Tips for Shopping for a Wringer Washer

by Pat Veretto


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It's hard to believe that a short fifty years ago, automatic washers and electric or gas powered tumbling dryers were almost unheard of. Now, almost every home owns its own. Well, at least, that's true in the USA and in many of the technologically advanced nations.

Not everyone has the luxury of wasting over a hundred gallons of water to wash a half dozen shirts and three pairs of pants once or twice a week, to say nothing of the hundreds more used to rinse them. (We used to carry in water for washday, and believe me, it wasn't hundreds of gallons!)

Just as a personal observation (I've used both, old and new), this is one area where the oldies are truly the goodies. They do make new wringer washers and they're not any more (or less) expensive than automatic washing machines.

New wringer washers have had a lot of the "oomph" taken out of them. The one I had only lasted five years before giving up the ghost. To be fair, I could have had it repaired, but I was frustrated with it at that point. The wringer was narrow and touchy so that it wouldn't handle jeans and heavier things. There were built in safety features that to me simply made drudgery of a chore that could be, if not exciting, at least pleasant.

If you've never used a wringer washer, though, those same safety features would be of value to you. You'll soon learn to not put your fingers through any wringer, but a touchy one will release quickly, whether it's spitting out your fingers or your denim jacket.

Maytag is the name to look for if you decide to go scrounging around garage sales looking for a used one. Sometimes, depending on the area you're in, you can find a wringer washer in the back room of a used appliance dealer. Believe him if he tells you the motor is burned out. Believe him if he tells you the pump won't work. But don't let that stop you. The motors are easily changed from washer to another, since they are outside the washer body. Pumps are extras. You can empty a tub with gravitation if you simply put the hose lower than the washtub where the water is. Use a bucket to catch the water.

Never believe a used appliance salesman who tells you it isn't worth fixing. What to look for:

  • If there is evidence of grease running down the leg of the washing machine, it means the factory sealed motor is leaking. You can't fix it. On the other hand, I used a machine that leaked grease like that for over two years. I put the leg in an empty coffee can to keep the floor clean. You could lose your investment if you decide to try this method.

  • You can still buy agitators, so if one seems over used or banged up, you have an option. Grasp the agitator near the bottom and pull straight up. It should release, but with a fair bit of resistance. If there is no resistance, check to see if the gears at the bottom are stripped. If it won't come loose, you can't clean the machine. The same machine that had a two year leak also had a stuck agitator. I used it like that for a long time, then broke it trying to get it unstuck!

  • Hoses should be in good shape with a short hook to fasten it to the machine and a nozzle type of end. They can be replaced with any rubber hose that fits. Look in an appliance repair shop for the right size.

  • The lid must be present and in decent shape, and by that I mean, it should have a gasket type of edging around it and there should be no large dents and no cracks at all. Some dents along the edge can be fixed by pounding them out again. (Use a rubber mallet or wooden hammer for some protection for the paint.)

  • Try to get one not older than 1939. I know that sounds strange in this day of one year warranties, but the old wringer washers really did have a long lifetime. A sixty year old machine still has lots of wear in it if it's been treated well at all.

Pat Veretto is a work at home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances and is the moderator of The Dollar Stretcher Community.

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