Front-loading washers target of class action suit

(KOIN 6) — About three years ago, Kathy Gant paid $250 for a used, Kenmore HE 2T front-loading washer and dryer. The efficient machines can use up to 40% less water than traditional top-loading machines — and for Gant, that’s an extra $50 month,.

“It was so incredibly cheap that I couldn’t pass the deal up,” she told KOIN 6 News.

But the cost didn’t convince her at first. The Portland businesswoman discovered mold growing under her washer’s rubber seal.

“We kept doing everything and until we leveled the machine we couldn’t get rid of the smell,” she said. “It was really powerful.”

Kathy Gant paid $250 for a used, Kenmore HE 2T front-loading washer and dryer. (KOIN 6 News)
Kathy Gant paid $250 for a used, Kenmore HE 2T front-loading washer and dryer. (KOIN 6 News)

Gant isn’t alone. There are other consumer complaints across the country and lawyers are working to file a class action lawsuit against Frigidaire, Whirlpool and Kenmore for making defective designs on certain front loaders that could breed mold.

Glenn Burk, the owner of Appliance Guys in Portland, boasts his Maytag top-loader is 30 years old, while he says front loaders only last about a decade. Fixing their computer controlled system can cost up to $400, while replacing that moldy seal is more than $150.

“Sometimes they’ll have problems where they won’t drain,” Burk said. “Sometimes they’re noisy. Sometimes they vibrate.”

Over a six-month period, Gant researched how to keep her machine clean, which starts with wiping it down before and after every load. She says she cleans the soap drawer once a month.

“The soap attracts the debris and it causes the odor,” she said.

Lawyers are working to file a class action lawsuit against Frigidaire, Whirlpool and Kenmore. (KOIN 6 News)
Lawyers are working to file a class action lawsuit against Frigidaire, Whirlpool and Kenmore. (KOIN 6 News)

Front-loaders also require high efficiency detergent, and Gant said less is more. She also runs a cycle with vinegar, makes sure the machine is level and keeps the door open when it’s not in use.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t so sold on it, but once I figured out what we needed to do to make them work right, I really do like them,” she said. “I’m happy now.”

Experts say these ideas are the best bet to minimize mold in a front-loading washer.

“It’s just a matter of taking the steps to do what you need to do,” Burk said. “It definitely can be fixed.”

Not everyone has experienced these problems. Here are statements from the washing machine manufacturers listed in the pending suit.

ELECTROLUX NORTH AMERICA
“Although I’m unable to comment about the specific lawsuit, we dispute that our front load washers contain any defect regarding mold or mildew. Please see several tips for consumers experiencing mold or mildew:
• To help prevent odors, mildew or mold, consumers should leave the door open for a few hours after use to allow the washer to dry.
• Additionally, consumers can refresh or clean the inside of the washer by running the Clean Washer cycle. Some models have an automated reminder mode or consumers may prefer to manually select the cycle.
• If a consumer believes that their product is not working as expected, we urge them to call our consumer services group to discuss whether service is necessary.”

WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION
In October last year Whirlpool Corporation received a winning verdict in a class action involving a wide range of our front-loading washing machines. The verdict clearly validated what our consumers already know — that these are high-quality washers with great performance, great energy and water savings and clear instructions for proper use. The jury saw through the class-action lawyers’ attempts to enrich themselves on the backs of consumers who have never had a complaint about their front-load washing machines. More than 96 percent of people who own these products are happy with their front-loading washing machines, and we have people on call to answer any consumer questions that may arise. The class action lawyers are the only ones who stand to benefit from these lawsuits.

SEARS, ROEBUCK AND CO.
Sears and Whirlpool, who manufactured the washing machines at issue and is defending Sears in the lawsuit, reject any claims that Kenmore front-loading washing machines are defective. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of our members are pleased with their Kenmore front-loading washing machines. To control odor, mold, and mildew in their washing machines, our members always should follow the instructions in the use and care guide for their washing machine. For more information on the topic, please see the statement provided by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers:

http://www.aham.org/consumer/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/id/43663

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