The first washing machines were operated by hand. Some consisted of only a large open basin and a manually operated paddle which provided the agitation. Others were wringer washers that consisted of two spring tensioned rollers that you would operate with a hand crank to remove most of the water.
The development of the electric motor allowed the wash water to be removed from clothing using a high speed spinning method; initially this was separate from the wash tub. Freshly washed clothing would have to be transferred from the washtub to the extractor to spin the water from the clothes.
The first modern-style washing machine, with a combined washer and spinner enclosed in a cabinet, was developed by Bendix in 1937. It looked and functioned very much like a modern front-loading washing machine, except that it had no suspension device for the drum and thus had to be bolted to the floor to keep from moving around from the vibration. General Electric brought to market the first top-loading machine in 1947 and by 1957 introduced the 5 push button options for temperature control and speed.
Different systems have been tested through the years but only two types of washing machine systems remain: the agitator and tumbling system. Modern innovations in washing machine technology have included the use of a sealed ring of liquid to counteract imbalances, replacement of mechanical controls with computer microcontroller boards, and advances in efficiency that reduce both energy and water usage.
With so many changes over the years, the role of the operator has been reduced to the push of a button or turn of a knob. With the washing machine doing all the work these days, here are a few ways you can help keep the performance of the machine at its best.
Remember: always disconnect the machine from its power source before doing any troubleshooting or repair work.
Regularly check your washer water hoses for any sign of wear, such as cracking or blistering. Most manufacturers recommend replacement every five years. Make sure the couplings are secure when you replace the hoses.
If your washing machine is no longer spinning, first check to make sure the motor is running, then check to see if the pump pulley is freely spinning. If those components are ok, you may have a broken belt.
If your washing machine is not working at all and you've confirmed power is getting to the machine, the problem may be as simple as replacing the lid switch.