New Speed Queens!
After much research, I finally pulled the trigger and bought a set of Speed Queens - a top loader and a gas dryer.
This is a switch back to a top loader after jumping on the front-loader bandwagon seven years ago and getting a mid-level GE front loader set.
The FL washer has been on its last leg for a long time (bad bearings that never quite seem to totally give out). The final straw was the gas dryer, which blew out its main board. Both were too expensive to fix than they were worth. Independent repairman said 5-7 years is all he sees out of most front loaders, so I guess I got as much out of them as was planned by the manufacturer.
But back to my new, beautifully basic, Speed Queens. So far I'm completely thrilled. I love to hear the clicking of the mechanical dials, knowing there's no expensive mother board to go out. And the stainless steel interiors can't be beat.
The best is the noise, or lack of it. I can't even tell when it's spinning. I don't have to worry about the spinning waking up my napping toddler. This is contrary to the front loader, which often sounded like a helicopter was landing on our house - and, yes, it was perfectly leveled. I kept a level in the closet nearby and leveled it monthly. Unfortunately, my laundry is on the second floor of an older house. No amount of leveling could control the vibrations.
Clothes from the Speed Queen are coming out just a 'wrung out' as with the front loader, and the clothes are dry in the dryer before the next load is complete in the washer.
I'm so glad to have the ability to soak again! Just let the washer fill to the level I need, and shut it off until I'm ready to finish the load. So simple.
So far, clothes are coming out nice and clean. They seem to be softer when I pull them out of the dryer, even though I never use fabric softener. Maybe it's the more thorough rinsing? Even the stuff I've hung dry seem to not be as 'crispy' after going through the Speed Queens.
The mysterious stains on darker cotton kids clothes that caused me to rewash a lot of my family's clothes in the front loader are nearly gone (I thought these were from food grease that went unseen until after laundered, but repair guy said it might be from the bad bearings).
While the capacity isn't quite as big as the front loader, it's totally fine with me as I separate the laundry by family member before it ever reaches the washer. The wash cycle is so much shorter that I am getting my laundry done a lot faster now anyway.
The guy who hooked up my dryer said he does all of the washer/dryer repairs for the locally owned appliance company from which I bought the Speed Queens. He said he never gets repair calls for them. He called them, "Work horses." Made me happy to hear that because I have four kids and tons of laundry every week.
For anybody who is frustrated with their front loader, I encourage you to check out the Speed Queens.
By the way, I'm a total tree hugger. I realize that my new washer does use more water, but I'm OK with that as I'm no longer having to re-wash items that didn't come clean and I have a washer that will last way longer than 5-7 years. I bought products built in the U.S. that didn't have to travel across the ocean. And I live in an area that has abundant, reasonable municipal water.