/ Home & Energy

The big repair or replace debate

Leaking washing machine

It’s a dilemma almost everyone’s faced – a much-used home appliance breaks down and you need to act fast. But how do you decide whether to repair or replace it?

There are so many factors to consider – cost is an obvious one, but also convenience, ease and environmental issues.

Add to this the fact you probably won’t have much time to make a decision (just try living without a fridge freezer in the summer…) and it’s not hard to understand how stressful a faulty appliance can be.

Most go for repairs

In a recent survey of 11,347 Which? members, around a quarter of you (27%) told us you had experienced a fault with one of four key home appliances. An overwhelming 90% of you got the problem repaired. Just 3% of you replaced the appliance, while the rest are undecided.

But while repairing is clearly the most popular option, ultimately the decision is likely to boil down in large part to the age of your appliance. You’d imagine most people would be more likely to repair a newer machine than one which seemed on its last legs.

When should you replace?

One way of looking at the problem would be to work out the current value of your appliance. You can do this by dividing its original cost by how long you expect it to last. This will tell you how much value it loses a year – and lets you work out how much it may be worth now.

You could argue that if a repair costs more than your appliance is currently worth, it may be better to replace it.

We used this theory to find the average point at which the amount you’re prepared to spend on a repair is more than you think the appliance is worth. With fridge freezers and ovens it’s nine years old, with washing machines it’s eight and with vacuums it’s seven. So if you’re considering a repair for appliances older than this, it may be worth thinking again.

Of course, this is just one way of looking at the issue and much will depend on the general condition of your appliance and what brand it is.

How do you decide whether to repair or replace? And have you ever regretted the decision you made?


If an appliance breaks down outside the warranty period, it is worth considering a claim under the Sale of Goods Act, if the product is under six years old (five years in Scotland). It is the retailer that is responsible. Sometimes manufacturers will help out of goodwill, but have no responsibility for doing so unless, for example, they have recalled a product because of a manufacturing fault. Wear and tear (e.g. replacing a washing machine belt or the lamp in a fridge or microwave oven) is excluded from warranties, as is abuse.

My suggestion is to have a go at repairing faulty appliances yourself. It is best to do this at the first sign of malfunction or if there is a strange noise because continued use (e.g. of a motor with worn brushes) can cause damage that is expensive to repair.

Online videos can be very helpful. Even if they are not relevant, they may show how to dismantle an appliance or give useful warnings about safety. It is well worth taking photos to help ensure that parts are replaced correctly, and double checking that mains electrical items are unplugged before dismantling them. If you are planning to take a microwave oven apart to replace the lamp it is worth bearing in mind the possibility that a high voltage can remain present when switched off, but the precautions to take are explained in videos. Care is also needed to put everything back correctly, hence the value of photos.

One of the reasons for scrapping faulty appliances can be lack of availability of spare parts, but some parts do remain available and a bit of improvisation can achieve a lot.

In my parents’ generation it was normal for householders to carry out repairs and I learned a lot watching my father tackle repairs. Modern appliances are undoubtedly more complicated but that does not necessarily mean that they cannot be repaired. You might need to buy special tools just to take the case apart, but compared with the cost of professional repair or replacement, that could be money well spent.

My washing machine is still working well after 32 years. I replaced the motor after about ten years and the pump a couple of years later. I am keen to keep it because it is hot & cold fill and rinses well, features hard to find in modern machines.

I would like to see a small addition to the usual advice on how to have less impact on our environment: Reduce, reuse, REPAIR, recycle. 🙂

One of the inhibiting issues in deciding whether to repair or not is knowing what the fault is – a drive belt, pump, motor brushes, a control board failure for example. For most people this means calling out a service engineer, costing £50-100. Is it worth it on an older appliance – before the repair cost is even known and added on?
There are insurances that cover all your household appliances up to 8 years old, costing from £120 a year with a £1000 annual limit and a £20 excess for each claim, but then they pay call-out and repair costs. If you are very risk-averse, this might be for you. But these days most appliances will last longer than 8 years and your £120 premium would be better-spent saving for the very odd occasion when you have a problem.
Repairing yourself can depend upon how helpful the manufacturer is. I have had three dealings with Miele. On a dishwasher (12 years old) they gave me very helpful instructions on how to use their repair kit on a pump (much cheaper than buying a new pump) and on how to remove the door inner panel to clear a blockage. On a vacuum cleaner (15 years old) I was pleasantly surprised to find they wouls replace a broken plastic latch for less than £5 including p&p, and sent a diagram showing how it was fitted.
I have elswhere been urging Which? to advise on how to use the “durability” requirement in the Sale of Goods Act. We should all expect goods to last a reasonable time, and for any faults in design or build (as opposed to mis-use, overuse or wear and tear) to be remedied by the retailer if they fail within that time. It simply requires action – to set down “reasonable trouble-free operation” for appliances and steps on how to pursue a claim. It is high time we were helped to claim our rights.

