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Dirty downside to new washing machines

Cortny Gerrish and Lindsey Morone

Dirty downside to new washing machines

CREATED Jul. 23, 2013 - UPDATED: Jul. 23, 2013

MILWAUKEE - Go shopping for a washing machine and you'll probably be impressed by a front-loader. It offers savings in energy and water and is supposed to be gentler on your clothes. 

But is there a dirty downside to these cleaning machines? 
 
Some consumers, like Besty Nyer, say yes.
 
"I wouldn't buy this again," Nyer said. "When I first bought the machine, I didn't realize it would be icky."
 
Nyer said she has to clean the inside of her front-loader after every wash or else the washing machine will be covered in mold and mildew.
 
And she's not alone.
 
TODAY'S TMJ4 discovered consumers have filed class action lawsuits against almost every manufacturer, like Whirlpool, LG, Kenmore, and General Electric, claiming the front-loading washers are susceptible to mold and mildew.
 
Whirlpool denies the allegations in court documents, saying customers aren't following the proper care instructions.
 
TODAY'S TMJ4 reached out to the other companies involved in these lawsuits, but when we called General Electric, they told us it's company policy not to give comments to the media. 
 
Kenmore, which is owned by Sears, gave us this statement, that said in part "an overwhelming large majority of owners are pleased with their Kenmore front-loading washing machines" and "we fully disagree with the plaintiff's lawyers."
 
We got a similar response from LG. They said "the number of mold reports represents a very small percentage of units installed in consumers' homes."
 
But we've learned these lawsuits can do some serious damage to a company's reputation. Take Maytag for example. In the 1980's and 90's, Maytag ruled the appliance world.
 
But then along came the first front-loading washer, the Neptune. 
 
"The Maytag Neptune had a terrible problem with the boots molding up," Chuck Williams, an appliance specialist said.
 
The mold problems spun out of control, until Maytag was slapped with a huge class-action lawsuit.
 
It cost them $33.5 million in a settlement in 2005. After a period of low sales and falling customer satisfaction, Whirlpool bought Maytag in 2006.
 
But still appliance specialist recommend front-loading washing machines because of their energy efficiency.
 
"I still firmly believe the front-load is the best platform for getting your clothes clean," Williams said.
 
Williams also said front-loaders have come a long way since the Maytag Neptune. The newer models have more holes inside the washer for the water to drain out of.
 
But the most important thing you need to do if you have a front loader? Experts say to leave the door open after a wash to let the machine dry out. Also, it's going to cost you a little extra elbow grease.
 
"The best way is to wipe this part from top to bottom then pull the lip up, wipe under there and just manually inspect all the way around," Williams said.
 
Something Nyer said she shouldn't have to do. 
 
"To me, it's just not a logical solution," Nyer said.
 
Besides the Maytag lawsuit, all of the other class action lawsuits are still making their way through the courts. But recently, it's been more good news for the manufacturers. A few months ago, the Supreme Court clamped down on class-action lawsuits, and the front-loading lawsuits were sent back for reconsideration. 
 
If you would like more information on these class action lawsuits, click here.

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