Top Load Washer Tips:

-If you have a “non-HE” (non-High-Efficiency) top loader with no electronics (all dials and knobs) made from 1960-2013 you may have a better machine than anything you could ever buy nowadays. See if you have anything like these…

Whirlpool made a great model called “Direct Drive” and it was sold from the 90’s until around 2013-2014 under other names such as Kitchenaid, Roper, Inglis, Kenmore…. (list goes on). This one usually has a spiral, or corkscrew shaped, agitator in the middle of the drum and would stop spinning quickly, by applying the brakes, when you lift the lid during spin, or when the cycle completes.

Frigidaire (aka White Westinghouse, Gibsons, Spacemaster etc) made some good top loaders in the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s which lock the lid during the spin cycle and continue to spin slowly to a stop when the cycle is ending.

The best ones are the Maytag “Dependable Care” series made from the 60’s into the late 90’s and early 2000’s. These are made to last 6 decades (compare that to 7yr lifespan expected from most modern machines today) see the bottom of this page for more info about your wonderful machine.

–Loading and sorting: There are lots of good tips below, some of which are demonstrated in these videos. It won’t take much more time to load properly (unless you are talking through it like I do in these videos)

Loading Washer 1     Loading Washer 2

Never wrap clothing around the agitator in the centre of the washer (unless otherwise directed by manufacturer in use care guide). When the agitator moves back and forth in the wash cycle it can chafe on clothes and make more lint. Where does the lint from your washer go? Clothing damage can be seen in the amount of lint in your dryer. Also if your washer doesn’t have a lint filter that you manually clean, the lint goes down the drain. This is usually safe for both city sewers and septic systems. Remember some fabric wear occurs when we are wearing the clothes.

Always wash similar weights/types of fabrics together. Imagine the difference in weight between a large absorbent cotton bath towel soaked with water and a less absorbent polyester pillowcase. Make sure the clothing is balanced left/right and front/back. Think of the tub as a big deep pie. Put items into “pie-slice” slots. Load them dry (if wet resist the urge to fill the machine too much). Do not stuff or cram the clothing down. If the washer is too full, there’s more rubbing/abrasion on the clothes, which dulls the fabric/colors. So, don’t overload, and use the right amount of water for the load. It is important to allow the clothing to fall in under its own weight and to allow it to move around freely through the water for best cleaning results (heavier items on the bottom).

–A washer working well. (video link) This is what a top load washer looks like when you properly load the clothes. When it is not crammed full of clothes then items can tumble and circulate with the water currents and get much cleaner while avoiding wear and tear created by things rubbing together. The load is balanced so when it goes into spin it doesn’t bang or bounce around.

Never wash odd sized non-clothing items. A number of people break the machine with a bath mat or large blanket etc. If in doubt, take it out (to a Laundromat).

Check your pockets. Use laundry bags. Especially for bras with underwires and anything else that has little metal/plastic pieces that may come loose in there.

How much detergent for each load? Use as little of it as you can get away with! This depends on the hardness of your water and the soil in your clothing. If you live in Vancouver (some of the softest in the world) the soft water requires quite a bit less detergent than hard water yet the more soiled the clothes, the more detergent you need to clean them. See the instructions on the detergent package for specific guidelines. For Vancouverites we can use as little as 1/4 of what is mentioned on the package/scoop. For most top loaders usually 1tbsp-1/4 cup and not much more. If suds/foam stand a couple inches tall and/or cover all across the top of the water or all the way onto the floor, or worse, remain at the end of the cycle, you are using way too much detergent. There is such a thing as too much. This can damage the machine by washing out the bearings. Too much can leave you wearing the patch. Not a nicotine or birth control patch, but a detergent patch (head to toe). That can’t be good for your body. If you, or anyone in your house has a rash or sensitive skin, reduce the amount of detergent used and/or use “extra rinse” feature. Wait up to a month for results. Switch brands if necessary. Look for a small dollop of bubbles on top of the water (~1-3 inches in size) this means you’ve used only a little too much.

–Check the rubber hoses on the back of your washing machine. Are they ten years or older? If so, replace them. If you do not they could burst and cause a flood that goes on and on until someone notices and turns the tap off. The best hoses to get are braided stainless steel hoses. Many come with a warranty to never burst for the life of your appliance. Look for a high “PSI” (Pounds Per Square Inch) rating. You can find one with a 2500 PSI burst strength. This is well above the household pressure, which ranges from 30-70 PSI.

–Lavender Oil: Killing the spores. Some people use 5-6 drops of lavender oil to keep help prevent mould and mildew in the machine and to have the clothes come out smelling clean and fresh. Check with your manufacturer to see if this is acceptable for your machine. There are reports that it may be harmful to plastic plumbing.

