How to Choose a Washer (Jul, 1947)

Adjusted for inflation an automatic washing machine in 1947 cost $2000-$3000.

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How to Choose a Washer

IF YOU wanted to buy a washing machine last year, a clerk put your name on a waiting list; if you were among the 2,023,981 lucky ones, you took the first make he offered you. This year, you may find yourself in a quandary, forced to choose which of several new washers you want.

Like the 1947 cars, most of the washers resemble the prewar models. Several makes with a variety of features are available, but there are still only two “major types: the conventional, or nonautomatic washer, with either a wringer or spinner for drying clothes, and the automatic washer that washes, rinses and damp-dries clothes at the flick of a switch.

Without wetting a hand, the user of an automatic can do a nine-pound wash in half an hour, a chore that still takes two hours using the conventional washers, according to time and motion studies.

Of all the automatic washing machines on the market today, however, only three were manufactured before the war, so that automatics are actually still new products. Few changes can be expected in the time-tried wringer-washer, but engineering research for an improved automatic machine is carried on 24 hours a day at most washer factories.

What happens in an automatic washer when the clothes basket is filled with soiled laundry and the time dial is set? The basket revolves in sudsy water, while the clothes are agitated. At the end of the washing cycle, the dirty, soapy water is pumped off. At the same time fresh water is sprayed over the clothes for three complete rinses. The rinse water goes down the drain, and the washer spins a half-mile-a-minute to remove the excess water, leaving the clothes ready to hang on the line. Finally, the machine cleans itself, then automatically turns itself off.

Before buying an automatic washer. you should consider your hot-water system and water pressure. Surveys indicate thai the weekly wash of the average household is large enough for several washer loads, but unlike the conventional washer—which can reuse the same tub of water—onlv one load of clothes can be washed and rinsed in the 21 to 28 gallons of water needed for the automatics’ operation. To get the most satisfactory results, users of automatic washers need water heaters capable of delivering 40 gallons of water at 140°F. in 80 minutes.

The timers on automatics are adjusted for use with normal water pressure, but recently a suspended timer has been developed for homes with less than 20 pounds of water pressure. This device, attached to the washer, interrupts the current flow to the timer motor, allowing ample time for the tub to fill with water.

Nonautomatic washers are much older, having been on the market since 1874. A washer of this type is usually a portable, vitreous-enamelled tub that contains an aluminum agitator. From six to nine pounds of dry clothes can be placed in the water-filled tub, and a 1/4-horsepower motor moves the blades or vanes of the agitator back and forth, swishing the clothes through the water. Some machines have a vacuum-cup arrangement that moves the clothes up and down in the water, thus squeezing the suds through them, but washing-machine authorities agree that the agitator type is the most effective for removing dirt.

Before buying a washer with an aluminum agitator, make certain that the agitator is easily removable from its shaft for cleaning; otherwise, undissolved soap will corrode it.

No washer equipped with a power wringer can be called “safe” to use. Clothes are passed by hand through the rolls of the wringer, and the 800-pound pressure of the revolving rollers wrings the water out. The Underwriters Laboratories require wringers to have emergency releases that will spring the rollers two inches apart if clothes or fingers are caught between the rollers, but in spite of all the safety releases, the wringer remains a wash-day hazard. Scarcely a day passes that a newspaper doesn’t report a washer-wringer accident.

The other drying alternative in the non-automatic washer is the spinner. Wet clothes put into the spinner basket are revolved so rapidly (about 1,000 r.p.m.) that centrifugal force extracts the water from the clothes. While a spinner may take three times as long as a power wringer to do as good a job (the efficiency of a wringer is rated excellent if water left in the clothes is 72% of the weight of the dry clothes), this disadvantage is offset by the safety feature.

Well-known washer factories are geared to aircraft standards, and some parts of the power mechanism must be accurate to within three to five millionths of an inch. As a further safeguard against mechanical failure, some gear cases are assembled with a lifetime bath of oil.

No precautions, however, can protect a washer against misuse, and the greatest number of service and repair calls are for washing machines that have gone out of whack simply because the user failed to follow directions. Your washer is likely to need repairing at least once in its 15-year life. If you place an immovable automatic well away from the wall to permit easy access on all sides, you won’t have the additonal expense of moving the machine from its base whenever repairs are needed.

Though clothes are washed cleaner in the present nonautomatics, scientific research should soon produce an automatic washer with a higher degree of washing effectiveness. A problem more troublesome to the engineers is how to develop a more satisfactory dryer in the automatic. A centrifugal dryer rotating fast enough for really effective operation may create large unbalanced centrifugal forces, which could cause violent vibration of the washer and a breakdown of its parts.

While conventional washers and some automatics have casters and can be rolled to the most convenient spot for washing, the automatic machines require special connections, either to the two spigots at a sink or else direct to the water system. Regardless of which type you select and where it is installed, all washing machines should be grounded against shock. Most washers meet the Underwriters Laboratories specifications for electrical safety, but since the laundry floor is generally damp, a good safeguard against shock is to ground the washing machine frame permanently by running a wire from the frame to a water pipe.

Buying a washer is like buying a car-chromium trim just hikes the price. You’ll pay extra, too, for features like drain pumps, timers, cord reels and temperature indicators. Because the wringer-type washer is the cheapest (it costs $60 to $120), it continues to outsell the others. Washers with spinners cost about $50 more, and automatic washing machines range in price from $200 to $300.

No matter how efficient your washer is, it will be working under a handicap unless you use enough water and at least two inches of suds. A washing machine will scrub your clothes, but it still takes soap to make them white.

3 comments
  1. Blurgle says: July 23, 20071:33 pm

    My father’s stepmother had nine fingers. She lost one to a power wringer washer. They really were not safe.

  2. Zach Smith says: April 26, 201012:50 am

    Today, you should put more consideration to the efficiency of your washing machine. The heating element of your washer consumes a lot of energy. When buying a new laundry machine, make sure you have done a lot of comparison with other brands. Compare energy and water efficiency so you can find out which one offers the best. Most of the modern washers today features sensors that will take its efficiency up a notch.

  3. Dave Smith says: October 4, 20105:18 am

    and the capacity of the washing machine is an important thing to consider too. those top loaders has a low capacity and does not fit my family anymore.

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