The Front-Loading Washing Machine

What I want to know is: who invented the front-loading washing machine, and have they been caught yet?

In an ordinary top loading washing machine, the tub is open at the top. Gravity pulls the water down. This clever piece of design work ensures that the water is pulled away from the direction that would cause it to escape. In the front-loader the tub is (as the name implies) open at the front. Gravity, however, persists in pulling the water down. What with water finding its own level and suchlike, this means that at various points in the wash cycle the door is partly or completely underwater. Thus, in order to avoid, for example, pissing water all over the floor, the door must have a water tight seal, which remains water tight even though the tub spins with respect to the main body of the washer, and which remains water tight even after a considerable number of years in service. Is this, we ask ourselves, a good design idea? (Hint: two letter word, begins with "n", ends with "o".)

So when I move in at Burnmoor St, there's a box of Daz laundry powder sitting on top of the front-loading washing machine. Well, thinks I, must be the right stuff, so I go to Safeway and buy myself a box of the aforementioned product.

Wisely, I decide to do a trial run involving a small amount of clothing. This allows me to push the "half load" button on the front of the machine, which one would hope would mitigate the scale of any disaster.


There is a knob on the front. It's somewhat like the knob you see on the front of many washing machines: spin to the desired point and pull to start; except that this one has been designed in a special compact format, which means that it offers all the functionality of the usual washing machine knob, except that there are no labels telling you what each setting actually does. There's just a cryptic letter: "A" thru "N", take your pick. I am told that the household policy is to set it on "F", and hope.

There is also a drawer in the top corner of the machine, for loading laundry powder into. The Daz packaging assures me that I should use 2 to 4 cups; I pour in about 1.5.

And then I pull the knob.

The machine's antique brain takes a few seconds to realise that something is happening, and it gurgles into life. It begins filling with water, while gently agitating the clothing back and forth in a wub-wub slosh-slosh kind of a way. So far, so good; but not for very long.

The water level reaches the bottom of the door, and the suds level climbs considerably higher. Water visibly leaks out of the bottom of the door in a half-hearted sort of a way, and the reason that there is a large sponge sitting on top of the washing machine now becomes apparent. But the suds foam continues to climb. It climbs until it fills all the available space inside the washer. Water now begins emerging from a new leak. Whether this is related to the front door leak, or to the suds pressure, or to neither, I do not know; I simply see a puddle spreading across the floor from some mysterious point underneath the machine.

For a while we have a little race: the washer pissing water all over the floor, and me mopping it up with the sponge. Eventually the existence of the wall of suds inside the machine leads me to chicken out; I push the knob back in, thus stopping the cycle. But of course, I can't simply open the door and remove my clothes. Oh, no; the design of the front loading washing machine is far too advanced to allow something like that. The water level is still substantially higher than the bottom of the door: opening it will release a small avalanche of water and possibly a large avalanche of foam onto the kitchen floor. So I advance the knob to "N", which the hand-written note on the wall informs me is a spin cycle, and pull the knob.

Wrong; it's a spray-rinse. Guess again.

The second guess is correct. My plan is that the machine will drain off the water, and I will then be able to stop it, and recover my clothing.

Wrong again. It is incapable of draining off the foam. Instead, it drains off the bulk of the water, and then enters its spin cycle. This enables the foam to be drawn off by the magic of centrifugal force, and to emerge from a hole in the back of the machine. I am sitting watching the machine, foolishly thinking that I have gotten it back under control, when I notice the puddle of foam spreading from the back corner. Looking down the back of the machine I can see foam vomiting out of this hole; and then it's a new race: it puking foam while I attempt to wipe the foam away with the sponge, wipe the suds off the sponge into the kitchen sink, and then back again to wipe away more. Since the machine had a head start on me, it easily maintains its lead until it runs out of foam. Even then, I am unable to get in behind the machine to clean a lot of the foam away; it's too close to the wall, and I don't want to move it, scared of some new disaster this might precipitate.

So I open the door, with the sponge in place to catch the water that is resting on the inside of the door sill; recover my extremely sudsy socks and jocks, and hand-wash them in the kitchen sink.