27 December 2010

a laundry lamentation: death of a washing machine

The measure of household functionality at our house is laundry.  If we are "caught up" with laundry, it is usually a good sign that everything is going smoothly. You've heard the saying "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"?  At our house, it might be said that "if mama ain't happy, the laundry ain't done". The last three weeks have seen a slow but marked decrease in laundry productivity. I am happy to report that it is because our washer is on the blink instead of Mommy.

At first, it was easy enough to compensate. The washer was occasionally stalling at the end of the wash cycle. It was inconvenient to remember to go out to the garage and advance the dial forward a couple of clicks halfway through the cycle, but not impossible.

The weekend before Christmas, we decided that, come Monday, I should call the repairman.  And I did.  As soon as I remembered- on Wednesday when we reached the multiple intervention stage. Up until this point, we were still managing to get at least 3 or 4 loads done each day.  But when each cycle started needing 3 or 4 interventions, we began falling behind sock by shirt by towel. Our trusty repairman promised to visit first thing today, Monday the 27th.  In the meantime, Mt. Washmore grew quickly.  

I don't know why I bother to call for repairs to washing machines.  Ever.  Dishwashers, refrigerators and dryers seem to be in a different category for us, but I can't remember one single time that it has been worth my time or money to call for a washing machine repair.  This morning was no exception.  The timer needs replaced, pricetag: $200.  It also "sounds like" the bearings are going out, in which case "we recommend replacement". 

There you have it: the death sentence.  I am not going to sink $200 into a dying machine.  It's not like this particular machine and I have a long, sentimental history.  We only go back 2, maybe 2.5 years at most. 

A repairman once told me that the average lifespan of a washing machine is estimated to be 7 years at 7 loads per week which comes out to 2100 loads.  If we wash approximately 30 loads per week, we have used up that allowance in roughly 70 weeks or 1 year 4 months.  If we go with ehow.com's estimation: 400 loads per year for 11 years, we are still using up our load allowance in 2 years 10 months.  Since we usually get at least 2 years and sometimes 3 years from our machines, I feel that we are getting reasonable use out of "they don't build 'em like they used to" machines.  Still, it leaves us in a laundry dilemma far too often. (I would be interested to compare washing machine morbidity and mortality rates with other large families.)
Matilda, our new washer

We've bought new.  We've bought used from dealers on craigslist.  We've bought used from private parties. Used doesn't seem to last as long as new, but since I haven't specifically tracked the usage of each machine, I won't make a definitive ruling.

Here's the approach we are trying this time.  After several hours of online research (reading reviews and comparison shopping),  I bought a scratch-and-dent, new machine plus a 5 year service plan for the cost of the same machine before its scratch-and-dent discount.  (Newsflash: our new machine also qualified for a state residential energy tax credit!) I am hoping that this route will end up being at least as cost effective as buying 2 (or 3) used washers in the same time frame but with less stress.

Since I am planning to be in a long term relationship with this particular washer, I felt she needed a name.  Don't ask me why or how...it just came to me when I was bringing her home; her name is Matilda, and our relationship is off to a great start.  For one thing, she has a "estimated time remaining" screen.  Be still my beating heart!  And her tub is 4.0 cu ft (our last machine had a 3.5 cu ft tub.)  Who knew that half a cubic foot could make such a difference?  WoW!  Even as we speak, she is finishing her first enormous load.  At this rate, we'll be caught up this week tomorrow SOON!


  1. Do you really do 30 loads a week? I think we do 11-12. I have more kids..... lol.

    Glad to hear you have a good machine now! Woo hoo!

  2. 1 pair of socks per week, per kid, period...with a possible exception for Gavin.