A couple going through laundry in front of a washer and dryer.

How long do you expect your washer and dryer to last? Some CR readers are frustrated, reporting that their machine needed repair within the first three years, while others are thrilled that their washer is still going strong after 28 years.

"After reading so many horror stories with the new machines, I'm OK keeping my 20-plus-year-old Frigidaire set that I have had serviced 2 times," wrote one reader recently on our washing machine buying guide. "We will expire together."

If only life were so neat and tidy.

More on Washers and Dryers

CR members expect a washer and dryer to last 10 years, on average, according to our 2018 survey. Most major manufacturers say you can expect at least that. Speed Queen is unusual in that it claims its machines can last roughly 25 years. 

Even so, our survey found that around 30 percent of all newly purchased washers are likely to develop problems or break within the first five years. Dryers are less complicated machines, and that statistic drops to about 20 percent.

Those figures are based on CR members' experiences with more than 71,000 washers and more than 57,000 electric and gas dryers purchased between 2008 and 2018. 

Here are eight things you can do to help your washer and dryer reach the 10-year mark.

Washing Machines

1. Keep it level. The drums on modern washers can spin up to 1,600 rpm. To keep the machine from vibrating excessively and damaging itself, the washer needs to sit dead level, with its feet firmly on the floor. “If your washer is unsteady, extend one foot at a time,” says Richard Handel, who runs CR’s laundry appliances test lab. “Once the washer feels stable, use a level to check it front to back and side to side, adjust as necessary, then tighten the lock nuts on the feet.”

2. Don’t overdo it on detergent. A surplus of suds makes the washer work harder and could trigger extra rinse cycles, extending wash time and wasting energy and life span. Use the correct type of detergent in the amount recommended by your washer’s manual. Newer washers use a lot less water than those made 15 years ago, and high-efficiency (HE) detergents, which produce less suds, are formulated to work with water-saving front-loaders, HE top-loaders, and even certain agitator top-loaders.

3. Clean the dispenser drawer. Remove it and clean it on a routine basis. When detergent builds up in the dispenser, it can cause suds galore, making the washer work harder.

4. Try to prevent mold. It thrives when it has food and water, and washers provide plenty of both, with detergent and fabric softener residue serving as food sources. Run the tub-clean feature regularly—the recommended frequency varies by machine, from once a month to every 50 cycles. If your washer doesn’t have it, run an empty load on the hottest setting with a cup of bleach. When the front-loader has done its job, wipe away moisture inside the door and on the rubber gasket, and gently pull back the gasket to clean away any residue and dry the surface. Between loads, keep a front-loader’s door ajar—as long as young children aren’t afoot—or a top-loader’s lid open, and open the dispensers to give them an opportunity to dry.

5. Inspect the water-fill hoses. Replace when cracked or brittle. If a hose bursts, the flood can damage your appliances and your floor, for starters.


Which brand tops our reliability chart? Check out the winners and losers in CR's first-ever Appliance Brand Reliability Rankings.


Dryers

1. Clean the lint trap. It may seem obvious, but this is something to do before every load to ensure that the air flows freely. A blocked lint trap requires the dryer to run longer, adding to wear and tear on the machine.

2. Replace an accordion-style duct. Plastic or foil accordion-style ducts can sag, enabling lint to accumulate in low points and in the ridges. If lint builds up to the point where it restricts airflow, your clothes won't dry and conditions are ripe for a dryer fire. Replace the duct with one that's rigid metal. It has smooth walls, allowing the air to flow and reducing the buildup of lint (a flexible metal duct should be your second choice). Use duct connectors and metal clamps or foil tape to joins sections of duct, and pass on sheet-metal screws. They can catch lint and cause buildup inside the duct. 

3. Keep the duct clear. Once you have the right type of duct in place, be sure to clean it at least once a year. Disconnect the duct from the dryer, then vacuum the dryer vent with a long-handled attachment. Next, use a special brush made for cleaning dryer ducts: Feed it into the duct, vacuuming up chunks of lint as you move it back and forth. “Where possible, separate the duct into shorter sections for better access,” says CR's Handel. Reassemble and attach the duct to the dryer, ensuring that all joints in the duct are properly connected and held with clamps or foil tape. 

“If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, you can call a dryer vent cleaning service," Handel says.

Editor's Note: A version of this article also appeared in the August 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


The Problem of Pet Hair

You can’t imagine life without your furry friend, but how do you deal with all that pet hair? CR expert Emilio Gonzalez shows "Consumer 101" TV show host Jack Rico how to remove the hair—and save your washing machine in the process.