Luckily, it seems that [with the exception of washing machines perhaps] kitchen appliances have a breakdown rate more-or-less in inverse ratio to their indispensability. Fridges last ever such a long time in normal use and a recent Conversation about having a freezer in the garage or outbuilding demonstrated that many are now collecting their pensions [the freezers, I mean]. With kit that has already led a full life, the repair or replace decision tends to make itself, and the renewal cost might actually be less in real terms than the original purchase price – plus the replacement will probably have superior features and run more economically too. Ovens, hobs and microwaves usually have long lives as well, but fiddly things like the controls sometimes pack up early – and they defy the amateur to repair them – but most households seem to have some form of back-up cooking facility. Washing machines and dishwashers on the other hand seem to be far less reliable because of their dependence on lots of mechanicals, and Mr Fixit has to first diagnose the problem. People can generally manage without a dishwasher for a few days but laundry is a major problem if the washing machine suffers a catastrophic failure, as many owners report, and this often happens with nearly-new machines so replacement is not usually an option and you have to look under the tray in the cutlery drawer to find the Warranty [or do a SOGA exercise]. Meanwhile, you are dependent on helpful neighbours and local launderettes if any still exist, Not good, so the No 1 objective for consumer champions must be to sort out the washing machine problem and get manufacturers to issue ten-year warranties so they have a powerful vested interest in producing super-reliable machines and standing by them. Mr Fixit won’t like it, as a drum full of unwashed socks is his bread and butter, but that’s not important in the scheme of things.

As you say, John, washing machines and dishwashers have mechanical components. Cars are much more complex, yet manufacturers manage to give us warranties of three or more years. I agree that these and other domestic appliances should come with a ten year warranty.

Mechanical components are subject to wear and tear, so perhaps the warranty should be ten years or a certain number of cycles, whichever comes first. This works fine for cars and protects the manufacturer from claims relating to excessive use.

First and foremost it would be a help to the uninitiated like myself to be given a list of minor problems likely to go wrong, in particular to washing machines [the only dishwasher in my abode is one with 2 hands protected with a pair of latex gloves] so that it is possible to be able to rectify an obvious fixable problem before resorting to expensive repair bills, depending of course on the age of the machine and it’s warrantee. For example, on one such occasion my washing machine failed to empty during the washing cycle. I sort the advice of a male relative who suggested I check the drainage pipe. So armed with the indispensable latex gloves, a bucket and a ratchet tool plus a keeling pad I managed to clear a blockage in the join of the pipe beneath the sink, thereby saving myself a large repair bill.

On one occasion years ago when all my children were young, whilst waiting for the repair man to arrive to fixit, I threw all the washing into the bathtub to soak over night and next day invited all four of them to remove their shoes and socks and jump up and down on the washing. It turned out to be the cleanest wash I ever had and we all had a lot of fun in the process!

A washing machine engineer would be able to identify common minor problems but they probably depend on the model. Leaks are common and may be easy to fix. Having washed my remote control car key (it survived) and done a fair amount of money laundering (coins and notes) over the years, I presume that I am not the only one to have blocked a hose or damaged a drain pump. An occasional hot wash will help keep the innards of a washing machine free from the build up of detergent residues and mould.

Once an appliance is over 6 years old, I’d be reluctant to have it repaired unless it was something ‘dead obvious’ that I’d tackle myself. For example, I’d be happy to make the repair if it was a leaking gasket or motor brushes. But if it looked like an electronic problem or drum bearings were shot, I’d replace it.

It may cost anything from £50 – £100 to have something repaired: if it is already 6+ years old, how much more use are you going to get before it really is ready for retirement?

I’ve found Bosch and AEG are reliable: our fridge/freezer is 11 years old and looks almost new and our tumble dryer is 14 years old and runs like new too. We’re on only our third dishwasher in 30 years (current model is 2 years old) and our AEG washer sounds as sweet as when it was first installed. All appliances were Which? Best Buys at the time of purchase.

I’ve tried to be a bit more eco friendly in the past and go for the repair option. Unfortunately almost always failed for the following reasons : the cost of repair and labour is well over half the price of a new one when on sale. The manufacturers no longer make parts for it.

Carole Boyle says:
18 April 2014

On moving into my new home 9 years ago, we purchased a Bosch washing machine and had this fitted with our new kitchen. Just a few weeks ago I started to get a small pool of water lying at the front of the machine after each wash. Now, this machine has practically been on every day since the day I bought it with having two kids and myself and husband. On looking inside at the rubber seal, which was all discoloured with black mildew, I spotted a very slight tear and wondered if this was where the water was leaking out from. Apart from this, the machine is working great. I continued using the machine and ended up slipping newspaper underneath the machine each time I put a washing on. After about six weeks I decided it was time to purchase a new machine reluctantly and told my husband we need to order a new washing machine. I constantly nagged my husband about when he was going to get my new machine for about four weeks and learned that he had been on the website about “how to replace the rubber seal on your washing machine”. I learned that he had watched a video about this and then had researched where to buy the seal and he told me the seal was getting posted out to him and it was £15. Now, my husband is not very good with a hammer and screwdriver and we always have to get workmen in for everything needing done. To say that he couldn’t put a nail in a dumpling is an understatement. Came in from work one day and here he is with my washing machine out in the middle of the kitchen floor with parts lying here and there and this new rubber seal that had arrived that day. Meantime, my washing for next day is already starting to pile up and here is me shaking my head and telling him “you’ll never be able to do that, your wasting your time and just spending more money, why can’t you just have bought another machine cos we have had great use out of that”. I couldn’t bear to watch as he huffed and puffed away at this task. Within an hour he shouted me to tell me that was the machine ready to go and that I could get the washing on. Everything looked brand new and cleaned down and a beautiful clean new seal on. Well, I was totally reluctant to even try this and of course expected the water to end up everywhere and kitchen flooded out within five minutes. I reminded hubby where the valve was to turn off the water mains and made him stand guard as I loaded the machine. Five minutes into the cycle, not one drip. I said to him “oh but wait until it goes into the spin, that’s when it will pack in and you will have to run and turn off the water”. We stood watching the whole cycle and my clothes came out smelling fresher than ever and I have learned that if hubby wants to save on money then I should trust him to give it a go. Having fitted this new seal am curious to see now how many more years I get with it. Top tip: After each wash, take a wee cloth over the bottom of the seal inside and leave the door open to let the rubber seal dry and prevent build up of mildew. I am sure the mildew has weakened the rubber and the reason I got a tear in the first place.

