How to Keep Your HE Front Load Washer Clean and Smelling Fresh

HE (High Efficiency) washers possess the technology to use a lot less water than the old top load washers. Plus, they cut down on dryer times with an amazing spin cycle that leaves clothes damp not sopping wet. We love our HE washer, but I have several friends who hate theirs. Why? The biggest complaint about the front loading HE washers is that they get mildew in the gaskets and start to stink. We have owned our front loading HE Washer for six years, and this month was the first time I’ve ever had to clean it. Pick your jaw up off the floor and I’ll explain.

I never forget to do two things: wipe down and air out! The only reason I had to clean the washer recently was because our washer sat in our garage (after our water leak) for almost two months with the door closed (probably before it had a chance to completely dry.)

Here’s how to keep your HE front loading washer clean and fresh like the day you bought it:

1. ALWAYS wipe the door off after each load.

2. ALWAYS wipe out the gasket (top to bottom) to remove any water and moisture. This is the main area that will get mildewy first. Gently pull the gasket towards you to give full access. Run the rag around the inside of the gasket. Wipe especially well around the drain holes at the bottom.

3. Leave the door open after your wash is done to thoroughly air out your washer. Obviously if you have a closet instead of a laundry room, this can be a problem. Your best bet will be to invest in a top load HE washer when it comes time to replace your washer. Until then, try your best to keep the washer open about 30 minutes after you’ve washed a load.

 

If you still have odors or smelly laundry, try some of these remedies:

Visible mildew

Inspect inside and around the gasket for signs of mildew (usually black spots.)

Mix a small amount of bleach in a container of water. Scrub any mildew stains with an old toothbrush dipped into the mixture. Wipe clean with a clean rag dipped in water to remove the bleach mixture. Repeat as necessary. When the mildew has been removed, wipe dry with a clean rag.

Smelly Washer

Does your washer smell like a locker room. To eliminate smells, run the washer empty on the hot water setting. Add a cup of white vinegar into the detergent dispenser. And add 1/2 cup of baking soda inside the drum before you press start.

If this doesn’t eliminate all the odors, you can run the washer empty again but this time put 1/2 cup of bleach in the detergent dispenser.

Remember to open the washer immediately, wipe out any moisture and leave the door open to air dry.  (I can’t stress how crucial it is to do this after EVERY LOAD.

 

Smelly Clothes

Do your clothes, or more likely your towels, come out of the washer smelling like a locker room? Believe it or not, you could be doing more harm than good by adding a little extra detergent. Liquid detergent is often the culprit. Particles from the soap don’t wash out of your clothes completely and bacteria from sweat and more end up sticking to the fabric. Try switching to a powdered detergent or use this DIY laundry detergent which is low sudsing (and also costs pennies). AND, never use more detergent than is called for — even if you child’s jacket looks like this!

What is it about boys and their magnetic attraction to mud? Any ideas how he got this dirty? Gotta run, I have more laundry to do.

 

More tutorials about laundry and preventing dryer fires:

prevent_fires_replace_dryer_hose

Read about installing semi-rigid non-combustible duct in this easy tutorial!

how to clean out your dryer ducts

How to Clean Out Your Dryer Ducts to Prevent Fires

Miracle Stain Remover

DIY Laundry Detergent & Miracle Stain Remover

 

Comments

  1. Great tips!
    I have noticed that once I started using vinegar in the fabric softener slot that my front load washer no longer smells. And no, my clothes don’t ever smell like vinegar.
    Same thing for my dishwasher. Vinegar in the rinse aid slot. Ahhh the power of vinegar.

  2. Thank You, Thank You….
    I am new to the front load HE washer / dryer world & have never done any of those suggestions….
    I am on my way to go & do them now… Thanks…. K.

  3. Just wanted to chime in that sometimes that stinky smell comes from a filter on the bottomof the washer getting clogged. I figured this out when we were renting & they replaced our washer with an abused front loader & trying all of the above tips didnt work.

  4. Good tips; I’ve done everything except the baking soda. Hadn’t heard that one before. The vinegar wash is the one that usually does the trick for me. Is yours a Frigidaire by any chance?

    • hi, we just moved in a rental with an HE Frigidaire front loader and it smells terrible. so the vinegar with an empty load works for you?

      • Yes. I also leave the door open just a little all the time. When they are closed, they get that musty, soured smell. If yours is bad, I’d do everything Brittany recommended.

  5. You are cracking me up with this post! Believe it or not, I was just thinking the other day, my washer smells……why? Yes, my towels sometime smell disgusting. I actually run my washer a couple times with no detergent or clothes and you would be amazed at the soap suds even without adding detergent. My husband thinks that half the bottle needs to be added!

  6. I have found that a very effective way to clean the gasket around the door is to use an old terrycloth towel. The roughness of the terrycloth is very helpful in removing the gook that seems to develop there.

