How to Clean a Smelly Front-Load Washing Machine


Front-load washing machines are high-tech, visually attractive, and finally match the dryer door direction for easy clothing transfers. You no longer have to reach deep into the washer to pull out clothes and you don’t even have to worry about balancing the load around the center post anymore. However, there is one known downside to front-loading washers: The smell.

Unforeseen by the original designers, the tightly sealed chamber of a front-load washer and the multi-folded door gasket combine to create the perfect growing place for mold and mildew. Oops. If your front-loading washing machine has a bad smell or clothes are coming out sour, here’s what to do: 

Wash and Dry the Door Gasket (Regularly)

First things first, the door gasket is your primary suspect. There’s a good chance that there’s water pooling in the bottom, inside the folds, and creating a birthplace for mildew. And this is going to happen every time the washer runs. Start by washing the entire gasket, every fold, with soap and water. Then wipe it down with hot water and vinegar. Finally, dry off the entire gasket so that there’s no moisture or standing water. You may need to keep that door gasket clean and dry on a regular basis to keep the problem from coming back. 

Wipe Down the Inside with Vinegar

If the clothes inside your washer smell sour, then the problem is deeper than the door gasket. To make sure the smell goes away and is less likely to come back, wipe down the entire interior of your washer with white vinegar. The vinegar kills mold and mildew and acts as a minor disinfectant.  The easiest way to do this is to dip a sponge in a bowl of vinegar and water mixture (1:1 is fine) and liberally wipe down the inside of the washer drum and the inside of the door. 

Run Empty and Hot

Running your washer empty can also be a good way to get it clean. Use the hottest possible water setting and don’t use any soap. A single empty hot cycle is often enough to kill any lingering mold spores and most household germs. It also gives your washer a chance to swish hot water around without any clothes in the way. 

Run with Vinegar Instead of Soap

Vinegar also works great as an automated washer cleaner. Simply dump a cup of vinegar into the detergent soap dispenser and then run it empty and hot. The vinegar will release during the cleaning process. Vinegar used this way will not only clear out any lingering mold, but it will also help scrub away any water buildup from hard water in the taps. The same trick works on dishwashers with an upright cup of vinegar in the top tray. 

Leave the Washer Door Cracked

Finally, make sure to leave your washer door cracked open when the washer is not in use. Why? Because this will promote airflow and reduce the chances of that mildew smell coming back. We know, front loading washer doors tend to fall open into the path, which can be annoying.

For this reason, it’s best to use a handy trick or two. You can, for example, drape a long sock or hanger from the top of the washer to keep the door from closing. This way, it will fall mostly closed but maintain airflow. Another option is to adjust the door hinges so that it falls closed instead of open. Beating the front-loading washer smell is not a difficult task. With a little vinegar, hot water, and ventilation any washer can stay fresh.

Remember to keep the door cracked when the washer isn’t running and wipe down the gasket regularly. For more appliance tips or the help of an appliance repair technician, contact us today! 

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