Moldy front-loaders continue to vex consumers

The case of the smelly washing machines spun forward this week when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed class-action lawsuits against Whirlpool, Sears, and Bosch to continue. At issue is the buildup of mold and musty odors in front-loading washing machines. We’ll spare you the legalese but basically the court refused to hear appeals from the companies and let consumers have their day in court.

The lawsuits contend that front-loaders have a design flaw that causes them to accumulate mold. The Internet is awash with complaints about this problem. The good news is that some front-loading washers have features that help prevent mold, including a separate cycle specifically for washing the inside of the machine and a fan-dry setting that can aerate a still-wet load until you transfer it to the dryer.

Even if your front-loader lacks these updated features, there are things you can do to prevent mold such as running a hot-water wash alone or with some chlorine bleach. Here are some other tips from the experts at Consumer Reports.

Wipe the door gasket and glass dry once you’re done.
Clean the detergent dispenser and any attachments once or twice a month.
Run a dehumidifier if your laundry room is damp.
Keep the washer door ajar between loads to allow air to circulate. If you have small children, keep the laundry-room door locked.
If none of this works, call the manufacturer for service and save all mold-related paperwork, even after the warranty expires.

Top front-loaders. Front-loaders are popular with consumers because of their large capacities and low water usage. During the spin cycle they extract lots of water so the laundry needs less time in the dryer. In our tests, the Maytag Maxima XL MHW8000AG, $1,450, was our top front-loader followed by models from Kenmore, Samsung and Whirlpool.

Best top-loaders. Because of the mold issue, some consumers have gravitated toward high-efficiency top-loaders, which also eliminate the need to bend down to load and unload the machine. Our top HE top-loader is the LG WT1101CW, $700, followed by models from Samsung, GE, and Maytag.

—Mary H.J. Farrell