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September 22, 2021

Washing & Drying As It Was Meant to Be

Not long after we moved into our new (to us) house, our appliances began breaking down. It wasn't surprising. The previous owners had gutted our 1940 stone house in 1997, replacing all of the house’s systems, infrastructure, and appliances at that time. So it should be no surprise they were waiting to give up the ghost once we moved in 24 years later.

When the house was refurbished, a laundry room was built in the unfinished basement, including a large washer/dryer pair. But not long after, the previous owners had created an upstairs laundry room by squeezing a compact stackable Miele washer/dryer into a closet. They must have largely abandoned the conventional washer/dryer in the basement after that.

Miele is a fantastic appliance brand, but even they can get a bit fussy after more than 20 years. And our set looked very well worn indeed. When we realized the washer was sitting in a half inch of water and our dryer was making a loud clattering noise as it spun, spewing lint from the back of the machine, we decided to replace them.

One of our tired old Mieles awaiting the scrap heap. 

Easier said than done.

There aren’t many choices in compact stackables, and nothing else would fit the upstairs laundry. But we settled on a replacement pair of machines and placed our order, which arrived after a 2-1/2 week wait. Upon arrival, the washer was fine but the dryer had sustained a fall in the warehouse, causing massive damage to both side panels and heaven knows what sort of internal damage. I refused delivery. The predicted time for replacements? Almost four more weeks.


We had been limping by with our old Miele washing machine, air drying the laundry on the staircase railings. But doing so for another month was not a good option for us. Plus, Miele used a proprietary electrical outlet that had to be replaced to support the new appliances.

Running out of options other than the laundromat in town, I went downstairs, thinking I’d check and see whether – by some twist of fate – the antiquated washer/dryer in the basement would work. I hadn't given them a serious inspection since moving in. And they were covered in a thick layer of grime. They apparently hadn’t been used in many years, perhaps decades. But I plugged them in, turned on the water supply, and pushed the buttons.

Immediately a stream of water began filling the washing machine. The dryer also began spinning, producing a generous amount of heat in almost no time. In fact, both machines worked flawlessly. So I cleaned off the layer of grime and gave them a clean up inside – although they were pretty pristine to begin with.

The machines are Sears Kenmore Model 80 Heavy Duty, manufactured in 1997 by Whirlpool. And apparently, among washer/dryer aficionados, they’re legendary. To us, they’re just amazing.

Imagine. A washing machine that starts immediately, responding to the settings of simple, manual knobs. A big agitator in the middle of the cavernous drum turns flawlessly and rather quietly. As an added feature, it continues turning when you open the washer door (which locks only on spin cycle). Clothes come out sparkling clean in about 45 minutes, depending on the setting. And they're almost dry to the touch.

Imagine a dryer that consists of a massive drum with room for an entire closet, plus the linens. It turns quietly, producing heat at the desired setting, and dries a set of clothing, sheets, towels, etc., within 40 minutes or less.

24 years later, how have things improved?

If our new washer/dryer ever arrive, we’ll doubtless appreciate the convenience of doing the laundry without climbing up and down two flights of stairs. And perhaps we'll find joy in connecting our new washer/dryer to the Internet so we can ... what? Operate them remotely?

As a technology industry veteran, there's no question our tech has made quantum improvements in the past two dozen years. But when it comes to appliances, maybe we should have quit when we were ahead.

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