–Fabric softeners OK to use? Not really needed in Vancouver…Instead use dryer balls when you place the clothes in the dryer. Also be aware that fabric softeners may not be recommended for some materials. Many high performance fabrics, including microfibers, allow the fabric to breathe and transport moisture away from the skin to the outer surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate. This keeps the wearer dry and comfortable. The “fatty” material in a fabric softener attaches directly to the fabric and makes the fabric feel softer. However, fabric softeners can build up over time, and can reduce the ability of the fabric to manage moisture and breathe. Frequent use of fabric softeners can also reduce the absorbency of cotton towels. Best to try using dryer balls instead (see dryer tips).

Vinegar: Not Just for Pickles: Give your laundry a boost by adding ¼- ½ cup of vinegar to the wash cycle. Vinegar equalizes the pH of your laundry detergent, resulting in cleaner, softer clothes. Put it in where the fabric softener usually goes. This way it is added in the final rinse. Vinegar is used by the people who make your clothes (such as Chloe Angus)

For optimal cleaning results, water temperature must be above 15C (60F). Otherwise the ingredients in most laundry detergent will not activate. In other words, if your water is too cold, your detergent won’t work. Wash your hands under the water; if the water is too cold for your hands, it is likely too cold for your washer. A problem I have been seeing in increasing numbers is flooding caused by cold water washing. The fill mechanism has a small hole, which gets clogged up with soap scum/residue that’s not washed away in the cold water. Make sure your detergent is for cold-water use and make sure you use hot once a week (minimum) to clean out the detergent residue. Also see comments on detergent residue in clothes and it’s effect on your skin and your health.

Always read your care labels. Cotton clothing, as well as some blends, react better to certain temperatures or drying times. You can greatly reduce fabric damage that leads to wrinkling through correct care. Regarding the temperature, follow the care instructions on the garment label.

Manufacturers recommend the following water temperatures:
* Hot water for most white & heavily soiled laundry 49-60C (120-140F)
* Warm water for most other types of fabric 26-40C (80-105F)
* Cold water for bright & lightly soiled laundry 18-24C (65-75F)

The water in your washer’s warm cycle isn’t very warm? The warm water for your washer is simply a mixture of the hot and cold water available from your home. If the hot water entering the machine isn’t very hot, the warm is actually cool. Also, in northern climates, during winter months, the cold water entering the unit may be significantly colder than in the summer, which causes the warm water to be cooler. The water gets cold sitting in the pipes/plumbing. To get a good warm/hot wash in this case you could run the machine to fill first (until water hot enough) then set it to spin or drain to drain out the cold water. Then start filling again. This would be for heavily soiled items. Remember we need thermal energy along with chemical energy (detergent) and mechanical energy (washing action of machine). In some cases, the water inlet valve may be restricted, or there may be sediment on the screen, that blocks the input of the hot water.

Enzyme Cleaners? Enzymes are found in living matter. The types used in laundry products have the ability to breakdown protein type stains, such as vegetable proteins, dairy products and blood. For working on starch enzymes containing amylase are used, protease (used for protein), and lipase (for fats). Usually used to pre-soak or pre-treat. Be sure to check detergent and additive ingredients, because some do contain enzymes.

Old Maytag top loader from 1960s-1990s? If your machine is a Maytag Dependable Care that is great news. That machine was engineered to last 60yrs with wearable parts and seals being replaced but the bulk of the machine left original. I have clients with some from the 60s that still happily hum along. Every now and then they may require a sizeable injection of money, but the money is better spent than buying new as it will last for 3x as long (at least) as the ones they make today (which are no longer actually maytag anymore, just a label). Beware those who may wish to run off with your fine machine. It is popular for anyone who sells used equipment, because of its dependable design they can charge a lot and feel very comfortable giving the machine a long warranty when they sell it. As such I have seen and heard of many people being talked out of fixing it (and sold another machine by the very same people) then they offer to haul away the old machine (so they can have it for themselves or sell it). **If you ever hear any strange noises or have a slower spin (or burning belt smell) I would suggest in your case that you carefully look inside the tub and spin basket in your machine. Lift the lid and look down (with a flashlight). Check every hole for something stuck in it (or maybe stuck behind it). Often when I hear people use the words you did, it means that a screw, nail, bra underwire or some such thing is stuck in the hole and then makes noise when the machine is moving and scraping it around. The other common one is a sock (or something) stuck between the top of the spin basket and the underside of the tub cover. Feel under the lip of the tub cover with your fingers for any fabric item jammed in there. In such a case it could go right over the top and end up behind the basket, in which case you might see it through the holes using a flashlight.