Who can tell me what this is:

If you live in a typical Japanese style house, you may have a washing machine without a hot water hookup. I spent our first 6 months here wondering why the stains weren’t coming out of my clothes. Then I realized that it was only washing in cold. I asked my Japanese speaking friends to help me figure out which button said “HOT”. They laughed at me and told me Japanese washers don’t do hot water.


As it turns out, it’s more eco-friendly and cheaper to use lower water temperatures for your wash. And for the most part, it works great. You may have to change your detergent, or work on stains right away. But you may have noticed many Japanese households hanging their clothes outside to dry. Sun is a great stain remover and sterilizer.

So after I thought about it, it isn’t that farfetched that you can get by with only a cold water washing machine. My only problem is that I was trying to cloth diaper my baby, and for that I really needed a super hot water wash. In the few weeks that I tried to use my cold water washer, all I got was stinky, leaky, stained up  diapers. Combined with the fact that everyone had given me enough disposable diapers to last me until potty training, I just gave up on that. But, now I have the answer.

If you have one of these washing machines, you may have gotten an extra hose like the one pictured above. If not, you should be able to find one at the Makeman or a similar Home Depot-esque store. I just clicked on end into the washer, filled up the sink with hot water, and stuck the big end into the water. A little experimenting with blind button pushing and voila, it was sucking the hot water up from the sink to wash my clothes!

It’s still much easier to just let it wash with cold. But on the occasions that I really want a hot water wash, it certainly is nice to have an option.


  1. Nicole, thanks for the tip! We unhooked the big vent tubing that goes between the dryer and the wall, and found a good sized wad of lint, nothing that I would ever had thought would make a difference, but low and behold, the dryer is working normal now. Go figure. Thanks for saving us the inconvenience of a service call.

  2. Hmm… thanks, ladies. I’m in one of the two-story townhouse units, so can’t do anything about the 20ft or so of tubing the lint has to go through to get to the vent, or the vent itself really (which is 10ft above the ground anyway). But I’ll call FMO and get it worked out. 🙂

  3. Also, just as a side note, no matter how meticulous a person is at cleaning the lint screen after every load some of it escapes and gets stuck to the outside vent if its wet or humid outside and builds up over time. Hopefully that is all it is so you can avoid the work order. 🙂

  4. When we first moved here (5 months ago), our dryer was doing the same thing with 2-4 cycles to get it dry. Well, I called FMO and made a work order. They came out the next day and fixed it…the BIG PROBLEM…a HUGE wad of lint in the vent that leads to the outside. 🙂 So embarrasing!!! So from our experience, I would check that first. 🙂

  5. That is not normal. We don’t use a transformer and we live off base. I’d try to get a different one. One thing I noticed with our FMO loaner dryer was that if there is ANY lint blocking the air flow at the vent on the outside of the apartment, it takes much longer to dry. Good luck.

  6. Theresa, I’m not sure if anyone has any better luck, but I live ON base and I have the same issue with the dryer (as do several friends I’ve asked). I hate doing laundry here… I feel bad for families that do a ton more than I do for just me and my husband! I’m tempted to go buy a better one and bring them back the useless junk they gave us.

  7. Big Dryer problems. I just moved here 2 months ago and I hope this isn’t too tangential to this comment section, but does anyone else living off base have trouble getting clothes dry with the FMO loaner dryer?. The dryer works, but it takes 3 full maximum heat cycles to dry a normal load. If I were in the states, I’d assume the dryer was broken, but here I wonder if it needs a transformer. The problem is I have some transformers but they don’t accomodate the special dryer plug. Are there special transformers for american dryers and if so where could I find one? Thanks

  8. I, too, like the cold water wash, but I wanted to felt a knitting project the other day, so I needed the hot water. Thinking I wouldn’t have enough hose to reach from the tub to the washer, I tried using the sink. After struggling with the excess length of hose, I made up my mind to use the tub next time. Plus, the machine was filling and swishing alternately, so I’d walk away just when I think it’s done pumping, then have to go back because it had sucked up all the water from the sink. Definitely, next time, I’ll use the tub, oh – and a yarn that felts more easily, after all that trouble the Japanese wool yarn must have been superwashed. oh well.
    Thanks for this post! Very helpful!

  9. We have an American washer, but we use cold water all the time also because it’s more economical. The only time we use warm water is when we’re washing whites, then I add a couple of aspirins to help the whites get whiter.

  10. Kimberly, my husband and I figured this out about a year into our moving into our off-base house. However, like you, we’ve grown accustomed to the more energy-efficient coldwater wash! Thanks for the helpful post.

  11. They use cold water in Germany also for washing clothes but some of the washers there have heating elements inside which warms the water(I heard). I also hang my washing out. Love the smell and also dries very quickly in this heat. My electric bill agrees with me too. Helps the environment also I think!

  12. In the first house we lived in, the housing agent told me how it was supposed to go.
    In most Japanese houses, to bathe, people scrub their bodies and wash their hair sitting on a little stool on the tiled floor and rinse prior to soaking in a very hot, deep bathtub. After the bath, it is considered wasteful to just drain fairly clean water, so the hose can be used to bring the bath water into the washing machine to do a load of laundry using hot water. I hope that makes sense. I love hanging my clothes because they last longer. It knocks about Y10,000 off my electricity bill too. Great post Kim!