laundry

Kenmore 23102 Washing Machine Review

Longing for the laundry room you grew up with? Kenmore has the washer.

$599.99 MSRP
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Don't let the futuristic gadgetry found on the rest of the Reviewed.com network fool you: Sometimes, traditional is the way to go, especially when it comes to your home.

Kenmore's 23102 (MSRP $649.99) is an affordable, old-school washer that bucks recent high-efficiency, low-profile trends in favor of simple construction and a Cold War-era mechanical agitator pole. It's technology that will be familiar to those who tally their laundry careers by the decade, and have little desire to fix what ain't broke.

Design & Usability

Old-world charm

Cycle Dial
The main cycle dial is overly confusing, yet lacks modern options like "Whites." View Larger

Of course when we compare this washer to the cutting edge of modern laundry machines, there are going to be some limitations. You don't get niceties like a slam-proof lid, and said lid does have a tendency to come crashing down on the rest of this washer's all-metal frame, loudly and possibly at your fingers' peril. And while it's comforting to know a good old-fashioned pole agitator is really putting your clothes through the rigor, its presence makes loading the machine more difficult. It's impossible to simply dump in an entire basket, for example, each item must be arranged around the column by hand.

Other Dials
Dials on the left control load level, wash temperature, and rinses, all independently from your cycle choice. View Larger

The 23102 is also woefully inefficient compared to other modern washers, since the cleaning drum literally fills with water during each cycle. We estimate the annual operating cost of the 23102 will be nearly $125 in hot and cold water for an average family. It might not sound like much, but consider that after four years of operating this washer at home, you would've been able to afford one that's twice as expensive in the first place, and a lot more efficient, too.

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Performance & Features

Making the most of the 23102

We've grown accustomed to preset wash cycles with default settings for each type of laundry load. But while the 23102 does have a cycle dial on the right side of the control panel, the user always retains direct control over load size (how much water fills the drum), wash temperature, and rinse cycles via three dials on the left side.

Agitator
The "triple action" agitator is a blast from the past. View Larger

All this manual control is welcome, but does invite mistakes. For example, while the Heavy Duty cycles are most powerful, our tests showed they have a unique tendency to redeposit certain stains, like blood. This means you'll actually be better off with other, weaker cycles—like Normal Express—for organic stains.

Certain cycles, especially Delicates, also had a tendency to leave dry, unsoaked detergent on top of clothing even after the cycle was complete. We've found that's a common problem with washers in this price range, and will simply necessitate a second wash, but—as we already know—each of this machine's cycles will be relatively expensive.

It's also quite impossible to wash a load in this machine without wearing down your clothing. Even the Delicates cycle is, well, indelicate compared to modern washing machines, and the remaining cycles are harsh across the board.

For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the Kenmore 23102, take a look at these other washing machines.

Conclusion

A classic, or a relic?

The Kenmore 23102
Full view of the Kenmore 23102 (Kenmore photo) View Larger

Despite the quirks, omissions, and limitations, Kenmore's 23102—in its own way—does get clothing pretty clean. You'll have to know which cycles to avoid for certain stains (and all this is made clear in the manual), but we can't just write off a cheap, approachable washer that gets stains out. Issues with efficiency, usability, and clothing wear mean it's probably not the washer we'd buy for ourselves, but for a staunchly traditional homeowner, the 23102 could work.

For everybody else, well, sometimes you're better off spending a little money up front to save a little money down the road. The "invisible costs" of owning this washer are a higher water bill, laundry that must be washed twice, and clothes that will wear out sooner.

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