How to Remove Mildew Smells From a Front-Load Washer

By Bob Meadows of B&D Appliance Repair Service for

High efficiency front-loading washing machines are susceptible to a musty smell from mildew.

Does your front-load washer have an unpleasant musty smell?  Have you ever felt like your clean clothes smell worse coming out than they did going in?

You’re not alone. This mildew smell is a common problem for people who own front-loading washers. That odor comes from mold growing inside your washing machine caused by residue and bacteria.

Here are a few steps you can take that will help eliminate the cause and remove the smell.


How to prevent front-load washer odor?

Step 1: Use HE laundry detergent

It's very important that you only use HE (high efficiency) detergent in your front-load washer. Using non-HE detergent will cause suds, and suds leave behind residue inside your machine.

Things that cause residue:

Putting in more laundry detergent than recommended will also leave behind residue.

Liquid fabric softener is another source of residue build up. Using fabric softener sheets in the dryer instead is a great way to fight this problem.

Step 2: Wash in hot water

Run your last load of the day, even if it’s an empty load, on the hot water wash setting. Washing in cold water saves money and energy, but cold water doesn't kill bacteria, and it leaves behind more residue than hot water washes.

To be sure the residue and bacteria in your front-load washer is gone, once a month you should run three-quarters of a cup of regular bleach through your empty washer on a normal cycle with hot water.

Step 3: Clean the drain pump

Most front-load washers have an accessible drain pump with a filter or trap inside. Lint, hair, coins and just about anything can end up there. By not allowing debris to build up inside your pump, you will eliminate one of the major contributors to bad washer smells.

If your washing machine has a filter/trap inside the pump, your owner’s manual will explain how to clean it.

How to clean a front-load washer

Once an odor is detected, there's some steps you can take to clean your front-load washer:

Step 1. Pour two cups of distilled vinegar into the detergent dispenser, and run your washer on the clean or normal cycle using hot water.

Step 2. When finished, clean the inside tub, rubber boot seal, detergent dispenser and inner door with a clean rag and a solution of half distilled vinegar and half hot water. Repeat this step using a new clean rag and hot water only. There are also several products on the market for cleaning your front loading washer that can be used instead of vinegar.

Step 3. Run your washer a second time on the same cycle with hot water only.

Step 4. When finished, leave the washer door open for several hours to air it out.

Following these cleaning suggestions can prevent mold from ever starting in new front load washers, and it will fight existing mold in smelly front load washers.

No matter what type of washing machine you have, the two best tips to keep it clean are always empty everything out of pockets before loading into the tub and never overload your machine.