Need new washer...HE or traditional?

My washing machine died last night…20-year old Maytag. This is NOT a week when I have time to research, check all the back issues of Consumer’s Reports, go comparison shopping. So I figured I come to the place with ALL the answers to all of life’s questions. I already know a new washer needs to be Energy-Star rated, a top-loader and under $500. What I don’t know is whether I should switch to HE (High Efficiency) or not. Pros - uses less water. Cons- needs to use more-expensive HE detergent, and the machines are reputed to develop mold and bad odors.

So I turn to the Dope for your recommendations…stick with the traditional type washer with no learning curve, a stash of detergent, and no odor problem, or switch to HE? Just for an added complication, I occasionally use my machine to felt knitting. Can this be done in an HE machine? Tell me about your experiences, good and bad, so I know what questions to ask!

I have an HE and never noticed any odors. Certainly no mold. The detergent is more expensive, but you use very little of it. We use a fraction of the recommended amount and still get perfectly clean clothes (using the recommended amount results in soapy clothes).

No idea about felting.

On a per-use basis, HE detergent isn’t any more expensive than traditional. And you can get rid of your current stash by using only half as much in an HE washer. (You can also get by with a lot less bleach, if you’re a bleach person.)

I have had a problem with musty odors, though. The cheapest, easiest fix is to unplug the unit and leave the door open when you aren’t using it.

We got a GE front loader 3 or 4 years ago. I just asked my wife if she’d get another HE, and she said “no”.

Some of the problems:
It doesn’t clean well.
It doesn’t rinse well enough. It’s a very fine line between not enough soap to maybe get the clothes clean, and too much to rinse all the soap out. May be a negative width line, even with the second rinse always on (which removes some of the “efficiency”). This is after trying different detergents, and much experimentation.
It really makes her mad that the timer is very inaccurate. As in it says it will take an hour, but it takes 2, or it says three minutes left, and it goes another 30.
Once it starts, there’s no way to quickly throw in a sock or something, even if the water hasn’t filled yet.
Half the time, when the wash is done, they are sopping wet. And there’s no spin-only cycle, only a rinse and spin.
And it’s supposed to be gentler on clothes, but it’s rougher than a top loader.

What little I have read about HE units has emphasized to DO NOT use the regular detergent at all, even in reduced amounts, because of the suds-lock issue and warranty issues. I can donate the detergent to the Community Corner. Or my kids. And I regularly leave my old washer’s lid up between uses to dry out…why would I have to unplug it? That might be awkward, given the position of the plug. And we would definitely get a top-loader. Can they be opened after the start, and do they have spin-only? Because I use that a lot when handwashing or shrinking fabric. And an hour per load? That’s crazy! I can do three loads an hour in my current washer…well, I could…

As far as I can tell the HE top loaders are all horrible. There was a recently thread about them and maybe I’m misremembering but it seems to me they were universally denounced.

I use HE front loaders in my building’s laundry room (and have a couple friends with various HE front loaders) and they work very well. There is also a non-HE top loader (Maytag) in the same room so I have often compared results - the front loader gets them cleaner, and spins more effectively for the dryer, and is easier on delicates.

However, since you seem committed to top loaders I think you will not experience much benefit in HE.

I want to point out that there’s likely a used/rebuilt appliance store near you, (try Yelp) who will deliver and install a good solid used/refurbished (non He) top loader for maybe $200 or even less.

I recently replaced my washer. We first got a top-loading low-water model that was horrible. It just swished the clothes back and forth. It didn’t clean the clothes at all. I returned it within a month. (My husband’s family owns an appliance store and getting to test drive appliances is one of the perks.)

I now have a front-loading GE large capacity HE model. Instead of swishing the clothes around, it tumbles them, adding in jets of water. And you have the option of extra rinse.

I love the bigger capacity. I used to do about 8 loads and that has been cut in half. They tell you to shove the clothes in, unless conventional washers.

My water bill has been cut by 25%. I had no idea how much water the old models used, but it’s significant.

My dryer now keeps up with my washer. Yippee.

The dryer has some cool features, such as a Warm Up cycle that super-heats your clothes, which is fantastic for cold winter nights. My favorite, however, is the steam refresh, which steams clothes left in the dryer overnight to get the wrinkles out.

You can’t leave the laundry in the washer for very long before it gets the “sitting in the washer too long” stench. It’s probably because it’s air tight in there.

It doesn’t get stains or odors out as well as the top loader. So be prepared to do more pre-treating and do an extra rinse for smelly clothes or chlorine-smelling swimming suits.

Even at cost (another perk), these buggers were very expensive.

Because of the increased capacity, clothes (esp jeans) come out wrinklier.

This might be an excellent way to go. My understanding (check consumer reports) is that government efficiency regulations have basically ruined the well-developed functionality of top loaders.

