Having a clean, fresh smelling front-loading HE washer is easier than you may think.
This is an article that my team and I were prompted to prepare in response to the December 11, 2013 email from TreeHugger called “The latest spin on washing machines.” We feel it can be VERY helpful for many of you with the issues you’re experiencing with your HE and/or front-loading washers. The original article, entitled “Lawsuit over front-load washers may drive consumers back to energy-wasting models”, was written by Kimberley Mok, and published 12-10-13 for the Business and Corporate Responsibility division of TreeHugger.
Ms. Mok also wrote a good follow up article today (12-13) entitled, “8 Easy maintenance tips for front load washers.” She has obviously been writing away same as I. We have not yet even talked or corresponded. No doubt we will very soon! I’m really looking forward to it!
Be assured the gist here has nothing to do with your “green-ness”, or lack thereof. This is to assist with real, everyday problems we all face. As the founder of NaturOli, and the author of SoapNuts.Pro (SNP), of course I will speak to our remedies and solutions to the problems Ms. Mok and commenters raise. If you feel my NaturOli association biases my opinion, so be it for that’s your opinion. However, it’s via NaturOli and SNP that I’ve gained the knowledge and credentials to speak intelligently on this topic.
As far as I can ascertain from my homework and from technicians, there are no major distinctions between the old and new front-loaders. Manufacturers have made tweaks and adjustments to help with the mold and odor problems, but the real problem is within the fundamental design of a front-loader (call it an HE or not). If truly HE, the problems will only be worsened due to even less water being used for flushing the left over soap scum and gunk out with each wash.
It’s like night and day between USA and Europe when it comes to washers. In Europe there has been greater emphasis on both water conservation and space efficiency for (ever…???), hence many won’t even relate to the water-gulping top-loading monsters that we’ve grown to love here in the US. Separate moisture-filled laundry rooms are not part of everyday life for many of our European friends. Washday habits here in the US are quite different. We’ve been spoiled in many ways. Those mainstay front-loaders at the laundromat have big advantages over our “home” units: They are “commercially” built units, they’re typically bigger, they’re regularly maintained, and they’re commonly left open – quite a different ballgame than found in our tidy US home laundry rooms. (“Tidy” may be a stretch. It certainly doesn’t describe mine.)
As reported by numerous companies, “bad odors” is the #1 service problem for front-loading and HE washers in the US. Detergent residue and pent up moisture being the main culprits. A lack of routine cleaning is also high on the list. Thoroughly cleaning our washing machine is only a slightly more frequent task than “spring cleaning” in most households I know. And this now takes us to the heart of the matter: The laundry soaps / detergents, softeners, and other additives used.
Due in part to our big top-loaders, we’ve grown to love seeing suds. We’ve also been taught to equate cleaning with suds. (Yep, there’s even a post here about it.) It was a long-running marketing strategy that backfired (big time) on the detergent producers with the onset of the home front-loader models. And one they are still struggling to overcome.) Most Europeans never developed such a love affair with suds. You can’t easily watch the suds in a front-loader.
Apparently we have a bit of a dilemma in the US with front-loaders. Like Ms. Mok, most of us hate them. At best it’s a love-hate relationship for the eco conscious. However, there is a very simple remedy for most of our problems. – And it requires no extra work nor significant lifestyle change.
NaturOli began in 2007 as a formulator of olive-based natural products (mainly personal care). Hair care plus home cleaning products followed after we began working with saponin which is derived from soap berries. We discovered soap berries (aka soap nuts) about a year or two after we launched nationally. (BTW: They’re not nuts at all. There’s a whole article here regarding that issue.) Soap berries contain saponin which is a natural surfactant that leaves no residues or build-ups as all the chemical surfactants do. The detergent developers just can’t seem to produce a “clean” chemical surfactant. Saponin however will nearly purge washers of old build up and all the associated nasty molds, odors, etc. (I should say saponins for it is a family of them, but we’ll leave that for another day.)
Given the large number of comments from Europeans to the TreeHugger article, it should be noted that Germany has been and remains the largest importing nation of soap berries in the world. It’s also noteworthy to mention that the Swedish manufacturer, Electrolux, developed and won a 2007 Design Lab award for a prototype washer that uses soap nuts exclusively.
For years we’ve been getting rave reviews and feedback from users who had terrible problems that are simply GONE. Nasty musty odors are GONE. The mold, mildew, and detergent residues are GONE (or have lessened dramatically). Use of saponin is the best and easiest remedy – by far – to resolve these problems. It’s that simple.
