Front-load washers are a popular style of washing machine, but some owners complain that front-loaders are more likely to develop odors than top-loaders. These high-efficiency washers that use less water per load are a standard design in Europe and around the world, and users generally know how to use and clean them. But learning how to properly clean front loaders has posed problems for many in the United States who have transitioned from top-loader machines. As a result, some users find their washing machines plagued with unpleasant odors and mechanical problems due to improper use and cleaning. Such issues can be largely avoided by proper cleaning.
Preventing Odors Before They Begin
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.
Furthermore, 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.
How Often to Clean a Front-Load Washing Machine
Your washer should be cleaned monthly, or more often if you have exceptionally heavily soiled clothes or live in a hot, humid area. And naturally, you should clean it whenever odors are apparent.
What You Need
- Liquid chlorine bleach
- Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
- Non-abrasive household cleanser
- Mild detergent
- Soft, absorbent cloth
- Small nylon brush
How to Clean a Front-Load Washer
Run an Empty Laundry Cycle Using Bleach
With the washing machine empty and dry, 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. Set the washer to the normal cycle setting with warm water and complete the cycle.
Note: 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; the result can be toxic fumes.
Clean the Door and Drum
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. If dirt and residue get trapped, mold may begin 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, 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.
Clean the 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 10 minutes in hot water, then rinse. Allow the 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 such as the Prewash cycle without any laundry in the drum to completely flush the system.
Clean the Outside of the Washer
As part of your ongoing routine, wipe the top, and sides of the washing machine weekly, or after each laundry session. Often, merely wiping with a damp cloth is all that's needed. When necessary, clean the exterior surfaces with warm water mixed with a mild soap. Never use harsh, gritty, or abrasive cleansers on enameled surfaces.
- If the door or console becomes stained or if 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.
- You can 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 electronic controls.
Maintain a Clean Space
Keeping your washing machine clean will prevent those unpleasant odors and make your machine function better.