Washing machines, especially high-efficiency front-loading models, can be the perfect breeding ground for mold. Warm temperatures, soil and bacteria from clothes, detergent and fabric softener residue, and a dark environment can all combine to leave you with a stinky, moldy washer.
Mold is often found growing in a front load washer behind the rubber gasket that seals the door to prevent leaking. But, mold growth can also occur in any type of washer in drainage pipes, detergent and fabric softener dispensers, and around washer lint filters.
Fortunately, cleaning away the mold is simple and requires just one product—chlorine bleach.
Equipment / Tools
- Microfiber cloth
- Sink or large plastic bucket
- Small, soft-bristled scrub brush
- Protective gloves
- Chlorine bleach
Empty the Washer and Dispenser Drawers
Always begin with an empty washer to prevent accidental bleaching of clothes. If your washer has an automatic system for dispensing detergent or fabric softener, it should be empty of product.
Select the Washer Settings
Select a normal wash cycle for a large load so that adequate water will flow through the washer. Set the water temperature to warm or hot.
Add Chlorine Bleach and Start the Washer
Pour one cup or more of chlorine bleach into the washer drum, depending on its size. Or, add 1/2 cup of liquid chlorine bleach to the detergent compartment of the dispenser drawer and fill the bleach dispenser compartment with chlorine bleach to the highest level. Start the washer and allow it to complete a full cycle.
Running a cycle with just hot water and bleach will usually take care of any mold issues in drainage lines.
There are commercial washer cleaners available in tablet, powder, and liquid formulas. If you choose to use one, follow the package directions carefully.
Clean the Washer Drum and Door
When the cycle is complete, use a soft, absorbent cloth to dry around the washer door and gaskets. These areas should be cleaned and maintained regularly to ensure a watertight seal.
For a front load washer, gently peel back the flexible door gasket to clean the inside. This is usually where dirt and detergent residue gets trapped and mold begins to grow. Wearing protective gloves, dip a microfiber cloth or soft-bristled brush in a solution of 1/4 cup of chlorine bleach and two cups of water to clean this area. Once all of the mold is gone, dry the area with a soft cloth.
Clean the Dispenser System
Detergent and fabric softener can build up in the dispenser drawers and act as a food source for the odor-causing mold.
Most drawers can be removed easily for cleaning, but consult your washer's user manual to learn how to remove the drawer(s). Rinse the drawer inserts with hot tap water to remove traces of accumulated residue. If the components are heavily coated with built-up residue, fill a sink or bucket with hot water and allow them to soak for 10 minutes. Rinse well and allow the drawers to air-dry.
Wearing protective gloves, use a cloth or soft-bristled brush dipped in a chlorine bleach/water solution to clean the drawer housing on the washer. Remove any residue from the upper and lower parts of the recess.
When the drawer and opening are clean, return the bleach and fabric softener inserts to their proper compartments. Replace the dispenser drawer and run a short cycle such as the Pre-wash cycle without any laundry or cleaning products in the drum to completely flush the system.
Clean out the Lint Filter
Most washers have a lint filter or trap that should be cleaned routinely. Trapped lint can begin to mold and cause odor. Locate and remove the filter. Brush away the lint with a soft-bristled brush and wipe away any mold with a cloth dipped in a chlorine bleach/water solution. Rinse well and air-dry before returning the filter to the washer.
Tips to Prevent Mold Growth in a Washing Machine
- Do not use an excessive amount of laundry detergent.
- Use less or do not use liquid fabric softeners. Use distilled white vinegar instead in the fabric softener dispenser to help remove detergent residue and soften clothes.
- Add a fan or air-conditioner to your laundry room to improve air circulation.
- Bring in a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels lower.
- Check your dryer vent to make sure it is tight and not leaking moist air into the laundry room.
- Leave a front-loading washer door ajar after every load to allow more air circulation.
- Be sure the fan in a front load washer is clean and functioning properly and that the vent is not blocked.
- Run a cleaning cycle weekly, or monthly at the minimum.