Yep. We always leave the door adjar so that the interior airs dry. Cold and wet are the best friends of mould.

It is best to do a hot wash once a week to help ensure that washing machines don’t become contaminated with bacteria and moulds. Keep the door seal clean and dry and leave the door open unless this could be a danger.

Yes. ‘Hot Wash’ ought to be over 80C, though – 60C leaves some bugs still raring to go again. Our 2013 Bosch Best Buy has a 95C wash for cottons, so I do my old super-thick cotton bath robe and some towels with this once a fortnight – they come out sparkling white, well worth the extra electricity.

And carefully wiping the door seal weekly (especially the lower half) does seem to prolong seal life. Most makers recommend it strongly. Like the hot wash, it’s really a hygiene matter, though. I don’t think that the gungy, mouldy deposits weaken the synthetic rubber. I think that tears are far more likely to be caused by catching something sharpish (like a metal zip) on the seal as the door is shut, or as washing is dragged out in a lump (which happens to impatient me quite a lot!

By the way, our Bosch replaced a 19 year old Best Buy AEG which blew its motor and became not worth repairing because of two things:
1) the repair would have been quite expensive – lots of bits to take apart, as well as the cost of a reconditioned motor (which WAS available); and
2) even a Best Buy 20 years ago is nowhere as good as a good machine today. We were astonished at the difference, and I don’t think that the AEG had deteriorated in its long life from what was then a ‘superb’ performance. Technology does march on!

David – As a microbiologist I have been interested in washing temperature for years and I am convinced that washing once a week at 60C is enough to keep a machine free of bugs. My machine is clean after over 30 years of doing this, and the original seal is still in good condition. Like you, I doubt that microbial growth will damage the synthetic rubber, though I cannot be sure.

Within the last year, Which? reported on the fact that a 60C wash describes cleaning performance rather than operating temperature, thanks to EU intervention. With one of the machines they tested, the maximum temperature achieved on the 60C setting was 43C. Totally crazy. Unless you have a machine that displays the actual temperature it is probably best to do a ‘maintenance’ wash at a temperature that makes the door glass uncomfortably hot, about once a week. The usual recommended frequency for a maintenance wash is once a month, but I prefer to do it weekly.

OK, wavechange. But why, then, does Pasteurization use – is it? – 72C for 20 seconds? Even that merely slows down bacterial growth. Is is different bugs?

The milk has to be drinkable!

I tend to agree. We very occasionally use 60 deg to wash towels, maybe once a month at most. Usually we wash cottons at 40 deg and synths at 30 deg. We don’t seem to have a problem.

The inside of a washing machine does not provide a favourable growth environment for most bacteria and moulds. Those that do grow are fairly heat sensitive. Incidentally, there are bacteria that can grow at boiling point, such as those found in volcanic springs.

Pasteurisation is used to kill of harmful bacteria and preserve the life of milk, etc. without spoiling the taste and nutritional content of milk. In the lab we would use a temperature of 121C for 15 minutes to ensure that all bacteria are killed.

Terfar is probably avoiding microbial growth by using the machine so frequently that bugs are unlikely to build up.

Thanks for that help, wavechange. Do I deduce this right, then:

Because we only use our machine typically twice a week, the occasional 95C wash is useful to keep away stinks and seal growths? Whereas if we washed more frequently this wouldn’t be necessary?

I use an occasional 95C wash anyway because for certain white cottons, especially handkerchiefs and utility room towels, it does give superior cleaning (with an enzyme prewash if there’s staining rather than simple grubbiness).

It is difficult to be sure about this, David. There are so many factors that can vary.

Bugs will stop growing in dry conditions and the design of the machine and whether the door is left open when it is not in use are factors. Low temperature washing will deposit organic materials such as grease and protein from our skin on the innards of a washing machine. This helps provide nutrients to support growth of bugs and can contribute to the ‘biofilm’ consisting of bugs and the products they excrete (e.g. polysaccharides), which helps them stick to surfaces. Dental plaque is another example of a biofilm. Whether a biofilm persists depends on the nature of the surface (e.g. smooth stainless steel or rough plastic) and whether or not the washing action scours the surface. The best sites for bug growth could be the sump, which will always contain water and corrugated hoses (if used) and the base of the door seal on some models.

Smells are usually an indicator of heavy growth of bugs with little or no oxygen. A dishcloth will not smell if it is used regularly, though it is still a good idea to treat it with bleach or boiling water regularly. Frequent use might be enough to keep a machine clean but without inspecting the innards it is hard to be sure.

I suspect we might be off-topic but a friend was going to replace a washing machine in one of his rental flats because the light grey seal was black and mouldy, and looked disgusting. I suggested that he replaced the seal instead and ask the new tenants to do a hot wash periodically, dry the door seal after use, and leave the door ajar when not in use. I understand that the problem has not recurred after about two years.

Thank you. I guess that I’ll continue with the occasional near-boiling wash, then. It should be some help in the sump and hoses. It is MUCH more expensive on power than the 40C wash, though, let alone the 30C wash. I wonder whether machines cool down the water in tropical areas where it comes into the machine at above 30C? (Just joking!)

PS: we always leave open both door and detergent compartment. And we always use a recommended non-concentrate powder, because the Which? tests over the years have shown this to be both the most effective and the cheapest. If Aldi can sell us powders that are both super-cheap and super-effective, why not others?

