Pros: Washes extremely well, compact, no vent required, mechanically reliable
Cons: Vibration and touchy balancing on old floors
I bought the LG WM3431 to replace a washer/dryer combo. Since I live in a third-floor apartment with no washer hookups or venting for a dryer, a combo unit that runs on 110v current is the only solution for me. Plus, once you get used to having it all done in one "box", it's hard to consider going back to separate or even stacked units.
I have been using the machine for about two weeks now, and it's been a learning experience. I'll go through the features and give some tips to prospective buyers so you can decide if this machine would be a good match for you.
The machine comes in two colors: white and titanium. Both have a stainless steel door frame that surrounds the clear glass window common to most front loaders. It is a compact unit at only 24" wide, 33.5" tall, and 25" deep. It's about the size of a dishwasher, except a couple inches deeper with the door. There is one main dial, various push buttons, and a digital screen on the control panel. I bought the white version, and it's a sleek, modern-looking appliance that looks good pretty much anywhere.
Here's the best part for apartment dwellers: you can use this machine as long as you at least have access to a kitchen sink and a standard electrical outlet. You can buy a Y-connector at any hardware store along with a snap-on dishwasher connector, and the machine can be hooked up to your faucet with just a snap each time you use it.
You can also purchase casters for the machine so you can wheel it around your kitchen rather than drag it across the floor on its feet. If you do have the machine on wheels, get a rubber mat or a flat rug with a rubber backing to roll it onto if you live in an older building with older flooring. More on this later.
There are multiple cycles to choose from using the main dial: Sanitary, Cotton/Towels, Normal, Perm. Press, Delicate, Hand Wash, Speed Wash, & Wool/Silk. Using the buttons, you also have many other "add-on" options: Soak, Extra Wash, Rinse&Spin Only, Spin Only, Extra Rinse.
You can also choose the level of soil from light to heavy along with the wash/rinse temperature anywhere from cold to Extra Hot. Also, the machine gives you the option to choose the spin speed from: No Spin, Low, Medium, High, Extra High.
Washing takes anywhere from about 35 minutes to over two hours depending on how many "extras" and what cycle you use. I do almost everything on Normal with High Spin, and the wash cycle takes about one hour and five minutes.
The washing is excellent. This machine will get stains out without beating up your clothes since there's no agitator. I have used the Delicate cycle with satin sheets, and they came out great. You can definitely wash even hand wash items in this machine.
Capacity is good too. The drum easily holds my full set of queen sheets, 6 standard pillow cases, 2 king-size pillow cases, plus some stray socks or underwear all in one load. As long as you don't start cramming stuff in and compressing what's already there, this machine can handle any wash load up to full capacity no problem.
Another washing feature is the delay timer. You can set the machine to start anywhere from 1 to 19 hours after you set it. This is great if you load it the night before and set it to finish when you get up. That way you don't tie up the faucet for hours during the day if you have to hook it up to the sink.
Also, the washer has an internal heater to heat up the water. I turn my tap to cold and set the temperature on the machine. That way, when it comes time to dry, you don't have to switch the faucet to cold since the dryer needs cold water to function properly.
You can set the machine to wash and dry in a complete cycle, to wash only, or to dry only. The dryer can either be set by timer or sensor. The sensor options are Low Temp., Less Dry, Normal, and More Dry.
The dryer is ventless and works by condensing the moisture in the drum and then flushing it down the drain instead of blowing out the steam. For this, you have to have the cold water on during the dry cycle. This type of drying takes a while...I'm used to it from my old machine. To dry a typical load takes about 2 hours using the Normal setting on the sensor. A small load of like 5 or 6 pounds dries in about an hour and a half.
Drying also depends on the type of fabric. My sheet set that I mentioned in the wash section, I can wash and dry that full load no problem with the sensor dry and it comes out completely dry in 3.5 hours from start to finish (wash & dry). Now, if you load towels and jeans and a sweater, only fill the machine halfway max, and it will dry these heavier fabrics about 95% of the way on Normal setting.
If you fill it with heavy fabrics, you will not have dry clothes. I have used a combo unit for years now, and these dryers just don't handle heavy fabrics well if you load to capacity. Mix the loads up with t-shirts, a pair of jeans, a towel, and some other smaller items, and you'll have no problem.
