Water Impact on Home Appliances – 2

Water Impact and Your Home

The type of water that you have in your home can have an impact on those big ticket items that you rely on to make your household run smoothly. Once you understand the type of water you have in your home, you can take steps to make sure everything is at its most tip-top shape.

Hard Water. How many phrases with the word “hard” in them that create a positive image in your mind? Hard-headed is used as a negative connotation; if you think of a hard-headed person, you probably think of someone that’s stubborn and difficult to deal with. When we talk about hard water, we’re talking about the same idea.

Hard water tends to offer negative effects to the people and appliances for which it’s responsible. If you’ve noticed that your soap doesn’t work very well or you feel like your shampoo doesn’t ever feel like it’s rinsed out, you may have hard water. Hard water contains high concentrations of minerals and sulfates which build up very easily and wash away with much difficulty. Your appliances’ pipes and internal workings are likely suffering the same build-up as are your hair and skin. Basically, the mineral and sulfate build-up can make your machines need to work harder, particularly if the pipes and lines are starting to clog from the excess of materials found in the water. Your appliances may also begin to suffer the effects of corrosion from the presence of these minerals.

Soft Water. Keep in mind that Goldilocks never once tried out the water when she was Watertalking about things being too hard, too soft, or just right. If she had, she probably would have stopped when she tried the soft water. You see, soft water is much kinder to its appliance friends than its hard water counterpart. Soft water contains significantly fewer elements than hard water (if any at all), and it’s much less likely to cause corrosive problems to your dishwasher, washing machine, and other household appliances. Although soft water can be naturally occurring, it may not be readily available to you. As such, there’s no shortage of options to help you soften your water to increase the life and longevity of your home’s machines.

Distilled Water. When you think of your household appliances that need water, you probably immediately think of your dishwasher and washing machine, right? What about all of those appliances that you use daily, like your coffee maker, iron, or espresso maker? Although smaller, these appliances are often used much more frequently than your big appliances, and as such, can suffer the effects of water contaminants much more quickly. Have you ever noticed that your iron is rusting? That rust then transfers from your iron to your clothes, and now the domino effect is in full force. Distilled water is, in effect, a water that’s gone through a boiling process to remove as many non-water substances as possible, thus producing the purest possible liquid, which is perfect for your small appliances.

Analyzing the type of water you have in your home isn’t nearly as daunting of a task as you may think.  The Environmental Protection Agency as gone to great lengths to help take the mystery out of water.  You can find laboratories and offices by state using the EPA’s website.  There are also tons of online companies that offer water testing services, but, like always, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve done as much research on those companies as you’re doing on your water to be sure that you purchase a high-quality and legitimate company’s services.

Gords Appliance


Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience.
Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances

Creative Appliance Recycling

Creative Appliance Recycling – Part 1

We all know them. Maybe you are even one of them. And hey, no judgments if you are. After all, you help keep our economy ticking along. Who am I referring to? I’m talking aboutcreative appliance recycling those people that get rid of good stuff that is a bit out dated or that has simply lost its appeal. The attraction of something new and exciting is overwhelming so others get the benefit of gently used wares often found online, at Good Will, or even on the curbside with a “free” sign attached.

If you aren’t part of this segment of the population and you hang onto your stuff until it dies, then you need to dispose of it. The municipal landfill is one option for your old dishwasher, washer or dryer, refrigerator or freezer. However, there may be other options besides taking your old appliance to the dump. This series is dedicated to creative ways to recycle common household appliances. To kick things off, let’s talk about that old chest freezer, upright freezer/refrigerator.

Get Practical

Before we begin to get creative, let’s start with practical. Refrigerators and freezers contain refrigerants. One needs legal certification and the proper collection equipment for the disposal of these gases. The landfill contracts with a company that extracts the hazardous materials from fridges and freezers and then recycles the rest. The DIY old fashioned way with an axe and a breeze is environmentally irresponsible and defeats the purpose of creative recycling. More importantly, it is illegal and Environment Canada takes a dim view of the practice. That said, some companies that install and service commercial refrigeration units will extract and recycle refrigerants for a small fee if you bring your appliance to their shop. They will send you on your way with paperwork verifying that your appliance has been decommissioned.

Creative Re-uses for Chest Freezers & Fridges

Raised Garden Beds

Remove the doors and shelving from the chest freezer, (refrigerators or upright freezersfridge and freezer garden must be laid on their backs of course). Make drainage holes in the bottom of your unit, put a layer of gravel in the bottom and fill the rest with soil and compost/aged manure. The appliance’s insulation helps maintain the soil temperature overnight and can even extend your growing season. The height is easier on your back than the traditional ground bed and ideal for those who are wheelchair bound or need to sit to garden. (Check out this interesting story in the Cranbrook Guardian to learn more about these raised garden beds.)

