Tahlequah Daily Press

Columns

May 27, 2014

Front-load washers are harbingers of foul-smelling fabric

TAHLEQUAH — Don’t buy a front-load washer unless you relish foul-smelling clothes.

Eight years ago, when my son was a junior in high school, my in-laws announced they were buying my sister-in-law and her husband a refrigerator for Christmas, and that we, too, would get a new fridge. Typically, if Cathy and Andy needed something, they got it for Christmas, and so did we. We got a wine refrigerator that way one year, though we didn’t particularly want one. Ours arrived with a broken corner piece, so the company sent us another one, and now, we have two, although one’s empty because we can’t afford to stock it.

Another year, we got one of those vibrating easy chairs from The Sharper Image, with an accompanying ottoman to massage your legs. For the price of this set, we could have paid my son’s tuition at OU for a semester. We wound up selling it to a friend at a substantially cut rate because the chair wasn’t comfortable to sit in unless it was vibrating. The only soul in the house who seemed fond of it was our cat, Zeus – but he’s white, the chair was black, and you get the picture.

When she was alive, my mother-in-law seemed determined to buy both her children the same exact gift, which Cathy always selected. I suspect it was because my husband wasn’t trusted to do the deed. I heard my mother-in-law mutter more than once, “I’m not cutting him a check to buy a bunch of tools!”

The year of the refrigerator, however, we convinced her we needed a washer and dryer even more. We had been hankering for one of those new-fangled front-load washers, and what my mother-in-law may not have realized was that as far as my husband is concerned, appliances are nothing more than oversized power tools.

It mattered little that my husband doesn’t do the laundry. He likes to mix reds with whites to create pinks, and I believe he does this deliberately. As evidence, I point to stories he used to tell about how, when in college, he would go to the laundry and try to hustle women there. Sometime between the hustling and his marriage to me, he forgot how to sort.

My in-laws arrived for the holiday season and took us to Sears, where we were initially urged to choose a washer-and-dryer set. I say “initially” because my beloved mother-in-law, God rest her soul, couldn’t help but taking over such projects. Again, it may have been because she didn’t quite trust her son to do the right thing. She did decide to cheap out on the dryer, even though my husband protested that it wouldn’t work any better, or last any longer, than my first marriage. As it turns out, he was right. Over the years, he’s had to spend about $400 on parts to make repairs that probably cost – in time and money – more than the thing was worth brand-new.

But he was wrong about the washer. We got a top-of-the-line Kenmore Elite, and although it did a reasonably good job the first few years, as of this writing, a washboard and rusty iron tub would work far better.

Part of the problem, my husband claims, is that detergents are no good anymore. He says it’s because “phosphates” were banned as additives due to some pesky environmental problem – dead wildlife or sterile bird eggs or something. So it’s harder to get clothes clean these days, especially if you have a husband who brings in shirts with grease spots on the front, along with smudges on the elbows and ring around the collar. Grease – from fried foods, vehicles and tools, or the human body – is our most prevalent problem. And I don’t care what the advertisements say about that “high-efficiency” stuff you’re supposed to use with front-loaders. You still need stain remover - several different types, in fact – to get the deed done.

But permanent stains I can live with, even if they look tacky. It’s the stench that threatens to make me lose my previous meal.

Over the past several months, I would notice that loads came out smelling not quite so fresh, no matter how much fabric softener I used. You’re probably thinking I left the wet clothes in the washer for several days, but although I’ve definitely been guilty of that sin in the past, these loads were dried immediately. The faintly quirky odor they had when wet became full-blown nauseating when dry.

Finally my husband bought some packets of stuff that were supposed to clean front-load washers. Evidently the stink is a widespread problem, or these packets wouldn’t have been invented. But even the regular use of these packets, plus a couple of gallons of bleach every now and again, doesn’t always do the trick.

Earlier this week, while working in my office, I kept catching a whiff of something nasty – a slightly mildewy, gone-over smell that could have been a dead mouse in the corner. The longer I worked, the more repulsed I became. Finally I pulled up the lapel of my dress and sniffed, and was mortified to discover the source of the noxious odor was me, myself and I – or at least the dress I was wearing, but it’s hardly worth making a distinction. I began to wonder how many people had come into my office and been quickly repelled by the odor. Perhaps they suspected I didn’t bathe regularly! I tried to think back to what folks from the community might have dropped by earlier that day. Did the mayor or the Cherokee chief come by, or the chamber director? Or perhaps they would just hear about my poor hygiene from a gossipy acquaintance who had wandered into the office, taken a whiff, gagged, and high-tailed it to the hills to spread the word.

I could hardly wait to get out of that dress, and when I did finally arrive at home and shuck my duds, I began to go through other items in the closet. It was like plucking  petals from a daisy: It stinks, it stinks not; it stinks, it stinks not...

After this experience, I commented about it on Facebook, and several helpful friends offered advice, having been there and done that.

Among them was the first lady of the Cherokee Nation, whose husband had not, after all, been among the grossed-out guests. I’m told there’s a little cubby that has to be cleaned; that you have to leave the door open so the bin can “dry out”; and that you have to use these cleaning products liberally. My question is, if you have to keep using all these specialty items, how can the washer be “high-efficiency”? From what I can tell, it’s just another scam to sell new products to gullible tool fans like my husband.

I’d give just about anything to have the old reliable washer and dryer we sold to make room for this one, but alas, it’s not to be. I hope whichever one of the Franke boys wound up with those gems is happy with his treasure.

kpoindexter@cnhi.com

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