Dear Home Ec 101,
Lately I’ve noticed a greasy ring around the top of my machine, a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II which is a top loader. I know my clothes are *clean* but the washing machine grosses me out. I have tried scrubbing with vinegar, but it came back.
Onto problem #2, which is connected. I decided to go for “once in a while is better than every washing cycle” and bought some Clorox™ washing machine cleaner. I followed the directions and ran the machine empty, doing two rinse cycles. It didn’t do a lot of good, but then I just found a big beach blotch on the back of a favorite (and new) black t-shirt. Now I’m not dumb enough to put bleach in my machine with a dark cycle, so I assume this bleach was lurking from me cleaning the machine.
So my questions are: how can I get that greasy mess out of my machine, and how do you make sure bleach is entirely gone from your machine if you ever DO use it?
Laundered in Landry
I’m going to assume that if you live in an area where the water has a high iron content that you’d be familiar with the coloration and characteristics of that stain, from it’s appearance in sinks, toilets, and tubs. (Also iron stains aren’t greasy, but I felt it should be noted for future Googlers)
If no one in your house has suddenly taken up a hobby involving a lot of grease, the culprit for the grease stain may be the washing machine itself. Before the transmission has a catastrophic failure (goes kaput) it may begin leaking grease which is often first noticed on clothing or inside the washtub.
The seal can break down or leak. Once this starts to happen grease can travel up the center shaft and make it’s way into the washtub during the spin cycles. Hello homemade centrifuge. The oil is then dispersed in the water and floats to the surface, where it clings to the walls of the tub (and sometimes to clothes) during the drain cycle.
While your machine seems to work just fine right now, in the future the spin cycles will get noisier, you’ll start hearing metal on metal noises and it won’t be too long (I cannot predict when) until the motor burns up. Accessing the motor and transmission in a top loading washer is a somewhat difficult task, but not impossible, depending on the model, you may have to work from the bottom machine or the back. Before you even think of disassembling the washer, make sure it is unplugged.
Water + electricity = bad joojoo.
If you have already been considering replacing your machine, do a cost-benefit analysis. Go ahead and assume that both the motor and transmission need to be replaced when you call the appliance repair shop and don’t forget to get the labor and service call fee added to your estimate.
While HE machines are nice, most come with their own quirks. Front loaders, for example need the door left open between loads to prevent mildew growth. The rubber gasket also must be wiped out after every use, it’s a nice hiding spot for hair and filth. All HE machines should be used with a detergent designed for a high-efficiency washer.
Now, as far as cleaning a washer:
Most washers need to be cleaned from time to time, but you don’t necessarily need a special cleaner to do it. The Whirlpool Ultimate Care II manual suggests 1 cup (250mL) of chlorine bleach and 2 cups (500mL) of detergent to a hot cycle.
And finally, the mysterious bleach splot:
A splotch of bleach on dark clothing suggests that the shirt came into direct contact with full-strength bleach. It is also possible that your bleach dispenser is clogged or has a crack; when this happens, it may not function as it should, and it is possible that full-strength bleach could come into contact with clothing. To ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, only add diluted bleach to the wash after it has agitated for 5 minutes (this lets the detergent work more efficiently as it breaks down some of the cleaning enzymes).
There is also the possibility that the shirt came into contact with a dribble of bleach on the lip of the washer or the floor of the laundry room. This happens to the best of us.
Good luck with your machine, and I’m sorry about the shirt.
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