Worm Composting

Worm castings make excellent fertilizer, so if you are into organic gardening, a worm farm might be ideal for you. Used chest freezers can make excellent worm farms. (Check out www.wormfarmingsecrets.com for some great information) A worm farm can also be a great idea if you are a fan of fresh worms for fishing. Instead of buying bait, you can keep a ready supply in your own yard. (Be sure to research the bylaws in your area first.)

Dry Erase/White Boards

If you know someone who owns a deli or food kiosk, a large chest freezer lid can make a creative white board for menu postings. The idea of a communication board also applies for residential applications. You can make a large calendar, customize a daily- weekly-monthly chore list for the kids… you get the idea.

Meat Smoker & Home Brew Fermenter

Plans to make smokers for fish and game, as well as fermenters for home brewing can be found on the internet or researched at your local library. Again, unless you reside in the country with no neighbours to disturb, municipal ordinances need to be checked. It would be a shame to go to all that work only to have to tear it all down and get a fine to boot.

Rodent-proof Container or Watering Trough

If you have spent any time in farm country, no doubt you are already familiar with the sight of a chest freezer or two, along an out-building, in a barn or the mudroom of a farm house. Chest freezers make great rodent-proof storage containers for grain and other pet foods. The contents remains fresh and dry and you can lock the lid.

The chest freezer can also make an excellent drinking trough for horses and cattle. It is easy to clean on the inside and the insulation factor makes the trough heater’s job easier in the winter too.

I know that we have covered this point, but it bears repeating: please don’t attempt to creatively recycle your used fridge or freezer without first having your appliance decommissioned so that it is rendered free of hazardous materials. This little blog covers just a few possibilities for creatively reusing an old refrigerator or freezer. No doubt many of you know someone or have come up with some really creative uses yourself for recycling old fridges or freezers and we would like to learn about them. Please contact us with your ideas and send us your photos.

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Gords Appliance
Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience.

Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.

Laundry Au Naturel Bleaches

Doing Laundry Au Naturel Bleaches – Part 6b

Natural Bleaches

If you would like to keep your laundry room as free as possible from chemicals, there are several natural alternatives you can try.

Lemon Juice in the Washer

laundry au naturel bleach - lemonsLemon juice can be one of your best allies!  You can try partially filling your washer with hot water and soaking your whites overnight with the juice of a couple lemons.  The next day run your washer through the spin cycle and then wash per normal.  Alternatively, just add lemon juice to your rinse cycle.  You can use lemon juice and salt like you would use a spot remover as well.


Vinegar is another ingredient found in your kitchen that can do wonders for whitening clothes.  People shy away from the idea thinking that the residual odour left in the washer remains in clothing as well, but it doesn’t.  Try adding a half to ¾ of a cup per load (top loader washers) to your wash water. It is inexpensive and effective with no chemical residue.

Baking Soda

Another panacea from your pantry is baking soda. Add half a cup of baking soda to your washing machine’s wash water to whiten and brighten your clothes.  Baking soda is non-toxic and used in many whitening toothpastes as well as other environmentally friendly household cleaners.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Safe to use with your laundry detergent, hydrogen peroxide is a natural alternative to bleach.  Try adding a half a cup to your washing machine’s regular wash cycle.


A naturally occurring alkaline mineral salt, borax has been used for centuries.  You can presoak your clothes in your washing machine overnight or add some borax to your wash water. It has excellent whitening abilities; in fact some commercial laundry preparations include borax in the compound.  You can find borax in the laundry aisle of your grocery store.


Whether it’s combined with another method or on its own, sunlight can always be relied upon for brightening up your laundry. And best of all it’s completely friendly to the environment and free.

While there are many inexpensive natural alternatives to commercially available laundry additives and brighteners, many of these natural options are more time consuming to use, and not necessarily recommended for front loading washers.  Always check with your washing machine manufacturer for a list of recommended products.

If you have other natural brightening ideas for the laundry, or experience using such methods with front loading washers, we are interested in hearing from you.

Water Damage and Appliances


Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience.  Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.



SmartKlean: “How to Whiten Clothes with no Bleach or Optical Brighteners

Wikipedia, “Borax

Doing Laundry Au Naturel

Doing Laundry Au Naturel – Part 6a

Whiter than White

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white because she bathed him in optical brighteners, optical brightening agents (OBAs), fluorescent brightening agents (FBAs), fluorescent whitening agents (FWAs) and chlorine bleach.

