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:


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



  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.

    • Is there any way that you know of to access this filter without hiring a techniciam? or does this require taking the whole thing apart to access?

      • The filter is user cleanable. Usually you pull bottom panel, then twist and pull to remove filter. There are usually instructions once you pull off bottom front panel.

  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.

    • John B. says:

      We have a Kenmore Elite front loader that is 9 years old. We have always left the door open after washing and have never cleaned the seals or gasket. Our wash is always fresh and we have never had odors in the clean clothes or towels or in the washer itself.

  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.


    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!

  29. I have been cleaning my front loader with bleach wash and Affresh, baking soda and vinegar and all have been working for me for a couple of years. Mostly I use the washer clean cycle with bleach only. Three weeks ago we noticed a very strong mildew odor so I cleaned the washer as usual and the smell was still there. Did it again and the smell was still there. I kept telling my husband the smell seemed to be coming from the back of the washer. We pulled it out from the wall, washed everything back there and the smell was still there and we only smelled it when we ran a load of wash.Well after three weeks of all this we pulled the washer out again and I sniffed the area where the outlet hose goes into the wall and nearly fell over! We pulled the hose out and it was 15 inches of packed, black,greasy, smelly gunk!! We disconnected the hose and have thoroughly blasted it out with hot water from our hose,scrubbed it with bottle brush and toothbrush and soaked it over night in bleach water, blasted it again and now it is fresh and clean. Brought the hose and hot water in and blasted the pipe in the wall and sprayed Tilex in there and will blast again!
    Moral of the story is remember to pull the outlet hose out and clean it regularly when you clean your washer! It has not been a pleasant experience!

  30. I found mildew in the soap dispenser. I have’t heard anyone to mention to take out the dispenser and clean it and the back where the water and soap goes into the machine.

  31. where do you put the baking soda? pre-wash compartment, softener or together with the load?


  32. I have a top HE washing machine and there is absolutely NO way to clean them!! Since they will not fill with water until you have clothes in it, there is no way to clean it. If anyone has any tips on how to clean one of these machines, Please Please let me know

  33. I clean my front loader soap dispenser when it needs it, but after every wash I prop the dispenser door open with a soft cloth and leave it until the next wash. That way air circulates in there. and I always leave my washer door propped open after done using the machine. I do clean the door and inside, but opening these 2 areas every time keeps the build-up & odor from forming. Air circulation seems to work. I have an LG front loader. it is in the basement. I only use HE liquid detergent, and measure what I use per load. We have very expensive water/sewer rates, so a front loader is a must for me. I will put some white vinegar in it also with the wash. It is great for just about everything.

  34. Kim, I’ve definitely got to agree with you there. I’ve had a front loader now for a year, have done all of this stuff that is supposed to eliminate odors and such, and nothing really seems to work. My clothes are icky, and my towels smell worse afterwards than they do before I wash, plus come out all stiff and nonabsorbent. If the washing machine is so temperamental that you have to baby it through every use, then it’s pretty useless in my book. Let Kelly Ripa play barbie with her clothes washing – I’ve got better things to do with my time.

    I had front loaders when I lived in Germany and the Netherlands both, and they worked well. I’ve finally figured out that it isn’t the washer, it’s the detergent. This so-called detergent that we get here doesn’t really clean anything. The cleaning industry is so obsessed with ‘protecting the environment’ that all cleaning products have become ineffective at actually, you know, CLEANING, for nameless fear of some horrible consequences. Oh, for the days when products actually worked!

    Try taking your clothes to a commercial laundromat once a month, and use an old fashioned top loader that uses lots of water – it’s the only way to get your towels and bedding feeling and smelling clean.

    As for me, I’m moving soon and will get rid of this horrible front loader and get something that will actually clean my clothes. God, I miss my 40 -year – old Maytag!

    • Claire, I’m so sorry you’ve had this experience. Interesting what you say about the Germany and Netherlands washers. We vacationed in Europe and had no issues with the washers, but the dryers were horrible until someone showed us how to empty the built up water reservoirs.

  35. Thanks for all the tips. My new washer is Electrolux, and the door is on a spring so that it can either be closed or wide open. I want it open just a little bit so the cat can’t get inside. Has anyone come up with a way to do that? Thank you!

    • Cindy, can you cup a scrap of wood to put in the door or use a pool noodle cut to the height of the door and propped into it? Not knowing what the Electrolux looks like, I’m not sure what to suggest.

  36. How to Rid your Front Washer of Mold says:

    I tried numerous things. I learned that if I use powder laundry detergent, the problems with mildew will go away. My theory is that the liquid detergents probably contain some type of enzyme or are made of animal fat(s) which acts as a food source for in this case “mold”.

  37. We have a GE Front Loader. We tried to use vinegar in the fabric softener compartment, but before we could close the drawer, it was already leaking out. How do you use it and make sure it goes into the final rinse. Thanks in advance

  38. Lauren Coleman-Lochner says:

    Hi, everyone. I am working on a story about how detergent makers are suffering as more consumers switch to high-efficiency washers and no longer use too much detergent for their loads. It sounds like this is depressing detergent sales. I would like to include comments from HE machine users about their experiences. A couple of questions: do you use regular detergent in your HE washers, or detergent specifically for HE machines? Also, are you more careful about using the proper amount in your HE machine because of concerns about the warranty? If anyone would like to discuss this, my contact info is below. Thanks and best, Lauren

    Lauren Coleman-Lochner
    Consumer/Retail Reporter
    Bloomberg News
    Bloomberg Businessweek
    731 Lexington Ave.
    New York, NY 10022

  39. You have the same exact washer as me! I am so glad I found this post. I will be following your tips and probably going back to making my own detergent. Thank you so much for posting this :-)

  40. I have had a front loader for a couple years. While the machine does not smell (Vinegar only for ‘softening’ and keeping the door open always), my towels smelled NASTY- even fresh out of the dryer. I found a product called Smelly Washing machine Cleaner and its sidekick, Smelly Towel Cleaner (catchy names, huh? lol) I purchased them at Ace Hardware, but I believe you can get them online as well. They are kinda pricey, but they go a long way and you don’t need much. I am amazed at how well they worked even the 1st time. I have no affiliation with this company. It is VERY nice to not smell like a funky towel when you have just stepped out of the shower. Brittany, I love your blog . Its one of the few I read every post!

