Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Remove Mold and Mildew from Front-Load Washing Machines

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front-load washing machine

Front-load washing machines are notorious for collecting mold.

I’ve had my front-loading washing machine for about four years, and it has some great advantages – it’s quiet, fast, uses less water and detergent, and gently tumbles (rather than yanking) my clothes. In general, I’ve been so pleased with it that I was shocked one day when I opened the door and was nearly knocked unconscious by a fetid blast of moldy-smelling air!

How could a machine that’s so wonderful, suddenly turn so horribly smelly?

Looking behind the gasket in a front-loading washing machine

Gaskets hold moisture.

The answer is in the way the machine is designed. Front-loading washing machines have watertight, airtight doors that seal with a rubber gasket. That rubber seal traps moisture in the machine and also provides the perfect nooks and crannies for mold and mildew to grow.

Top-loading washing machines, on the other hand, have a rather loose fitting metal door that easily allows the tank to dry out between loads.

The problem isn’t helped by our laundry preferences. High sudsing detergents and liquid fabric softeners leave behind residues and films that invite mold growth. Cold-water cycles and mild, eco-friendly detergents don’t quite blast away residues like their environmentally-unfriendly counterparts.

So, to keep mold at bay, front-load washers need just a bit more maintenance than top-loading machines.

How to Get Rid of Mold and Smells in Top-Load Washers

If you’ve got a stinky front-load washing machine, here’s how to get it smelling fresh again:

    Cleaning gasket on front-load washing machine

    Cleaning gasket on washer.

  • Clean Gasket: Use a rag or towel to clean the rubber door gasket on a front-loading washer with either hot soapy water or a spritz of mildew cleaner. Make sure to wipe underneath and around it as well. Be prepared for some slime and gunk, and possibly a stray sock or two!
  • Clean Dispensers: Remove the detergent dispensers and give them a good scrubbing. If they don’t come out, clean them as best you can, using a bottle or pipe cleaner to reach back into the crevices.
  • Run Cleaning Cycle: Next, run an empty wash cycle on the longest, hottest water setting (or a tub-cleaning cycle, if you have it). Add one of the following directly to the wash tub:
    • 1 cup of bleach.
    • 1 cup of baking soda.
    • 1/2 cup of powdered enzymatic dishwasher detergent (such as Cascade Complete).
    • A commercial residue-busting washer cleaner (such as Affresh or Smelly Washer).
    Affresh commercial cleaning pellets

    Commercial cleaning pellets.

  • Repeat Cleaning Cycle: If the problem persists, repeat the cleaning cycle and consider trying a different additive. It might take several cycles to get the smell out.
  • Professional Help: If you’ve tried every way to clean your front-load washer and it still smells, you may have mold growing back behind the drum, or possibly a clogged drain or filter. A qualified repair person can dismantle the machine and clean it for you, or you can unplug the machine and carefully explore and clean it yourself.

Preventative Maintenance

Once your machine is clean, follow these tips to keep it that way:

    Washer door left open to allow tub to dry

    Allow washer tub to dry.

  • Air It Out: If possible, leave the door of the front-load washer cracked open to allow it to dry thoroughly between cycles. However, you shouldn’t do this if you have children or pets who could be tempted to climb (and possibly become trapped) inside the machine.
  • Remove Loads Promptly: Be sure to remove wet clothes as soon as the cycle is finished. Set your washer to beep when it’s done, so you don’t forget.
  • Choose Detergent Wisely: Choose low-sudsing detergents specifically made for high-efficiency (HE) machines. When possible, choose powder over liquid; liquid detergents are usually higher in suds.
  • Washer dispensers

    Clean washer dispensers.

  • Use Less Detergent: Read the labels and use no more than the amount recommended for each load. Experiment with using less detergent, until you find the minimum amount necessary (sometimes just a spoonful) to get your clothes clean.
  • Avoid Fabric Softener: Liquid fabric softeners leave residue that contributes to mold in front-load washers. Instead, use dryer sheets or dryer balls to soften your clothes.
  • Dry Gaskets: Use an old towel to wipe around and underneath the door gaskets and the inside of the door on front-loading washers. Ideally, you should so this after every cycle, but at the very least it needs a periodic wipe down to remove any water or mildew trapped in the folds.
  • Use Bleach: About once a month, run a hot water bleach cycle. I usually take the opportunity to throw in work towels, fabric shower curtains, and muddy gardening clothes, along with that nasty gasket-cleaning towel.
Cycle controls on front-load washers

Occasionally use the Sanitize or Tub-Cleaning Cycle on front-load washers.



