Old washers suffer from mold, mildew

Posted Aug. 30, 2008, at 3:57 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:47 p.m.

It’s not easy being green.

My wife and I have always been motivated to save energy and not waste stuff. It is not because we consider ourselves “green,” whatever that fuzzy moniker means to you, but rather because we are frugal Yankees who do not like to waste things. My wife even e-mails all those companies who send us catalogs and asks them to stop.

So it was a simple decision to get one of the first front-loading Maytag Neptune washers when they first came out. We replaced our 20-year-old Maytag top-loading washer, which never saw a service person. (We gave it to my neighbor, who still uses it.)

The Maytag Neptune front-loader washer saved us so much water that our Bangor water and sewer bill savings paid for the washer in about a year and a half. And that was without any tax credits. That was satisfying in many ways. I did a TV program on it, and we documented the savings on water and electricity on both the washer and dryer.

When we rebuilt the house we live in now, it made sense to get another front-loading washer. We were thrilled to get a second- or third-generation washer. We bought a Frigidaire washing machine. It was smaller than the Maytag Neptune, but we had become empty nesters in the interim years. We made a space for the new appliances in the kitchen.

We have used that new washer for about four years. A year into using this washer, we noticed that there was a smell associated with it. The older Neptune washer had a smell issue with the boot. The boot is a rubber connector that is between the loading door and the drum. Water tends to linger in this area and mold and mildew can grow there. Maytag sorted out the issue with a new boot. The issues with that groundbreaking washer also bankrupted the company, which eventually got sold to Whirlpool.

The smell was intermittent, so it was tolerable. I have occasionally tried to solve it by cycling the machine with heavy doses of bleach. That resulted in the house briefly smelling of bleach instead of mildew.

Because I have a rather large nose, the smell of mildew gets to me. This year, I suspect the rain and humidity of the summer has fostered a rabid growth of mildew and mold. I have been online for months, researching all kinds of remedies and attempting them in high hopes of being deemed some sort of brilliant husband who could solve such an insidious problem. I tried lots of bleach, many, many detergents, several different mold and mildew cleaners and Lysol. The smell just kept coming back. And we wondered a lot about health issues.

This week, we bought a new Whirlpool top-loading washer and a matching dryer. I dragged out the offending washer and dragged in the new machine. And the smell is gone. We have resigned ourselves to, perhaps, using more water.

It will be fun to see if any small ailments disappear that we might attribute to this experience. This latest machine has very small load cycles, which might save us as much water as the front-loader. I am not sure. I don’t care. If we do not have to live with mold and mildew, we will be happy.

The point of this diatribe is that living with a minimal impact on our resources is a great thing, but we need to be informed consumers. This is a pervasive problem that affects many different brands, not just the ones I have reported here. I have found one manufacturer that uses a Microban-treated drum, which might be a remedy. Then again, might not be.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at bangordaily-news.com/thehomepage.

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