Why did the front loading washing machine destroy my pants?
August 14, 2010 12:47 PM   Subscribe

I just moved to Europe from the US and used a front loading washing machine. Both pairs of pants in the last load now have tears along the sides of the back pockets. Argh! What am I doing wrong, so I can fix it for my next load? What else is essential information for front loading washing machines? Anything I can do to salvage the pants?

I'm sure there is something stupid that I am missing. Will turning the pants' pockets inside out solve the problem? I did use proper detergent for front loaders, and I used the "darks" cycle. At least I pretty sure that is what it is called. Everything on the machine is in German.
posted by Peter Petridish to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total)
Weird. That sounds more like a broken machine (perhaps something catching in the drum) than something you're doing wrong. How full was the load?
posted by holgate at 12:55 PM on August 14, 2010

Response by poster: The load was quite full. Is this problematic? I doubt the machine is broken, as it is used by ~10 post-docs and graduate students.
posted by Peter Petridish at 1:02 PM on August 14, 2010

R.I.P. Pants. ha! get it!? Really, though, sorry about your pants.

If the load was very full, the legs or pockets or some part of the pants might have gotten pushed into and temporarily stuck in the rubber seal between the drum and the door socket. Conveniently, I've found a picture of just this thing. Whenever I use a front-loading machine I find a soapy, wet sock stuck down in there when I go to unload. If part of the pants fell into there and the rest of the pants were stuck in the rest of the full load, it could have put enough tension on it to rip the pants as it spun.

Front-loading washers are generally much, much gentler on your clothes than a top-loading washer with an agitator. Do smaller loads in the future, and make sure everything is tucked as far back from the door as possible before you clothes it.
posted by phunniemee at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2010

Ha!!! Clothes it! That was totally unintentional.

I meant close it, obviously.
posted by phunniemee at 1:10 PM on August 14, 2010 [7 favorites]

Did you zip all of your zippers and button your buttons? Open zippers on pants and jackets can be really hard on fabric in a washing machine.
posted by kate blank at 1:29 PM on August 14, 2010

Normally, it shouldn't be, as long as the load isn't pushing its way out to the door and it's filling up properly, but you can have a worn or distorted seal where the drum meets the door, and it'll run the cycles fine but clothes can get pushed out and snagged. That it's a shared student machine -- I'm guessing a consumer model, not a commercial one -- makes me think that it's getting plenty of use without necessarily receiving the appropriate maintenance.

Unplug it, open the door, and check that there's nothing jagged on the surface of the drum itself, see if the seal is properly seated and flexible on the drum side and that nothing has been caught underneath.
posted by holgate at 1:29 PM on August 14, 2010

I agree with holgate, there really isn't any particular 'trick' to using a front loader. It does sound like there's something wrong with the machine (the only time I've had a machine rip my clothes, it was a top-loader and turned out to have a rough drum surface).
posted by rubbish bin night at 1:43 PM on August 14, 2010

Response by poster: It seems strange that this only happened on these two items of clothing, in the exact two same spots (so, 4 spots total) -- along both back pockets, only on the center most area. Argh. I did not button close these pockets, as kate blank suggested. I'm terrified because I only have 3 pairs of pants left (!!! I just moved to Europe.)
posted by Peter Petridish at 1:51 PM on August 14, 2010

Peter Petridish: "The load was quite full. Is this problematic? "

Extremely. That's your fatal error. You do half a load of washing in a euro front loader. When you have washed them and then put them in the dryer, they fluff up and fill the dryer completely. So not only will stuffing the washer shred your laundry, it will doom your drying cycle to long winded failure as well.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:21 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Out of curiosity: What temperature do you use? Hot in this German machine likely MEANS hot. Something like 94 degree Celsius (200 F ?).
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:22 PM on August 14, 2010

I always turn trousers (pants) inside out in washing machines, which also helps prevent any obvious "white crease on blue jeans" problems.

Same with perma-press shirts etc.
posted by djgh at 2:45 PM on August 14, 2010

Response by poster: I will attempt a half load with the rest of the pants, with zippers zipped and buttons buttoned. The electric pannel on the washer was set for either 40 or 60 degrees (I forget which) (it was a 'dark load' setting, so it should not be super super super hot water).
posted by Peter Petridish at 2:49 PM on August 14, 2010

That's weird. I moved to the States from the UK a couple of years ago, and the top loader in my place has eaten holes in pretty much everything - so much so that I'm going to buy a front loader as it's what I'm used to.
posted by nicktf at 4:53 PM on August 14, 2010

Seconding the half load. When I first moved to the UK I nearly broke my washing machine from overloading it. A regular front loading washing machine should only take about 2 pairs of jeans and a couple of shirts, to be safe.
posted by ukdanae at 5:23 PM on August 14, 2010

The advice above regarding not filling the machine to a 'full' load is essential. Also, turn your jeans inside out before washing them! They'll still get clean but generally they stay much nicer.

By the way, 60 is way too hot for jeans or darks in general!
posted by Ms. Next at 10:21 PM on August 14, 2010

Best answer: Not sure you need to fill your machine only half way, but you need to have enough room between the top of your clothes and the drum to be able to fit your hand in and twist it around (like using a screwdriver) without it touching either clothes or drum, and this should be with your clothes placed loosely, not tightly stuffed in the drum under your hand. Mixed load in terms of size of items helps as well as it aids even weight distribution etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:45 AM on August 15, 2010

Best answer: FYI, this page has a list of Centrigrade wash temperatures and what types of fabrics may be washed in them. I would nth the advice to not fill the washer too full and to turn your trousers inside out. Also, don't wash your jeans at a temp above 40 C.

Keep in mind also, if you can post a photo of the controls of the washer on a site like ImageShack, someone who knows German could translate it for you perhaps. You may also want to ask one of the others who use the machine for a quick "how to" lesson.

Also, you may want to look and see if the machine has the option to set the spin speed. The higher spin speeds get more water out of clothes so they dry faster, but more delicate things may need lower spin speeds. If you are having trouble with your trousers, then you could try a bit lower spin speed if that is an option on your machine. If you see a button marked Scheudern, that would control spin speed, with 1200 usually being the setting for normal clothes.
posted by gudrun at 11:46 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The washer has an electronic display, which makes taking pictures more difficult for the various settings. But I think I figured it out. We'll see how things turned out. Previously, I had it on "Darks", which is 40 degrees and 1200 rmp (thanks gudrun for suggesting what that number was, as there was no label on it). I now put it on "Jeans", which is 40 degrees and 900 rmp.
posted by Peter Petridish at 12:08 PM on August 18, 2010

Response by poster: Success! I have defeated the washing machine! Thanks y'all!
posted by Peter Petridish at 1:17 PM on August 18, 2010

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