I recently had to buy a box of laundry detergent. That will not be remarkable to most of you, but it is to me. The last time that I bought any laundry detergent was in August of 2001, and I have done plenty of laundry since.
At that time, my 10-year-old, secondhand, top-loading washing machine was obviously in need of replacement. I had it repaired a few times, but even with the basement door closed, the poor thing's misery was heart-breakingly audible all over the house.
My husband and I were very interested in buying higher efficiency appliances for our home. This was a great opportunity to investigate household appliances. My brother highly recommended the Asko brand he'd recently purchased, but his praise of the washing machine had me wondering. It uses no more than six gallons of water to wash a full load of laundry? No more than two tablespoons of laundry detergent and one teaspoon of liquid fabric softener per load? I can fit a king-size bedspread in it? And it cost $1000? I thought no household washing machine could be worth $1000, but even at that price, I had to see this. My bedspread had commonly cost $25 or more to have it cleaned. It happened to have some yogurt stains from when our kids tried to feed us breakfast in bed. So the time was perfect for testing out a washing machine.
I was skeptical, but I took the bedspread over to my brother's house to try his Asko. If nothing else, I'd pay my brother and sister-in-law $5 for the privilege of washing my bedspread in their washing machine and save the other $20.
With a bit of squeezing, we got the whole thing in the machine. I was certain the bedspread would never get clean, but my brother said it would do it. I just had to wait and see. It was a long wait. The short cycle takes half an hour, and the long cycle takes at least one hour. I could not imagine getting the laundry done, but this was just a trial. I couldn't see myself spending that kind of money on a washing machine.
The spin cycle was fascinating and revealed why my brother was certain the blanket would be clean. At 1200 rpm, the fabric flattened to the sides of the drum leaving a least a foot of open space inside. There was plenty of room within the blanket for water and soap to circulate.
We went upstairs while the Asko rinsed. My brother explained more about how the machine worked. In simple terms, it works several batches of clean water through the fabric instead of agitating it in one or two tubs of questionable water.
We pulled the bedspread out. It was clean.
I couldn't get over the price. $1000? But a trip to the appliance store showed me this average for the high efficiency appliances. In addition, we would have to install a 220 outlet for some brands including the Asko. Should we buy? My husband and I talked it over and decided to try it.
In our first loads of laundry, I used no detergent at all. Our top-loader left enough detergent in the clothes to clean them in the Asko the first time through. After that, I used one to two tablespoons of dry detergent and one teaspoon of liquid fabric softener. After a few weeks, I noticed that some of our older white clothes were no longer gray. They had lightened to a slight yellow and some even became white again with little to no detergent and no added bleach (there was a little in the brand of detergent I use). Our clothes always smelled fresh, not perfumy like soap or fabric softener. They were just fresh and clean like new clothing, and if I wanted to wash clothes in hotter water, I could because the Asko heated its own water for the soapy part of the wash cycle.
I adjusted to the longer washing time. So much water came out with the spin that my old dryer finished long before the washer did. I had each load dried, folded and put away before the washer finished. That was an easy adjustment. No more waiting for the dryer to finish and wet clothes went straight from washer to dryer.
I got braver with my laundry. My down jacket washed painlessly, the stains came out, and I saved a bundle over taking it to a professional laundry. I washed heavy bed blankets more frequently at no more cost than my time and effort. I washed delicate items in the washing machine instead of by hand and they came out beautifully since there was no agitator to tug them apart. And that king-sized bedspread was washed much more often than it used to be.
In spite of my hesitation over the initial cost, I know this machine will save money over time. I'm not sure how much money it will save us over time, because as the children grow, our needs change. Our daughter now uses the bathtub for her private spa, but the water bill has not gone up significantly. Our electric bill has gone down, but we have also replaced our lights with compact fluorescents. So, I don't know how much of the reduction is due to the Asko washing machine. The Asko heats its own water, so the gas for the water heater is only for dishes, showers and baths.
I asked my brother if he has seen a reduction in his water and electric bills. He has not. He and his wife had a new baby; even with a load of cloth diapers to wash each day, their electric and water bills have not gone up.
The big change we both have seen is in the ongoing costs. We buy laundry soap and fabric softener once every year or two. We take fewer things to the laundry and dry cleaner. This adds up to $150 to 200 per year. Not bad. Just in those savings, our machines will pay for themselves in five to six years.
My neighbors decided to get a new conventional washer and dryer instead of the Asko brand like we did. They now spend $15 on the largest containers of detergent and fabric softener that they can find at the discount store every three months. I usually offer to help them carry those heavy containers into their house. And I smile.
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com
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