Thread Number: 72445  /  Tag: Vintage Automatic Washers
What happened to the suds return?
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Post# 957314   9/13/2017 at 00:57 (374 days old) by Maytag85 (SoCal )        

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I know a lot a automatic washers of the 50's and 60's and even early 70's had a suds return, but what happened to this feature? It would be a good way to save water, without getting one of those terrible HE Washing Machines!

Post# 957335 , Reply# 1   9/13/2017 at 03:00 (374 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Post# 957337 , Reply# 2   9/13/2017 at 03:03 (374 days old) by qualin (Canada)        

I think one of the reasons why it was phased out is because most modern homes don't have a wash basin next to the washer anymore, so there's nowhere to dump the water.

As well, many people (Probably baby boomers and Gen X'ers) kind of view the idea of reusing wash water as being fairly unhygienic, with all the dirt and crud collecting at the bottom of the wash basin.

Used to be that you started off with whites first, moved onto colours, then blacks and then eventually left the nastiest dirtiest stuff until last.

I think the washing habits of our generations basically are, "Just chuck it all in, hope it fits into as few loads as possible and leave it at that." That mentality simply doesn't work with suds saving.

I do agree though that suds saving, if it was done right, could certainly save just as much, if more water than HE style washing, but only if done correctly. In saying that, we could also argue that wringer washers are also just as efficient, or moreso over HE machines because the wash water HAS to be reused. (You don't use a wringer washer like you would an automatic one.)

I think that with modern regulations involving water usage for new machines, I'm kind of surprised that suds saving isn't a common feature on new non-HE style machines... I believe honestly that it should be.

Post# 957339 , Reply# 3   9/13/2017 at 03:15 (374 days old) by Ultramatic (New York City)        

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My mom always thought that feature was unhygienic.  And I whole heartily agree. I can't imagine reusing wash water. Clean water is clean water. Period.  My dad used to sell them at his store, but never many.

Post# 957344 , Reply# 4   9/13/2017 at 03:33 (374 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Will say it again

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Suds return/saving washing machines were gimmick designed to get at women who for various reasons could not or would not use fully automatic washing machines.

Many of these housewives were either brought up with wringer/semi-automatic washing machines, and or by the 1970's got caught up in the whole "save the environment" craze. Either way the idea of saving hot soapy water appealed to them so Maytag, Whirlpool and others added a some bells and whistles to their automatics, and viola! A suds return washer was born.

Consumer Reports IIRC didn't think much of suds saving units. Besides the potential "ick" factor from reusing wash water, they claimed water often cooled by the time it was needed again so was of little use.

Taken in context it must be understood that by the 1960's onwards if not by the 1950's there was a hate against wringer washers. Consumer Reports, product safety groups and many others just felt the things were too dangerous. That and they out lived their usefulness now that fully automatic washing machines, and or even semi-automatics with spin tubs were on the market.

In theory while a suds-return fully automatic washer did perhaps save some water/energy, and gave Her Indoors best of both worlds on that front, it didn't fully replace a wringer washer.

You still had to wait for the cycle to complete before the washer was free for another load. So yes, as stated that hot soapy water might now be cooled. Also unlike with a wringer washer you couldn't wash one load while rinsing and wringing out another. So the speed of getting through a large wash day with a wringer was sacrificed.

In the end don't think suds-savers where huge movers; too many just considered it icky to reuse wash water.

Post# 957345 , Reply# 5   9/13/2017 at 03:45 (374 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
From One Of Our Own

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Maytag suds saver:

Post# 957361 , Reply# 6   9/13/2017 at 07:39 (374 days old) by vacerator (Macomb, Michigan)        
My Mom's

'63 Lady Kenmore had it, and she liked the feature. Detergents back then made plenty of suds. She used plenty of water and detergent washing diapers, etc. for five kids, so saving water was mainly why she used it for sheets or towels.
Also for spring closet cleaning where dust may have made extra linens a bit dusty.
She kept the laundry sink clean, so the once used wash water stayed cleaner.

Dryer temps. were also hotter in those days, and heat sanitizes.

There are more bed bug problems today than then I bet. Keep bedding sheets sanitized, and the mattress stays clean.

Post# 957362 , Reply# 7   9/13/2017 at 07:53 (374 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Funny but I don't remember much buzz about Suds-Saver washers being potential energy savers during the energy crisis years of the 70s.   As Laundress mentioned, it was a feature meant to overcome buyer's objections to the amount of hot water used by the newfangled automatics of the late 1940s.  I remember it was always an 'at additional cost' option up here so it was not frequently purchased. 


