Thread Number: 37116
U.S. Washer/Dryer combos: when was their arrival, demise and departure?
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Post# 552089   10/26/2011 at 17:14 (2,068 days old) by RevvinKevin (Between Mickey Mouse & the Queen Mary (So. Cal.)        

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Someone just posted a comment on my You tube page under my video of Roberts ’58 WP combo. They referenced a European combo and said: “A friend in England has one, and if its performance was like most, there's a reason they failed in the US market. It took half the day and left the clothes still a little damp.”

So my questions are….

Who (and when) was the first to sell a successful W&D combo, Bendix?

When were the last US built combos built & sold?

What was it that caused their demise?
     High purchase price?
     Poor cleaning/drying performance?
     Mechanical complexity/failure/repair rate?

How long does a Duomatic, Whirlpool/Kenmore, GE or other US built combo take to wash & dry an average load?

For that matter, how long does any European or Asian “Combo” take to wash & dry an average load?

What is an “average load” for a US build combo vs. the “average load” for a Euro/Asian build combo (in lbs / kilos)?

Thanks much!

Post# 552096 , Reply# 1   10/26/2011 at 17:52 (2,068 days old) by peteski50 (New York)        

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I think Bendix built the 1st in 1953. Philco bought Bendix in 1957 than the stuff was call Philco Bendix. They came out with the slimline combo in 1959. From what I understand they were the best and especially for spinning. They went until about 1970 - Allied Chemicals bought them I think and the washer line was dropped in the USA.
The WP/Ken combo come out in 1957 I think. WP made them until about 1962 I think. But Sears kept them until about 1974. (What a Sin) they were dropped.
I am not to sure about the Easy combo history.
It is so sad they are not made today. Especially because all these FL machines have such stupid cycles and options plus WP tumbles the clothes for 6 hours after they are done - so why the Hell cant they dry them?
I think a big factor they were dropped was the cost factor in building them.
The cleaning was actually good and the drying was good because of 220 volt.
Anyone please add on!

Post# 552098 , Reply# 2   10/26/2011 at 18:23 (2,068 days old) by appliguy (Oakton Va.)        
RE: Washer/Dryer Combos

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General Electric made combos from 1955 to 1972. Whirlpool made Combos under their own name from 1957 to 1962 and made combos for Kenmore from 1957 to 1971 or 72. The first generation RCA Whirlpool Kenmore Combos were the huge monsters that were taller than a standard kitchen cabinet and counter and they were made from 1957 to 1960. In 1961 Whirlpool redesigned their and Kenmore's Combos so they were basically the same size as a standard clothes dryer. Whirlpool only made this version under their own name for about a year and then stopped but continued to make them for Kenmore until 1971 or 72. INMO the best person to ask about this would be John Lefever (aka Combo52) because of his long career in appliance repair and his experience he has had with these types of machines.....PAT COFFEY

Post# 552102 , Reply# 3   10/26/2011 at 18:43 (2,068 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

I have a few answers:

Someone just posted a comment on my You tube page under my video of Roberts ’58 WP combo. They referenced a European combo and said: “A friend in England has one, and if its performance was like most, there's a reason they failed in the US market. It took half the day and left the clothes still a little damp.”

So my questions are….

Who (and when) was the first to sell a successful W&D combo, Bendix?

>Yes, they introduced the first Duomatic in December, 1952.

When were the last US built combos built & sold?

>John knows exactly. It was early mid 70s. GE and Kenmore discontinued them about the same time. Philco stopped in 1969.

What was it that caused their demise?
High purchase price?
Poor cleaning/drying performance?
Mechanical complexity/failure/repair rate?

>They only cost about as much as a top of the line washer and less than a separate TOL washer & dryer. Most washed better than regular front load washers because of the bigger drum. With the exception of the Duomatic, they did not extract as well as a separate washer so most, with the exception of the original Duomatic and a few TOL 27" Duomatics, were slower at drying. Many were mechanically very complex and often suffered because there were not the proper materials to do what needed to be done in the machines, like the gasket in Greg's Wash 'n Dry Laundromat where the gasket around the damper from the heater box was destroyed by the heat. He was able to replace it with a modern material more suited to the task. The gas WP 33" machines suffered tank failure where the burner was next to the side of the porcelain tank or outer tub. The intense heat eventually broke down the porcelain leading to rusting out. Many functions that could be done with electronics today were done with mechanical components back then because that was all they had. Again, Bendix had tied up the patent rights. For the most part performance suffered because non-Bendix machines could not be built to perform as well as Bendix machines. Most manufacturers lost money on them. Very few people bought more than one. The Wesinghouse 27" stacked pair presented a better performing alternative in tight spaces. The year with the highest number of combos sold was 1958 and every year after that the figure was lower.

