Saturday, September 13, 2008

it's always something... Roseanne Rosannadana's grandma always said.

When it comes to making environmentally sound choices in your home, things can get quite complex.

Many people have chosen to go with new, energy efficient, low water use front loading washing machines in recent years, as a way to save money on electricity and water and be environmentally conscious. But it turns out that there's a major drawback to front loading washers and the solution uses more water and electricity.

Because the new front loading washers use less water, and are more tightly sealed, mold and mildew frequently grow in the inner tub, contributing to allergies and bad smells, some of which is transferred to the clothing. Using too much detergent or the wrong kind exacerbates the problem. Front loaders require low sudsing, high efficiency (HE) detergents, which are not as widely available nation wide as traditional detergents. [A quick review of the largest grocery store in my area found only one type of one brand specifically labeled HE].

The problem is prevalent enough to have spawned several class action lawsuits against LG, Whirlpool and Maytag.

An enterprising Minnesota appliance repairman Paul Flynn, has developed a solution "smelly washer" granules. But the catch (from an environmental and cost) perspective is that to be effective the product has to be used at the highest water level setting, and the hottest water temperature (Flynn recommends turning up your water heater to its highest "scalding" setting), at least once a week. While it is unclear from the website whether or not preventing mildew from forming can be done in conjunction with washing a load of clothes (assuming you have one that can be washed in scalding water), removing the problem after it has already occurred requires a machine empty of everything put water.

Suddenly the cost and environmental savings of a newer front loading washer begin to be eroded!


Anonymous said...

I don't recommend to do this once a week. After the initial cleaning
with Smellywasher Cleaner there are no need for weekly or even monthly "maintenance" cycles. If there is a need then there is still a problem with detergent and/or softener use. We recommend to use a teaspoon when an odor is noticed. That being stated many customers do a MONTHLY maintenance cycle realizing that if there is an odor present there is already fungus growing.
PS. It is not necessary to turn up your water heater either! It was just a suggestion if your hot water wasn't very hot!

Paul Flynn

Sue said...

Paul, thanks for the clarification!

Paul Flynn said...

Oops! I sounded peeved!!

Just use 1/4 of what directions on the box or bottle advise and the odor will be MUCH less frequent. It's especially important if you have a water softener in the home.

Fabric softener residue can also cause odor. We also advise to switch to dryer sheets if you're using softener or better yet - the newer, chemical-free dryer balls!

E. R. Dunhill said...

Thanks for posting on this. While I don't have much in the way of suggestions to reduce energy/water use on the washing side of things, I'd love to see people return to line-drying some of their laundry. Living in the DC area, I often think it's a little strange (given how hot it gets in the summer) that our cultural practice is to run a dryer to produce more hot air inside the house.

Pat Jenkins said...

like the question i have posed to erd and chris sue, why is it when mankind tries to cater to the earth, it ends up causing more concern for mankind?

Chris Crawford said...

why is it when mankind tries to cater to the earth, it ends up causing more concern for mankind?

Dontcha think that might be an overbroad statement?

Oh, and Sue, the latest Mann paper is in fact the next entry in a series of papers. The original 1998 paper came in for a lot of criticism, and so he published another some years later, which was much better received. I don't know if this is the third or the fourth in the series, but it incorporates changes addressing previous criticisms. I do not expect it to face anywhere near the criticisms that the first paper triggered.

Chris Crawford said...

Oops, I messed up: my last paragraph should be in the NEXT topic. I'll repost it there. Sorry

Sue said...

Pat, I don't think that trying to balance household choices (front loader versus top loader) about what saves more energy and water is about catering to the earth -- it seems to me that its a LOT more about catering to my pocket book! have you looked at your electric bill lately?