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I have seen so many people in this group state that their front loading washers had a horrible smell. This could be why! Here is a great site with instructions on how to keep your HE machine clean to prevent the foul smell.
1. Every time you finish your load, wipe down the water and soak up any remaining water inside the gasket. Peel back the rubber door seal, and clean in there. You’ll notice little grooves. Water sits here, and with collected dust and lint from the clothes, the gunk just accumulates into a sludge that stinks. Wrap your finger with a paper towel, stick in the grooves, and spin the washer slowly. You’ll notice there are draining holes. Clean the holes well. Call me Type ‘A’ but I use Q-tips to clean out the draining holes and an old tooth brush to scrub any stains stuck to the gasket. You only need a little bit of mold spores for them to grow exponentially. Don’t take a chance.
2. Unload the finished load immediately. Do not let the wet clothes sit in the machine for obvious reasons. If you can’t take them out in a timely manner, use the delay washing feature and time the finishing time when you can take them out right away.
3. Leave the door open when not in use to allow the water and moisture to evaporate and not stay inside stagnantly. Be careful with this if you have young children or pets; cats love to crawl inside crevices and this can be a perfect spot for catnaps. Actually, they recommend leaving the lids open for top loaders for same reasons too.
4. Run a HOT cleaning cycle with an empty washer at least once a week. The frequency depends on how many loads of washes you do but in general, once a week of a quick cleaning should be sufficient. I use 50/50 vinegar/water solution to wipe the gasket clean. Don’t forget to clean the inside rim of the glass door as well as the glass.
5. Once a month, I add a cup of Distilled White Vinegar and a cup of baking soda during the HOT cleaning cycle. I pour them directly into the drum. Then, I add about ½ cup of vinegar and ½ cup of baking soda into the detergent dispenser. This might sound like overkill but I do a lot of loads of laundry because my kids are involved with sports. So, all the grime and dirt that come along with sports uniforms, require more washes, which translates to more frequent cleaning for me. I don’t have a “Cleaning Cycle” as some machines do so I set the wash on “Quick Wash” with HOT water and High Spin Cycle.
6. If the mold situation is really bad, you may need to use bleach instead of vinegar and baking soda. But make sure you run a few empty cycles just with hot water before doing a load of wash. Otherwise, you may end up with tie dyed shirts.
7. Use High Efficiency detergents. (SEE THE UPDATE BELOW) If the detergent is concentrated, use half as much. HE detergents produce less suds and has less fragrance than regular detergents. The volume of suds produced by regular detergents acts like sludge to water draining out of the tub. Also, their fragrances mix with the mildew-y water produce even worse smell. That goes for the fragrant fabric softeners. The chemicals in the slimy thick fabric softeners, even the eco-friendly ones like the ones my husband brought home, are guilty of contributing to the foul smelling sludge. Use eco-friendly dryer sheets or dryer sachets instead.
8. Clean the detergent compartment drawer. You can easily take the drawer out – read the machine’s manual – and clean the soap, bleach, and fabric softener compartments. Soak it in warm water with dishwashing liquid or vinegar/baking soda mix. Use an old tooth brush if you have to.
9. Finally, clean the drain pump filter. This should be done about every two weeks. If the drain pump filter gets clogged with debris, the water flow will slow down, and fill up with stinky water over time. Old water that didn’t drain sits here, as does lint and other odd items. The drain pump filter is usually located at the front bottom of the washer. Refer to your washer manual as different machines have different instructions but the bottom line is that it needs to be cleaned out so that water doesn’t sit in the pump.
Like any other mechanical appliances, you have to maintain your washing machine in order for it to perform correctly and efficiently. Yes, it’s a hassle but why should washing machines be any different from, say, your car or even our bodies? If you maintain your washer this way, it will last a very long time and save you money in the long run.
I didn’t have to try any special products to keep the machine from smelling after following above steps but there are products like Affresh HE Cleanser that you can use to clean if the situation is beyond vinegar or bleach.
[March, 2012 UPDATE] – I noticed that since I’ve been using this homemade powder laundry detergent, my washing machine does not get mildew-y as fast. I read that liquid detergent coats the surface and makes it attract more lint and mildew. May be that’s the reason but since I’ve been using the powder detergent, my washing machine hasn’t been as dirty or mildew-y. More reason why I love my homemade powder detergent formula!
Dryers are not that different from washers. You have to maintain them to be energy efficient. You have to clean the lint filter screen each time you put in a new load. The machine will not be “energy efficient” if you have to run it more than once because the filter is clogged and can’t deliver the hot air to dry the clothes. Also, make sure the duct from the dryer to the outside vent is clear, without any obstructions and lint balls. It’s a fire hazard to have lint balls clogging the ducts but also, not energy efficient as clogged ducts make dryers work harder and lack of air circulation dries the clothes more slowly.
Finally, a particular dryer model doesn’t dry clothes any faster than another. How fast the dryer dries its clothes depends on, believe it or not, the washer. If the clothes that come out of the washer are bone dry, then, the clothes will dry faster in the dryer. So unless you have a delicate wash, in which case, it’s better to hang dry, set the spin cycle on HIGH so that the most of the water is extracted. The clothes will dry quicker in the dryer and not waste energy.
Hope that helps!