How to remove mildew odor from your front load washer

Submitted by Bob Meadows

Does your front-load washing machine have an unpleasant odor? Have you ever felt like your clothes smell worse coming out than they did going in? You’re not alone. This is a common problem for people who own front- load washers. That mildew odor comes from mold growing inside your machine caused by residue andbacteria.

Here are a few steps you can take and tips to follow that will help eliminate the cause and remove the smell.

1. Use the recommended amount of HE laundry detergent. It is very important that you only use HE (high efficiency) laundry detergent in your front-load washer. Using non-HE detergent will cause suds and suds leave behind residue inside your machine. Using more detergent than recommended will also leave behind residue. Liquid fabric softener is another source of residue build up. Using softener sheets in the dryer instead is a great way to fight this problem.

2. Use a hot water wash for your last load of the day. Washing in cold water saves money & energy but cold water does not kill bacteria and leaves behind more residue than hot water washes. Run your last load of the day, even if it’s an empty load, on the hot water wash setting. To be sure the bacteria in your machine is gone, once a month you should run three-quarters of a cup of regular bleach through your empty washer on a normal cycle with hot water.

[Related article: For more appliance tips, see my other Angie’s List Experts article: How to avoid appliance repairs.]

3. Clean out your drain pump regularly. Most front load washers have an accessible drain pump with a filter or trap inside. Lint, hair, coins and just about anything can end up there. By not allowing debris to build up inside your pump, you will eliminate one of the major contributors to mildew odor. If your washing machine has a filter/trap inside the pump, your owner’s manual will explain this procedure.

4. Clean your washer once a month. To clean your front-load washer, pour 2 cups of distilled vinegar into the detergent dispenser and run your washer on the clean or normal cycle using hot water. When finished, clean the inside tub, rubber boot seal, detergent dispenser and inner door with a clean rag and a solution of half distilled vinegar and half hot water. Repeat this step using a new clean rag and hot water only. Run your washer a second time on the same cycle with hot water only. When finished, leave the door open for several hours to air it out. There are several products on the market for cleaning your machine that can be used instead of vinegar.

Following these suggestions can prevent mold from ever starting in new front load washers and will fight existing mold in smelly front-load washers. No matter what type of washing machine you have, the two best tips I can give you are always empty everything out of pockets before loading into the tub and never overload your machine.