Old top loader - laundry tips?

izeveSeptember 27, 2012

I have moved about a month ago and had to leave behind my beloved LG front loader (with an internal heater). My rented condo has an old Kenmore top loader and a gas dryer. Both are clean, in good condition, and work well(after I cleaned out the dryer of accummulated lint and replaced a damaged vent pipe). My landlord is fine with me installing a new washer but I decided to give the old one the benefit of the doubt and see if I could use it for a while.

After a few weeks of using the old washer I am leaning towards getting a new FL, but I also started to wonder if was using the TL washer to its full advantage. I've had front loaders since late 1990s so I don't even know how to do laundry properly in an old style top loader. It seems such a waste to get a new washer just for one person when the old one is still functioning well. BTW, energy efficiency is important to me personally but the cost savings will be marginal for me and I am not likely to recoup the cost of the new washer ever.

Any tips on how to achieve best results with the TL? I have a hard time gauging the water level to load size and often end up with too little or too much water. Detergent dosing is also a mystery - I end up using the minimum recommended or less. And despite that, most of the time I end up running an extra rinse because I feel that my clothes and towels are not rinsed well. I am also having a hard time with getting stains out of things (kitchen towels, clothes, etc. - I cook a lot!) And I dearly miss the Sanitary cycle in my former washer which I used on bed linens and towels.... All in all, my laundry just seems a lot less clean than it was coming out of the LG.

Any help will be appreciated!

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izeve, I am partial to my water hog and would not even consider a front-loader after all the comments on this Forum about rinsing, odor, etc. I admit to using extra rinses but it has not become a financial issue yet. I use hot to warm water and Tide with Bleach powder and Cheer powder most of the time and feel they rinse far better than any liquid detergent I have ever used. I cannot imagine my laundry being any cleaner, although I admit I have never washed with a front-loader. I do double washes and leave the top open so that the machine stops before I start another wash cycle. If I don't make it downstairs right after the first wash, it all gets to soak until I make it down. I love it. I then put it through another wash without detergent. That would amount to the second rinse. I then let it run through another rinse and an Extra Rinse. It now seems to me that all the sensitivity I had during the past several months was due to my not rinsing my laundry enough. I also remember reading that Tide powder has fewer enzymes than the liquids. This is ifne with me, but zero enzymes is not fine with me anymore. The dirty water resulting from the Tide and Cheeer powders is all I need to see to convince me that my clothes are getting very clean. I understand the old Kenmores were the best, so I hope you keep yours and have excellent results. Much good luck and please keep us posted about this.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 9:42PM
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Thanks Patann! Tide with bleach powder and Cheer powder are my favorite detergents too. But I have a hard time figuring out the dosing. I wash in hot water (towels, kitchen towels, bed linen) and warm (the rest of my laundry) but I used to get much better results with my front loader.

How much water should I be using - should the clothes float freely with plenty of room to move around or should they be just barely submerged? Do you base the amount of detergent on the amount of water (my washer has 3 water levels) or the actual load size?

I usually stop the washer after the rinse portion is complete but before the final spin and just repeat the rinse and then let it spin. I also tend to use the heavy duty cycle for most of my loads because it has the longest wash time. But it seems hard on my laundry - I noticed increased pilling and fading... But the other cycles are so short that I am afraid that the detergent doesn't have sufficient time to work and break down the dirt. Hmm, maybe I should wash with the top open and leave the load soaking in the wash water for a while? Do you think that would help?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 9:00AM
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izeve, I only wash with a "supersize" loadfull, which is one load over the "large" load in my Whirlpool top loader. I use the recommended amt on the box for "large" loads. I never use more. It is hard to explain how I know when enough is enough regarding the load. I don't like it packed full, but I also don't like NOT seeing the clothes tumbling around inside. There is a fine balance that you will discover eventually. Sometimes you will know when you can add one or two more items to the wash and still be right. I like the soak time between my two washes because I am 71 and going up and down the basement steps is not one of my favorite things to do, but so worth it when it comes to extra rinses. I have old, goofy, dry, sensitive skin so the extra rinses mean a lot. I don't do as many rinses when I do my husband's laundry -- he has no sensitivity issues. Men are so wierd. I wish I could help you more.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 10:29AM
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There should enough water in the washer to allow to clothes move freely in a turnover. If you have hard water, then you need to add more detergent to load as it helps to soften the water. For your whites/kitchen towels, you may have to soak them over night, just do not do a long soak with chlorine bleach as it will weakend the cotton fibers. I too used to think I couldnt get my clothes cleaner when I had a Water hog TL, untill I bought a FL with a internal heater, made a big diffence, and less wear and tear on my clothes also as the lint in the dryer filter dropped considerable.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 2:30PM
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Soaking seems to be the key with many top loaders. That or pre-treating.

I'd suggest you could also try the following. For stained items run warm water into the tub and add as much detergent as you would for the load you want to wash. While the washer is filling, sort out the stained items. Add them to the washer and let it agitate until clothes, water and detergent have mixed, then pause it to soak. BWT, liquid detergent is better at dealing with grease stains. After the soak add the rest of the load. Up the water level from what you needed to saturate the load to soak to what you need for your full load. If you're washing whites, add some oxy if you like and set it for hot water. That should be as close as one can get to a profile wash.

