Couple choosing washing machine, electronics store

Ask Me Anything: Washer Dryer Purchase, Christmas Cactus Care and Feeding

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.

Couple choosing washing machine, electronics store

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.

Must-have features

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.

Christmas Cactus

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. 

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8 replies
  1. Beverly Sherwood says:

    My Kenmore washer and dryer are 27 yrs old. When I had the repair guy out to replace my time and asked him if I ever needed to replace them which was best. He said Speed Queen. That it would out last the other brands twice as long as they would last.

  2. Michael kopp says:

    Almost every washer breaks in 5 to 7 years. If you want quality bt a commercial speed queen. Kenmore was good in the 80s.

  3. Imogene L Leslie says:

    Something to consider when buying a front load machine is the door opens out problem. Does the washer sit near a narrow hall/path or garage door? Mine blocked anyone entering from the garage or wanting to get through to the next room. Another problem, no matter how much care I took, I still had to gently leave the washer open to help prevent mildew. If I had the closet with bi-fold doors next to the garage as in my last home I would not have been happy then either. The front load washer didn’t last long but the matching dryer has and I find it does not hurt my eyes that the two appliances don’t match. I appreciate my top loader washer now but wouldn’t get another deep one as it is not easy to reach to the small items at the bottom.

  4. Tracy Lang says:

    I have a top loading HE washing machine & really like it. I’ve had a front loading before & like the top load better.

  5. Bobbie says:

    When I bought a front loading washer due to store incentives and free pedestals, I thought I had made a great purchase. About 15 months later, I was finished. The clothes never seemed clean or fresh, you always but always have to leave the door open so you don’t end with mold. (Dark, wet areas = mold buildup). I placed my perfect-condition washer-dryer on a sell by owner site and was lucky to get a good price for the pair. I ended up purchasing a top loader washer and regular gas dryer and while I still miss the old-fashioned tall, center agitator, clothes are cleaner and better using this type. I personally don’t think the clothes don’t get as clean with the high efficiency brands using less water, etc. It really has proven out that way but I am just glad I switched back to the old standby of the top loader.

  6. Gina Stevens says:

    I was gifted with a Christmas cactus that bloomed TWICE a year. I kept it in my house for years, away from direct sunlight and never watered it from the top. I put water in the bottom drip dish once a week. When a nice young repairman came to my house and fell in love with it, I gave it to him.

  7. Donn Barclay says:

    And don’t forget to keep it in a room that gets zero light overnight–street lights, night lights, tvs–for best blooming, especially in the months before Christmas.

  8. Kim Rubin says:

    The Sears outlet used to be a great place to buy appliances with either minor imperfections, or other minor flaws. However, in the last few years I have noticed their prices were actually higher at the outlet than the cost of a new, unflawed appliance when on sale, from places like Best Buy, etc. I always work hard to find the best deal possible when buying items, so did my research. Sears Outlet prices are, IMO, not as competitive as they used to be, so they’ve lost my business multiple times. We recently moved to a new home, and so needed to purchase a new washer/dryer set, new dishwasher, new stove and new microwave, plus had recently bought a new refrigerator. I thoroughly checked prices, sales, and so on, before buying each one, and not once was the price better at the outlet. It’s a shame because I don’t mind a small scratch or ding, as long as it’s in an area that won’t show, for a reduced price, but the prices have been more at the outlet than the regular Sears store in many cases, and even the regular store prices haven’t been competitive with other places lately.


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