front loading washer doesn't get clothes clean

slogan3561September 24, 2013

8 years ago I bought a GE profile front loading washing machine based on it's rating from Consumer Reports. It has never gotten clothes as clean as my old, cheap top loader. It is great for gentle washing, but I garden and get actual dirt on my clothes and all my white stuff comes out just as dirty as it went it (socks, etc.). I use the correct HE detergent and have started using those Oxyclean pods, too. Should I just give up and buy another washing machine? Consumer's still states that front loaders get clothes cleaner. I think 8 years is still pretty young for a washing machine, but I come from a time when appliances lasted 20 yeares or so. Should I buy a new one, and if so, what brand?

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Are you running those garden-work clothes and socks in cold water on a short cycle? Or are you using more appropriate warm water (hot for the whites) on a heavy-duty cycle?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 2:19PM
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For work clothes I would run the normal cycle, warm wash, heavy dirt. I have never had work clothes come through the wash dirty. Now for whites work clothes, I use cloryx...same normal cycle, warm wash, heavy dirt. Some people use Oxiclean instead of cloryx and that is good also.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 2:24PM
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Some stains will require the use of a stain pretreatment to get rid of the stains in FL machines. What are you pretreating with?
What kind of stains are you dealing with?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 3:31PM
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You may have to use more detergent for a heavily soiled load. I add a 1/4 cup of baking soda to every load with an Oxy product too. For whites, I "pause" the machine for ten minutes as a mid wash soak.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 5:04PM
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Oh, I should say that after eight years of trying different detergents, switching to Charlies Soap, Seventh Generation Natural Oxy and Baking Soda plus eliminating fabric softener was the best thing I ever did! (I mix it up in a cup of hot water to make sure it's all dissolved, pour it directly into the drum before I load the laundry.)

To add a bit of scent (Charlie's is scent-free), the first thing I do is add one teaspoon of Purex scent crystals directly to the drum.

This post was edited by twebbz on Sun, Sep 29, 13 at 17:36

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 5:28PM
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Those top-loaders that fill up with water and actually agitate -- they really do get dirty clothes clean. I suggest you investigate to find out what it would cost you to buy one now. Also, look on craigslist to see what you could sell your front-loader for. Or maybe there's someone you can give it to, instead of sending it to the landfill.

If it's too expensive or it doesn't feel right to get another washer, then you're going to have do the extra things to get things cleaner. Is the wash cycle really hot or very warm? When I need a hot wash, I have to run the water at the nearest sink to let the hot water arrive on the scene. Would you be willing to soak the clothes in detergent and water before washing?

It's one thing not to waste money, but seriously -- what a waste of time, water, and products if the clothes come out dirty!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 7:07PM
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we need details on how you're doing the wash.

what cycle, water temperature, amount of detergent, etc

fwiw, my old danby with a minimal amount of detergent, oxyclean, and white vinegar, heating water to 200 F removes dirt, grease, stains, etc far better than our former top loader (notorious for wrapping stuff around the agitator)

This post was edited by lcubed on Mon, Sep 30, 13 at 19:57

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 7:56PM
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I have an LG front loader and my clothes get cleaner than with my old top loader. I usually use about half the amount of detergent suggested, except when washing extra dirty loads. I do pretreat known spots andsometimes use oxyclean.

Whites can require hot water and a prewash cycle can help with stains (as well as pretreating and/or using oxyclean).

If you have tried everything, I would give myself permission to go find a new washer. Yes, they are a significant expense and yes, eight years does seem young, but they now say appliances are made with a 7-10 year life expectancy. You are there and you haven't been happy. Clothing is expensive too, and repeat washing, water, electricity and laundry products add up too. Your washer should be working to make your life easier, not more difficult.

You have the advantage of a machine that hasn't died and left you with a tub of smelly, soapy water. Take the time to shop and get a good sale price. You've got Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Black Friday and other big sale dates coming up. Go pick out a present.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 11:47AM
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I too have one of the older front loaders that was rated "best" by Consumer Reports. My machine is one of the old LG's that still has the drain at the bottom front that must be cleaned out occasionally. A friend of mine has a much newer front loader but a different brand. Neither of us can believe how horrible the laundry looks after it is washed. Mine seems to remove stains fairly well but whites turn out looking worse than when they went in. I noticed this from the very beginning so it's something I lived with. I kept asking myself how this could be. Stains come out but whites look terrible afterward?

One day while looking at my gray whites feeling disgusted and too broke to buy a new washing machine, it dawned on me! Is it possible that the cleaning action works fine in these front loaders - BUT - because they are so stingy with water, maybe they don't properly rinse the clothes after they are cleaned? Are they retaining or reusing too much of the original wash water to use in the rinse cycle? I can't think of any reason other than dirty water that a machine would clean the stains yet leave so much dirt that the whites turn gray. With each wash I watched my new white towels become more gray. They were not work clothes and not subject to stains or dirt. They were once clean and white but now look awful and feel hard and scratchy, like they are a decade old. I should also mention that I have a water softener hooked up to the hot water only. A load washed in hot water and rinsed in warm water doesn't seem to make a difference.

