How to Clean a Front Load Washer to Prevent Odor

How to Clean a Smelly Front Load Washer

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Front load washers are gaining popularity in the United States. These high-efficiency washers that use less water to clean a load of laundry are a standard design in Europe and around the world. But, the use of and transition from standard top loaders to front loaders have been difficult for many in the United States. This has resulted in washers that develop and hold funky odors and have mechanical problems due to improper use and cleaning.

One key way to keep a washer from becoming smelly is to use the proper amount of detergent. Over time, residue from commercial laundry detergents and fabric softeners may cling to the inside of the washer especially on and behind rubber door seals. In warm, humid weather or laundry room conditions, mildew or mold may form, particularly if you have forgotten damp clothes in the washer for a few hours. Keeping the washer clean is an important step in keeping your laundry fresh.

To keep your front load washer operating smoothly, here are some tips for proper and thorough cleaning. Your washer should be cleaned monthly or more often if you have exceptionally heavily-soiled clothes or live in a hot, humid area.

How to Clean the Inside of a Front Load Washer

  • Note: Before you begin, be sure the washer is completely empty of laundry.
  • Add 1/2 cup of liquid chlorine bleach to the detergent compartment of the dispenser drawer and also fill the bleach dispenser compartment with chlorine bleach to the highest level. Set the washer to the normal cycle setting with warm water and complete the cycle. If you do not want to use chlorine bleach, you can use one full cup of hydrogen peroxide instead. Or, use a commercial washer cleaner. Follow the package directions for amount to use and the proper procedure. DO NOT MIX CHLORINE BLEACH WITH OTHER CLEANERS.
  • When the cycle is complete, use a soft, absorbent cloth to dry around the washer door opening, flexible gasket, and door glass. These areas should be cleaned and maintained regularly to ensure a watertight seal. It is a good idea to wipe these down with a dry cloth after every load.
  • Take the time to clean the inside of the door gaskets and the edges. Dirt and residue can get trapped and mold begins to grow on the backside of the gaskets.
  • When extremely soiled or oil-soaked items have been washed, a dirty residue may remain on the drum. Remove this by wiping the drum with a nonabrasive household cleanser and then rinse thoroughly with water. Or, repeat the entire cleaning cycle using chlorine bleach.
  • If your washer has any plastic in the drum, it may become stained from fabric dye. Clean these plastic parts with a nonabrasive household cleanser or repeat the bleach cleaning cycle. This prevents dye transfer to future loads.

How to Clean Washing Machine Dispenser Drawers

Detergent and fabric softener may build up in the dispenser drawers and cause odor and operational problems. Residue should be removed once or twice a month. Never overfill the drawers to prevent damaging electronic components of the washer.

  • Consult your washer's user manual to learn how to remove the drawer(s). Most have a safety latch but can be removed easily.
  • If the drawer has inserts for the bleach and fabric softener compartments, remove those from the drawer to clean separately.
  • Rinse the drawer and inserts with hot tap water to remove traces of accumulated powders and liquids. If they are particularly coated with built-up residue, allow them to soak for ten minutes in hot water and then rinse.
  • Allow drawers to air dry.
  • Use a small soft brush to clean the drawer opening on the washer. Remove all residue from the upper and lower parts of the recess.
  • When the drawer and inserts are clean, return the bleach and fabric softener inserts to their proper compartments. Replace the dispenser drawer and run a short cycle, like the Prewash cycle, without any laundry in the drum to completely flush the system.
Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018.

How to Clean the Outside of the Washer

  • Weekly, when washing is completed, wipe the top and sides of the washer with a damp cloth.
  • As needed, clean the outside cabinet with mild soap and water. Never use harsh, gritty or abrasive cleansers.
  • If the door or console becomes stained or there is mildew growth, clean with a diluted chlorine bleach of 1/4 cup in one quart of water. Rinse several times with clear water.
  • Remove any glue residue from tape or labels with a mixture of warm water and mild detergent.
  • Never store or place laundry products on top of the washer at any time. Spills can damage the finish or the electronic controls.