July 24, 2014

A Unique Home Appliance Test Lab

Loading a washing machine may seem like a no-brainer, but the Contra Coasta Times’ Marni Jameson and her family can tell you differently.  Read on:

This week, our home laboratory revealed that a late-model washer would not withstand a cycle of hair-covered saddle pads. Our lab recommends that customers only wash multiple saddle pads — garments that sit between saddle and horse to collect hair — if they want to replace their basements.

Here’s how the experiment was conducted: One teenage daughter stuffed four quilt saddle

pads into a front-load machine. Soon after, the washer sloshed to a halt. I looked through the fisheye door and saw floating garments. I hit the drain/spin cycle. Nothing. The machine wouldn’t drain.I went in search of a neck to wring. The oblivious culprit was on the lam. I headed back to the laundry room where I was verging on a primal scream, when Dan, my husband, walked in. “Problem?” (He’s so intuitive.)

Our smart kids can discuss “The Odyssey” and replicate DNA in a test tube, I tell him, but don’t know not to cram hair-covered saddle pads in the washer.

He left the test center, moaning something about a repairman and $200.

Because $200 could buy one Stuart Weitzman stiletto, I rolled up my sleeves and pulled

on all the machine’s panels until one opened — a trapdoor. Inside was a gizmo, which I twisted. Water gushed in a promising way. A drain!I packed the area with towels, and yanked out the gizmo, a little cage contraption packed with — you’ll never guess — horse hair. I pulled out a wad the size of a Yorkshire terrier, then twisted the gizmo back in to stem the tide. I pressed spin. The machine whirled into action.

Feeling pretty dang proud (Who needs a repairman, or even a man?), I took the terrier to Dan’s basement office.

“You found the problem,” he said.

I fixed the problem, I said, a little too proudly.

Then we both heard an unusual sound. We rounded the corner of his office. I screamed so they could hear me in Taiwan, where workers are making washing machines this minute. Dan raced for a bucket. Water streamed through the basement ceiling, around the recessed lights.

All hands on deck, I shouted usefully.

My innocent daughter grabbed towels and met me in the laundry room, where water spewed from the trapdoor. I grabbed the gizmo, which apparently I hadn’t tightened all the way, (oops) and twisted. The water stopped, but a pond remained.

Later, Dan and I studied the water damage to the ceiling. Wonder what it’s going to cost to repair that, I said.

“More than a washing machine repair,” he said.

Murderous methods

Here are more ways to kill major home appliances, according to our test center and experts from Whirlpool, the world’s leading manufacturer of home appliances:

To kill your washer or dryer:

  • Pour detergent haphazardly into the washing machine. Don’t bother using those pesky cap lines to measure soap, and don’t put detergent in the right dispenser. Too much or the wrong kind of detergent (regular in an HE machine) makes machines work harder, and results in longer cycle times, poorer rinsing performance, and an odorous residue, says Monica Teague, Whirlpool spokeswoman.
  • Don’t check your machine’s hoses and traps. Let lint, missing socks and horse hair accumulate. The upside of a washer that overflows is a clean floor.
  • Don’t ever clean your machine. Leave the job of cleaning a washing machine (with hot water and specially designed cleansers) to phobics who worry that residue from dirty laundry could gum up their machines.
  • Ignore the dryer sign that reads, “Clean before each use.” Wait until the lint filter is so full you could stuff a pillow. Clogged lint traps can burn out a dryer, and even catch fire.
  • Remove the outdoor screen covering your dryer vent or don’t put one in. This creates a nice place for critters to build homes.To kill your oven or range:
  • Throw away your use and care manual. Or start the oven with the manual still inside. Consumers could avoid or resolve more than 50 percent of all appliance problems by reading the instructions, says Steve Swayne, technology leader for Whirlpool’s Institute of Kitchen Science.
  • Spray oven cleaner all over the outside of the appliance. If you’re after that distressed look, you’ll get it. Oven cleaning acid (intended only for oven interiors) can corrode the finish on knobs, and ruin control panels.
  • Run the self-clean cycle with stuff in the oven. The self-clean cycle heats up to 850 degrees, and can destroy pot handles, and cause greasy outdoor grills to catch fire. This cycle also ruins oven racks, which you’re supposed to remove, and keeps them from sliding smoothly.
  • Keep your oven filthy. This will attract bugs and other critters looking for warmth and food. Swayne once found a roasted snake in a range.