For reasons best known to themselves, most washing machines are now cold fill only. With water heating by gas, savings can be made with hot & cold fill machines and not surprisingly they are sought after by those using solar water heating. ISE sell hot & cold machines and offer a ten year warranty. I have no idea how they perform, but I presume that they are durable for the warranty to be viable.

I would like Which? to highlight products that offer longer warranties and use this as a factor in product ratings and selection of Best Buys. If all domestic appliances were covered by a ten year warranty, there would be no need to debate whether it is more effective to repair or replace them. 🙂

Two good reasons.

1. New washing machines use less water and many houses now use instant boiler heated water, so by the time the boiler has got the water hot and worked its way through the plumbing pipes, the machine already has sufficient water, so the energy is wasted.
2. Bio cleaners have enzymes that work at low temperature, so the machines fill with cold and the enzymes work whilst the water heats up slowly. Once hot, the enzymes die and other surficants get to work.

So both washing machines and dishwashers have cold fills only for good reason.

Good points, both. But if you have solar heated water, there’s nothing to stop you connecting the washing machine to this supply, before it links to the main hot water storage tank. Even, if you’re so minded and don’t mind manual controls, have the machine connected to both the solar heated supply and the cold supply via a valve system that gives you the choice (several layouts come to mind), and set up a water temperature thermometer on the solar to give you a rational reason to want to choose!

Good point about the cold water in pipes,Terfar, though modern houses are often designed to have the boiler near the kitchen or utility room, which avoids having a lot of cold water in the hot pipes. The most commonly used enzyme in biological detergents is a protease (which breaks down proteins on dirty fabrics) and this can withstand temperatures of 50°C or above. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the lipase enzymes (included in some bio detergents to break down grease on fabrics) is also stable at relatively high temperature.

It is not difficult to blend hot and cold water to achieve the required temperature, though I am far from convinced that machine manufacturers are attempting to use biological detergents to their maximum potential. As David says it is possible to use valves to achieve what is needed if you have solar water heating, and I have seen one such installation.

Miele are currently offering a range of washing machines with a 10 year warranty – at a price. Ranging from £899 to £2799. Thing is, you could buy two decent Bosch ones for that price, or spend a bit keeping one Bosch going if you were unlucky. In practice, warranties will come at a price – and these are special offers, not general warranties which are normally 2 years.
There is no sign on the horizon of the arrival of normal long warranties; even cars only start at 3 years – and for decent makes.
We need to assert our rights to a reasonable trouble-free life from reasonably-priced appliances befoire we have to fork out money to the repair man. It is surprising we have not grasped this nettle – it is, I would have thought, a fundamental consumer right.

Malcolm – Car warranties have greatly improved in recent years and I am confident that warranties on household appliances will follow. You have given us a good example.

Appliances often fail because of substandard components, used to save a few pennies on the cost of manufacture. Ask anyone who does servicing and they will be able to identify weaknesses in appliances they are familiar with. Even appliances made by the best respected manufacturers have these weaknesses.

If manufacturers build more durable products they cost of repairing those that fail during the warranty period will fall, so there is absolutely no need for them to be much more expensive.

The reason we must push for longer warranties is that despite the fact that we have the protection of the Sale of Goods Act etc., most don’t push for their rights and not everyone who has a valid claim is successful.

It’s time to push companies to treat us fairly and give consumers decent warranties if they want us to buy their products.

Richard says:
21 April 2014

I understand that the reason most manufacturers have gone from hot & cold fill machines to cold fill only is because modern machines use much less water. “Dead end lag” is a term for the amount of cold water that comes out of a hot tap when you turn it on before the hot water comes through. Of course, it depends on how far the tap is from the source of hot water and a few other factors.

With a hot-fill machine, in the worst possible case, if the amount of water it takes is equal to or less than the dead end lag then you fill the machine with cold water from the pipe, heat that water with electricity in the machine, then refill the pipe with gas-heated hot water from your supply and leave it to cool down. You have now paid to heat the water twice!

This problem is compounded by the modern machine’s tendency to fill itself in stages to minimise water consumption. It takes on some water, rotates the drum a few times to wet the clothing, then adds a bit more water and repeats this process until the clothing is saturated and the water level is adequate. While it is doing this in stages the gas-heated water waiting in the pipe is cooling down.

If this is the case it is tough on those whose house is well designed and the gas boiler is close to the washing machine. One of the other reasons given is that by removing the extra components needed for hot & cold fill, it cuts manufacturing cost.

Good points too Richard. The manufacturers are genuinely making efforts to minimise water usage and the filling in stages is one way to ensure that they use the optimum amount for the load.

Also, with only one control valve and no hot/cold blending, the manufacture is simplified and reliability is improved.

Eliminating hot fill will indeed improve reliability and perhaps decrease the risk of water leaks. I have always wondered why washing machines fill in stages, but this is not new. My 1982 Philips machine does this and so did my parents’ 1974 Electrolux.

Saving water is in principle desirable but not if it leaves detergent residues on clothing due to inadequate rinsing and results in skin irritation for some of the population. Perhaps it would be better to save water by not using drinking quality water to flush the loo and water the garden.

Richard says:
22 April 2014

Older machines also filled in stages but for a different reason. If it is a hot and cold fill machine it cannot know how hot the hot water is going to be. There is a possibility that you have asked for a 40deg wash and it fills up with water which might be at 60deg. My older hot and cold fill machines seemed to start by taking some cold water, then adding some hot, mix the two together, then add more hot water (or presumably cold water if it is already hot enough). This further diluted the benefit of the hot fill.

