It’s been a decade since we bought our front-loading HE washer and I’ve managed to keep it smelling clean for 10 years! With just three simple steps, you too can banish the funky, mildew, and moldy smelling clothes washer. Here’s How to Keep Your HE Clothes Washer and Laundry Smelling Clean!

How to Keep Your HE Clothes Washer Smelling Clean

How to Keep Your HE Clothes Washer Mold Free for 10+ Years

We all know the HE (High Efficiency) washer uses a lot less water than the old top load clothes washers. And, they cut down on drying times with a super spin cycle that leaves clothes damp not wet. With all those positives, you’d think everyone would be clamoring for an HE washer. Unfortunately, HE washers can start to stink if they grow mold or mildew inside. What would you say if I told you that after 10 years I’ve cleaned the inside of my clothes washer twice? It’s true, the only times I had to clean it was once when the washer sat in our garage for over a month closed up during renovations. And the second time is when we had a house guest who didn’t know to do three things to keep the washer clean and smelling fresh.

Do These 3 Things After Every Load of Laundry:

  • Wipe out the gasket
  • Leave door open to dry
  • Open detergent drawer (or remove to let it drip 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.

he washer freshness cleaning window

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 toward you to wipe inside and behind the gasket. Wipe especially well around the drain holes at the bottom.

washing machine clean upkeep rubber seals

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.

he washer airing out to keep clean

4. Open or remove the detergent drawer to allow it to air out.

Pulling Out detergent drawer on clothes washer

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.)

he washer mildew cleaning bleach, toothbrush and container

Mix a small amount of bleach and water in a container. Dip an old scrub brush or old toothbrush into the mixture. Scrub mildew spots with the brush. 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 cleaning using old toothbrush

Smelly Washer:

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

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 using too much 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). You can also try this Smelly Towel Cleaner (affiliate link) additive to your laundry, that I use when our towels start to get a little funky (especially the dog towels.) It helps get the odor out.

Remember: Never use more detergent than is called for (even if the item you are laundering looks like this jacket.)

super dirty jacket. Clean clothes in he washing machine tips

Speaking of dirty clothes. I must share this hands down BEST Stain Remover recipe with you:

Miracle Stain Remover

I’d love to hear if these tips helped Keep your HE Clothes Washer and Laundry Smelling Clean!

he washing machine cleaning pretty handy girl

Like this post? You’ll definitely want to learn how to prevent dryer fires:

prevent fires replace dryer hose

And don’t miss How to Clean Out Your Dryer Ducts to Prevent Fires.

how to clean out your dryer ducts


129 replies
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  1. Linda
    Linda says:

    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?

  2. Autumn
    Autumn says:

    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.

  3. Julie Irato
    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?

  4. Kat
    Kat says:

    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.

  5. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    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!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      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.

  6. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    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!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      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.

  7. Melanie Benjamin
    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?

  8. Karen
    Karen says:

    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.

  9. heidi
    heidi says:

    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!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      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.

      • Heidi
        Heidi says:

        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

      • Brittany Bailey
        Brittany Bailey says:

        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.

  10. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    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?

    • Danielle at Washer Central
      Danielle at Washer Central says:


      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 🙂

  11. Nikki F.
    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.
      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.

      • Clare
        Clare says:

        I have a kenmore elite front loader and just noticed it has mold in the gasket and bottom of the door. I am sensitive to mold and afraid it may be in the clothes I washed even though they do not smell. Help!

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      You are absolutely correct!! I have been told this many times and we only use powder detergent. Also you don’t need to use as much as you think, a couple tablespoons goes a long way. The liquid gets stuck up and causes the smells.

  12. ANNA LEE
    ANNA LEE says:

    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.

  13. Ginger
    Ginger says:

    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!

  14. KellyStewart
    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!!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] 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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