Build-up in washer tub

PatSeptember 24, 2010

I know, I know, here we go again. But I need your help. I have a Whirlpool top-loader. I discovered a waxy-type build-up on the top interior of my tub, above the full water line. The same build-up was on the outside of my agitator, above the fill line, before I scoured it off with Magic Eraser. I have read hundreds of posts on this Forum over the past two years and have changed a lot of my past habits. I assumed the build-up was from either fabric softener or liquid detergent, even though I usually use hot water. I mean, how can Tide liquid detergent be called the best by Consumer Reports at laundry cleaning and still stick to the tub. I use hot water.

Then I discovered this comment by hidroman on March 4, 2010, in a post about a tablespoon of detergent: "be aware that if you don't use enough detergent your whites will turn grey within months and unwashed grease will make a buildup in the outer tub. The most common symptom are tiny clumps of "chewey" grease all spread on just washed laundry."

I also have the "chewey grease" clumps on top of the ledge that circles the tub on top. Exactly his/her description.

So, is it your (anyone, please) opinion that if I stopped using fab softener (I did), stopped using liquid detergent altogether, and only exclusively use stated amount of powder detergent and no less, and scoured/cleaned out the tub top and ledge, that I will not see any more build-up in my tub or on my agitator? I can't believe I have to switch back exclusively to powder detergent. Again. If I had never discovered this forum I would never have become obsessed with my damn laundry. My house isn't as clean as it should be, but I'm driven to have perfect laundry. What is wrong with this picture?

Do you have any comments about this? Do you think the grease on my tub and agitator is from dirty clothes or liquid detergent or fab softener or all of the above?


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You make reference to a post from HidroMan regarding "a tablespoon of detergent" ... does that infer that you have been using only that much liquid Tide per load (regardless of load size, large or small)? If so, that's surely not enough in a traditional non-HE, full-fill toploader, except maybe for a small load. You also don't provide detail on softener dosage and how often it's used.

The residue would be a combination of softener+detergent deposits (known as "scrud"), and possibly laundry soils depending on what's your answer to the dosage question.

Sometimes there can be a reaction/incompatibility between local water conditions and the detergent. Someone posted a while back (more than once) about residue in his toploader that ultimately was attributed to liquid detergent. He disassembled and cleaned the machine, and build-up recurred within a month. IIRC, they primarily used liquid at first and cold water on all loads except whites (not sure on that 2nd point). Tried switching to powder on some loads, liquid on others, along with hot or warm washes more often, but that didn't help. Changed exclusively to powder and the problem was resolved. Other people have reported using liquid exclusively without a problem occurring.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 6:35AM
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I think hard water adds to the build up process. I can see why FB would too, but not liquid detergent. Its a build up mainly of the body oils that are in our clothes from us wearing them. Washing in warm or hot warm when appropreiate will help resolve this issue. When I had a conventional TL. I would periodically fill the washer with hot water, and use the reset button on it to fill it more. Let it soak for a few hours and then run it. It is it a real bad buildup, then I would dismanal the washer and clean it out real goodI dont have any build up in my 9 yr old Front loader at all

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 9:07AM
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dadoes, I only mentioned the tablespoon of detergent post to give credit to hidroman for a comment that really spoke to my current discovery. Until about a month ago I always only used half of whatever detergent recommendation was on a detergent package and until about 5 months ago I only used warm water. So, I am curious to know whether the build-up is from past fabric softener, liquid detergent, or body oils from using warm water.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 2:57PM
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So, I am curious to know whether the build-up is from past fabric softener, liquid detergent, or body oils from using warm water.Probably a combination of all three.

> 5 months ago, 1/2 dose of detergent & warm water (no cold ever? or only if the fabric required it?),
5 months ago, started doing some loads in hot water,
1 month ago, upped the detergent dose.

That still leaves the detail of what is the stated recommended dose, and how much exactly was your 1/2 dose. If you measure with the cap, you can check the dose by pouring the cap amount into a standard measuring cup. Also of possible relevance is the typical temp in degrees F of your warm and hot water in the machine.

I don't imagine you want to hear this, but there's almost surely more residue that you can't see in the outer tub, on the exterior of the inner basket, and under the agitator.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 7:02PM
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There are so many possibilities to this problem.... Wow!

If you are not using enough detergent, you will get build up in clothes and in the machine, even with warm water. If you are using fabric softener, that can cause it alone if you are using too much. The water/ detergent compatability problem is something to worry about.

I think the first thing to do is try using the amount of detergent called for in your loads along with the recommended water temp. You can also try cutting out the fabric softner from your laundry and using vinegar instead. If you have hard water, you can try using Borax or Calgon in your laundry to help with the detergent/ water compatability problem.