How long does a Duomatic, Whirlpool/Kenmore, GE or other US built combo take to wash & dry an average load?

>The original Duomatic took about 35 minutes for the wash portion of the program with the full 9 minute wash. The dry took about 40-45 minutes for a full load.

There were several different WP-built machines: the early 33" one and the later 29" one. There were some revisions to the 29" combo which affected drying times, but again, with the 10 minute wash, the wash portion took about 35 minutes in the 29" combo. The dry was auto termination on most all of the 29" WP machines although I have seen a picture of a 29" WP that had two separate dials for the wash and dry cycles and I can't remember if there was a timed dry selection. The gas models were generally faster than the electric-drying models. Most cotton loads dried in about an hour or less in the 29" machines. The GEs were slower at drying because the clothes were not extracted as well and it used a condenser system which was very dependent on the temperature of the cold water for efficiency. The full size American combos used dryer heaters comparable to full sized dryers with the electric models running on 30 amp 230 volt circuits and the gas models having BTU inputs to match gas dryers. Condenser models could use slightly lower wattage dry heaters. The TOL Sears models featured 37,000 BTU burners with a modulating valve, comparable to their TOL dryer and less deluxe models and those of other brands had lower inputs mostly in the 20,000 BTU range

For that matter, how long does any European or Asian “Combo” take to wash & dry an average load?

What is an “average load” for a US build combo vs. the “average load” for a Euro/Asian build combo (in lbs / kilos)?

>For most US combos, the load was realistically in the 6 to 8 pound range depending on the weight of the fabric.

Post# 552136 , Reply# 4   10/26/2011 at 22:22 (2,068 days old) by arbilab (Ft Worth TX (Ridglea))        

Westinghouse made a combo (single tub) but I only ever saw one and can't remember much about it. IIRC the front was slanted but the tub was not.

Wouldn't it take about twice as long to finish say, 4 loads in a combo compared to separates? Like, you can't wash and dry at the same time.

Post# 552142 , Reply# 5   10/26/2011 at 22:48 (2,068 days old) by Ultramatic (New York City)        
Don't forget Norge...

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They also built a combo washer/dryer, a very handsome one as shown here. I don't know the year though. Late 50's? Maytag had them as well.




Post# 552145 , Reply# 6   10/26/2011 at 23:01 (2,068 days old) by mixfinder ()        

Gansky has a Maytag combo with condensing dryer.  I have used it as a washer and love to watch the splashy action.  Since we were hanging sheets and towels the wash cycle was all we used.  Later, a friend of his came to laundry and she was using the combo as a dryer.  I was amazed at how quickly it dried the laundry coming from the myriad washers in his collections.  I was warned the machine might jump around if the load didn't balance but much to my dismay it performed flawlessly without a grand stand act.

Post# 552151 , Reply# 7   10/26/2011 at 23:41 (2,068 days old) by Northwesty (Renton, WA)        

If I remember from conversations on this forum the Westinghouse Combo had so many issues that it was recalled. So it is pretty rare. This one was in Poulsbo a few years ago...

Post# 552159 , Reply# 8   10/27/2011 at 00:43 (2,067 days old) by arbilab (Ft Worth TX (Ridglea))        

Memory is hazy. That doesn't remind me of the one I saw. It wasn't that 'angular', nor were the controls that stylized. I do seem to recall it did work but the owner wasn't that thrilled with it.

Post# 552185 , Reply# 9   10/27/2011 at 03:12 (2,067 days old) by Jetcone (Schenectady-Calrods,Monitor Tops,Toroid Transformers)        
I didn't know Norge made a Combo

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thats beautiful! I always loved the Norge door ,so modern.We had a dry cleaning establishment that had Norge machines in deep turquoise with that door.

Did the Norge spin or was it just a tumbler,anybody know??

Post# 552191 , Reply# 10   10/27/2011 at 05:04 (2,067 days old) by HiLoVane (Columbus OH)        

Since I never saw them in "real life," I can only go by what I've read about them in magazine advertising, so please bear with me.

The EASY "Combomatic" (featuring the late Arthur Godfrey in the magazine ads) was introduced circa 1956. For whatever reason, they were more "problematic," and were redesigned. As best as I can recall, they were made until at least 1960.

