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Tips to Correct the Most Common Washing Machine Issues

missusing washer

Are you misusing your washer? Read the top five reasons for washing machine problems, and view our interactive photo for tips to correct the common issues of washer abuse, from overloading to using the wrong detergent.

Ever notice mysterious holes in your laundry and eyed your cat darkly? It might not be your washer — or your pet. Whether the problem is an agitator that doesn’t agitate or clothes coming out suspiciously smelly or stained, there are some easy things to check to make sure you’re properly using your washer. Many of the common washer problems are what we gently call “operator error.” In other words, it’s not your machine; it’s you. But don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

The pros at Sears Home Services have identified the top five things people do wrong with their washing machines.

  1. Overloading

  2. Using too much detergent

  3. Using the wrong kind of detergent

  4. Filling the washer incorrectly

  5. Not leveling the machine

Hover over or click on the image to see the pop-up tips!

PROBLEM 1: Overloading

WHY IT’S BAD: We’ve all done it. Wedged a few extra items into the wash to avoid doing two loads. You might think you’re saving time and money, but you could get handed a bill for a repair: Overloaded washers won’t clean your clothes properly because there’s no room to circulate, and the extra weight of wet clothes can damage your machine. SOLUTION: Never fill your washer more than two-thirds full. And refer to your manual to make sure you’re doing what’s right for your model.

PROBLEM 2: Using too much detergent

WHY IT’S BAD: In the trade, we call this the “Brady Bunch Effect.” OK, not really. But that gives you a perfect example of what too much detergent will do: create excess suds. These can block up a washer and cause a malfunction. They can also get caught in your clothes and won’t rinse properly.

SOLUTION: Less can be more. Try using half the amount recommended on the bottle. Ramp it up slowly if your clothes still aren’t coming out as clean as you’d like.

PROBLEM 3: Using the wrong kind of detergent

WHY IT’S BAD: If you have a high-efficiency washer, you need high-efficiency detergent, period. Why? The machines are made for loads that use less water and a tumbling, not agitating, washing cycle. Using regular detergent will lead to oversudsing, potentially stopping the cycle and damaging your washer.

SOLUTION: Shop carefully. Look for the high-efficiency (HE) symbol when you’re buying detergent.

PROBLEM 4: Filling the washer incorrectly

WHY IT’S BAD: If you’ve got a top-loader, you might be used to filling the machine with water, then adding the soap and lastly the clothes. This was a trick of laundries past to prevent phosphate residue that accumulated on the drum and could transfer to your clothes. Today, that’s not a problem, and filling up the machine with water before you add the clothes can result in too small a load, potentially unbalancing the machine.

SOLUTION:The proper order of things for top-loaders: clothes, water, soap. For front-loaders: If you’ve got a packet, pop it in the drum, add the clothes and let ’er rip. For liquid, put it into the dispenser, add your clothes to the drum and hit start.

PROBLEM 5: Using a machine that isn’t level

WHY IT’S BAD: Vibrations from an unbalanced washer can damage your floor and shake up the machine’s components.

SOLUTION: Place a level on top of the machine. Adjust the feet as needed (did you know many of them screw up and down?). If that doesn’t do the trick, place a piece of plywood under the entire machine.

Remember to consult your owner’s manual first for information on how to properly care for your specific appliance.

Being forewarned of the top five mistakes people make is, as they say, being forearmed. Now go forth…and do your laundry properly!

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