Kenmore 22102 Washing Machine Review

Old school? Should've studied harder.

Hero view of the Kenmore 22012 Credit:

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Kenmore's 22102 (MSRP $649.99) washing machine looks almost identical to the 23102. The only visual difference is that one has a load size dial while the other has a manual fabric softener switch.

But, when we put the 22102 to the test, we found some noteworthy performance gaps between these two affordable washers. Both machines are throwbacks to an earlier era of top-loaders, but between the two of them we'd recommend the 23102.

To read our review of this washer's matching dryer, Kenmore's 62102, click here.

By the Numbers

Our suite of lab tests comprised more than 18 test loads for the Kenmore 22102, including measurements for hot and cold water requirements, electricity usage, internal drum temperature, and water retention. We gauge stain removal using controlled, pre-soiled testing cloth, and report results relative to the AHAM industry standard. Clothing wear is tested with controlled mechanical action cloths, which fray according to agitation intensity.

Design & Usability

A rather humble machine.

Like the 23102, the 22102 bucks recent high-efficiency trends. This is machine for consumers who lack either the desire or the budget for front-loaders and other leading-edge laundry tech.

Agitator Column

The "good ol' fashioned" agitator pole

Still, even basics like a slam-proof lid are omitted. The lid does tend to come crashing down on the rest of the washer's all-metal frame, and it's loud. And while many consumers are still attracted to good old-fashioned pole agitators, loading the machine is more difficult thanks to this obstruction. You can't simply dump in an entire basket, for example. Instead, each item must be arranged around the pole by hand.

The 22102 is almost as inefficient as the terribly wasteful 23102, but compared to modern washers, both are way behind. We estimate that for the average family, the annual operating cost of the 22102 will be a whopping $101 in hot and cold water alone. It might not sound like much, but remember that after the first four or five years you will have paid out nearly the original cost of the machine. A front loader that costs $1,000 up front will likely only cost around $30 a year to run. I'll do the math for you: Over five years, this machine will have cost you $350 more than a more efficient model.

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Cleaning Performance

The 22102's most powerful cycle combination is Heavy Duty Regular with hot water. This cycle excelled at the removal of all stain types, but had a tendency to redeposit blood—an organic, slightly basic stain. Stains of this type are actually best cleaned with the Normal cycle, however this cycle achieved poor results with dirt, sweat, and red wine. Therefore, unless you're willing to put up with redeposited stains, there's really no way to achieve versatile stain removal within any single cycle.

Test Stains

Before and after test stain results using the Heavy Duty Super cycle. From left to right: control, sweat, dirt, blood, cocoa, and red wine. Note the redeposited blood.

Clothing Wear

Clothing wear before and after the Normal Regular cycle

Clothing wear was fairly severe for all settings. Many of our test cycles resulted in averages above 60 frayed threads per mechanical action test cloth. The Delicates cycle is the only way to avoid this effect, but even that cycle averaged 19 frayed threads per test cloth. This cycle also comes with severe stain removal penalties and issues with unsoaked detergent.

Performance & Features

It shifts stains around instead of removing them.

Cycle Dial

The main cycle dial, with its many cycles and sub-cycles

While the average person might assume that the Heavy Duty cycle will remove the most stains, our tests revealed this cycle's unique tendency to redeposit organic stains, like blood, onto previously-clean items. That's what happens when clothes end up floating in too much water. It turns out that Normal is the smarter choice for organic stains.

The Delicates cycle is also much worse about leaving dry, unused detergent all over clothing even after the cycle completed. It's a common problem for washers in this price range, and will simply necessitate a second wash, but each inefficient wash will send a little more cash down the drain.

Clothing Wear

Clothing wear before and after the Normal Regular cycle

Clothing wear is the final key drawback of the 22012, and no cycle is immune. As was the case for the 23102, even the Delicates cycle is rather indelicate compared to modern washing machines, while other cycles are harsh by any standard.

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


Compared to modern washers, the 22102 is wasteful. Assuming average water and energy prices, the hot water, cold water, and electricity cost for a single Normal load totals $0.18, or $0.44 for a Heavy Duty load. Based on the laundry habits of an average American family, we estimate the 22102's annual operating cost will be $101.89, which is expensive.

Water retention, this washer's ability to spin out excess moisture, is also poor. Retention levels range from 70% (Normal Regular and Normal Express cycles) to 89% (Delicates cycle). This translates to much more work for your dryer, which is even more costly to operate.


Save your money for a modern machine.

Kenmore 23102 Front View

Full view of the... actually this is the 23102, but the 22102 is practically identical. (Kenmore photo)

Believe it or not, the Kenmore 22102 uses 20% less water than its closest competitor in the lineup. It also gets clothes roughly 20% less clean. Neither one is a great choice.

Our opinion of the 22102 is almost equivalent to our opinion of the 23102: It's not a washer we'd buy for ourselves, but for the very traditional homeowner who is only comfortable with a 1950's pole agitator and wash drum filled to the brim, it'll clean clothes.

Of course, the purpose of this website is to uncover the best washers, and frankly this model and this series are a far cry from what's possible. This inexpensive machine might save you money up front, but the hidden costs of damaged clothes, wasted water, and repeat loads are enough to justify saving up for a more advanced washer.

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