You are right Richard. I presume this is the reason why my machine does not use any hot water for a 40C wash.

Our early 1970s Hoover and late 1980s AEG both used filling in stages, and both were hot-and-cold fill. I used to run the hot water tap in the utility room into a bucket for the garden until it warmed up, before turning on the washer. Of course, those were the days when gas boiler heated water was far cheaper than peak time electric heated water. Now I think it’s the other way round – gas is an expensive fuel today.

Richard says:
23 April 2014

I used to do exactly the same thing! But it was difficult to persuade my wife that it was worth the effort.

ISE washing machines claim to have a more sophisticated system to make efficient use of hot and cold fill. I have not seen these machines but they seem popular with washing machine enthusiasts. I believe they were the first to offer a 10 year guarantee and/or warranty on their machines.

Those comments and advice have been really helpful.
Thanks everyone.

I think that Which? have it right in their advice about warranties and guarantees. (What’s the difference, by the way?) Get a reliable machine from a reliable brand and rely on the reliability rather than the warranty. Once the machine’s a few years old (seems to be 5-10 years, depending…) it’s not worth repairing, so you replace.

In fact, as stuff does get better at its job as time goes by, it’s worth reconsidering every year or so whether to sell on in a local paper for a suitable sum and get a replacement before the terminal fault happens. That way, there’s no panic to replace, say, a washer or a fridge. I suspect that I’m not alone is using Which? reports in being ready to replace if the worst happens, with a machine in mind at all times.

On the other hand, we’ve got an all-gas range cooker right now that I’d be loathe to part with. It’s getting on for 40 years old, but it actually out-performs almost all current models: it has two ovens, a pop-up sola-grill alongside the four rings, two with simmer controls and another with thermostatic control, and we’ve never used the timer clock or rotisserie since we played with them when we got it. Its pilot-lights have stopped working, as the shields are now not replacable, but with those turned off and a hand piezo-electric lighter (that’s still going strong after 25 years) I can’t see any need to buy another. The cost has come down a little though. Ours was £1100 in 1965; today’s equivalent are about £1400, which is probably half the price in inflation-adjusted money.

Here is an explanation of the difference between a guarantee and a warranty. It is helpful to be aware of the difference, even though the terms are often used interchangeably.

Thank you so much for that, wavechange. I will immediately adjust our business website, where I’ve used the two terms interchangeably, thinking them identical!

Despite being aware that guarantee and warranty are not synonymous, I have used them interchangeably. 🙁

I see that Miele refer to their 5 and 10 year cover for washing machines as a warranty rather than a guarantee, though there is no additional cost to the purchaser.

The Miele standard is a 2 year guarantee. The extended cover is a warranty that is provided by their “partners” Domestic and General – the sort of extended warranty you are often offered for all appliances. This is effectively an insurance. Presumably on those appliances where this is offered “free” it is simply being paid for by Miele. Other appliances have optional warranties that can be purchased through Miele for selected appliances – from £50 for 10 years for a vacuum cleaner to £149 for a washing machine.

And how I wish Domestic & General would stop sending me reminder after reminder that my warranty is about to or has expired for my appliance as we can extend this with our rip off extended warranty rates.

Infuriatingly, these have pre-filled forms so I have to destroy the forms rather than recycle them (we can’t recycle shredded paper). They’re an environmental nightmare.

Thanks for this information, Malcolm.

Bill Bishop says:
22 April 2014

When I married 57 years ago we bought a Hotpoint Countess washing machine -it cost £99 ! I was earning about £40 a month. It was not even a ‘twin tub’ but was a tub with a power wringer. By comparison today’s washing machines are so cheap if you get 3 years use and it goes wrong, throw it away.
I have a Hoover washer in my garage, perfect condition but has a programmer fault.3 years old. A new part is almost £100 and the fitting charge extra. So I bought another washer. Anybody who wants it can take it away for free! I never take out extended warranties and what I cannot repair myself throw away. On balance over the years it has proved the best policy.

Use FreeCycle or another such local recycling system, Bill. Even broken washers are snapped up here, if they’re repairable! More expensive machines are worth repairing for up to 10 years, as the better makers do generally keep spares.

My gran had a late 40s predecessor to the Countess, the Empress – two huge levers at top corners of the front. It never broke down, and my maiden aunt used it until she had to move into a home in 1998. I hope it went into a museum, though the paint was peeling somewhat! There’s a clip of one working here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrSIvJ21dFA

And here’s another – 1940s – film about washing day, featuring efficient use of these old machines. Well worth anyone too young to have been there – and any man who’d have been elsewhere while it was going on (Work? Golf? Club?). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZYva3khdME

I’m simply glad of my modern equivalents and non-iron (sort-of) garments.

Phil says:
22 April 2014

Add Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser to your wash to kill 99.9% of bacteria – no more smelly washing machine!

You believe adverts!

This Dettol product contains:

<5% Non-Ionic Surfactants, Disinfectant, Parfum, Contains Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol and Hexyl Cinnamal, Per 100g Liquid contains 2.40 g Dialkyl (C8-10) Dimethylammonium Chloride / Benzyl-C 12-18-Alkyldimethyl Chloride

I would be happier using good old bleach (sodium hypochlorite) which breaks down to produce salt and has such a good safety record that we use it to clean babies bottles (the active component of Milton is bleach). Obviously bleach cannot be used in loads with coloured fabrics.

Phil says:
22 April 2014

We use it in every wash and all I can say is that it works for us. Before we used it the washing machine was smelly now it’s not – what more can I say?

