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. Beth Shay
    Beth Shay says:

    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!

      • Lesa
        Lesa says:

        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.

  2. Nikki
    Nikki says:

    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 🙂

  3. Lauren Coleman-Lochner
    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
    [email protected]

  4. Betty
    Betty says:

    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

  5. How to Rid your Front Washer of Mold
    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”.

  6. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    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!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      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.

  7. Claire B
    Claire B says:

    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!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      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.

  8. Saundra Wood
    Saundra Wood says:

    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.

  9. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    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

  10. Sylvia
    Sylvia says:

    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.

  11. Pam
    Pam says:

    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!

  12. Linda
    Linda says:

    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!


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  1. […] 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 […]

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