Automatic Washing Machines- why the less sophisticated, the better

So far, I have used a few types of washing machines- semi automatic and automatic machines. For automatic washing machines, I have used the older models (about 20 years) and the newer ones with lots of bells and whistles.

In my opinion, if you are buying a washing machine, it is better to get an automated washing machines with less bells and whistles. The more basic, the better. But then, this is only my view and it is coming from someone who spent more than 20 years of their life washing clothes and sheets by hand.

For me, those that can detect water levels but allow us to easily adjust it would do.

Let me share my experience of why the more basic the machine is, the better:

1. Less maintenance and repair

When I was young, we had to wash everything by hand because my parents felt a washing machine was out of their budget. Needless to say, I bought a washing machine with my initial pay because I felt it is really a necessity especially when it comes to washing bed sheets and curtains.

The first machine I bought was an automatic machine with top loading (National brand). The machine lasted for 20 years without any issue and minimal repair. Because the functions were basic- it will automatically detect the water level required but I was able to adjust it.

In the last few years, we bought a more sophisticated washing machine with all kinds of functions. It would automatic detect water levels and once the machine starts, the doors would be locked and we cannot adjust the water.  Such locking mechanism may be good for safety especially if we have children at home. However, the locking mechanism also pose as a problem…..

2. The more sophisticated the machine is, the easier it malfunction

My first washing machine lasted about 20 years before all the internal parts wears out. I only had the machine repaired once or twice throughout the tenor and each time the repair was carried out, it was straightforward and the machine works back like new.

However, with the newer machine, we really have a lot of headache. Especially when it comes to washing sweating clothings and soiled sheets. If we are washing dirty clothing or soiled sheets, we would need more water than the automated detected levels to clean better. But then, the machine we have (with the bell and whistles) would detect water at low levels. So the clothing and sheets come out not clean.

If you are a caregiver for someone whom you need to change their diapers and constantly face with soiled sheets, you would understand what I mean. For sheets that are badly soiled, it would be better to manually soak in detergent and Dettol, rinsed with water before being placed in the machine for a cleaner wash. But then, I often find when I do that, the sheets are heavier than they are supposed to be. So at first, the machine’s detection system would sense it requires more water. Which is good. But as it complete its first cycle and doing the spinning, it kinda realize the sheets are light, and the detection system goes haywire. And then the washing stops. What’s best, the machine’s automatic door is locked and I could not open it to get my clothes out!

Just today, I tried washing a soiled booster and within the first cycle, the machine jammed again! I had to manually dished out the booster, then scoop out the water. Luckily we still have the old trustee 20 year old machine around which I transferred the booster (by then very heavy as it is soaked in water) to. The machine detected the water levels as high but I changed it to medium. It washes the booster and spin it without any issue.

In caregiver forums, you would find this predicament as soiled clothings still smell after wash. Some people suggested soaking some sheets to make it heavier so that the machine can detect there is a need for more water. I have tried that and in the end, the machine malfunctions as above and had to be sent for repairs.

A lot of electrical items, especially the more sophisticated ones would tend to still have ‘bugs’ even after repair. Meaning, you would find that somehow the problem is not really fixed and it would keep recurring again and again.

3. Cost

The less functions that the machine have, the less it would cost. In my old machine, I have the fussy or gentle wash which I do not use. If there is anything that requires a more gentle wash, I would just put the items into a washing machine net before putting into the machine. Really, I find there is a lot of functions that I never use.

It is not only the upfront cost of purchasing the machine. But the maintenance and repair cost as well. The spare parts of machines that are more computerized are expensive. Sometimes, the spare part is even not available and needs to be ordered from overseas (meaning longer wait time).

Most households would have only one washing machine and if it goes out of service, then it is an inconvenience as we need to get someone to come over for repairs. That means sometimes having to take leave from work.

Front loading vs top loading machines

I noticed there is an overall preference for front loading machine, ie the doors that open at the front as it is supposed to clean better. However, I have always preferred the top loading machine. With the basic automatic function machine, if after starting the wash, I could open the top and put in pieces of clothings that I have forgotten. I would not be able to do it with a front loading machine.

Semi automatic machine

I have used a semi automated machine. The one I use have the washer and spinner separated. I can manually adjust the water I wish to, and set the wash manually. The spinner is also set manually. I have seen a lot of comments that mentioned a semi automatic machine washes less clean than the automatic ones.

But in my experience, I have found the opposite to be true.

This is because for semi automatic machine, we can set and adjust the water, the time requires for the rotation of the wash. Whereas for automatic machine, it is hard to adjust these. I can set the first cycle of detergent washing to have lower water levels for the detergent to soak through the clothes, then the subsequent rinse cycles to have more water for cleaner clothings.

But I have used the machine less. Reason being:

  • requires more time to operated, ie wait for water level and close the pipe, then to transfer clothings to the spinner, then wait for water to drain before doing a new cycle
  • more energy requires especially when it comes to larger and heavier sheets or clothings


Automated washing machines really helps make our lives much easier. But often, the more sophisticated the item is, the more easier it would malfunction and require repairs. The more basic, the better.

While washing machines really make our life easier, for some cases, we need to have a ‘preliminary’ cleaning done first before dumping them into the machine.

This is because we cannot expect the machine to have a load of very dirty clothings or soiled items to be thoroughly cleaned. We would always need to soak them separately first, and remove dirts or stains by manually brushing them off. For sheets stained in urine, if we do not wish to soak and rinse manually before washing, then we may need to run the load twice.

Hence, they function the same. So why spend so much one with so-called state of the art technology but would be more expensive upfront and require higher repair costs?

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