I also think the notion of having a washer installed in a laundry alcove off the kitchen or in the bathroom where there was no laundry tub was a big factor here also.  The folks who I bought the '66 Inglis from told me that they bypassed the suds save/return valve when they moved to a house with a bathroom laundry area.  


On the other hand, the family of one my oldest friends always had a suds-saver washer (at least 2 were Inglis) and they used the feature a lot.  


I have 2 working vintage washers with a Suds Saver (the '57 GE is not quite out of the running yet... but don't take any bets...LOL) and yes, I do use the feature.  It was a great help last summer when I was refreshing linens pending the arrival of most of Hubby's family from the UK!  

Post# 957363 , Reply# 8   9/13/2017 at 08:18 (374 days old) by MrAlex (London, UK)        

Sud savers are still made (kind of) they use the bath water.. at least in Japan :)


Post# 957374 , Reply# 9   9/13/2017 at 09:50 (374 days old) by ea56 (Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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Another factor that figured into the popularity of Suds Savers was the that many homes then only had 30 gal water heaters. If you had a family then your hot water could run out quickly if laundry had to be done at the same time that family members needed to bath. The Suds Save helped conserve hot water for other household usage.

Post# 957413 , Reply# 10   9/13/2017 at 16:43 (374 days old) by Yogitunes (New Jersey)        

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a Suds Saver was thought to be a help/ease in converting peoples mind into changing to an automatic.....

the factor being, filling a machine with HOT water, a 10 minute wash, and then tossing it down the drain....

chances are for many, if they had a wringer, the laundry tub, usually a double, was already in place....

its more hands on, but as learned from JohnL, the simplest way of keeping the water hot was to transfer from one machine to the next as lined up.....

washing something like sheets, and then reusing the wash water to wash the dogs blankets is still a savings.......or using the water to sprinkle the lawn....I don't see that as a waste...

Post# 957477 , Reply# 11   9/14/2017 at 04:56 (373 days old) by wft2800 (Leatherhead, Surrey)        

The only use I could see for suds-saving would be if you were saving rinse rather than wash water for the next wash, and you had an internal heater to bring the temperature up.

Post# 957507 , Reply# 12   9/14/2017 at 09:53 (373 days old) by Maytagbear (N.E. Ohio)        
The thing I remember about

Suds savers is that our 1964 Whirlpool Imperial's manual said to add more detergent with every use of the returned suds--I want to say half a dose.

That should reduce some of the "ick" factor, you sillies.


Post# 957509 , Reply# 13   9/14/2017 at 10:09 (373 days old) by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

I grew up with a suds-saving 1960 Kenmore Model 80. Depending on the soil level of the original load, water was used for one or two additional loads. Clothes were clean, we were very healthy. Wish my new Speed Queen had a suds-saver; I'd definitely use it. "Ick" factor be damned, LOL.

Post# 957511 , Reply# 14   9/14/2017 at 10:15 (373 days old) by pierreandreply4 (St-Bruno de montarville (province of quebec) canada)        

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if you where to browse on canadien craiglist and would see a whilrpool washer like this one with 5 wash rinse temp warm rinse included extra rinse and a sud saver would you order it for the sud saver feature?

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Post# 957517 , Reply# 15   9/14/2017 at 11:09 (373 days old) by akronman (Akron/Cleveland Ohio)        

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I have 2 Kenmore belt-drive era suds models, and a GE Filter-Flo suds model. I use them all the time, but I'll admit that having all of them hooked up in a line-up of 4 total washers allows me to immediately re-use very hot suds instead of a single machine setup where i'd have to let the water cool 20 minutes or so during deep rinse and final spin before sucking the suds back into the one and only machine.

If I change the oil in the car and get messy, or I clean up after a dog or an infant, I don't re-use the water. But for my business office clothes, sheets, towels, etc, I separate out 2 or 3 loads before starting. My usual doings are Hot water in the 74 Kenmore for towels, sheets, socks and boxers. NExt that water gets sucked into a 1960 Whirlpool for pants. Final is a 1979 Filter Flo for shirts. By then it's lukewarm water, perfect for perma-press. And the GE has all that rivers of water for the spray rinse, so believe me I wear clean clothes with no ick factor. I watch the deep rinse in the GE, it's always pretty clear water.

Everyone is entitled to their habits and preferences, and I would enjoy suds less if I had that 20 minute wait between loads, but as a laundry hobbyist with 4 installed machines, it's great.

Post# 957523 , Reply# 16   9/14/2017 at 11:38 (373 days old) by DaveAMKrayoGuy (Oak Park, MI)        
AMKrayo Sud-Saver Memories!

