How to Deodorize a Front Load Washer

The front load washer has taken the laundry room by storm, offering large capacity and a door that closes with a lock. However, it can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew if not cleaned regularly. If you are noticing an unpleasant odor coming from your machine, follow these simple tips to banish the smelly washer once and for all.

The main culprits for a stinky washing machine are excessive detergent and fabric softener, plus a blocked air vent. Since front-load washers use less water than their top-loading counterparts, excess laundry products and soap scum build up more quickly than in traditional machines. This is because there isn’t enough water during a cycle to wash away all the detergent completely, causing it to stick and create gunky residue that encourages bacterial and fungal growth. The same is true of fabric softener and dryer sheets, which can trap body soil and cling to the interior of the washer.

To prevent this, always use the proper amount of HE detergent and fabric softener (or skip it entirely for vinegar). Use the largest available cycle with hot water and make sure to use the “clean tub” or maintenance or “clean washer” setting if your machine has one. After the cycle is complete, run a hot water rinse cycle with just the detergent dispenser tray and lid open to clean out any leftover liquids or residue.

It’s also important to wipe down the detergent dispenser tray, lid and gasket, as well as any exposed piping or wires, with a lint-free cloth and all-purpose cleaner between loads. You should also make sure that the rubber door seal is not blocked, as this can allow moisture and odors to enter the drum.

If your washer still smells despite following the above steps, try running an empty laundry cycle with 2 cups of liquid chlorine bleach to sanitize and disinfect it. Be sure to use rubber gloves and a well-ventilated area to do this. You may want to pause the cycle halfway through and let the bleach soak for an hour or so, then finish the laundry cycle with hot water.

Once you have removed the bleach and allowed the wash cycle to complete, leave the door open overnight so that the residual chlorine and sanitation agent can evaporate and dissipate. Once the odor has dissipated, you can close and re-use your washer.

Finally, to keep your washing machine fresh and smelling great, add a couple of teaspoons of baking soda to the washing machine before every load. This will help keep the machine free of odors and mildew, while also absorbing any stains from the clothes being washed. You can also add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the wash cycle, along with the liquid fabric softener dispenser tray or washing machine tub, for extra cleaning power. This is an especially good idea if you’ve used fabric softener and laundry powder with bleach, as these can leave behind an unpleasant, sticky residue.