(Can you even buy a non-HE washer these days? Pretty sure you can’t.)

Hey, I wanted to call a repairman. But it’s Grandma’s, and she said it’s old and probably time for a new one, and the leveling legs have rusted off anyhow…not my decision. I just have to do all the grunt work. And all the laundry! And since Grandma has…old lady issues, it is very important to get out smells, odors and stains. Very. I add Borax to every load I do for her, which works extremely well for the odors.

And this may seem a silly question, but how exactly are you determining the lack of cleaning effectiveness? Is there still visible mud on knees, or is it just stain removal, or smell? Most of my clothes don’t really get filthy…they look clean to me after getting all wet, but how would I really know?

There are plenty of non-HE washers listed in all the ads I’ve been checking. Not all of them are Energy-Star rated, though.

So then take our advice and go with a late model rebuilt/refurbished used washer. Top loader, non He.

Grandma wants new. She doesn’t want other people’s problems, as she puts it. Sorry. I tried to buy Lillith Fair’s since she’s moving, but she says it’s staying with the house!

Water is so cheap in Cleveland…I understand wanting to be ecologically responsible but will the monetary savings be noticeable vs. the cost of detergent in your (granny’s) very location?

Water’s like $55/quarter here, and was $30/quarter before my clothes-washing, shower-obsessed roomie moved in. I can’t imagine it’s much more than $30/quarter for grandma.

When I first got my HE washer, my local store didn’t carry HE detergent, so I called the mfr. hotline to ask for advice. After I finally convinced them that asking my store manager to start carrying HE detergent wasn’t a good answer becuase I needed to do a load RIGHT NOW, they advised me to use a half-load of detergent. I wouldn’t do it on a permanent basis, but I didn’t have any problems doing it short-term.

I unplug my washer because all the lights go on automatically when I open the door, and it bugs me. YMMV.

My (front-loader) washer does have rinse-only and spin-only cycles, and I can pause the cycle, open the door and throw in the odd sock.

But yes, it does take an hour per load (the heavy wash with second rinse cycle takes 81 minutes:eek:) and yes, the timer is only an estimate. When a load in an HE goes off balance, the washer slows down in an attempt to sort everything out. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about discovering that the balance tripped. On the other hand, every load takes a long time.

I’ve only had front loader HE machines, but we put our first one in 16 years ago, and we’ve now bought 4 of them. One for each house we’ve owned. So…

Cost of HE soap - be sure you are looking at the cost per load, not the cost per ounce. HE liquid soap is pretty darn cheap, once you consider that that little bottle handles 32 or more loads.

Odors - We have gotten in the habit of leaving the door open if the machine isn’t in use. No odor problems.

Time and timers - our timer is accurate to the minute. A standard load takes 37 minutes. Since that is still shorter than the time my drier takes, I don’t sweat it.

Speaking of driers - your drier time will be shorter and your cost to run the drier is less.

One downside I haven’t seen mentioned - noise.
A HE washer spins much faster than a traditional machine. If your machine isn’t sitting on a slab, and isn’t leveled, they can make a heck of a racket during the spin cycle. Sounds like an airplane engine revving up.

Totally agree with the mystery of the timer.
Two years, and still no odor, but a relative kept shutting the door of hers, and ye gods, what a stench!
I’ve used up my old detergent by using 1/3 the amount, but using the HE detergent on things like bath towels, figuring that that’s the type of load that doesn’t rinse well and suds up a lot. The first bottle we had irritated my skin (can’t remember the brand), but HE Dreft does not.
I’d never go back to a top loader. I can put nearly double the amount of clothes in the washer, plus the spin cycle is so efficient that the dryer needs less than half the time. It more than makes up for the interminable wash cycle.
I do find that pre-treatment stuff doesn’t always wash out, and some oily stains don’t come as clean as they should. That said, you can’t soak in a front loader, and that might be the real issue.

We have a pretty new HE front loader. I was unaware that anyone had problems with odor - we certainly don’t. (Except for that time the hubby started a load of laundry on Sunday and I found it still wet in the washing machine on Thursday morning. That was pretty stinky.)

I love that it doesn’t have that stick thing (agitator?), so you can easily wash things like big comforters. I’d be very reluctant to go back to a top loader.

We save a ton on water. (Holy shit, ZipperJJ - $55/quarter??? That’s practically free! We pay around $250/quarter and the Potomac is right there!) Of course, our motivation for the new washing machine is that we were tired of having water leak all over the floor from the 30 year old top loader we replaced.

I pay thirty bucks a month for water in DC, and half of that is taxes. We don’t have a HE machine and it wouldn’t make sense for us. If your Granma’s water bill is that cheap, I would skip the HE machine and get a traditional machine.

We used to pay $75/month for water. It went down to $50/month when we switched to HE. Now that the college student is back at home, I’m sure she’ll make up for the energy savings. Teenage girls are like that.