Phil says:
22 April 2014

I have used bleach before and it works for a while but obviously it’s not something you want to use that often. We use the Dettol in every wash and it keeps the machine smelling fresh all the time.

I’m just a bit concerned about whether chemical residues might be harmful to humans or the waste water could be environmentally damaging. It is a challenge to find chemicals that will harm only one form of life. I would not be surprised if antibacterial handwash and similar products are phased out before long. Triclosan is a particularly nasty example, and that was used in toothpaste at one time.

I’m not suggesting that this Dettol product is harmful but there are hundreds of household and gardening chemicals that are no longer in use.

I hope you were being ironic, Phil! Suppose you try to make bread with a 10-year-old packet of dried yeast. (I have done this!) You add it to sugar water, cover, put in a warm place and wait – and wait – and wait. Nothing; yet a fresh packet will be fizzing away by now. But keep waiting. If 99.9% of yeast cells were dead (leaving one in a thousand alive), it will begin to show activity after half a day or so. If 99.99% are dead it might take a couple of days. That’s active enough to be useable, if you’re prepared to wait. And even one live cell in a billion (99.9999999% dead) is enough to grow to full activity in time. (Anyone care to do the sums? Allow an hour for each division, to be simple.) The same goes for bacteria and anything else that grows by cell division, which is why hygiene is so important.

The disinfectants and bleaches that make this common 99.9% claim are being at the least disingenuous. First, because this is a very low rate of cleansing, despite looking impressive to the layman. Second, because of the ambiguous wording: do they mean 99.9% of all germ cells, or 99.9% of all germ species, rate of death among each species undisclosed? As wavechange – who does this as his work – says, some bacterial species can withstand boiling water and survive, which is why medical equipment is autoclaved (put in a pressure cooker at 120C, for up to 30 minutes).

Regular use, wiping of seals, drying out of the surfaces and occasional high heat or whole-machine cleansing are all a part of the hygiene cycle; the object is not to eliminate germs, moulds and fungi, which is impossible because they pervade the air around us, but to minimize their growth.

Bit off topic here, aren’t we, but it’s all useful stuff!

Although I have recommended bleach because it will not leave harmful residues and is environmentally safe (any left in waste water will break down quickly), I am not sure if regular use would affect the components of a washing machine. I expect that information will be in the machine instructions.

Considering that there may be Billions of germs lurking in a dirty corner, 99.99% still leaves an awful load of germs festering!

We stopped using anything advertising itself as ‘antibacterial’ many moons ago because its long-term effectiveness is suspect and it looks as though it is aiding the build-up of resistance.

We also use bleach products minimally too because of its harm to the environment. Heat seems to be the best answer. We clean our dishcloths in the microwave (between washes) and minimise the build up in the washing machine by leaving the door ajar for it to dry out (damp conditions being a good growing medium for germs).

davidinnotts – You are absolutely right that a claim that a product kills 99.9% of bugs is a fairly meaningless statement, for the reasons you have given.

In the 80s, one of our university technicians who had previously worked for Reckitt & Colman told me that Dettol antiseptic could be used in selective medium to promote growth of Pseudomonas species by killing or inhibiting growth of other bacteria. Dettol is just a brand name and the antibacterial component of Dettol antiseptic (chloroxylenol) is different from that in the laundry product.

Terfar – Some bleaches are undoubtedly harmful to the environment but common bleach (sodium hypochlorite) has been in use for years and it is broken down rapidly in contact with organic material.

For example, from Wikipedia: “A Risk Assessment Report (RAR) conducted by the European Union on sodium hypochlorite conducted under Regulation EEC 793/93 concluded that this substance is safe for the environment in all its current, normal uses.[26] This is due to its high reactivity and instability. Disappearance of hypochlorite is practically immediate in the natural aquatic environment, reaching in a short time concentration as low as 10−22 μg/L or less in all emission scenarios. In addition, it was found that while volatile chlorine species may be relevant in some indoor scenarios, they have negligible impact in open environmental conditions. Further, the role of hypochlorite pollution is assumed as negligible in soils.”

Obviously concentrated bleach is hazardous and it would be worth looking at the manual before putting bleach in a washing machine. Boiling is an alternative way of keeping dishcloths hygienic and putting them in the microwave oven is an interesting alternative that I had not heard of.

I microwave cloths every other day, wavechange – 8 minutes in a lidded jug. Once it’s cooled, the anount of extra gunk that can be wrung out is sickening! My wife still prefers 10 minutes in freebouling water on the stove top, though. Even smellier – that scent filters all around the house.

Well that is good to know. Thanks.

I have just had a glitch with my Miele fridge freezer. It displayed an alarm function F2. Temperature ? Thought the door had been left open, but no. Temperature normal at 5 degrees. Reluctantly phoned Miele £117 + parts! 2nd hour £72. If we wished we could insure it for £249. Our local repairman said after we told him what was wrong and the make that the only way is with the manufacture’s repair man. Highway robbery / restraint of trade? Could buy new every 3 years? Switched the machine off at the plug. Checked the defrost (fridge) ok. Checked defrost of freezer and it needed defrosting. When all completed, switched on again. Situation normal. If the repair cost of a Miele machine is that expensive , guess who won’t buy a miele again?