One more thing, use fabric softener and lots of it. Fill the dispenser with softener most of the way, and dilute it with a little water (half capful). Fabric softener keeps your stuff from getting wrinkled. The scent can get to be a bit much when using so much softener, so I use unscented fabric softener for my clothing and scented for towels and sheets. The scented softener does make the whole apartment smell nice as it the clothes heat up during the dry cycle.
The wash cycle is extremely quiet. Drying is also quiet, but the pump noise that extracts the condensed water every few seconds is very audible. It doesn't bother me, and I can watch TV in the next room with no problem.
The spin cycle can be quiet, but if you live in an old building like me, it can also shake things up quite a bit when it spins. Try to find the most level place on the floor near your sink, and place a rubber mat or rubber-backed tightly-woven flat rug in the area. This especially helps if you have wheels on the machine.
Also, if your floors are less than level and you have the machine on wheels, it may take it extra time to balance the load before it spins. The machine tries to get a perfect balance so that it doesn't shake as much when it ramps up to full spin speed. It does this by repeatedly rotating the clothes at slower speeds to distribute them evenly.
If it does get up to speed and it's not balanced, the machine shakes quite a bit, then slows down and rebalances before spinning again. It's especially important to have balanced loads if you have old flooring like I do.
My suggestion is don't load one heavy thing like a blanket and run the machine with the one item. Put a couple smaller items in to help distribute the load during spin. Also, don't cram things in and overload the unit.
A bell rings when it's done...very nice. The digital display shows how much time is remaining in your cycle. You can pause the machine and take things out or add things to the dryer. You just have to wait a minute for the door to unlock.
The machine weighs each load and automatically determines water level which saves energy. Even old buildings with old wiring can handle this machine since it's only 110v. It doesn't suck out power and dim your lights like an air conditioner in an old apartment.
It's a great machine that washes and dries in one unit. Loads do take a long time (2.5 - 4 hours), but the convenience of having laundry at home makes this not be an issue for me. The capacity and performance of this machine makes it perfect for a single person or a couple. As far as compact combo units go, the LG WM3431 offers more features than any other out there.
UPDATE: (April 2006)
I have owned the LG WM3431 for 6 months now, and everything in my review still applies. I use the machine at least 3 times a week with consistent results.
The "more" setting on the dryer is helpful with towels, jeans, or any heavy fabric. It can take up to 45 minutes to an hour longer than the "normal" setting for the same load size. I use "normal" for all other fabrics, and although they feel slightly damp when you pull them out, give them a good shake, and they're dry, voila.
Also, the "high" setting on the spin speed selector is more than sufficient for any load. I have only used the "extra high" setting once when I first bought the machine.
Those are the only tips I can think of.
UPDATE: (January 2008)
Everything in my review still applies. I bought a house in August 2007, and the LG WM3431 is now hooked up permanently in my basement. People seeing it for the first time always ask where the dryer is. Highly recommended machine by this user.
UPDATE: (September 2008)
Great, great, great. Another tip...if you wash jeans, shorts, dress shirts, or pants, use the "normal" dryer setting to prevent wrinkles. If you use the "more" setting with these items, things tend to overdry and wrinkling shows up. I plan on buying the new LG WM3988HWA with the 4.2 cubic foot capacity and giving this one to my friend. I'll of course let you all know when that happens. Happy washing.
UPDATE: (October 2008)
Something I did not mention in previous updates is that you really can fill this unit up to full capacity and dry without removing items before the dry cycle; you just have to do it with fabrics that don't wrinkle like towels. So if you want to wash 8 towels and some wash cloths, just load it up, spin at "extra high" and dry on the "more" setting. It works, and they come out dry.
If you need to do something like a queen-size quilt or mattress pad, use the timed dry feature. Set it intially to dry for 1.5 hours after the wash is done. Then remove the item, and reload it so that the "middle" part is now facing outward and touching the drum. Then reset for 1 hour timed dry and the item should be fully dry.
Another tip, remove the detergent tray when you're done washing for the day and dump out any water in it. Then when you replace it, leave it halfway open to dry fully. Also, don't latch the door so the machine can air out. I've always done this and have never encountered odors or mildew in my machine.
I just purchased the larger LG WM3988HWA Steam Washer Combo, and my WM3431 is going to a friend. I will soon be writing a review of the new machine, and it's fantastic, just like the WM3431 only larger and with a few more features. I hope my updates have been helpful to people, and after over 3 years of trouble-free service, I highly recommend this machine.