Being free of toxic chemicals, saponin is a “greener” remedy. That’s a given. Again, that’s not what this article is about though. Saponin works better than the standard or all the psuedo-green products. Even if you don’t care about that, being healthier is a certainly a nice bonus. Thousands who suffered with skin sensitivities due to today’s commercial detergents are now living irritation free lives again – and there’s tons of testimonies here to support what I write. It was humorous to read a commenter’s input regarding fragrance tablets as a remedy for the musty odors. No thanks. I’m not one to spray perfume on a pig. Solve the problem. Don’t try to hide it. Yuk.
There are other articles on SNP about the inherent mechanical design issues with HE washers and front-loaders, plus discussions about the plethora of problematic detergents and additives on store shelves. These troubling issues are only compounded further by common “human” errors - i.e., overstuffing loads. It appears that the mainstream machine technology has surpassed that of the mainstream detergents being produced – causing lots of problems in the process. The chemical product producers have yet to find a viable solutions, and equipment manufacturers are now being hit with the lawsuits. I’ve yet to see an owners manual that the average person will likely read completely. Most folks won’t get beyond the basic functions, or will find a YouTube video for a quickie demo.
The manuals are loaded with “don’t dos”, while failing miserably to communicate all the “dos”. The only thing covered well is their indemnification: Basically stating that virtually all typical problems will be your fault. What a mess and joke! It’s no wonder that there’s lawsuits in the works.
We found a viable, effective solution to this mess years ago – while winning TWO international awards in the process. And frankly, we’re only scratching the surface of the iceberg we found.
After California loosened up on some building codes, the LA Times wrote about our soap berries and saponin-based cleaners in the “Top 4 Best” grey-water safe detergents. Note for our green friends: Regardless of washer type HE, top-loader, front-loader, or the kitchen sink, use of a grey-water system ranks as one of the greenest things you can do at home. The majority of home water consumption is grey-water – not sewage. Hence, that beloved big old top-loading Maytag no longer wastes ANY water! And when using soap berries and saponins, your lawn and gardens will love you for it.
It’s all quite amazing what saponin will do. Putting it simply, cleaning up your washer is a no-brainer. Washing machine technicians have even written us commenting about never seeing machines so clean before. The internal plumbing, gaskets, heater elements, etc. remain cleaner than they’ve ever seen when servicing the machine of a soap nut user.
So, soap nuts / soapberries are key. There’s different techniques in using them. All are discussed on SNP. However, front-loaders are the most challenging in obtaining optimal results because they fall short in agitation and even more importantly – adequate water flow for the proper dispersion of the saponin. So, here comes the only sales pitch from me:
Use our flagship formula: EXTREME 18X.
In these past years we’ve become the largest importer and distributor of soap berries and saponin products in the US. Our EXTREME 18X is effectively a pure saponin extract. Angele Sionna of Examiner.com’s “Early Child Parenting” column put it as “Soap Nuts in a bottle” in 2009 (right after we unveiled it). That’s a darn good description. But EXTREME means extreme for a reason! A tiny 8oz bottle will wash 96+ HE loads. You can stop lugging big jugs around. You need so little that it comes with a micro-dose 2ml squirt pump to dispense it properly.
Hands down, EXTREME 18X is best for front-loaders. It’s a one squirt and done. Traditional methods of using soap nuts are not as effective due to that lack of adequate water flow, and circulation is problematic. Due to the typically tiny front-loader drum space, many folks over stuff them, and that’s the worst thing you can do (regardless of detergent type) if you want clean laundry. As a very potent liquid, EXTREME 18X disperses immediately and thoroughly. Alternate methods require more effort and care for best results. See the post on “Common Problems” for more details.
I could write all day about this. We don’t want to mask the problem with fragrance – we want to eliminate it. And we do. That we guarantee you.
Soap berries have been around for ages. Various species grow across the entire globe. I’ve written many articles about why they are not well known in the US. For this post, let me simply state that nobody can patent an apple, an olive, or an orange. They’re fruits. If anybody was to have a patent, it would be Mother Nature, but she’s not profit motivated like P&G. So, figure it out yourself. It’s doubtful that P&G wants us growing our own soaps and detergents in our back yards.
There’s some 30+ articles here on SoapNuts.Pro, and you can learn more at NaturOli.com. You’ll find us on Amazon, iHerb, and scattered amongst small specialty stores across the US, Canada and abroad – plus with more and more dermatologists, homeopathic doctors and their like.
We don’t seek mass merchandisers. Sorry, no Walgreens or Targets for us. That’s not our way. We like it the way we are.
We think you will, too.