I think someone here has SPEED QUEEN W/D combo. I know even less about them, except that, contrary to my own belief (since I thought they bore a resemblance at first glance) they were rebranded Easy's.

Peteski neglected to mention that, while not 100% sure on the exact year (I'm guessing, around 1964) Philco was sold to Ford (which would also explain why their cars all of a sudden seemed to come equipped with Philco radios; but I digress... ).

Post# 552196 , Reply# 11   10/27/2011 at 06:33 (2,067 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        
Norge combo pictured

This is actually the second control panel design of the Norge. The first was far more of a late 50s modern design. The machine did spin and used both deep and spray rinses. In the electric model, the heating element was cast into an aluminum circle (much like Electromode space heaters)and placed at the front of the outer tub. Notice that the Norge gas combo in the picture did not have an auto dry system. I will have to check the literature, but I believe the electric version did have auto-dry. Maytag combos did not have auto dry either.

The Maytag combo was among the more successful condenser machines at drying because it used a system very similar to Maytag's design for their water dryers with a blower and special condensation chamber where a fine stream of water was blasted into a mist that condensed the steamy air to remove the moisture after which, the air was recirculated over the heating elements. Most condensing combos simply ran a curtain of cold water down a part of the outer tub and, like the GE and others, relied on the air movements generated by the rotating drum and the baffles inside it to move the air over the heating elements and past the condensing area.

The most efficient use of a combo meant spreading out the washing so that you no longer had a washday, but did a load or two each day because they did not require attention from the user from start to finish, unless you liked to watch. Because of that, they were advertised as the machines that would make washday go away. I talked with a lady who was the editor of a publication with the name of The New England Antiques Journal (or something close to that) whose husband was a Sears executive. She raised twin boys with the first style Lady Kenmore combo and then the 29" version. She outlined the daily routine of feeding & caring for the babies, then starting a load in the machine after she put them down for their morning nap. After lunch, the children went down for their afternoon nap and she started the next load while using some time to fold the first. Not having to be present to shift the load from the washer to the dryer allowed her to have uninterrupted time blocks of time. After her second combo died, they were no longer made and she had to buy separate machines which she did not like as well.

As I have written before, dryers did not play as large a part in the finishing of the laundry as they do today with Permanent Press clothing now making up so much of the wardrobe. So much of the laundry had to be ironed that a dryer was not the huge labor saver that it is today and dryers were considered by many who did not own them as luxuries. It is interesting to note, if you look through shelter magazines of the 50s, that dryers were usually advertised in the fall and winter months when bad weather made having one seem more attractive, but not during the spring and summer. Acceptance of dryers at a time when so many women were happy to have their first automatic washer was a stumbling block for combos. The lack of necessity for finishing laundry in a dryer was another. Soon word of mouth from owners of non-Bendix combos highighted their compromised performance and people who had space for separate units did not switch to a combination. One thing great about combos was that, because Sears had sold them, they kept selling low sudsing detergent as the makers of laundry detergents began to offer fewer and fewer low sudsing products to the consumer.

This post was last edited 10/27/2011 at 08:55
Post# 552204 , Reply# 12   10/27/2011 at 07:47 (2,067 days old) by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        

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There are many reasons that Combos didn't sell as well as manufactories would have liked. Tom detailed some such as home makers didn't see the nesscessity of even having a dryer in the first place. Then the early designs all had problems and like the first automatic washers all needed major redesigning and because sales were poor only two companies were able to do a complete redesign. 


Only Bendix and Whirlpool completely redesigned thier machines, Bendix went from a very successful 36" machine to a down sized 27" model but the build quality did not improve and stayed stuck in the 1950s mode so the larger machine was a much better machine overall. They probably should have made the machine a little larger as the capacity became too small, around 6 lbs. capacity. Whirlpool-Kenmore went from a 33" wide machine that spun at only 200 RPMs to a completely redesigned 29" machine that still did a 10 pound load. This machine had a decent spin speed and was designed to be the same overall size as thier separate washers and dryers and to offer similar speed and performance.


Overall I feel that the original Bendix and the 29" WP built combos were by far the two most successful combos made. And as an every day driver the 29" WPs are the better machine overall.  Although this comparison is a little unfair as it is like comparing driving a 1952 Plymouth to driving a 1962 Plymouth as a lot of progress had been made in all products over this time period. 