  7. My mother always left the lid of our top load washer open and when I moved out I always shut mine. When I mentioned to her my washer was smelling she told me to open the lid. Letting it air dry would solve it and to run white vinegar through the bleach dispenser when doing towels would freshen the washer and make the towels smell fresher. Has always worked for me. I also wipe out the drum and inside ledges with bleach water a few times a year.

  8. Great tips Brittany!….I always keep my washer door open between loads…but I need to remember to clean that gasket!!

  9. We hat the first front loading machine the Maytag Neptune it boy did it get stinky. We tried everything and still no luck. We ended up getting rid of it and bought a top loader. Hubby wouldn’t buy another front loading.

  10. I always remove the dispenser drawer after each wash.
    The little bit of water left there will caused mold around that area too.

  11. Brittany, so very helpful to know this since I just had a washer repairman here a week ago. My from load Maytag washer is almost a year old so still under warranty. The repairman told me there are HE washer cleaners out there to buy & he said I would have to go to an appliance store to find them. He told me the Tide cleaner isn’t any good & to get another brand. I haven’t gotten around to it yet so you saved me some $$. Thank YOU.
    I also read your DIY washer mix ingredients & you answered my question about if that was an ok thing to use on HE washers! You are a GEM! Thank you again!!!

  12. Even tho I use a homemade detergent I always double rinse my towels. I had problems with them smelling even tho they were clean and my sister told me to rinse them twice. My top loader has a place to set for 2nd rinse so I only do for towels. I learned from my mother to leave the lid open to let the washer dry out. If it has been a day since I washed I will close the lid until I need to wash again. There are only 2 of us so don’t need to wash as often as when the girls (3 of them) were home. Since I have soft water, I only use 1 TBSP of detergent in my washer. I had heard years ago that using too much detergent is what makes clothes look gray. Who knew?!

  13. Yeah, there are many things you can do to stop the smell. The instruction book actually says to wipe the door and leave it open 10 minutes after last wash. My thing? Once in a while for grins I use no-name (you can use name but it’s pricier) mouth wash in the detergent slot on the speed wash setting. Works great.

  14. KellyStewart says:

    I have found that by using a small cup to prop open the door between washings, it gets enough ventilation so that it doesn’t get mildewy. We use an old detergent cup between the door and the machine itself. Workd like a dream!!

  15. I have had my front load washer about 4 years and have never had to clean it, other that wiping down the outside. I add baking soda to every load along with the detergent , it keeps the machine clean as well as the clothes, it works for me. I do have some build up in the dispenser drawer that I have to clean, but the inside is mold free!

  16. I am mom to 21 kids (14 at home now). We have LOTS of laundry and I use inexpensive detergent. Our front loading machine smelled horrendous for years. Then I started adding 1/2 cup of BORAX to every load. It not only stopped the smell in my clothes, but it stopped the smells in my machine. I have never had a problem and I never leave the door open to dry out (although I wash so darn many loads there is rarely a 1/2 hour in between!). Opening the door and wiping can’t hurt, but I don’t do either. About once a month (or more) when I have very smelly clothes, I also add a 1/2 cup of white vinegar. What was a daily problem is now non-existent.

  17. Nikki F. says:

    The secret that no one wants to tell you about HE washers is that they were made for powdered soap. If you use the liquid, yes even the stuff made for HE washers, it slowly breaks down your seals and leaves that smell. My washer in the very tiniest print buried in the manual said something about that and we contacted the company to check. We were told if you want your machine to last for many years to come use only powdered soap. We’ve had ours over 3 years now, never a smell. We’ve forgotten a load in there for a day every once in a while, leave the door closed always and never one a smell. We also have pets, so lots of dirty loads and nothing. So please ppl with front load HE machines heed my advice and NEVER use liquid detergent.

  18. I have had a front load HE washer for a couple years. I am finding that I need to disassemble the detergent/bleach/softener dispenser and scrub it thoroughly with a anti mildew cleanser , as mildew/mold is growning in there. Does this happen normally, to others? any tips to keep this from happening?

    • Cindy,

      I had the same problem in the past and a friend suggested that it was due to us adding too much chemicals to the dispenser; more than was required for a particular load. We started adding a little less detergent/bleach and the problem pretty much disappeared.

      By the way, some front loaders have a self-cleaning cycle that also cleans the dispenser; perhaps your model has that available?

      Brittany, thank you for the advice. I always make sure to keep the door open after a cycle, but I must admit I sometimes close it simply because it annoys me and messes with the “artist” inside me, if that makes sense :)

  19. We just moved into a rental with a Frigidaire HE front loader. I was so happy because I believe the front loader move the laundry around more so it gets really clean. Then it the time came to do my first laundry. Boy was it smelly! so I googled all the tricks and when I pulled back that gasket I almost passed out. The previous renters probably never did it. I scrubbed and scrubbed but I couldn’t get it all. I am hoping that if I do it often enough it will eventually come off. Now it’s much better but still smelly so I will go ahead and try the vinegar and baking soda. Now finally my question: do I use it once in a while with an empty load or do I add it to every load I do? I used to put a cup of vinegar in every load at my old place because I used very cheap detergent, but that was a regular front loader. Thank you!

