Tips on how to treat that greatly-abused domestic appliance — the washing machine

Kya deLongchamps talks to her appliance repair man and gets some great tips on how to treat your washing machine.

Tips on how to treat that greatly-abused domestic appliance — the washing machine

Most will take the stellar wrecking ball.

A generation or two from scrubbing out our undies’ on a washboard, I for one go to pieces when the machine stutters.

This is where Maurice Kiely comes in — he’s a domestic appliance repair specialist, based in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and since 1992 he has been serving all the major brands of large domestic appliances throughout the area.

I am such an ignorant thug with my dryer in particular, that Maurice finds himself balancing a machine on my woody back step with frightening regularity.

He has patiently and reasonably replaced belts, bolts, mysterious metal whatsits’ and taken buckets of hairy detritus — from styling pins to shattered plastic toys — out of the rear of many a machine for me.

He also can drop a new washer or dryer fully formed from the back of his van when a customer’s investment flat-lines. Handy.

Mucky Little Secrets

Despite his upbeat manner, Maurice has a serious beef with that intelligent detergent drawer, and after a gentle admonishment back in 2008, I have to admit I now never use mine.

It turns out, it’s something of a well of shame.

Maurice explains: “It is always a good idea to put the tablet or powder in the drum first, before the clothes and not to overload the machine.

"Going straight into the drum, you get all the detergent where you want it — in the wash. Using the soapbox causes a lot of unnecessary blockages and smells. I would recommend using it solely for fabric conditioner.”

The Spin on Spin

Spin speed is a feature that tends to impress consumers, but it’s a highly muscled operation that’s little understood.

“On a horrible wet day in November when the weather has been raining for three weeks, it’s ok to use 1200rpm spin. But keep in mind that these high spin speeds wear down your machine, hammering the drum bearings.

“Most people forget that you can adjust most modern machines now and if you take the spin down a notch or two on a nice spring day and dry outside, then 1000rpm or even 800rpm will give you year’s extra on the life of the machine with little difference in the results.”

Clean up with Longevity

I’ve murdered a few dryers, while my parent’s 1970s GE dryer rumbles on in its assuredly Kw devouring duties, and I can’t keep a washing machine alive beyond 3 years.

Maurice explains an irritating little irony when it comes to washers.

“When I meet customers on a daily basis some ask why their mother had a machine for 17 years and it never gave problems, even washing for eight or ten people.

“Well, that is because mammy’s machine was an 800 spin max’ and it washed at 60°C as often as 40°C.”

Surprised, I ask him how can temperature make such a devastating impact on the washing machine — are low temperatures killing my appliances softly? What about the environment?

“We are being told constantly about how green we should be and keep the temperature low in our washes. Well this sounds like good advice but the reality is we use less power, but we use more washing machines.

“A long boil wash once a week cleans the machine in a lot of ways. The element doesn’t accumulate lime and magnesium. The inner drum is sparkling and the filter does not block up as much with grime and debris.

‘If you use only a 30-40 degree max’, there will be a black fungus type stain inside the door on the seal, the inner drum will be dull and the smell will be remarkable every time you open the door.

“Using these low temperatures will accumulate a gluey gunge. It’s only when we open the drum that we find the extent of the problem and contamination.

"In a lot of machines the damage is done and this can shorten the life of a good machine.”

So, to summarise Maurice Kiely’s top tips to avoid problems with the washing machine are:

  • Put powder in with the clothes.
  • Reduce the final spin where possible.
  • Use a high temperature regularly.
  • Empty the filter every six months and just hand tighten the filter when it’s clean (I’ll be honest here — really Maurice, there’s a filter?)

New Machine Know How

It’s time to come clean, despite decades writing about appliances, I find gem coloured washer drum doors and brushed steel finishes highly enticing.

Beyond a cursory glance at the energy label — I am easily swayed.

For first time buyers or someone starting the affair over again, what should we look for in a washing machine?

“Buying an appliance is like any other purchase — as tricky or as simple as you want it to be. There are simple questions you should ask, but frankly nobody asks them.”

  • Listening to a salesperson is not always a good idea, but doing a review of the brand is always a good idea.
  • Questions to: where is it made? I would avoid anything made in China.
  • How long is the warranty?
  • Does it include labour? How much is the call out charge?

“The big companies can ask for up to €140 just for the call, no parts included,” Maurices says.

“So check with an independent service engineer to see if you can have your machine repaired or if not, also ask which machine would he recommend?

“Sometimes a washing machine is very repairable but most engineers will be happy to share their experiences, and it will cost just the price of a call.”

With thanks to Maurice for his expert help with this feature.

Contact: . 058-44300/087-9693068.

Ask busy parents what they would prefer — a small meteorite to smash a large hole through the conservatory roof, or to be robbed of their washing machine over a busy weekend?

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