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Front Loaders and High Efficiency Detergent
By Donald Grummett
Since the introduction of the front-loading washing machine into the North American market their sales have literally exploded. Like most people, you probably bought one because of the suggested savings.
The claims about their efficiency are true. When operated properly you can save energy, water, and money. Plus they do a fabulous job of washing your clothes.
But, using the wrong detergent can quickly destroy any hopes of savings. Along with the front loaders amazing popularity has come a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about the detergent they require.
A front-loading washing machine needs a special detergent. It's called HE (High Efficiency) detergent. Without HE detergent your washer will not clean properly. Using regular detergent may even cause your front loader mechanical problems.
What is High Efficiency Laundry Detergent?
HE detergent is a type of non-sudsing detergent. In fact, while operating, the machine almost appears not to have any detergent inside.
Unfortunately, we have become so used to seeing suds in our old washing machines that we mistakenly relate the presence of suds to proper operation. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Differences between Top and Front Loaders
An old fashioned top loader washes your clothes by constantly tumbling them through a full tub of water. Your front loader works differently.
In a front loader your clothes are picked up by the vanes inside the drum, lifted to the top of the drum, and then dropped into water laying at the bottom of the drum. This collision of clothes and water will dislodge the dirt from the clothing fibres. Later the drum stops turning, the water flows out the bottom of the drum via the pump, taking both water and dirt out to the household drain. Finally the drum is spun at very high speed to remove the final amounts of water, dirt and detergent from the clothes. This front-loading method of cleaning your clothes is both simple and dependable.
But, this simple method stops working if there are too many suds being produced by your laundry detergent.
Using the Proper Detergent
If you use regular detergent in your front loader excess suds will be produced by the interaction of the detergent and tumbling water. These unwanted suds will accumulate at the bottom of the wash drum where they will lie on top of the water. Within minutes these suds will take the form of a big fluffy cushion. This cushion hinders clothes from reaching the water. As your clothes fall from the top of the drum to the bottom they hit the suds cushion rather than the water. The result is a very poor wash.
Even owners of front loaders who are using the correct detergent can misunderstand how to use it properly. Not seeing any suds they think they require more detergent. They keep increasing the amount used per load until suds finally appear. This can be a costly mistake that again results in a poor wash.
Using too much detergent is as bad as using the wrong detergent. Extreme amount of detergent can produce symptoms such as leaking, vibration, noisy operation, and poor spinning.
Front Loader Maintenance
If you have been using the wrong detergent (or the proper type incorrectly) in your front load washer try the following suggestions. Run the machine through a number of cycles using hot water. This should help expel the old detergent. It usually takes 3 or 4 cycles to wash away the old detergent accumulated inside the machine. Or add a product that will remove the build-up of old detergent. One such product is called Glisten. It is available through most appliance parts wholesalers. Some grocery store chains now include it in their laundry detergent section.
As a matter of fact it is a good idea to use a cleaner such as Glisten in your front loader every few months. It is an inexpensive form of regular maintenance. A small amount should also be added to the detergent dispenser drawer to remove any residue from this area.
So if you think your front loader is not working as well as anticipated, look to your laundry detergent. If it does not say HE on the label -- switch immediately.
Then purchase a box of the proper HE type detergent and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Copyright 2007 by Donald Grummett. All right reserved. Donald Grummett has been in the trade over 30 years as a technician, business owner, and technical trainer. Visit MG Services to learn more invaluable information about your appliances.
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Last Modified: 24 March 2020
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