    • Heidi, did you try a diluted bleach to clean the gasket. You want to eliminate any mold from the gasket and other places water might sit in the washer. Then if you are diligent about wiping the moisture every time you do a load of laundry you shouldn’t need to do the vinegar each time. Not that it would hurt anything to add it though. I usually run it with the clothes. But, if I ever need to really give the washer a good clean I’d run it empty.

      • yes I tried the diluted bleach when I pulled it back there weren’t any spots. it was one black gasket. I got it down to just spots but that took a while. I also found the “washer fan” online it dries out the left over water in your outer drum. it sounds awesome and a permanent solution, but it is also $70 for a tiny little fan you put on the existing air outlet. sorry but I don’t have 70… well thanks for the quick reply. I think this machine needs an empty run

        • Whoa, $70 for a little fan that pushes air into the drum. Honestly, if your washer doesn’t smell now, if you wipe out the gasket and drum after each use. AND, leave the door open, you should be fine. If you want a fan, buy a cheap $20 and aim it in the drum during the day, but I think that might be overkill.

  20. I always do whites last and I use bleach. I have had my washer since 2001 and I’ve never had a problem with mold or mildew. When I am finished, I leave the door slightly ajar.

  21. Melanie Benjamin says:

    Hi! Do you put the1/2 cup of baking soda in the drum of the front loader with your clothes or in dispenser with the powder detergent?

  22. I have a Maytag Neptune that has the mold. I have tried all of the suggestion made, and the mold is still there. I leave the door open, I dry the gasket and have run vinegar and the commercial products, all to no avail. I’m about ready to trade it in on a different machine!

    • Kathy, can you see the mold? Or just smell it? If you can see it, you might need to be more aggressive and clean it with a store bought mold and milder killer. It is also possible there there is mold where you can’t see it. I’d try to google how to open your machine and clean it everywhere.

  23. I haven’t taken the case off the machine, I don’t feel like I should have to do that after spending the kind of money they want for these machines. A local news station did a report on this specific brand, the company admitted that mold and mildew were a problem with these washers, their suggestions were the same as yours. I have taken a name brand “mold killer” with a plastic knife and a toothbrush, it did not budge it. It is not in the larger part of the gasket, but the small groove that is against the door. Like I said, I’m in the market for a new one, maybe an upright – sans the agitator. Thanks for the fast reply. I’m new to the blogs. Just signed up for a bunch a few days ago, now I’m not getting anything done. So much to learn!

    • Kathy, that really sucks ;-(. I’m so sorry you are in this predicament. I wonder if Maytag customer service could help you get a new machine that doesn’t have the same design. It never hurts to try. Good luck. And glad you found the blog.

  24. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPmNtO-QAcU

    Depending how handy you are, you might want to try removing the rubber. You could either clean or replace it. Mold can grow into the rubber and be permenent, but sometimes you can remove enough to eliminate the smell. Im not sure how much a replacement gasket would cost but for sure less than a new washer.
    Check out this how to video. Seems pretty straight forward if your handy.

  25. Julie Irato says:

    Maybe a silly question – but how do you use powder detergent in these machines? just put it in the drum vs using the dispenser?

  26. I had a tech come out one day when a power surge shorted our washer and he said the same thing: keep the door open. He also found a long lost sock in the gasket (oops!), so I check/wipe it regularly now. I also sometimes spray the gasket with Method shower cleaner to keep it smelling fresh and girly. Love that stuff.

  27. I am interested to know this also. When you put the baking soda or Oxi-clean in you put it in the drum, right, so would you put the powdered detergent in the drum also? Also, how much powdered detergent do you you per load?

  28. Sorry, my post did not go where I thought it would under the question that was asked. The question was if you use a powdered detergent do you put the detergent in the drum or in the dispenser?

    Also, I would like to know how much detergent to use per load. I believe I have been putting too much liquid detergent in my machine. I’ve had an even more awful smell of late which has led me to use a little more detergent…vicious cycle. :) Thanks for your help!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Learn how to keep your HE Washer Clean like the day it was delivered! [...]

  2. [...] Learn how to keep your HE Washer Clean like the day it was delivered! [...]

  3. [...] How to keep your front-loading washer smelling so fresh & so clean: I just got a front-loading washer so this was particularly helpful for me. The trick is to leave the door open so it can dry properly after each wash, and to wipe out the rubber gasket around the door. The reason these washer can start smelling funky is due to water that doesn’t evaporate and instead starts to mildew. [...]

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