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I jokingly asked a friend as we were washing & drying in his Radio-Dial Kenmores "Does (this?/it?--can't remember) have a SUDS-SAVER?", just for him to probably be clueless & not know what it is w/o me explaining him (and/or perhaps his dad, later after I'd left, IF he'd asked his pop who is a real Kolboynick (Know It All) and perhaps had possibly gotten the more through explanation of it--maybe even getting the owner's manual out!)...

I believe a vintage CONSUMER REPORTS still in my possession (maybe more than one, but certainly con-currently w/ this feature just-introduced) would have a fully-detailed expose on this then-newly-introduced feature, as does a long-departed Sears Catalog from 1982...

-- Dave

Post# 957577 , Reply# 17   9/14/2017 at 18:52 (373 days old) by Slowspin66 (lincoln uk)        
The UK parnall spinwasher

In the U.K we to had a suds saver machine . The parnall spin washer had a built in tank to the bottom of the machine . The washer was semi automatic so you had to manually fill and drive the machine through the functions . Once the first load was washed and the machine had spun the suds off to the tank you would have to remove the first load washed not rinsed and set the machine to wash and add your second load . You did this until the last load was washed then you would spin to empty the suds to the drain . Then each load could be overflow rinsed and spin dried !!! All quite innovative for its day !!!!

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Post# 957580 , Reply# 18   9/14/2017 at 19:54 (372 days old) by Repair-man (Pittsburgh PA)        

When used properly I don't see anything "icky" about reusing water. Your clothes are all washed together in the same water to begin with. What's the difference if you split it over two different cycles. Of course you have to use common sense. Both of my grandmothers used suds savers and believe me there was nothing "ick" about their laundry. Or anything else in their homes for that mater. Suds savers are just too much thinking, planning and effort for most people today.

Post# 957627 , Reply# 19   9/15/2017 at 06:29 (372 days old) by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

Pierreandreply4--That's definitely a nice-looking Whirlpool set, but I only purchase appliances through local dealers. I don't have the tools or skills to maintain vintage appliances. For now, I use the Speed Queen's Normal Eco cycle whenever possible. That saves quite a bit of water.

Post# 957636 , Reply# 20   9/15/2017 at 08:14 (372 days old) by DaveAMKrayoGuy (Oak Park, MI)        

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Usually you can only order the machine in White, though my old long-departed Sears catalog from 1982, had the TOL Electronic-model available w/ it in White and Almond!

-- Dave

Post# 957676 , Reply# 21   9/15/2017 at 15:31 (372 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

A lot of you "big city" people are missing the point of a suds-saver washer. When I was younger I knew a lot of people with them, and only one of them had city water. All the rest lived in homes with either a well, cistern or both. Especially during hot, dry weather they were afraid of running low on water. If on a well, they would have to wait until the water table got higher (or have a deeper well drilled), and if they had a cistern they would have to buy a truckload of water. At that time not many people out in the country had piped in water, as many do now.

Post# 957686 , Reply# 22   9/15/2017 at 17:42 (372 days old) by Yogitunes (New Jersey)        

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Tom is correct.....

and a lot of country homes had septic systems, not designed for an automatic machine.....

many septic tanks were not designed to handle all the extra water from an or two loads, may not be an issue, but try adding 4 or more loads, and that's a lot of water and chemical being disposed in there....

even today, most septic service guys will ask if you have your washing machine draining somewhere else.....

and fewer homes have a separate gray water setup for items like a washing machine, dishwasher, sinks and showers.....

Post# 957695 , Reply# 23   9/15/2017 at 18:54 (372 days old) by DaveAMKrayoGuy (Oak Park, MI)        

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'Course you have to have a tub or a vessel (my friend actually DIDN'T---just a stand pipe for draining, located behind the machine, which I was fascinated with) to hold the "saved" suds...

-- Dave

Post# 957700 , Reply# 24   9/15/2017 at 19:21 (371 days old) by wayupnorth (On a lake between Bangor and Bar Harbor)        

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I have the very last Sears Annual catalog from 1992-1993 and very retro now to look thru it. Cost $5 but if you ordered something you got your cash back. But there were NO washers with a suds-saver option offered. But you still could buy the nice sink, standpipe combo for $129.99 in either white or almond. Many country homes had a so called "french drain", to just take all the gray water that wont hurt anything away outside and keep just toilet stuff going in the septic to do what it has to do.

Post# 957851 , Reply# 25   9/17/2017 at 09:30 (370 days old) by rapunzel (Sydney)        

It is quite conceivable that eventually a suds re-use facility will be incorporated in front loading washers. Since they require a relatively small reservoir per fill. Dishwashers already store some rinse water to be re-used for the next load.

