In which I go a bit barmy over a washing machine

technology

I hate consumer appliances which are made from poor-quality, non-serviceable parts, and which last only a year or two before ending up at the Council tip because they cannot be repaired economically. So I faced the task of buying a new washing machine with a heavy heart. The old one was left in our house by the previous owners, and had never washed, rinsed1 or spun well since we first encountered it. Then, a couple of weeks ago, the motor went and the drum would no longer turn. It would have cost more to repair than replace, even supposing we could have got the parts: we had to get a new machine.

I had heard that the quality of consumer washing machines had declined sharply in recent years, driven by the big warehouse sellers (Dixons, Comet et al.) pushing cheaper and cheaper machines. That impression was confirmed by a bit of research on the internet. It seems that the majority of machines have parts that are only rated for the equivalent of 18 months to 2 or 3 years of normal use, and when they inevitably pack up, you're faced with a repair bill that can be more than half the cost of entirely replacing the machine.

After a lot of searching, it seemed that if I wanted a machine that would last a decent length of time and would be repairable, I had only a couple of choices: I could buy a Miele, or a brand I hadn't heard of before, ISE. Both were much more expensive than the 'bargain' washers, but they were guaranteed for a good length of time, had quality components, and were energy efficient. However, the problem with Miele (as with many other brands) is that they operate a rather closed system of repairs. Washing machine engineers have to buy a special laptop interface from Miele just to diagnose faults (which is expensive), and spares are also pretty costly.

ISE is a company with a completely different ethos. They make machines with components tested (and guaranteed) for very long life (about 22 years of use, with one wash per day), they distribute only through local, independent repairers (who also undertake any repairs under guarantee), and the spares are easy to get hold of and sold to repairers with no mark-up. That was all very appealing to me, and while the purchase price was going to be rather painful, the fact that I knew we would have no repair bills to pay for 10 years, come what may, meant that it would probably work out cheaper than having to buy or repair a succession of cheaper machines.

We've had our ISE10 for a bit over a week now (so it is a baby in terms of its projected life), but I'm really happy with my decision. I've never got particularly excited over washing machines before, but this is a serious bit of engineering, and I love it to bits. It's incredibly solid and heavy, with a clever design. The drum is housed inside an independently-suspended housing sitting on four shock absorbers inside the outer steel casing. This means that when it is agitating the wash or spinning, the outer case barely moves or vibrates. Our old machine used to leap and buck around as if it was possessed while spinning, and a couple of times we'd feared for our worktop. This one sits there like a rock. The machine is also a very quiet as it has a brushless motor. The loudest part is actually when the water is gushing into the drum. At other times it purrs away so quietly that if you're in another room, you wonder if you've actually remembered to switch it on. It also washes superbly, and our clothes are cleaner than they've been for ages.

It's the kind of machine that inspires confidence that it will just quietly get on with its job, and I have found myself giving it an affectionate little pat when I pass by it. In the end, you get what you pay for, and I'd prefer to spend a bit more money and get something that will do its job for a long time, and be easy to repair when bits wear out. Our Dualit toaster will be 10 years old this September, and is still toasting bread every day like a champ. With any luck, I will still be giving the ISE10 a little pat when Mr. Bsag and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.

1 I have — on occasion — found myself literally foaming at the knee while cycling in the rain, because the machine did not rinse out the washing powder properly.

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