Also, rather than long, harsh Heavy Duty cycles, try soaking or a long cycle at slow speed (but you will have to change it over to fast/fast during the main wash drain or you'll get slow rinse spins and poor rinsing).

Items should move freely in the water. I *think* the usual advice is to add water until the top of the clothes are submerged before agitation begins. I think it's a good idea to do some YouTubing. Plenty of videos of Kenmore top loaders there - and you can usually see if the machine is overloaded by simply reading the comment.


Way too little water: http://youtu.be/y04xOOE5Uzg
Owner says okay, comments say nay: http://youtu.be/VGh4bZUIUuQ
That seems about right: http://youtu.be/hTz_mS7kb2A


    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 7:32PM
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It's just not that complicated to get clean clothes in a top loader. Lordy.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 9:05AM
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Thank you all - very helpful advice. Sounds like soaking may be the answer. BTW, I hate chlorine bleach and never use for laundry.

Alex, you are an absolute treasure! I forgot that you can find anything you need on youtube!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 9:25AM
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The only critical mistake that can be made with a top loader is to overload it so items can't move, leading to possible clothing damage and poor results.

I always use a full dose of detergent and an extra rinse. The old water hogs rinse so well compared to front loaders that you don't over have to obsess over 1 tablespoon of detergent or two, LOL!

Top loaders FOREVER!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:56AM
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Find out the hardness/softness of your water. You may need to use half the recommended amount of detergent if the water is 7 grains or less of hardness. That was my surprise when I went to a FL washer. I had no clue about all the detergent residue in our clothes, sheets, towels, etc. because I had followed label dosing for decades with a water-hog top loader.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 11:36AM
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I pre-treated everything with Shout with our old top loader. But I was not using a detergent with enzymes, either. I had no clue about enzymes!

After all I have learned here at this forum, I am using detergents with enzymes in our FL, and pre-treating is not necessary. It might have not been necessary, either, in the old conventional TL.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Cavimum is right, as usual. If only I could find a detergent with enzymes that absolutely does not make me itch, I would be in heaven. This obsession is really nuts.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:49PM
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Our washer manual for our Whirlpool TL machine (your Kenmore is really a Whirlpool machine) states you should zip up all zippers and fasten the button above the zipper before washing.
Drop your laundry loosely into the washer. When the washer fills with water the clothes will "reduce" in the washer and turnover will be possble.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 2:27AM
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I miss my old top loader (except for unbalanced loads during the spin cycle). I got all my clothes super clean, soft, and yet kept them undamaged. What worked for me:

- use the hottest water possible, hot for most things and warm for delicates
- soak dirty and stained loads in OxiClean+detergent for at least 30-60 minutes or overnight. Dissolve Oxi in water before adding clothes. This gets clothes very clean without abrasive damage of agitation.
- use HE detergents, which are simply better formulations. I used Tide and/or Kirkland Signature for most loads.
- the clothes/water ratio is very important. With too much water, dirty clothes won't rub together enough so they won't get clean. But "too much" water is useful for delicate things. Overpacked loads won't get clean or rinsed, and will suffer more fabric damage.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 12:34PM
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Thanks for continued tips on this topic. I seem to have come up with an acceptable routine for the TL and the washing results are better.

I do use hot water for towels and sheets (the washer doesn't have ATC so I am able to get 120F wash temp with the water heater set to 140F). I still miss the Sanitary cycle in my former washer, but I can live with the results from the TL. I am much better now at selecting the right water level for the size of the load and I figured out that I can actually add more water after the agitation starts if it looks like the water level is too low. My loads tend to be on the small side since it's only me, so I don't have any risk of overloading the washer. I also run an extra rinse on most cycles (permanent press seems to have 2 deep rinses programmed in so I don't need to run an extra rinse, all I do is run a spin cycle at a higher rpm because otherwise everything comes out too wet for my liking). I have also started soaking or prewashing some items like sweaty gym clothes and that helps too. So I think I will stick with this washer for now. The only complaint I have is increased pilling - my front loader was super gentle on clothes and the TL is definitely not.

BTW, I really like the gas dryer that comes with it - it's quick but it does not overdry items.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 10:57AM
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I don't know the cost of water in your area but here on the Columbia River it is cheap and relatively soft. I always have used the maximum water in my machines so clothes can tumble freely and dirt can be diluted. That is the one thing I hate about my modern front loader. It is computer controlled to ration water and limit hot water. Hot is not hot as from the tank. I have to use the heavy duty cycles for everything to give enough time for clothes to actually get wet and soap to dissolve. And If I put a handkerchief in folded it comes out still folded. even on the heavy duty setting. Be thankful you have a top loader.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 11:57AM
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I had an old Maytag top loader and I also cook a lot--and I am NOT a neat cook! When washing whites or stained kitchen towels, aprons, and the old T shirts I wear when cooking, I'd run in hot water and add the detergent and oxyclean, then add the items, agitate for a minute or two to get everything mixed together and then pause it for awhile--an hour or two, or until I remembered it. :-) I also ran multiple rinses to make sure that I got out all of the detergent. My whites were bright and the stains gone from the dish towels. To be honest, though--I do like my new front loader better for a lot of reasons. If I was in your position, though, I'd do the same as you are doing--see if I can get good results with what is there.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 5:55PM
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