The washing machine is a modern godsend – as long as you look after it. Here are some savvy tips to get the most out of it.
The washing machine is one of the most essential appliances of the modern home. It’s come a long way since its earliest incarnations and rather cumbersome origins, and technology has evolved in leaps and bounds to make our domestic chores more convenient and pleasant. (After all, we all need clean pants and socks, right?).
Using this titan of the white good world is a blessing when it works, but we often take it for granted – so when it does break down or a fault occurs, it can throw your life into a clothes-cleaning quandary.
With a bit of TLC, however, there are a few things you can do to minimise the risk of your washing machine breaking down on you. Here are a few sounds tips to look after this most sacred of contemporary appliances, and how to get the most out of it.
Read the Detergent Box
For those who have kids – or just messy partners – it’s easy to think that the simplest and quickest solution to cleaning mud-splattered or ketchup-covered clothes is to hurl them into the circular, spinning hub that is the washing machine drum, with a load of detergent. A cursory read of the detergent box, however, will reveal easy guidelines as to how much you should use for each load.
It’s a common misconception that that a mountainous mound of detergent obliterates those stains and dirt more than a more judiciously measured amount. In fact, if you use too much you run the risk of damaging your clothes and your washing machine. (A good indicator you’re using too much detergent is if your clothes are coming out crisp and stiff).
The internal motors and tubes of the washing machine can also get clogged and blocked by a build-up of excess detergent, which can lead to the machine going kaput – and nobody wants that.
Cleaning your Washing Machine
The washing machine is a wonderful appliance that’s fantastic at cleaning the clothes you throw its way – but it’s not quite so good at cleaning itself. It’s up to you, then, to engage in a spot of muscle work.
To maintain the outside of the machine, just wipe it regularly with a damp cloth; if you spot any stains or marks, use a small amount of washing up liquid to remove them. The inside of the machine can be a more arduous and tricky affair, in which case it’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s manual instructions.
As a side note, when it comes to looking for a washing machine, go for one with a removable lint filter – this is easier to remove, clean and pop back in. If there’s a build-up of lint in your machine, the tubes can become blocked, and this will deteriorate the quality of the wash. Clothes coming out of the machine covered in fluff is a good indicator the lint filter needs cleaning.
Use the Washing Machine Settings Properly
Modern technology has improved so rapidly in such a short space of time that many modern washing machines look like futuristic Star Trek contraptions. So adorned with a cornucopia of buttons, switches and knobs, even opening the door can require an hour of your time and an in-depth analysis of the instruction manual.
However, randomly – and eventually confoundedly – jabbing impatiently at buttons is not the way to go, so taking a bit of time to understand exactly how the machine works will reap its own benefits in the long run. It will also save you time, money, and can help the environment.
The general manufacturers set-up for the different washes is gentle, normal and strong, and for the majority of household washes, you’ll use the normal setting. For more delicate items use the gentle setting, and for those more hardened, stubborn stains a strong wash will do the trick.
A big temptation is to use a stronger wash than necessary. Lighter washes uses less water and take less time than stronger ones, and this has the beneficial knock-on effect reducing your water consumption and keeping your household bills down.
Clothes Dryer Care
You may have a fully automatic washing machine – front or top loading – in which case, you’ll most likely want to take advantage of the built-in drying section. Models like this are fantastic as they deal with every aspect of the laundry process for you, giving you time to do things you enjoy (ie: not washing clothes).
These all-in-one machines do, however, require an extra level of TLC, and you’ll also get a build-up of lint when drying clothes, which should be cleaned out after each cycle. If you don’t, the air-flow gets clogged and this could cause the machine to overheat, which could in turn shrink some fabrics. If in doubt, you might want to dry them until they’re damp and hang them out for the remaining time to dry naturally.
Don’t Overload the Machine
Nobody likes undertaking the domestic chore that is the weekly clothes wash, but our understandably natural procrastination at ensuring we have a few clean shirts for the succeeding week can result in the inevitable clothes back-log. In these circumstances, the urge is to throw as much into the drum, to get the job done as quickly as possible.
This is not a good idea and can lead to clothing carnage (and ultimately a broken washing machine). Too much weight in the machine puts pressure on the motor which could mean the spin cycle won’t be triggered – and all you’ll left with a pile of sopping wet clothes. Weight limits vary for different machines, but a good, rough guide is that you shouldn’t have more than 6kg per load.
A lot of modern machines offer several loading selections, so you can choose the most relevant setting depending on how much washing you have to do. For a lot of clothes, choose the heavy load function; for a few items of clothes choose the light load setting.
With some foresight, attention and TLC, there are lots of ways you can look after your washing machine to get the most out of it.
Image by: Marco Papale