American washing machines are terrible. Let me count the ways.
1) They are enormous. This means they are invariably located in the basement. If you live in an apartment, standard practice is that there is a laundry room for the whole building (ours is pictured above). Therefore you have to trek up and down from your apartment every time you want to check that they’re free; load them up with washing; move the washing into the dryer; empty the dryer.
Hence, I can never do any washing while A is awake, because repeatedly going up and down two flights of stairs and 50 metres round the back of the building is not a very toddler friendly experience.
2) The water never gets very hot. How hot, I can’t say, because the settings on American washing machines are a vague ‘cold’, ‘warm’, and ‘hot’. Which seems a bit pre-industrial to me, frankly, accustomed as I am to European clothing labels specifying the temperature you should wash an item in degrees celsius. And, of course, to a washing machine dial full of symbols you neither recognise nor understand, and just three cycles that you ever actually use.
The key point is that the water here is not heated by the machine, but comes off the building water supply, so at its maximum temperature it’s the same temperature as your hot tap. I would guess ours is around 40 celsius.
Hence, the water is barely hot enough to get food – or worse – out of clothes.
3) Because the voltage is a puny 110 volts (around half the standard voltage in the UK), the spin function is feeble, and clothes come out of the machine much wetter than they would from a British machine.
Hence, unless you use a dryer the clothes take forever to get dry. And I hate using the dryer for everything. But then I also hate lugging wet clothes back to the apartment, hanging them out next to one of our three radiators (American apartments seem to have fewer, bigger, but less handily clothes drying adapted radiators) and waiting for A to pull them all off the airer onto the floor.
4) Apartment communal machines require an endless supply of quarters to operate, which feels expensive – though it may be no worse than paying your own electricity bill – and is definitely inconvenient.
Hence, we can normally only muster up enough coins for a couple of washes a week.
5) Toploading machines shred your clothes. There’s a pole that comes up the middle, and that stirs the clothes around, kind of (look, I’m not an engineer, there’s a proper explanation on Wikipedia here), amusingly called an ‘agitator’, and it is much tougher on fabric than the tumbling drum on a frontloading machine. As well as less effective at getting them clean. There is a ‘delicates’ setting, as well as a ‘normal’ one and a ‘permanent press’ one. But my impression is that that just shudders politely and briefly in the general direction of the clothes. That’s why it’s over in 10 minutes. Whereas permanent press… permanently locks in creases you didn’t want in the first place?
Hence, A’s clothes start to look terribly shabby even before she outgrows them.
6) Seems they are far less efficient in terms of electricity and water usage too.
There is a lot of ranting on the internet about how bad American washing machines are. I don’t quite understand why they persist with toploaders that look like they were built in the 50s and have a similar level of performance, but my guess is ignorance that there’s something better out there. After all: who but an out of work expat mother spends much time investigating global washing machine comparisons?