    • Beth, THANK YOU sooooo much for this tip! Yes, I have some funky towels too and would love to try this product. Thanks for sharing.

      • Funky towels…..stop using dryer sheets. Use plain old white vinegar in the rinse, or a good homemade softener. This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure that you dry your towels soon after the washload is finished. Letting them sit in the washing machine wet can contribute to the smell as well. I have a front loader and I frequently wipe the gaskets; remove and clean the dispenser. Yes it may seem like a hassle, but a washing machine is a tool and should be treated well. I also have a top loader. True, I don’t have to do anything to it, except leave the lid cracked open, but it doesn’t clean as well, or efficiently, as my front loader.

  41. Thanks for this post! I am now obsessed with cleaning my HE washer after noticing “that smell.” But can you please post a warning for other cleaning-obsessives who might try to mix bleach AND vinegar at the same time? This creates a really dangerous toxic cloud of doom! So do one and/or the other but never at the same time! I may have learned this the hard way :)

  42. Regina P. says:

    I am having a problem with my front load washer that I’m not even getting any answers for on any google site – maybe someone can give me some insight. When I leave my washer door open after a load – many times the drum fills itself with water (not every time – but many times) and I’ll walk into my laundry room flooded with water where it’s dribbling down the washer from the drum. Has anyone had this type of problem with their front load HE washer?

  43. We had a similar problem and found it to be the water inlet valve. Here is an excerpt from a DIY website:
    The Water Inlet Valve on your washing machine is used to fill the tub with cold, warm or hot water for the wash and rinse cycles. The valve is operated by electric solenoids that are controlled by the timer or electronic control board and the water level control/water level selector switch or pressure switch. If your washer continues to fill during a cycle, the water inlet valve could be at fault. To verify that the valve is at fault, unplug the washer when the symptom occurs. If the washer continues to fill, then the water inlet valve is defective. If the washer stops filling, then the problem is related to the electrical circuit that controls the valve.
    Hope this helps.

  44. Front load washers are great. From day 1 never ever use liquid detergent and never ever ever use liquid fabric softener. Both have surfactants(animal fats ie:chicken grease) and build up in the machine. That in combination to leaving doors shut. Go on you tube and follow the directions on how to make powder laundry detergent. I am by no means an advocate for any website I just happen to find this website useful and made it myself and it works great. I have a whirlpool duet and use this with vinegar as fabric softener. I put 1-2 tbsp. of the laundry det in the drum and add a capful of downy unstopabbles for yummy smell. then add vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser. add clothes and turn on machine. Once load is done I wipe inside the seal with a small dry washcloth and leave door open. Now if you have inherited a machine from someone who hadn’t taken those steps you need to thoroughly clean out the machine. pull it out, take off hose and clean that out. then I recommend using blech in fab sft dispenser and in bleach dispenser as manual says for cleaning cycle and hot water. do that and its supposed to sanitize the machine. Ypu want all your ducks in line so you don’t forget to clean everything. I was a big fan of fab softener b/c I love soft yummy smelling laundry. I use the unstopables. they don’t seem to leave a residue. and I use vinegar as a rinse EVERY TIME. hope this helps.

  45. I need to know how to clean out my softner whole in my he washer (front loader)?

  46. I am new to the HE front load washing machine. I purchased mine used. The seller was moving and sold both for $300! I am so glad that I have found this forum. I had NO IDEA that a washing machine needed to be “washed”! Really?? So I guess the good old days of just washing a load and going about your business is gone. I have spent two days cleaning all the suggested areas in the post, and found mildew and gook in all of them. I think now everything is nice and clean. The only thing I am concerned with is some of the areas still have the mildew stains that won’t go anywhere. I’ve used baking soda and vinegar mixture, and have also run clorox in a separate cycle and the mildew stain is still there. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  47. U.S. Marine invents device to eliminate front load washer woes
    Laundry Lasso is the only to keep your door open and out of the way, preventing mold, mildew, and odors.
    Universal, fully adjustable and won’t damage your machine.

  48. I’ve an electrolux front load washer. The dispenser drawer is full of water after each wash. I didn’t know about using powdered detergent until I came across this site (thank you!), so have been using he liquid detergent since we purchased this washer 8 years ago. What do I need to to do to stop the dispenser drawer from filling up w/water? Thank you so much! Love all the tips—some that I’ve been utilizing & some that I shall start ASAP.

  49. If you would like to get a great deal from this post
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  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. […]

  4. […] you are already stuck with a funky washer, follow these tips for cleaning it out and eliminate any odors. Be sure to read the comments because my readers have a bunch of tips to help keep your washer […]

  5. […] while for daily loads it is just fine and yes I do clean the gasket  and all the other things you are suppose to do the fact is that even though they have the room to […]

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