Millie 1 says:
21 July 2016

I have a frost free fridge/freezer about 4 years old but still looking good, recently the fridge food started freezing up and apparently the thermostat needed replacing on this part, its insured with British Gas so the repair was done accordingly, but now a few weeks later its happened again and they are sending someone out again, i’m concerned as to whether the food I’m eating is ok after it has frozen particles in it, and whether the food in my actual freezer below is at the correct temperature or has been spoiled, would any of the contents in the fridge or freezer become inedible because of what’s happening, I have asked the British Gas repair chap but he said it was all fine but saying little else.. I just wondered if anyone else has had this problem or has any knowledge on this subject, only yesterday I had stomach pains after eating coleslaw with frozen bits in it.

John Huggins says:
19 August 2016

I have two comments on your recent Survey. Firstly, Repairers would recommend repair over replace wouldn’t they! Secondly, You often do not know serious the fault is until you call out a Repairer and incur a call-out charge.

Claire says:
24 June 2020

So disappointed that there are no environmental considerations here. I care so much less about the cost involved.

I agree entirely, Claire. We concern ourselves excessively with the immediate up-front cost rather than the long-term consequences of the depletion of the world’s resources which also have a cost far outweighing the identifiable personal costs.

Discussing this in a consumption-driven environment which cannot reject or moderate manufacturing industry’s fundamental principles, supported by the capitalist economy, will always be difficult and evade the real challenges.

There are many companies that produce durable and repairable products. It is far from a fundamental principle of manufacturing industry. I suggest it is also driven by consumers, of varying wealth, need, and principle. Regulation seems to me the only way to change the situation, but that would disadvantage many who have, for example, very light use of some products.

Welcome Claire. We need more people pushing sustainability and other environmental considerations.

Malcolm – In the past it was common for people to buy secondhand products if they could not afford new ones. Sometimes people are all too happy to offer products free rather than scrap them. The problem with cheap white goods is that some owners will make heavy use of goods designed for light use and simply replace them when they break. From the consumer’s point of view this can make economic sense because repairs are expensive, but it’s obviously not sustainable.

A friend has a number of rental properties that tend to be rented out for a year or so. He buys new cheap white goods between rentals because that’s what appeals to his tenants.

We discuss repairability and availability of spares on a regular basis, but what about all the working appliances that are scrapped?

In 1982 I told my new neighbours that I was going to buy a freezer for the garage. Soon after they gave me an ad. from the local paper and as a result I was soon the owner of a nine month old chest freezer, which I eventually scrapped in 2016. It was not that I could not afford a new freezer but it did not seem worth buying one just for the garage.

Hi, we have had a Miele Honeycomb care W3652 washer for 15 years. I LOVE this machine. We carried on paying the D&G insurance to cover repairs once it passed its warranty. It has only broken down 3 x and all in the last 5 years. The D&G insurance covered both 1 and 2 but each time it took over 2 weeks before they could get an engineer out. This last time it was tripping the electrics and although I had several appointments through D&G for an engineer to come out they all were cancelled by the repair service who stated that they were unable to find an engineer – the 2nd time this happened after 11 am on the day they were supposed to come out. I called out a repairman myself (who wasn’t VAT registered so had to pay myself as D&Gs repair service couldn’t get an engineer to me until the end of the month – a total of 6 weeks). The guy fixed my machine – heating element, cost total of £109, part and labour and washer was up and running within 3 days. Now the really sad thing is that my washer suddenly stopped working a week later – las week. All shut down, error code Technical Fault. I called my trustee washer guy ( had now cancelled D&G insurance). He came out apologising thinking maybe it was the new element. No this was all fine. He wasn’t really able to find the problem as the washer wouldn’t let him access the error code information, which he said has never happened before. He checked the circuit boards and couldn’t see anything obvious but said that it must be these that were at fault, but was unable to detect if it was the front or back one. He believed it would probably be the back one as this is the one relaying information to the front but a new one cost over £500 and if it also needed a new front one then that was also close to £500. My machine still looks as good as it did 15 years ago, door seal immaculate and has never been changed, never any issue with wash cycles or leaks. When the repair guy originally fixed the element he had a cup of coffee on the top of the machine and his coffee didn’t move when it went on spin cycle! I really wanted to repair this machine and keep it going for another 15 years. Sadly a £500 repair bill is just not economically viable. I have bought a Bosch which is arriving today but I am so sad that I am losing my trusty Miele and keep feeling so annoyed that the new circuit boards cost so much. I, unreasonably feel that the Bosh won’t be as good as my old washer – which the trustee repair guy said is really the best washing machine ever and even Miele don’t make them like this anymore. My husband says I must be the only woman that isn’t jumping for joy at getting a new washing machine.

Hi Tes – I’m sorry to hear your story. Unless things have changed, Miele do not make servicing information available to anyone other than their own repairers. With Bosch and other more popular brands there are third party spares available but some Miele parts are only available from the manufacturer. Not many people would pay £500 for a circuit board, especially if the other one might be at fault.

I am hoping that the EU Right to Repair regulations will force manufacturers to make servicing information available to all repairers and hopefully the general public too.

I hope your new machine behaves itself. You might find someone will buy the old one for £50 or £100 because secondhand Miele spares are often available on eBay.

Hi Tes,

Sorry to hear that story.

Over ten years is a good life for a modern washing machine. The nice cheap Beko that I installed at my late father’s house is still working more than 10 years later. However it has not been heavily used or abused.

My 1987 FL812 Zanussi has just needed its 2nd minor repair. Luckily the required part was available and only cost £10.

Sooner or later though, I expect it will fail beyond economic repair and require replacement.

A special ps for wavechange. Having just had it apart, I can confirm that my FL812

… has a full steel case. There are some small gaps at the top though, behind the controls.

Strange how some seem happy to replace a £1000 phone every couple of years but are unhappy when a hard-working appliance only lasts 15 years.

