Maytag Neptune MAH5500B Washing Machine

Pros: Saves water; works wonderfully; quiet; great frills; lots of room
Cons: Expensive; needs cleaning often
Rating: 4 out of 5

First posted 12/3/2002

It’s hard to find a nicer-looking washer than this. It’s a nice off-white with gleaming hinges, has a smooth touch-pad control panel that wipes off easily if it gets dirty, and green lights and displays that look wonderfully evil if your basement light is off when you look at the washer. It’s hard to ask for more than that!

The Process

There’s a nice walk-through of option-selecting at the beginning of the manual that you probably won’t need after doing two loads. (We didn’t.) Step one is loading the washer. This is a little weird at first because it’s a front-loading washer. Even though the tub is angled back a little, you do have to pile things in a little carefully if you have a full load, to avoid things spilling out. This is pretty easy after the first couple of times.

Step two is selecting the sort of fabrics you have. “Cotton/sturdy” is for normal jeans and T-shirts sorts of things. “Delicates” is, well, the obvious – dress shirts, nylons, lace, etc. “Wrinkle free” is for dress shirts and pants – it reduces wrinkling. “Hand wash” is for things you aren’t supposed to put in a washer; the design of the front-loading washer, which doesn’t have that big agitator-thing in the middle since it tumbles like a dryer, is much easier on clothes. It also allows you to fit a lot more in the tub than you can in some other washers I’ve used. We couldn’t wash the one king-sized comforter we had, but we managed the queen-sized without a problem. The full-sized shower curtain also fit just fine.

Step three is choosing the wash and rinse water temperatures. There are four options: cold/cold, warm/cold, warm/warm, and hot/cold. The manual gives a pretty good guide of which temps are for which sorts of items. Step four is soil level/wash options. You can tell the washer how dirty your laundry is (light, normal, or heavy soil), and it will take this into account. There’s a “quick” cycle, which is suggested for new or musty clothes. You can choose to do a simple rinse as well.

Step five involves all the spiffy extra options. Presoak adds a 15-minute presoak cycle. The stain cycle adds more time to the wash and rinse cycles. Extra rinse adds a fourth rinse to more completely remove laundry perfumes (great for us allergy-prone people!). Max extract removes extra water (but tends to wrinkle clothing more). Delay wash actually lets you delay the start of your laundry for up to 9 hours. Step six lets you select the volume of the “done” alarm. No more harsh buzzer for us!

Most of the time it seems much simpler than this. You pick the type of fabric, how dirty your laundry is, and the temperatures, and that’s pretty much it for most loads. If you wash the same kind of stuff from load to load it’ll remember your options, so you just have to press “start.”

The Cool Frills

There’s a time-till-done indicator. I love that! Not sure how much longer your laundry will be? Just look at the washing machine. There’s a “pause” button in case you forgot an article and want to add it part-way through.

Although the water level never gets higher than the bottom door of the washer (the clothing tumbles through a stream of water rather than standing water), the door locks automatically to keep kids from prying it open and getting the floor wet. You can still open it during the cycle, however, by pausing the cycle first. The washer makes some funny noises that take some getting used to, but by and large we find it much quieter than other washers we’ve used. (Like the one at our last apartment which sometimes sounded like a machine gun going off in the basement.)

The door can be reversed so that the hinges are on the opposite side. The manual has a trouble-shooting guide. It also comes with a video user’s guide, as well as a general guide for how to get various sorts of stains out of clothes. There’s even a light around the door when you open it up. No more feeling around to see if you’ve found all of your wet clothes!

Supposedly the Neptune washer can use as little as half the water as a normal washer, depending on the load. (You’ll notice that you don’t select load size – the washer determines for itself how much water is needed.)

The Inconveniences

It’s expensive. You’ll need to decide for yourself whether it’s worth it. Supposedly Neptune owners get “priority service” from Maytag (haven’t had to try it yet), and there’s a pretty darn good warranty on the thing, so you may decide it’s worth it, as we did.

The washer cycle is longer than I’m used to. We usually use cotton/sturdy with “normal soil,” and it tends to take about 45-50 minutes. Not that big a deal. Because the washer uses less water, the manufacturer recommends “HE” or high-efficiency detergents, because they suds less, and too much suds can interfere with the tumbling action of the washer. Unfortunately, the only HE detergents I’ve been able to find have been horribly perfumed. There’s a Tide HE, but no Tide Free HE yet. You can, however, just use normal detergent in much smaller amounts than usual. We’ve done this with no problem – things still come quite clean.

You will need to clean certain parts of the washer frequently. The detergent dispenser (yes, there is one) will need occasional scrubbing. Also, the trouble-shooting guide mentions that you can “freshen” your washer by washing the lower portion of the door seal with a solution of bleach and water and then running a cycle with bleach, and opening up the door afterward to air-dry. You’ll need this, because eventually the area around the door seal gets mildewed. The bleach trick, in our experience, does do a lot for this, but you must do it regularly.

But How Does It Work?

We love it. We’re using maybe 1/2 to 1/3 the detergent we used to. We’re using less water. I’d swear that the comforter I put through over the weekend came out cleaner than I’ve seen it in years. And for once, I didn’t have to try to re-shape the stuffing inside of it – it hadn’t been mauled at all. The display of time remaining seems like such a small thing, but I love it. And the touch pad controls are so wonderfully easy to clean!

Posted in Reviews

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