Can you wash waterproof items in HE top-loading washing machines?

Consumer Reports

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What to avoid at the dollar store

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Some high-efficiency top-loaders come with a warning not to wash waterproof or water-resistant items such as bedding and jackets. This can be a problem if you're the parent of a bed wetter, live in soggy Seattle or, as one of our user reviews states, this is "a major flaw in my house of outdoorsy people." Consumer Reports called the manufacturers of most of the HE top-loaders in our tests and here's what they had to say.

High-efficiency top-loaders earned their name because they use a lot less water and spin faster than regular top-loaders That fast spinning extracts more water so less dryer time is required, saving you money. But waterproof or water-resistant items can increase the chance of loads becoming unbalanced in some washers, and that can cause excessive shaking and damage. Last December, LG recalled about 457,000 LG and Kenmore Elite top-loaders made by LG after it received at least 343 reports of HE top-loaders that vibrated excessively. More than half caused minor property damage and one minor injury was reported, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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HE top-loaders, which do not have a center post agitator, outperform conventional top-loaders in Consumer Reports' washer tests and keep improving as a category. But when it comes to the question of washing waterproof items, the answer varies by manufacturer. So before you choose a washer or if you already have an HE machine, consider what the manufacturers told us in several e-mail exchanges.


Go ahead

Frigidaire. "It is relatively safe to wash waterproof and water resistant items in our HE top-loaders," Eloise Hale, a company spokeswoman, said. "For the best possible results, we recommend that consumers follow the textile guidelines when washing."

Kenmore. When washing waterproof or water-resistant items, load evenly and see the manual's cycle guide for tips on using the bulky cycle, Larry Costello, a Sears spokesman, said. In our tests the Kenmore 2800[2], $800 retail price, was impressive and fast, but relatively noisy and not so gentle, and that helped keep it off the recommended list.

Maytag and Whirlpool. Maytag is a Whirlpool-owned brand, and all HE top-loaders from both brands can wash waterproof times, Mary Zeitler, lead consumer scientist for the manufacturer, said. "The Use & Care Guide typically recommends that when washing waterproof or water-resistant items, such as plastic-lined mattress pads or shower curtains, the customer should select the lowest spin setting available for the washer and cycle. All customers are urged to check the Use & Care Guide for their particular model to see if other recommendations apply." The Maytag  Bravos XL MVWB750Y[W], $850 retail price, is one of our top picks and the Whirlpool Cabrio WTW5700AC, $900 retail price, came close but is relatively noisy.

What to avoid at the dollar store
Proceed with caution.

LG. The owner's manual for our top-rated LG WT1101CW, $700 retail price, says not to wash or spin any waterproof or water-resistant item and that failure to follow these instructions could result in severe damage to your laundry, washer, and even property as a result of abnormal vibration. This warning applies to all LG HE top-loaders, Dave VanderWaal, director of LG's home appliance marketing, said. He suggests that if you choose to wash water-resistant fabrics, then select a low spin mode, although that does not guarantee a completely balanced load throughout the wash cycle. Doing it does not void the warranty.

Samsung. The sticker on the $750 Samsung WA422PRHD[WR], a high-scoring recommended model, said not to wash or spin waterproof items, a warning that applies to all Samsung HE top-loaders, Dean Brindle, director of laundry product management, said. But Brindle says that if you do, then select either a low-spin or no-spin cycle in which the drum doesn't spin but water and detergent are still cycled through the washer to clean the items. Following that advice will not void the warranty. 

Check the manual

GE. Consumers should follow the cleaning directions on the care label and use their GE washer in accordance with the operating instructions for the washer included in the Use & Care manual, said Julie Wood of GE. The GE GTWN7450DWW, $800, is a CR Best Buy.

Haier. "Haier does not make any express or implied guarantee that all waterproof or water-resistance items can be washed in Haier HE top loaders," Jeff Armstrong, a Haier spokesman, said. He recommends following the guidance in the user manual and the care instructions on the laundry items.

Don't do it

Kenmore Elite. "Do not wash or spin any item labeled or known to be waterproof or water-resistant, even if the product care label on the item permits machine washing," Costello said. "Failure to follow these instructions could result in severe damage to your laundry, your washer and/or property damage as a result of abnormal vibration of the washer."

We tested more than 100 washers and found 13 HE top-loaders and 16 front-loaders to recommend. Use our washing machine ratings to compare models—everything from wash performance and gentleness, to cycle time and features.

Copyright © 2006-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.
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