There are a lot of things you can try, but I would try washing your clothes with different combinations of temp and alternatives to see what works, but the right combination of temp and detergent would work wonders. It may take a while to get all of the build up out of your clothes and washer. Take note with each load and be prepared to try different ideas.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 9:42PM
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thank you peanut, gates, and dadoes. i'm on my way.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 1:12PM
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At the root of it I suspect water-quality issue. If you tell me you have soft water, I will be very surprised. In any event, this scrud should not be precipitating/redepositing.

Most laundry detergents have ingredients to work with hard water because most people don't have soft water and they still want to sell detergent. However, all the products are a little different and, of course, none of them know the composition of YOUR water so there's lots of room for dosage/composition error. Other than experimentation, with various products and dosages, don't know what to suggest.

Do you know what's in your water? Do you know hardness?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 1:43PM
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Yup, asolo, I suspect you are right about my having hard water. For example, when I shower with my favorite Dial bar soap, I am more than "squeeky clean" and the residue in my shower (and on me, I guess) can only be from the soap and hard water. But that is another story because I HATE liquid bath soap and won't go there again.

So, until I started using Borax in my laundry about 3 weeks ago, the hard water/detergent/body oil combination has ended up on my laundry tub and washer tub the same way, right? This afternoon I ran a hot (my "hot" is too hot to put my hand in) laundry cycle with Borax and Tide powder with oxygen bleach and I was able to literally peal layers of scud off my old cement laundry tub sides and bottom with razor blades and then scour with Comet/bleach. If I had not softened the scud with the Borax, I would not have been able to scrape it up so easily. No, I don't know the hardness of my water but I guess I don't need to know now that I know it is very hard. Thank you for pointing that out. Now if I could only figure out how liquid laundry detergent does or doesn't figure in all this scrud build-up.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 6:07PM
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I regard household water quality as basic. You probably know where I'm going next so I'll keep it short. Is dealing with your water quality an option?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 7:45PM
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I don't think so, but I don't know how much a water softener costs. I would much prefer to treat my laundry water with Calgon or whatever detergent is best in hard water.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 10:41PM
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Might call Culligan. They have a service that doesn't involve purchase. They just plumb you in and exchange tanks by-the-month or whatever period is appropriate. Would allow you to change water quality instantly without big cash outlay for purchasing equipment. Over the loooong run it's more expensive but for your existing situation may just be the ticket. They do everything, you do nothing. Might just change your life. A phone call would answer all your questions.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 11:19PM
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Wow, what a plan. Thank you very much.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 11:44PM
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Don't know but wouldn't be surprised if they might offer free/discount/money-back "trial" period. You do have specific issues that they've dealt with before. Maybe make them prove themselves.

I'm sort of making that up but over the two decades I've lived where I do I recall quite a few solicitations from them with special offers. I have Kinetico (expensive, but I'm a long-termer) so wasn't interested but I do recall the offers.

They certainly have a web-site.

Would be interested to learn if you find they have anything of interest to you.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 11:59PM
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I have it, my neighbor doesn't. She has a family of 6, there are 3 of us. She uses PLENTY of fabric softener, I do not. We have the same city water which is soft. She overfills her washer, I do not. So what is my answer for this scum?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 12:36AM
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Ask her what she's using and use that for a while. See if it changes things.

I know of no city water anywhere that is soft. Do you know how many grains hard? Sort of doesn't matter for this test if your supplies are the same...just saying.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 12:55AM
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Much of the water supply in Oregon (especially Portland) is soft because it comes from watersheds. The rain water is collected in reservoirs and does not hit the ground or flow underground. We do have some well water users, however, that have nasty water.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 6:56PM
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You're telling me that Oregon/Portland water is zero grains? May have misunderstood. What are you saying qualifies as "soft"?

My personal tipping-point is about 3 grains which is to say.... that-or-less I wouldn't treat and above that I would. Other people have different opinions about that. I acknowledge that most people don't have softeners. And, actually, most people don't have scum problems so there's a bit of a mystery.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 7:34PM
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Maybe I should have googled first. Just did and found this.........

"Is Portland's water soft or hard?

Portland's water is very soft. Hardness of Bull Run water typically ranges from 1/3 to � a grain of hardness per gallon. Portland's groundwater hardness is approximately 86 parts per million (about 5 grains per gallon), which is considered moderately hard."

Still room for the "mystery", though. Would suggest on-site test (cheap/easy) so actual circumstance is known.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 7:38PM
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