The last combos made were the Philcos around 1969 and then KM got out in the fall of 1971 and finely GE stopped building in the spring of 1972. It is too bad they didn't keep building about 10 more years as the early 1970s were the start of the baby boom generation getting thier first homes and the start of the boom of condominiums where people wanted to have thier own washers and dryers in thier homes. And families got much smaller and this would have made combos much more attractive for thier greater overall convince.


I still believe the biggest thing that killed Combs was they quickly chalked up a bad reputation among service man and also sales people. As I said before there were plenty of problems with early combos and they were often shoehorned into tight spaces and servicemen had a terrible time trying to repair them. Early automatic washers were also very troublesome, but they sold in such great numbers that repair man had to get used to fixing them. I can remember that one of my mothers best friends who only had space for a washer in her kitchen telling me that she wanted to get a KM combo in the late 1960s. And I can't believe it now but I talked her out of getting it as I was repeating all the bad things I had heard about Combos.


I could go on at great length about some of the people that I have met who had once had a Combination washer-dryer and loved them, it was a life changing experience for some. This machine was such a fantastic work and space saver, some of these ladies went from a wringer washer to this machine that, FOREVER DID AWAY WITH WASHDAY. 

Post# 552205 , Reply# 13   10/27/2011 at 07:51 (2,067 days old) by dj-gabriele ()        
or that matter, how long does any European or Asian “Combo”

I can easily answer to this question even if I have not a lot of experience.
I had used a Bosch Washer/Dryer and for a full load wash/dry (3 kg cottons) it took a little more than an hour and half for drying and 1:30 for the 40°C wash. The full machine when used as a washer only takes a 6 kg load.

On another occasion I used an Indesit Washer/Dryer (WD125). I stuffed it full as I didn't care about creasing and I didn't have time to babysit the machine for a second load. It took nearly 5 hours for the complete wash+dry phase (60°C cottons wash), the machine was stuffed, so around 5 kg or so, instead of the suggested 3 kg for drying.
The machine was set on auto dry, I had just came home when the machine had stopped running.

And the last experience was with a Candy CLD135. The only machine I know so far that can wash AND dry a full load. The drum is more like a 8 kg machine, so the load has a lot more space to tumble during the wash and it dries as good as a real dryer! Again, cottons 40°C took a little less than 90 minutes for the wash and some 2 hours for the drying phase + cooldown.

Post# 552471 , Reply# 14   10/28/2011 at 17:31 (2,066 days old) by RevvinKevin (Between Mickey Mouse & the Queen Mary (So. Cal.)        

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Thank you Tom, John, Pat, everyone for all the really great information about the US combos!   Very interesting!




Post# 552515 , Reply# 15   10/28/2011 at 22:54 (2,066 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

Here is something interesting about the Norge Dispensomat combo pictured. In the early-mid 60s, Consumer's Research Bulletin did a report on sheets. The reason this stands out in my memory is that a photo in that report showed sheets being removed from this machine. It was the first photo I had seen of the redesigned control panel for the Norge combo. It obviously continued working for a few years and its performance was not so terrible that the testing organization got rid of it immediately after the combo report was completed in spite of their harping about how much energy the machines used.

How times change. One of the things that both the CRB magazine and CU complained about was the amount of energy these machines used to heat their own water. They said that if the household regularly ran short of water, it should investigate upgrading the water heater, yet the very models which heated water were the ones that got the highest marks for cleaning, the WP-made machines, (imagine that) and TODAY, more than half a century later, more expensive front loaders often contain an onboard heater. CU did not realize that maybe 7 gallons of hot water would not stay hot entering a room temperature of colder huge machine like a combo with all of that cold steel and, often a vent to the outside. In the case of the old WP made machines, each fill was only the amount to saturate the load plus three gallons in the tank below the cylinder. Of course that would need heating. While the last design of the WP-made 29" combos did not offer water heating, they did begin each wash fill with a one minute purge which not only cleared the line of cool water and helped preheat the tank, it also flushed the blower compartment so that lint did not build up on the vanes of the blower. I have often read comments from owners of the miniature foreign combos that the blower compartments in them become clogged with lint.

This post was last edited 10/28/2011 at 23:09
Post# 552517 , Reply# 16   10/28/2011 at 23:07 (2,066 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

I Googled Lita Solis Cohen, the lady with whom I talked about her experience with the two Kenmore combos and found that she is senior editor of the Maine Antique Digest, not the title I misremembered.

Post# 552604 , Reply# 17   10/29/2011 at 11:12 (2,065 days old) by mickeyd (Hamburg NY)        

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Great morning reads, Gentlemen


Thank you!

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