I wonder how many of you own or are considering the purchase of a High Efficiency Washing machine.
I love the size of the machine and how many items I can cram in there. It definitely has a large capacity and does a decent job of getting my mountains of laundry clean. It does take a bit longer to complete a load than a regular front loading, old school machine, but does an admirable job for the most part. I do have one major complaint though. I grumble about the way it washes towels, or rather, fails to rinse them fully.
The failure to fully rinse the towels isn't noticeable at first. However, after months of using the high efficiency machine, I noticed that the towels would seem clean after being washed & dried. But AS SOON as they were wet after a shower/bath, the towel would smell moldy and mildew-y. I began washing more frequently (2-3x/week for towels), used more Tide (my previous brand of choice) and even added vinegar, Oxy Clean, you name it! The problem was still happening, and SO gross! If I dried my face on the towel, the smell would transfer. So icky. And odd. The towels would smell Tide and Downy fresh upon departure from the dryer, but stinky as soon as they did their toweling job!
So, I thought I'd do a bit of research. I hunted a bunch on the internet. Sad, but true. I found that a LOT of people had this problem (which was good as I was seriously thinking I was just a bad little washer woman!). Here is a summary of what I found:
1) Simply using HE detergent isn't enough. Even HE detergents instruct the user to use WAY too much detergent, particularly liquid detergents.
2) The HE models use an insufficient amount of water for successful rinsing of heavy or highly absorbent laundry items, resulting in an incomplete rinsing of excess soap from the laundry, particularly the towels.
This discovery made sense! Extra soap + Super Absorbent Towels + Not enough water to rinse = Mildew that would grow/build up over a long period of time!
Basically, the mildew takes a while to really grow, so the smell wasn't obvious right away. And the towels seemed clean at first, but adding dampness made the smell obvious. Ta da! I kept on reading to find out about how to solve the problem and prevent it in the future.
Here is a little of what I learned:
1) The cleaning formula for liquid vs. powdered detergents is not the same. Powdered Tide, from what I read, has a different chemical makeup and can do a better job of cleaning
2) Mildew and Mold like HE washers. Make sure you check the front "lip/seal" of rubber on your machine. I wipe mine often and, about once a month, do a load of just hot water with bleach to kill anything growing. Vinegar works, too. Make sure you leave the door open after washing, too, to let the machine air out.
3) Use LESS! Whether you choose liquid or powdered detergent, most sites I saw recommended using 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount recommended by the manufacturers to get your clothes clean.
Now that I knew what was causing the problem, I read on to find out what to do to fix it. Would I have to buy all new towels? Thank goodness, no! In order to tackle the problem of stinky towels, first I washed the towels over and over and over with no detergent at all. Even though I didn't use detergent, suds kept coming out of the towels, even after 3 washes. I think I ended up washing them 4 or 5 times to completely get rid of the soap build-up inside the towels.
Next, I did decide to switch to a powdered version of Tide HE. I later switched to the Kirkland Brand from Costco. Now I have begun making my own powdered laundry detergent as it is cheaper, less sudsy (which helps with the rinsing because less water is present) and very gentle. More on that another day.
I also read that using too much fabric softener adds to the problem, so I always water mine down a bit and use less.
So there you have it. A laundry mystery debunked. Kind of sad that I'd be so excited about it, but what can I say? I lead a sheltered life. I'll share the recipe I use for laundry detergent another day. It's easy, affordable and fun for the whole family. That last line may be a bit of an exaggeration.
***photos courtesy of Creative Commons on Flickr
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