Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Much ado about washing machines

Remember when I said Paul Curreri borrowed Jon's old motorcycle for a music video?  Here it is.  "A four-cylinder roman candle"--that about sums it up.

The "poor little motorbike" is for sale!  A bargain at $800, which is, coincidentally, the same price as a new washing machine.

Speaking of washing machines. If you are my friend on facebook, you may have noticed all my whining about my washing machine. I made a fuss, it's true, but it really does suck to start a load of laundry and then sit down at your desk and see water dripping from the ceiling. Envisioning holes in the ceiling, four-figure plumber's bills, weekends patching drywall, I may have sounded a little panicky when describing the catastrophe to our plumber. He was all, "Whoa, Nellie. Don't start swinging the sledge hammer until I can get over there and assess the situation." He diagnosed a rotten washing machine. Our washer is eighteen years old and I knew that it didn't have an unlimited lifespan but was distressing to see it go in such a dramatic and sudden way.

My mom bought it for me when Brigid was an infant, and it was state of the art, for 1993. Before that, we had no washer or dryer, and I had two infants in cloth diapers. We lived in an old, old, second floor flat in Kalamazoo, Michigan and at least twice a week, I would drag the two babies (or, at first, one baby plus my pregnant self), the diaper pail and the family laundry to the laundromat. Once the laundry was done, I would have to carry it all out of the laundromat to the car, and at home, out of the car, across the yard and up the stairs to our apartment--over several trips. I did that for a year and a half. Disposable diapers? Please. Even if I didn't consider them the most disgusting invention of the twentieth century, we couldn't afford them. Anyway, we moved to Buffalo and my kind mother bought us a washer and dryer and for eighteen years, I haven't stopped feeling grateful or aware of what a luxury it is to just toss your dirty clothes into a machine and walk away.

We picked up the new washer Monday. It is a high efficiency machine, and I am so excited about it. I've been acutely aware of the huge amounts of water my old machine used ever since the big drought of 2003. Remember that one, C'ville people? Remember obsessing about resevoir levels and a certain city councilor--cough Meredith Richards cough-- suggesting seriously that water to all households be shut off and we would have to queue up for a daily water ration at designated water stations?

Washing machine technology has changed a LOT in eighteen years. I've never been intimidated by a washing machine before (except one time in a laundromat in Rome). We have to use new, special soap. It's expensive, but a tiny amount washes an entire load. There's no more central agitating pole. There are twelve cycles to chose from including cycles for baby wear, "sports clothes," and wool. There's a specially enhanced cold water wash. Seamus and I tossed in some clothes, added soap to the dispenser, closed the lid and turned it on--another plus, no more need to wait for the machine to fill before adding clothes. The tub whirled thoughfully. It shook from side to side. It whirled in the opposite direction. The floor of the tub did its own, independent vibration, tossing the clothes into the air a few inches. Seamus and I both peered down through the glass lid in order to see what it would do next. How utterly charming that it occurred to someone that people might want to watch the workings of the machine. It seems totally frivolous, but I realized it's the only way customers can see for themselves that they're using less water. The machine finished "sensing" the load and the tub began to fill with water. From eyeballing it, I would say the new washer uses half the water of the old one. I was anxious about the spin cycle, because I had heard these new machines spin with excessive violence. Our old washer vibrated enough to shake my bedroom wall and, more disconcertingly, the ceiling of the room below it. I was half afraid we'd end up with the new washing machine crashing through to the floor below, but it actually vibrates much less than the old one.


  1. I used one of those HE washers at a friend's house and it was unbelievable how clean the clothes were. A dishwasher is a luxury. A washing machine is a necessity. I'm giving my 13-year old water heater the hairy eyeball because I know it's thinking of crapping out soon.

  2. I'm still madly infatuated with my HE washing machine--and it's two years old now. Amazing, aren't they? LOVE the luxury of it--I never ever take that appliance for gratned.

  3. I can understand your delight on getting your first washer. I can still remember my wife and I on our knees beside our bath, washing and squeezing clothes, trying to get them clean (fairly successful) and dry (nope). Our only drying facility wqas an outside clothesline, and in bad weather, bits of string tied across our small main room.
    But we were happy. We were together. But we were even happier when my Grannie bought us a twin-tub washer.

    Enjoy your high-tech wonder. Drudgery is never fun.

  4. Wow, that new washer sounds fabulous. We need to be in the market for one, too. Do you have any recommendations as which one to get?

  5. Hmm . . . You're making me want to buy a new washer. Ours we bought with the house we're in, 13 years ago. It has a large capacity, because the woman we bought the house from had horses and wanted to be able to wash saddle blankets. We have had it repaired once, because the cost of the repair was significantly lower than the cost of a new washer.

    I hadn't heard about these new HE washers; now I have washer-envy :-)

  6. When we got our HE washer a few years ago, one of my girls pulled up a chair and watched the load through the window in the door.

    I'd really like to know what's different about washing a load of sports clothes? A flame cycle to burn off the stench?

  7. Andrea, I didn't spend a lot of time doing research because we needed a new washer in a hurry, but I compared machines and read reviews at several websites and determined that the two brands that everyone seems to like are LG and Samsung. I wouldn't buy a Whirlpool. Then you need to decide if you want front or top loading--we got top loading b/c everybody says the front loaders aren't appropriate for second floor laundries. Plus, reviewers complain that water gets in behind the seal and the washer smell like mold. Then you need to pick your size. Our old one was 3.6 cubic ft, which was the largest size available in 1993, and adequate for a family. I went with a larger 4.5 cubic feet this time, so that I can wash comforters.