When it comes to doing laundry, many people use front loaders because they are more efficient than top loaders. On average, they use 40 percent less water and almost 60 percent less energy. They also clean clothes better.
They are not without their problems; and so, if you want to avoid problems, you need to know how to clean a front loading washing machine.
The Dangers of a Dirty Washing Machine
Mold is a common and dangerous problem with front loaders. Mold and mildew, at best, can cause bad odors in the machine and on your clothes. At worst, mold can make you sick. It grows because dirt, lint and water gathers between the seal of the machine’s tub and door, thus creating the ideal atmosphere for the breeding of mold, mildew and other bacteria.
The mold creates inhalable spores, and the bacteria create nasty odors. Inhaled toxic mold spores can cause chronic fatigue; dizziness; eye, nose and throat irritation; fever and flu-like symptoms; headaches; learning disabilities; nausea; severe breathing problems and vomiting. Therefore, it is important that you keep your front-loading washing machine clean and that you keep the area between the door and the tub dry when not in use.
How to Clean a Moldy Front Loading Washing Machine
If you are wondering if your machine is moldy, it probably is. If you smell a musty, sour or stinky odor coming from your washer or your clothing, you probably have an issue. There are a number of possible solutions, and none of them work for every situation.
Some people have had luck getting rid of mold by changing detergent. Some do well by using a mixture of baking soda and vinegar every few loads. Others have had mixed luck with oxygen-free bleach.
One product many people have had success with is the all-natural Smelly Washer Cleaner product. It works with high-efficiency front-loading washers, and because it is made from citrus, it is safe for the environment. It supposedly cleans by getting rid of the odor: not by masking it.
Another product that is supposed to get rid of the odor rather than mask it is Affresh Washer Cleaner for High-Efficiency (HE) Washers. The manufacturer also claims that the product is eco-friendly and safe for septic systems and appliances. It works by releasing oxygenated bubbles that remove residue buildup that causes odors.
To clean your washing machine without commercial products, use the Acidic Cleaner (click here for the recipe) with some sprinkles of baking soda to clean the rubber door gasket. Try using a soft toothbrush, or one of many small brushes you can find to clean in small crevices, and a soft clean cloth to gently but firmly wipe out the gooey mold. Frankly, If washing the gasket does not get rid of the odor and the mold, you may have to replace the gasket.
Also use the Acidic cleaner and baking soda to clean the soap and softener dispenser. If you can remove the soap dispenser tray, do so, then soak it in the vinegar solution with baking soda for ten minutes and wipe it clean. Also use the solution to clean the hole that houses the dispenser tray, if your appliance has one. Rinse all parts well after cleaning to remove the vinegar and baking soda residue. Spraying just the Acidic cleaner over the surfaces will remove the baking soda, and then water will remove the vinegar.
Again, be sure to rinse and dry everything well. In fact, you should dry all the parts of the machine, including the inside of the door, after each and every use to prevent the growth of smelly mold. Just like we advise after taking a shower to dry the tiles and grout right away, or after cleaning kitchen surfaces to let them dry completely, we advise the same treatment for your front loading washing machine. Mold, mildew and germs like moist surfaces. Eliminate the moisture, and there goes the gunk!
Another part of front loader maintenance is filter cleaning. Manufacturers and models vary, so you need to check your manual for your specific instructions. But typically, it involves opening a small door near the bottom at the front of the machine. Inside, you will find two items: a small hose and a debris filter.
The hose drains leftover water out of the washer, so you need something for the water to drain into. Be prepared, because it might be several gallons worth. After you drain the water from the machine, remove the housing for the debris filter by turning it counterclockwise. Once it is out, clear it of lint and other debris. Before reinserting it, reach behind where it was and check the drain pump impeller with your fingers to be sure it is also clear of debris.
After you have cleaned the above items, run a load of hot water with laundry detergent but no laundry. Adding oxygen-free bleach to the detergent will prevent mold. If your system has an integrated cleaning cycle, use that. If you were having odor issues, run another load afterward using hot water with one cup of baking soda and one of white vinegar.
How to Prevent Mold in a Front-loading Washer
In addition to the rubber door gasket, you need to clean the soap dispenser and any other part to which you have access frequently. Because front loaders use very little water, not all substances are rinsed away when the tub empties. This can cause a residue buildup.
Let it Dry!
It is good to leave the washer door open after doing a load. This allows the inner parts to dry out. Dry the soap dispenser and the door gasket by hand with a towel. Also, do not leave wet clothes in the machine for very long — especially all night. Any moisture in the machine will eventually cause mold.
Rather than using powdered detergent, use liquid because it dissolves better and leaves less residue. Also, to reduce residue, use as little detergent as you can while still getting a clean wash. Rather than liquid softener, use softener sheets to reduce moisture.
If you always wash in cold water, do an occasional load in hot water. This will clean out some of the residue buildup. Use a low-sudsing detergent designed for a high-efficiency washer. These washers usually have self-cleaning cycles, and you should use the one on your machine periodically.
As with anything, prevention is better than cure. Becoming a little slack in caring for your front loading washing machine can cause many problems later. And if you are no more fortunate than many other people, you may not be able to get rid of your problems once you have them. So if you haven’t done so in a while, go take a look at that washer and get ready for action.