old stuff that has lasted. That’s one of the reasons we’ve held on to our fridge so long– we keep hearing horror stories about new fridges breaking down.

      Though our washer has definitely not been a no-repairs kind of appliance– DH has just been really good at fixing it (with the yelp of youtube videos). Most people probably would have thrown in the towel back when the electrical board needed to be replaced (DH is an electrical engineer so was able to diagnose the problem). I almost gave up when the door handle broke most recently.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    It’s the season of replacing washing machines. You’re the third one this month to bring it up and I’ve been ignoring our leaking machine for a while because I can’t figure out how to fix it. For a while it was leaving gross spots on our clothes. I cleaned the seal as well as I could but the leaking is still a problem and I know there’s a rust issue too.

    We ALWAYS leave our door ajar between washes, we don’t use a lot of detergent, and do the usual maintenance but I think we really are looking at new appliance time in about a year. I’m not thrilled about it but these models are eleven years old so maybe we’ve gotten the most out of them…

    I just keep hanging on because I do NOT want to have go shopping for new models :/

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s no fun at all!

      If all the review sites would agree and explain the pros and cons it would be a lot easier, but instead it’s like everyone loves this (extremely expensive) Electrolux, except the 20% of people hate it because it sucks. But consumer reports says to buy this LG thing that lots of other sites don’t even review. And there are SO many similar but slightly different model numbers! etc. etc. etc.

  7. accm Says:

    I’ve been happy with two successive LG machines (different homes). The gasket does get slimy and smelly (which I should deal with more often…), but the clothes come out clean regardless.

  8. Michael N Nitabach Says:

    Dunno if they still make them, but we’ve had our Maytag Neptune front-loader for fifteen years, never had a single problem. And the gasket never gets any mold or must at all.

  9. bookishbiker Says:

    Can you afford it? yes. Are you suffering unduly now? yes. Is it time to get a new washer? yes.

    Which one? Can you find out who has the best service reputation? Get that one. I don’t know about washers, for a dishwasher I’d go to with Bosch hands down. I’ve had my LG washer for 6+ years and it’s been fine but I’m a low-stress user (one load per week or so). Wirecutter likes LG, so go with that one and be done with the painful decision point!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, technically right *now* I’m not suffering unduly. Right now I’m wearing clothes we laundered yesterday and nothing itches.

      Consumer reports says LG has the best service history, but there are some complaints about how their service isn’t great when you do need it. But I don’t know that anything else is better. So…

      • bookishbiker Says:

        I’m glad you’re not suffering this very second!! This all sounds very difficult and odd. You know you could have gold-plated service and someone would still complain, humans being what they are. Good luck with this!!

    • bookishbiker Says:

      I don’t think there’s any way to test the theory that it’s not the machine, it’s the water, aside from getting a new machine. And it sounds like it really is time for that in either case!

  10. Cloud Says:

    I think my comment just disappeared? Apologies if this is a repeat but… We bought a Bosch washer and dryer when we moved into our house ~12 years ago. We have not had to repair either. We had a musty smell issue awhile back, but bought some smelly washer cleaner and run an empty load with that every now and then and it is fine.

    It is smart in that it detects if it needs another rinse cycle, but not annoyingly so. I really like the hand wash setting. I don’t do any actual hand wash anymore. I also like the extra sanitary setting for when someone in the house gets norovirus or some other stomach bug.

    It being a Bosch, it is energy and water efficient. I don’t love it with the same passion with which I love my Bosch dishwasher, but it outlasted my first Bosch dishwasher and is still going strong.

    If it helps, we typically run 5-6 regular loads/week + 1 delicate and 1 hand wash.

  11. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    We got a HE top loading Samsung (mostly because it was in stock and fit in the laundry room, which front loaders won’t) and I quite like it. I’d ordered two something elses (whatever CR recommended that would fit and had reviews that were not “breaks immediately” , I definitely satisficed) but there were tragic delivery failures.

    I would call my washer giving me intermittent health problems more than inconvenient! Mine just stopped working intermittently. I vote for making your lives more comfortable by buying new washer!

    As a former fungal biologist, I endorse becca’s comment that your biofilm is not ever going away,.especially in the South!

  12. SP Says:

    I bought one last year in a not-so-logical nesting attempt. We had a “laundry closet” unit with a top loader washer. The washer was loud and\ couldn’t do very large loads. The dryer had 2 settings, one that never got things dry and one that felt like it was just cool enough not to start my sheets on fire. So, we “needed” a new one. For the baby.

    Anyway. We went with the wire cutter LG reccomendation and are happy with it, but it has only been one year, and you said it is discontinued. We satisficed here. The worst case scenario is that you buy a washer you are less than thrilled with that doesn’t last very long, and you have to buy a new one. That is very annoying, but financially, it won’t make much difference to you. So, keep that in mind! (Actually, the worst case scenario seems to be the biofilm is not helped by a new washer!)

  13. Matthew D Healy Says:

    I have no expertise on washing machines to offer, but I do have professional expertise in the fields of Microbiology and Biotechnology. If your washing machine has a biofilm of something that makes you allergic, be aware that cleaning out biofilms is incredibly difficult. MANY pharmaceutical companies have had to replace machines costing orders of magnitude more than domestic laundry machines because despite having access to methods not available to consumers they were unable to remove microbial contamination. I know of cases where microbial contamination ended up costing many millions of dollars to clean up. Of course, this is in a world where even tiny amounts of microbial contamination will mean the FDA orders pills be incinerated…

  14. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Speaking of biofilms, DH just texted me this:

    “I think I got a little bit o algaecide in my eye. So I rinsed it well. Now my eye is all irritated…probably just from the rinsing but it is annoying.

    “It was dilute, and I’m not actually sure any got in my eye, but I was being careful.

    “On the upside, our kitchen faucet is pretty good at flushing eyes.”

  15. We bought a new clothes washer | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] decided it was time to get a new clothes washer because we couldn’t get the mustiness out of the old one (and did not want to spend a weekend taking it apart and putting it back together).  Instead, we […]

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