My Westinghouse Laundromat was a suds saver. It had two rubber hoses. One sat in the actual laundry tub, the other fit in the drain bypass at the back of the tub. The hose in the laundry tub would drain the suds into the tub and then siphon them back into the machine for the next load. The other hose allowed the rinse water to go directly down the drain. It was quite ingenious and using that facility required virtually no effort. I would absolutely consider suds saving if it was made an option again. However, as was mentioned above, most modern laundries don't have full-size laundry tubs anymore. Laundries have become quite dysfunctional; just like most modern home economists. They appear to be for show rather than real laundry work.

Post# 957880 , Reply# 26   9/17/2017 at 14:39 (370 days old) by PassatDoc (Orange County, California)        

The house in which I grew up was built in 1935. No standpipe drain in the wall, since automatic machines did not yet exist. Huge porcelain laundry sink to the right of where our machines sat, and the washer exhaust hose was clamped to the side of the sink. My guess is that the sink facilitated the drainage of water from the original homeowner's wringer washer in 1935.

Every home that either my parents or I have occupied since then has been new-build (early 70s or later), always with a drain standpipe in the wall, and in my case there is no room to add a laundry sink, since my machines are hemmed in by the water heater on one side and the furnace/AC condenser on the other side (probably cut down on gas pipe costs by clustering most of the gas-using appliances in one place; gas range in kitchen shares a common wall with the aforementioned appliances).

So even if they'd owned a suds saver machine, when they downsized in 1972 to a brand new home, there would have been no way for them to use the feature. They had a 1958 GE (purchased new) without suds saver, then bought new WP for the 1972 house.

Post# 957892 , Reply# 27   9/17/2017 at 16:39 (370 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Those huge cast iron, porcelain, concrete, soap stone and whatever "utility" sinks (or tubs if you will) in laundry rooms/areas were a necessity back in the day. But yes, by the 1970's or so in various parts of the USA they started to be phased out of new construction. Floor drains as well also began to vanish but IIRC that happened sooner.

If it is draining you want, a standpipe will do. As laundry moved away from wringers/semi-automatics the need for tubs or sinks decreased if not totally vanished. Because American housewives largely went with top loading washers, you can soak in those machines as well, thus a sink for that purpose isn't really needed. However those wanting to soak or whatever could still buy separate tubs or "laundry sinks" if they wished.

The other thing is shifting washing machines/laundry out of basements or utility rooms into kitchens, bathrooms or whatever.

Many older homes one recall from back in the day where the washer was in the kitchen had huge porcelain sinks with a lid. Sometimes those lids had draining board lines, but they also had holes cut out at one corner; this was for the drain hose from washing machine.

Of course washing machines themselves helped replace the main reason for many of those old sinks; doing laundry by hand. One could have sinks made of various materials with "wash boards" carved/built into one side.

Post# 957899 , Reply# 28   9/17/2017 at 18:15 (370 days old) by Yogitunes (New Jersey)        

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I consider a utility sink one of those things like a dishwasher/disposer/compactor, once you have one, you can't go without it....

I got to experience one at a BBQ, in helping clean up, this double tub was a godsend in scrubbing pots, pans, trays, etc.....

I knew from then on I was going to get one for luck would have it, my first home I bought had one, that was an added bonus in my book...

I also put one in the garage....

JohnL has a double plastic one at the warehouse, in which they cut out the center partition, what a brilliant idea, a full open tub, that would come in handy for washing the dog, without stooping down over a regular tub....

Post# 959235 , Reply# 29   9/26/2017 at 10:14 (361 days old) by danelto (State College, PA)        
Suds Saver Objection

I grew up with a Suds saver washer and I get a little irritated when people describe this method of cleaning clothes as reusing "filthy" wash water.

Dear God, we were the cleanest people you'd ever want to meet.

Living in a rural area, we lived on well water and were always conscious of water usage, as well as septic draining issues.

You could eat off our floors. And if you got a meal in our house, you were damned lucky: it was good.

Our whites were made whiter with bluing; they were starched, line-dried, and ironed.

Our colors were just as vibrant; and our blue jeans (at the end of the week) were just as dirty as anybody else's.

In my opinion, if you want to talk about filthy wash water, take a look at these water-saving front loaders that, after a few loads using a gallon or two of wash water, develop wash drums that begin to smell like egg salad flatulence.

Somebody on this site sold me a Kenmore suds saver washer years ago.

Picked it up in the Lancaster, PA area.

It still works well. Thank you. I appreciate it.


Post# 959438 , Reply# 30   9/27/2017 at 13:37 (360 days old) by thomasortega (Los Angeles - CA)        

"develop wash drums that begin to smell like egg salad flatulence."

You took this straight from a Whirlpool's engineer "to-do" list, right?

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