Our 20-year-old washing machine died a couple of weeks ago, right in the middle of a cycle, full of soapy water and about a dozen of my shirts. It did have the courtesy to make an obnoxious buzzing sound when I tried to get it going again, but in the end, it was clear it had cleaned its last load.
The deceased machine wouldn’t drain the water, so I got my WetVac and sucked it out, making trip after trip to the bathroom to pour bucketfuls down the toilet. After 4-5 of those, I was left with some very wet clothes, which I tossed in the dryer, then back into a laundry basket (because they weren’t actually clean yet), where they sat until we could get a replacement washer.
The next day, walking up and down the appliance aisle at Lowe’s, it occurred to me that, despite a few new bells and whistles, the way we clean clothes hasn’t changed much over the years. No, we don’t have to go down to the river to beat our pants and shirts against rocks, but is that really so dissimilar than what happens when you put them in the machine and turn it on? It fills with water, you add some soap, then it agitates back and forth for a while (in a manner analogous to rock-beating) until it rinses off the soap and dirt and expels the water. That’s what happened inside the machine my parents owned when I was a kid, and it’s the same method still used today.
What’s different now is that there are more dials to set. Normal wash or power wash? Heavy soil or light soil? One rinse or two? The machine we bought has five possible water temperature settings: hot, warm, cool, cold, and tap cold. I know how it gets the first two — from our water heater — but how does it differentiate between the temperature of the tap water it’s fed and something lower on the Fahrenheit scale? Is there a water-cooling system built into this behemoth? And what about this setting: Hand Wash? If I select that, do I get a message telling me to clean my dirty socks in the sink? I bought the machine to avoid that!
My favorite option is the sensor that allows the washing machine to automatically set the water level. Having that is a real time saver, because I often wasted almost a full second clicking the old dial from small load to medium load.
What’s missing is internet connectivity that sends a text to my phone letting me know the entire cycle is done and I should get off my big butt, go into the laundry room, and put the damp clothes in the dryer. How can I possibly be expected to keep track of that myself?