In our quest for whiter whites we could be exposing ourselves to some elements that may not be good for the environment, our washing machines, Mary, or her little lamb.  There Spring Lambis a classification of chemicals which some manufacturers of laundry products add to their wares known as optical brighteners.  Years ago blue dye was used in laundry to cause garments to reflect more blue light giving the appearance of brightness.  Nowadays, optical brighteners are chemicals which are added to detergent to give the illusion of super-clean in a similar way.

Optical brighteners work by dying fabric so that it will absorb certain types of light which makes garments appear whiter and brighter.  Clothes aren’t any cleaner, but they appear that way to our eye.  While some people do react to the chemical residue of optical brighteners, and they can build up in your washing machine, the jury is still out about their hazardousness to the environment.  A 2008 report authored by Greenpeace entitled “An Overview of Textiles Processing and Related Environmental Concerns” concluded that “low or no toxicitity is associated with these substances”, but Greenpeace also referenced the BGVV (the Belgium Association for Gerontology and Geriatrics) which stated that there is a “a general lack of information on toxicity and a need for studies into dermal absorption and the release of these substances from clothes.”

What About Chlorine Bleach?

If you have ever inadvertently spilled chlorine bleach on your favourite pair of jeans, you have already learned that chlorine bleach does its job very well.  Aside from having the potential to ruin your favourite article of clothing, chlorine bleach also has other inherent problems.  Chlorine gas was used as an agent of chemical warfare in WW1.  It is a very caustic substance and harmful to the environment. Mixing chlorine bleach with other common household substances can result in the formation of dioxins and dangerous gases.  Some of these dioxins (chemical compounds) have been known to cause kidney damage, certain cancers and respiratory problems.  But the fact that chlorine bleach is an excellent germicide, as well as a whitener is undisputed.

If you are interested in learning about some washing machine-safe, natural alternatives to optical brighteners and chlorine bleach, check out part b of “Doing Laundry Au Natural – Part 6”.

As always, Gord’s Appliance is interested in hearing from you.  If you have pertinent information on the subject of optical brighteners, send us your comments.

Water Damage and Appliances


Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience.  Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.



SmartKlean Blog:  http://smartklean.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/how-to-whiten-clothes-with-no-bleach-or-optical-brighteners/

An Overview of Textiles Processing and Related Environmental Concerns: http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/th/global/seasia/report/2008/5/textile-processing.pdf

Doing Laundry Au Naturel – Homemade Soap

Doing Laundry Au Naturel – Part 3

Homemade Soap

There is a sub-culture rising up around us that is taking its place in the mainstream. Thanks to the internet, reality television and the proliferation of DIY (do-it-yourself) – along with an enthusiasm for environmental friendliness – we have a new generation of males and females beginning to embrace things that many of our grandmas, great-grandmas and great-great-grandmas grew up doing. One of those things is soap making, which brings us to the topic at hand. Is homemade laundry soap a viable option for your washing machine as compared to its commercially prepared counterpart?

Let me start by saying that your washing machine manufacturer is the recommendedhandmade soap source of information when it comes to your washing machine. Particularly if your washer is under warranty, you want to be careful that you don’t use anything in your washing machine that goes against your manufacturer’s recommendations as you could void your washer’s warranty in the event that anything untoward should occur. Disclaimer aside, let’s examine the issue of using homemade/natural laundry soap by getting a basic understanding of the differences between a laundry detergent and a laundry soap. While we use the terms interchangeably there is a difference.

Soap & the Washer

Soaps are created when fats are combined with lye (sodium hydroxide). The chemical reaction which ensues causes the lye to turn the oil or fat into soap. Soaps are emulsifiers; they allow water to mix with oil enabling dirt to be removed from fabric and carried away in rinse water. (Warm or hot water melts fats and makes it easier for them to be pulled out of fabric as your washing machine is agitating and then get swept away in rinse water.) Because there was severe rationing of both animal fat and vegetable oils during World War 1 and World War 2, detergents were developed. (“How Do Detergents Clean?”)

Detergent & the Washer

A laundry detergent is a surface-active agent, otherwise known as a surfactant. Surfactants reduce the surface tension of a liquid. In the case of your washer, detergents allow water to penetrate solids better and to carry dirt and grime from fibres more effectively than water alone. Original laundry detergents had a petrochemical base, though now most are made from oleochemicals (of plant or animal origin).

Any of the recipes I have found for homemade laundry soaps are soaps in the chemical sense. Using either commercially available bar soap or homemade bar soap as the base, most homemade laundry soap adds some kind of natural whitening agent such as borax, but it is still a soap. (More about borax in part 5 of this series, “Doing Laundry Au Naturel”.)