No criticism of your comment Tes.

I, too, want to see the ability to keep basically sound appliance going as long as possible. Stocking spares will have a cost to the company but can be excessively priced. Maybe appliances have just become too sophisticated and someone should come out with more basic ones with simpler controls; I mean, my washing machine has 14 programmes each with 4 options and 5 spin speeds – 280 possible ways of using it. I use 4. My dishwasher has 6 programmes – 1 used. And as for smart devices – yet another layer of complexity that will inevitably shorten life and, probably, make repairs out of the question.

Derek – Thanks. I looked up your Zanussi washing machine you posted about replacing the control knob surround recently. Keep it going! I hope you never have a fire but an all-steel case would help contain it.

Malcolm – Most of us use a limited number of programmes on their washing machines but we don’t all choose the same ones. I thought I would never use the ‘quick wash’ cycle on mine but the machine does not rinse well and use this cycle to complete the rinsing. 🙁

I suppose because the older Miele machines are so reliable, few turn up in the scrap trade to provide second-hand parts for purchase by Tes’s repair technician. I know nothing about circuit boards so cannot understand why they would be so expensive for such a small component or be difficult to stock as spares.

Malcolm, I’m more happy with replacing a £100 phone every two years.

My FL812 is a very simple washing machine at heart.

Its “brain” is a mechanical clock – i.e. a simple sequence programmer – and then its functions are controlled by a few motors, pumps and valves.

It was medium priced when new – I think it cost £240 instead of £180 for the least expensive machine (an Indesit) at my local Co-op store. But perhaps some of that extra cost equated to a better build quality, rather than just the offer of more programmes.

New machines are controlled by electronic circuit boards. As Tes’ story shows, these can be either ridiculously expensive as spares or even unobtainable.

When you can buy a decent basic washing machine new for £180, it is not surprising that many such machines cannot be repaired economically. For example, if you need a replacement motor costing £120, it seems daft to not just get a whole new machine.

I hope some folk enjoy repairing old washing machines, much as I do with old PC’s, but I think it would hard to earn a good living that way.

John, I think the problem with circuit boards is that their designs are all too easily changed over time by the engineers who oversee washing machine production.

Hence, a manufacturer will need to keep stocks of each design for use as spare parts and the costs of doing that will passed on to the repair trade.

My 1982 Philips washing machine cost £202.74 and when the motor failed nine or ten years later I wondered whether it was worth spending nearly £100 on a new motor or buying a new machine. I opted for buying a new motor and fitting it myself. The machine was still working when it was 34 years old, though I had spent an extra £35 for a replacement drain pump soon after replacing the motor. I decided to buy a new machine when I moved home. It is difficult to predict how long products will last.

Tes was unlucky to have had the heating element replaced and to have another fault so soon after.

Tes was indeed unlucky there.

I remember spending over £1000 on a new cat for my old Toyota Yaris about a year before I finally had to retire it.

In my case, paying the repair bill was the quickest and easiest way of getting back on the road with a vehicle that was earning its keep via business use.

But a day or so of time out to sort out a replacement car might have been a better option. Indeed, I would have gone that way, if I had been tempted by any of the used cars on offer at my Toyota dealer. I may also have looked round the other dealerships nearby, but I cannot remember doing that for sure.

These days, the internet makes it a lot easier to find used examples of a specific type of car. The Government MoT history website can then be used to give some indication of their prior reliability record.

I can’t remember which washing machine it was right now, but one of them leaked badly a few times when pipes split then something rusted through that was the final straw.

Now I have a new kitchen, a washing machine is the one item I am less likely to keep having repaired, once or twice maybe, but it won’t get too many chances especially if it starts leaking as clearing up water is no fun. If kitchen units get damaged, matching replacements will most probably be unavailable and insurance is very unlikely to replace all my units because a few bases swell.

Some of us have debated the life of washing machines in various Conversations but deciding whether to repair or replace a car is a bigger financial consideration.

It is possible to have the plinths beneath base units fitted inside a transparent channel so that in the event of a water spill [and in the case of general floor cleaning] the laminate or any exposed inner core is not affected. It seems that few kitchen fitters offer this for a small extra cost. Some day our plinths will come in protective equipment.

It is worth pulling out washing machines and dishwashers every year or two and looking for any sign of leakage. If you are up to removing the back you can tighten loose hose clips and look for any obvious problems such as chafing hoses to avoid future problems.

Good idea, but it would be useful if heavy appliances were on rollerball feet to avoid scratching or damaging the floor surface. A handle or recess at the bottom edge would be handy too. Our dishwasher is laterally very tight in its space so hard to withdraw for cleaning etc. Integrated units might be difficult to pull out depending on how they are fitted. For electrical safety it should be mandatory to have isolation switches above the worktop for baseline appliances which need to be pulled out for attention.

In my experience the main source of leaks is in the connection hoses; the leak is usually only apparent when a small puddle appears in an unexpected place. So access to these hoses should be considered in the installation of the appliances.

A pinhole can be repaired with a blob of adhesive – like Evostick – and wrapping the area in duct tape until you are able – or can be bothered – to replace it.

My previous washing machine was a close fit between kitchen units so I bought a base with rollers, which made it easy to roll out. The present one has a gap on either side and slides out easily on the tiles. It is plugged in under the worktop and the isolator is above, which I presume is a modern requirement. Unfortunately the water supply valve is behind the machine but would be easy to relocate.

Appliances can be a close fit under worktops which could preclude the use of rollers.

That’s true, Malcolm, and rollers are likely to increase vibration compared with having the feet on the floor, correctly adjusted.