What else could it be? Does anyone out there understand how these machines work? I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible that a recurring skin rash I can't seem to explain is caused by dirt left in my clothes after a dirty water rinse? Help?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2015 at 12:54PM
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Your on the right track. There is much more to cleaning clothes than the actual machine. Proper cleaning begins with properly conditioned water. This is critical if your using a well. You mentioned you have a softner so a chemical analysis should be performed yearly. Once that's complete your softner service personnel should be able to recommend a fix. All wash chemistry begins with the water quality! From that point proper additives and detergents can be selected to obtain adaquate results. Next is proper water temp. Whites demand HOT water at least 120 degrees or greater, and time. Bleach or Sodium per-carbonate is great for whiter whites providing there is not a high iron content in the water supply, otherwise you end up with that grey dingy wash. White vinegar in the rinse is also a great consumer sour, which rinses residue from the fabric. Unfortunately without a water quality test, it's anyone's guess. Properly conditioned water and adjusted wash chemistry will always get great results regardless of the machine.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2015 at 3:11PM
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I did have my water tested when I moved to this house and they said I needed a water softener. My previous home was in the same area and the water is the same. I may not have mentioned that I used the washing machine in question at both addresses with pretty much the same results. There was a slight difference, but I attribute it to the fact that the old house had soft water throughout the entire house where the new place is only hooked up to the incoming hot water. To change it now would require digging up the driveway or foundation and I'm on a very tight budget. If I was twenty years younger I'd do it myself.

The easy answer would be to find a washing machine that actually uses WATER to get the clothes clean, but everyone knows that government imposed water restrictions will only get worse and it would be a temporary fix at best.

I like what you wrote about finding the right combination to get my clothes clean and although I don't really know my neighbors, it might be smart to ask them what they did that works. By now most families use the front loading or water restrictive machines so I can't be the only one with this problem.

As for water testing, can you suggest a company that won't simply try to sell me their products? The house was six years old when I moved in and I never signed up with a service to go with the water softener. Are there legitimate water testing services out there that will give me unbiased results so I can be sure to get what I need and not what they would like to sell me?

Thank you for your thoughtful reply and I agree that I need to get more information before I do anything else. Time to do more research - and I'll post anything I find that seems to work.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2015 at 5:18PM
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What laundry products, detergents, bleaches, additives are you currently using?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2015 at 1:14AM
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Frontloaders use sufficient water to wash and rinse. Where/how do you believe your machine is saving and reusing wash water for rinsing? Do you not hear the water draining after the wash period, during spins, and after each of however many rinses the machine runs?

I've been using a Whirlpool Calypso for 7+ years, which may on some loads take less water than a frontloader on individual fills throughout the cycle. My whites are dazzling due to proper laundry techniques -- hot water (125°F or higher), sufficient dose of good detergent, adding either chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach (not both at the same time), and I've been adding STPP for some years.

Non-softened water rinses better than fully-softened water in terms of killing suds ... but of course it is non-softened water so can cause some mineral residue in the clothes and machine. I'm on a private well and do not have a water softener but still get fine results.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 5, 2015 at 5:13AM
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I too would like to know how you wash whites and what detergents/additives you use. I think there might be something there that's giving you poor results, and it should be pretty easy to change. Any chance you are using something like Charlie's Soap or a non-HE specific detergent? The lack (or insufficient amount) of anti-redeposition agents could have something to do with it, based on your description of stains coming out but dinginess remaining.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2015 at 5:40AM
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All good points. Softened water cleans and whitens better than hard water generally speaking. In her specific instance the water may be too soft, and she could be using laundry products that are counter productive. Many of the consumer detergent products HE or not, are formulated to correct and condition the water, add surfacants, ionic dispersion agents, builders, and enzymes. Wash water PH could be another issue and simply not high enough to yield effective cleaning. Using conditioned water WITHOUT the correct wash chemistry and correct detergents could be the problem. Since the water is softened try using a straight SOAP only product. In all instances the poster hasn't commented on use of chlorine bleach or OxyClean or other Sodium Percarbonate product. Both which have excellent whitening capability, with of course bleach offering the most mirobacterial action and raising alkalinity to a PH of around 10. That alone in conjuction with HOT water and soap should provide more than adaquate cleaning results.

You also stated before moving your results were similar. Have you trIed another washing machine (coin op, neighbor, relative) and test your laundry formula in another machine or using a different water supply? Are you using a municipal water supply or is it well?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2015 at 6:48AM
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Thanks everyone. I can't say what detergent or additives I have been using because I've changed so many times. I started out with the usual Tide powder and when that seemed to give me only mediocre results I tried different things. I think the only time I noticed a real difference is when bleach is added but the results weren't great and eventually with constant bleach use, whites tended to yellow. For the last couple of weeks I have developed an itchy rash on my skin in small patches so I'm not able to try anything new or drastic until it passes. I don't really know what's causing it and I tend to be allergic to things so I'm not blaming the water or the soaps yet.

A few times I brought my laundry to wash at a friend's house and there was a difference but less about how clean the whites were... they were a little bit whiter but they were much softer than mine ever are. I used whatever detergent they had at the time but I'm thinking it was the Costco brand liquid detergent. The friend has a water softener and a top loading washer. I used hot water and no fabric softener on the whites. That's really all I can remember. I might try that again after this rash clears up. I'll be more careful to write down what I did. I do plan to drain and clean the water heater again soon. I'll also see about using a washing machine cleaner but I don't know which is best. I'll have to do some research and get back here with results. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2015 at 7:46AM
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In my experience liquids leave clothes much softer than powders, so I prefer liquids for sheets and towels.

Sorry to hear about your skin issues! I haven't personally tried it yet, but thesweethome blog gave good reviews to the Ecover Zero powder - it did well on removing stains and does not have any fragrance that could cause allergies. Maybe that could be an option for you to keep any skin issues from coming up again?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2015 at 8:33AM
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