Notes on a
Maytag Centennial Washing Machine

I suppose this is the sort of thing most people would write as a web log entry.  However, the mark Joseph "young" web log was created rather specifically to cover subjects on which I was writing elsewhere--Bible and Theology, Books by the Author, Games, Law and Politics (including Elections), Logic and Reasoning, Music, and Temporal Anomalies/Time Travel (and specifically Time Travel Movies), (all listed and linked in that left-hand navigation column on the page).  Product reviews is not something about which I have written, and I'm not sure that's what this is anyway, so it is landing in my miscellaneous web pages section to languish here unseen for years.  Still, perhaps it will be helpful to someone..

Some years ago--and I am not at all certain now how many, but certainly fewer than ten and probably more than four (which means sometime between 2006 and 2012)--we purchased, new, and installed a washing machine.  We had had several over the decades, most notably a Kenmore or two, but this time we were persuaded to try the Maytag Centennial, in part because it was on sale.  I do not know the model number; it says "Commercial Technology" on the front and has several cycles, mostly of the expected sort.  It is an energy saver without a central agitator in the drum, requiring "High Efficiency" ("HE")

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laundry products which at the time were still uncommon and are now rather difficult to avoid.  It worked well for quite a while, and now is starting to fail in critical ways; our financial situation being significantly worse now than it was then, we are forced to attempt to work with it in a semi-functional condition rather than repair or replace it, which reveals more of its issues.

Perhaps unfairly, it is the issues I would address.  I was not overall unhappy with the machine, but these were the problems.

Previous washing machines featured dials which moved gradually through the cycle.  You could set the dial for the normal wash process, to positions marked for "heavy", "normal", and "light", and start it.  As the cycle progressed the dial would move, eventually switching into the drain and spin cycle and then the rinse cycle and then the final drain and spin.  This washing machine does have settings on a dial-like control which can be set for normal wash "heavy", "normal", and "light", but the dial does not indicate progress.  Rather, progress is indicated by a series of lights in a row along the bottom.  That's the way it is on commercial washers I've used, and you would think that was at least as good--but it isn't.  I am sure I am not the only person whose laundry facilities are in the basement, or for whom "stair climbing" is an involuntary exercise program.  Going downstairs to find that the laundry is not finished is, well, par for the course--but finding that it is spinning, and having no way of knowing whether it just started spinning and will continue to do so for the next at least five minutes or is just about to stop and let you move the laundry to the dryer is definitely a problem with the design.

That problem is complicated somewhat more as the system starts malfunctioning.  At present, the system driving the drum is not working.  That interferes with everything, and more so than it would with a "normal" washing machine.  It means that I have to agitate the laundry by hand (although I noticed that the new system does not agitate more than in a few brief spurts during the wash and rinse cycles, apparently believing that simply stirring the clothes a bit is sufficient).  That in turn means I have to know when the cycles change.  That means more running up and down stairs so as not to miss the time when the drum is full of wash or rinse water.  At least I'm getting a bit more exercise.

The manufacturer also has decided that home users are idiots.  With previous washing machines, there was a sensor on the lid so that if you opened the lid while it was spinning it would stop spinning until the lid was closed or you defeated the sensor (something I would do if I was trying to troubleshoot a problem with the machine).  It would not stop filling or agitating.  With this machine, when you start it the lid locks, and if you want to open the lid you have to pause--effectively stop--the machine.  I have always had the practice of rinsing my detergent measuring cups in the incoming water so they won't be a sticky mess; that is not possible with this machine.  Obviously they think it would be too dangerous for us to add clothes to the washer while it is filling or agitating, although as that goes without a central agitator I would think the gentle agitation process would be much safer than it was on earlier models.

There is an argument in favor of preventing the addition of clothes based on the design.  On previous machines, there was a selector switch to determine how much water the washer should use; this machine makes that determination itself by shifting the drum and determining weight and balance before filling, thus adding clothes after it has decided how much water it needs confuses it.  You can do that, pausing the machine, opening it, and adding clothes, and it will then go through the "sensing" process again to determine whether it needs more water, but the idea that I can't even look to see how it is progressing without stopping it (and often putting it back in "sensing" mode) is irksome, at least.

I have also noticed that nowhere are any of the cycles explained.  That is, there is a "heavy" setting on the "normal" wash cycle, and there is also a "bulky" cycle (with two settings of its own).  Does the heavy setting mean that it washes longer, or uses more water, or agitates more frequently?  How is the bulky setting different?  Does it use more water, or wash longer, or do something different when agitating or spinning?  That is never explained in the user guide that comes with the washer, and it is not easily observed by the user.

These "features" combine in another way that complicates my life.  If I am in a hurry, I can't have the machine filling while I'm sorting the laundry into it.  Nor can I decide it has been washing long enough and should drain and go to the rinse cycle, or that I want to cut the rinse cycle short and move to the final spin.  I can stop it completely, then take it to another cycle, such as "Drain and Spin" or "Rinse and Spin", but then it has to go through its sensing process again and I have to wait to move it forward.  The dial was easier--stop it, move the dial, start it.

The energy saving features include a water temperature setting which is almost worthless.  There are four levels, ranging from cold to hot.  The cold, presumably, uses just cold water, and the others we are told blend hot and cold together, but never use just hot water.  That's not unreasonable--except that the "hot" wash water is not warm enough to wash my hands so I wind up using it for everything.  Further, while you can thus within unreasonable limits set the temperature of the wash water, the rinse water is always cold.  There are reasons to want warm rinse water, even when the reason is only that the water from the well is cold, the basement is not warm, and you don't want to have to handle ice cold wet clothes on a winter evening before bed.

The sensing process has given me another headache as the machine has been failing.  It obviously works by using the drum motor to shift the drum slightly to see how the clothes settle.  When it was new, it was irksome that it never took less than a minute and sometimes took a few minutes to do this before it started filling--several times people using the washer came to report that it wasn't working because they didn't know it wouldn't fill for a few minutes.  However, now that the drum motor is not working, it generally takes over an hour for the machine to get to the point that it is full of wash water, and washing two loads of wash has become a much longer chore.  Again, there is no way to override the "sensing" phase of the cycle, in part because there's no dial to skip ahead, and in part because it has taken control of the water level and can't do anything until it has decided how much water it needs.

Obviously some of these problems are simply because it needs some repairs which I cannot presently afford and it was not designed to operate impaired.  On the other hand, some of the problems are design features that attempt to prevent the user from intelligently changing what it is programmed to do.  If I can afford to repair it I probably will, but I am more likely to look for a working used washing machine with a dial that actually tells me how long it will be until the next cycle, and allows me to change that.

Your preferences may vary.

M. J. Young Net
Books by the Author