Agitator or HE Washer: What’s Best for Dyeing Fabric

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This is the view inside my Whirlpool HE low-water-use top loading washing machine, which I purchased 2 years ago as it seemed like the thoughtful, responsible thing to do, given my overall concern for the environment.

The principle of the machine is to sense the amount of water needed per load of wash and then swish the fabric around, rather than manually select a fixed amount–low, medium or high–and then agitate. Since the machine has a pesky auto-lock feature I’ve never been able to peer inside and actually watch my clothes/fabric wash, another minor problem. Really who wants to wait to the end of wash cycle to get an idea of what the finished fabric might look like?

While I can’t see inside, the manufacturer shows a picture on the inside of the machine which shows what it looks like when clothes are being washed.

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For dyeing fabric, this machine is a poor choice. It often won’t sense when a small amount of fabric is inside. When my mom moved to her new home in Patagonia recently, I inherited her washer: an old fashioned top loading agitator. Which looks like this:IMG_0351

Above I’ve got 6 pieces of fabric about 1/3 yard each ready to wash.

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And, I can control the amount of water used. Just a low amount in this case. And as most of the dye has already been rinsed off once taken out of the dye-bath, the used water will be channeled to my flowerbed, not the sewer.

This is the current view of my backyard studio a.k.a. patio, where I often dye fabric; the gray-water from the washer only helps plants along, it was 104 degrees yesterday, our first really hot day of the summer.

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