Time to reach into the mailbag to answer a few of the questions from my dear readers. It’s kinda’ my favorite day, which should give you an idea of how much I love to hear from you. While I cannot respond personally to all of your messages and letters, know that I read every one, selecting those to answer here which I believe will have a more universal appeal.
Replacing a washer and dryer
Dear Mary: The pump in our older washing machine has gone out so rather than the big repair bill to have it replaced we’ve decided it’s time for a new washer and dryer. Are high-efficiency models worth it? And which brands do you recommend? Ben
Dear Ben: High efficiency (HE) washers do a fine job of washing clothes. for normal home laundry use. The benefit over a typical top-loading machine is that they use a lot less water—the reason they’re labeled high-efficiency.
Another benefit of a front-loading machine is that it can be “stacked” with a dryer sitting on top of it. Of course, one would need to purchase the stacking hardware that securely attaches a dryer to sit on top of it.
Because of the front-loading aspect, a HE washer requires a bit more routine maintenance to make sure that the front gasket that seals the door so the water doesn’t leak out of the door when in use. is kept clean to prevent mold and mildew. To learn more about this read How to Clean and Sanitize Your Washing Machine.
You will need to use only HE detergent in a front-loading machine. HE detergent creates few if any suds. Using high-sudsing regular laundry detergent in an HE machine can cause the machine to fail.
If your dryer is still functioning well, there’s no reason other than aesthetics to replace it. Your old dryer will keep doing the job for a long while, provided you maintain it properly.
With that background in mind, together with a long conversation I had with a repairman who works on all brands of washers and dryers except Samsung (he absolutely refuses to work on Samsung and LG products because it is nearly impossible to get parts for them)—and in response to so many readers wanting to know the best inexpensive washers and dryers, here is my best advice:
Set a budget
Determine the price you’re willing to pay for the appliance(s). Lock eyeballs with that number and commit to finding the best option without going over budget.
Write down the top three features you need in this appliance. Traditional basic top-load washers will offer temperature management and load size options and that’s about it. From there, determine what you must have. Or do you really need more than the basics?
Take a tour
Go to a Sears store (or similar), which now carries the top brands of appliances (you can also shop online at Sears retail or the Sears Outlet), with your three requirements. Then listen and pay close attention to what you learn.
In the store, the salesman will try to steer you into a higher-end model with lots of bells and whistles you’ll probably never use ( I know from experience). Keep going back to your three “must-haves.” Personally, I would lean toward a traditional Whirlpool appliance. Once they become ancient they’ll still be working well. Parts and services for Whirlpool brands are considerably less expensive than for brands like Samsung and LG.
Make the decision
Once you narrow your choices to the one that fits with your budget and meets your needs, make the decision, find the best price, arrange for delivery and installation, and don’t look back.
If you hold out to find the absolute perfect washer and or dryer at the perfect price, you’ll still be looking next year this time—and driving yourself nuts with indecision.
Dear Mary; I received a beautiful blooming Christmas cactus for well, Christmas! It’s still alive, but I don’t know what to do with it. How should I care for it to make sure it blooms again next Christmas? Elizabeth
Dear Elizabeth: Lucky you! The Christmas cactus (schlumbergera) is a very popular houseplant—and for good reason. When they bloom, they produce colorful, tubular flowers in pink or lilac colors. The beautiful flowers enjoy a long bloom time, which can extend long past Christmas.
Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus and its relatives don’t live in hot, arid environments such as deserts or plains. In fact, these succulents are native to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil, where love the humidity and grow on tree branches. they grow on tree branches and soak up the high humidity, filtered sunlight, and warm temperatures.
Here’s the bottom line: Don’t treat a Christmas cactus as you might any other cactus or succulent. They can’t take the same kind of full sun and dry conditions that other cacti can. It’s important to water these cacti more regularly than other succulents, but go easy! You do not want to keep a Christmas cactus too wet.
To save a Christmas cactus so it will bloom every Christmas season for years to come, move it to a spot with indirect light in March through August, fertilizing it once each month during spring and summer— March thru August.
Use a bloom formula houseplant fertilizer like Miracle-Gro Blooming Houseplant Food, which makes an ideal fertilizer for a Christmas cactus.
If you want it to bloom again in December, move the plant to a cool low-lighted room on October 1, until it starts budding. This plant loves humidity but make sure you let the soil dry out between waterings. Avoid watering in October to encourage holiday buds.