Owner’s Manual Error Made My Steam Cleaner Self-Destruct

The Whirlpool Fabric Freshener is a device that lets you steam clean your clothes at home, or just quickly get wrinkles out of a piece of clothing without ironing it. The contraption isn’t cheap, but is easy to store and very useful. Andrew purchased one last year, and used it quite a bit. He followed the instructions given for cleaning the system with vinegar every few months, and then….it stopped working entirely. What did he do wrong? He called up Whirlpool to find out.

As it turns out, the water-softening beads that are part of the system aren’t compatible with vinegar. They swell up and clog the tubes, making the whole “steam cleaning” thing problematic. Oh. So much for that part of the manual telling customers to periodically clean the system with vinegar.

Andrew wrote to us in praise of Whirlpool:

Last Fall, I purchased a Whirlpool Fabric Freshener. It is a great machine for quickly removing wrinkles and odors from clothing. I used it a fair amount but not to excess.

The issues with the product began when I ran vinegar through the system to clean the scale from the boiler. Even though the instruction manual tells you to follow this procedure every six months (and provides you with a cycle cup explicitly for this purpose), after running this cleaning cycle my fabric steamer stopped working.

Realizing the 90 day warranty had expired, I checked the internet to find out if there was some way I could fix it. While there was no user serviceable parts, I did find out that running vinegar through the fabric freshener had ruined quite a few other machines.

It turns out that the vinegar interacts with the water softening beads found in the other cycle cup (for use with distilled water), causing them to expand and block the water tubes running to the boiler.

I called Whirlpool nine months after I purchased the product and left a message on their system. Within a couple business days a nice woman named [M.] returned my call and within minutes had started the process to ship (for free) a brand new fabric freshener, as well as a
return shipping label for the defective model.

I will admit I live in Maine and during my initial phone call mentioned the State’s Implied Warranty Law but the speed that Whirlpool handled the claim tells me it probably
didn’t matter.

I would like to thank Whirlpool and M. for a great customer experience.

P.S. If anyone else has this Whirlpool Fabric Freshener, be sure to not use vinegar in it.

Well done, Whirlpool, for taking responsibility for the manual screwup and replacing Andrew’s Fabric Freshener. We’d promote this to true “Above and Beyond” status had the company gone out of its way to contact any customers they could track down through registration cards or other means in order to warn them not to use vinegar, but we still give you about a B- for offering replacements.

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