Is Homemade Better?

So is homemade laundry soap more effective, more environmentally friendly, and less expensive than its store-bought counterpart?

Is Homemade Cheaper?

The comparisons indicate that the price per load for homemade laundry soap is significantly lower than store bought, however none of the comparisons factored in the time it takes to make the laundry soap. I suspect that if you factored in your time the savings might disappear, though I did not find any data that took into account one’s time.

Is Homemade Greener?

Is homemade laundry soap innately more “green”? If you are making your soap from scratch without using a commercially prepared bar soap as your base, you are in direct control of your end product and know the extent of the “greenness” of the product you are putting into your washer. However, since laundry detergents in Canada are now phosphate free, the whole gamete of products available for your washer technically is green now. Whether one brand is greener than another is a subject for each person to research and decide individually.

Does Homemade Clean Better?

I found no empirical evidence to support whether or not homemade laundry soap cleans better than commercially prepared laundry soap or detergent. There was no data accounting for all of the variables such as, hardness or softness of water, adequate sampling of commercial brands and variations in batches of homemade soap as well as different recipes.

In my opinion, a high quality homemade soap could be better than a very cheap and low quality commercial laundry soap that contains a lot of useless bulk. On the other hand, a quality commercial laundry detergent would unquestionably outperform a homemade laundry soap. The reason for this is the “scum factor”.

Soap scum is the result of water (containing magnesium/calcium) reacting to the fat component of soap – the harder the water the worse the scum factor. Because detergents “deter” dirt as well as scum, and many producers include a small amount of soap in their formulas as well, my choice would be a quality laundry detergent such as Persil, a high quality German detergent that has been used in Europe for years. Available in both liquid and powder, Persil is an excellent choice for high efficiency top loaders and front loaders as well. (You can call our parts line at 1-800-941-4755 as Gord’s Appliance does carry the product or search Mr. Google for suppliers in your area).

So while I don’t think I would ever favour homemade laundry soap over a quality commercially produced laundry detergent, I do have some serious preferences for homemade when it comes to pie, jam and bread. And I’m always willing to lend my taste testing abilities if you need some help with a bit of research!

If you have experience making homemade laundry soap, we are interested in your feedback. Let us know how you think homemade laundry soap stacks up against laundry detergent.

Water Damage and Appliances


Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience. Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.



Wikipedia “Oleochemical”

“How do Detergents Clean?” by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Right to Dry

Right to Dry – Doing Laundry Au Naturel – Part 2

As was discussed in Part 1 of this series, “Doing Laundry Au Naturel”, there is a movement afoot aggressively promoting the use of clotheslines instead of dryers. The iStock_000014163540XSmall“Right to Dry” campaign does have its hands full in some jurisdictions in Canada because there are city bylaws in place prohibiting the use of clotheslines. While there are no such bylaws against hanging clothes and linens out to dry in the City of Calgary, some developments in the city ban the practice. (However, the only way such a rule could actually be enforced would be for a neighbour to take the clothesline violator to court.) Part 1 looked at energy consumption of dryers and the possible degrading effect dryers might have on garments. Now let’s examine the germ-killing ability of a dryer.

Dryers & Hygiene

Just which is more hygienic, your clothes dryer or hanging your clothes outside in the sun? According to research done by the University of Kentucky, “more bacteria are killed by drying clothes in an automatic clothes dryer than by line drying. Both
methods, however, will reduce the number of bacteria.” (“Cleaning Flood-Soiled Clothing”) Since it is the sun’s ultraviolet light that kills bacteria, using a clothesline to dry your clothes on a sunny day is effective just not to the same degree as the high heat of a dryer.

Fresh Smell & Stress Relief

The pleasant odour and stress relieving properties reportedly associated with drying linens and garments on outside clotheslines are definitely subjective experiences which can’t be measured. If someone derives a positive benefit from his or her clothesline, more power to them. However, common sense would dictate that under certain circumstances it would be far preferable or necessary to dry everything in a dryer. Suppose, for example, that you happen to live beside a large hog operation.

Dryer or Clothesline?

At the end of the day we are all governed by self-interest and necessity. Notwithstanding rules prohibiting the use of clotheslines within certain developments in the Calgary area, generally speaking, we are all free to make up our own minds. If your particular circumstances don’t dictate the method you need to use to dry your laundry, who’s to say a choice need be made? Instead of an either-or approach, weigh the pros and cons and use a combination of dryer and clothesline and get the best of both worlds.

Water Damage and AppliancesGord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience. Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.

(Alas, Gord’s Appliance does not install clotheslines; you’ll need to find a Martha Stewart or a Handy Manny to help with that. 🙂 )