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34 Comments on “How to Remove Mold and Mildew from Front-Load Washing Machines”

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  1. Helen Says:
    April 3rd, 2012 at 9:52 am

    How do you get black mould off the rubber gasket around the door of my front loading LG washer without using bleach or harsh chemicals. When I called about replacing the rubber around the door, I was told it would be $150. My machine is only 3 years old and I don’t want to spend that kind of money on it.

  2. Pat Says:
    May 12th, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Danny i have had front loader Simpson Esprit for 9 years i clean out every use leave it open it has grey rubber i used scalexe on vingare once a month but i still black moulds i am port lincoln South Aust could you suggest what i could do
    thankyou pat

  3. Gene Says:
    June 10th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Helen: you can’t really remove the black mould off the rubber gasket and restore the surface to its original quality, but you can kill the mould and bleach it, so it is no longer visible. Then, if you follow Danny’s advice, it will not grow again.

    Here’s how I do it. Tear a paper towel into several strips 2-3 inches wide. Pad all cavities in the gasket with those paper strips. Set a few strips aside, long enough, in total, to cover the straight cylindrical section of the gasket (where you see most of the mould). Put your latex gloves on (I do it with bare hands, but I am thick-skinned) and soak the paper in liquid bleach. The best kind to use is the gel bleach (known as “thick bleach” here in England). Then paste the strips onto the gasket and run your finger over them gently, chasing the bubbles out. Make sure the affected area is completely covered. Then squeeze the bleach out of the bottle onto the wadding you stuffed into the cavities earlier, spread it and massage it in, making sure the paper is completely soaked with no bubbles underneath.

    You may want to shut the door and leave it for several hours to a day. Be careful not to displace the wadding when shutting the door; if that proves difficult, leave it open, but then make sure there is enough ventilation in room during the first couple hours, when the bleach is most active.

    When you think it’s done (or when you’ve lost patience), collect the wadding in a plastic bag and dispose of it along with your regular, non-recyclable waste. Make sure no paper is left in the gasket or falls behind the drum. Most paper towels will turn into a soft pulp by the end of this procedure, but some are tough enough to withstand it and may clog important orifices in your washing machine (although that is very unlikely, better be careful).

    If any spots remain, repeat by applying the bleach-soaked paper just to those spots. I use the same procedure for cleaning the caulk around my tub and inside the shower cabin, where it usually takes much less time (from several minutes to a couple hours)

  4. Sylvia Says:
    February 6th, 2013 at 11:32 am

    I just bought a used Tromm from my sister. It was caked with mildew on the inner wall of the rubber gasket. The gasket has a large outer vestibule and a very tight inner one. I used hot water, dawn, bleach and a rough towel plus an old toothbrush to get 3 years of build up off of it. It took two cleanings with 24 hours and an open door between cleanings to get most of the gunk off. I also had to pull out the detergent compartment and scrub the inside that it slides into. It needs small hands. I was surprised that there was mold there also. I finished off with a hot water bleach cycle. Let it dry over night (door open) and then did a cascade wash. The smell is lingering, but I’ll probably continue to do empty cleaning cycles once a week until it’s normal again.

  5. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 6th, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Hi Sylvia,
    Thanks for sharing your cleaning method for moldy washers!

  6. Tif Says:
    June 18th, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Hi I have this exact model washing machine in the picture but my spin cycle isn’t working. I am trying to find the exact model number so I can get someone to fix it. Can you please tell me what model that is in the picture so I can try to get service for the washer? Also-thanks so much for the tips on cleaning because since I haven’t been using it there is def mold present.

  7. CorieSue Freeman Says:
    July 19th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I have a 5 year old Bosch Nexct 300 Series front loading washer. I have followed all directions since I bought it. I tried every cleaner I could find in grocery and department stores. The mold in the rubber remains and at times smells. Bosch gave me suggestions too but no luck. Am allergic to mold and can’t afford replacing the mschine.

  8. Richard Says:
    August 20th, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I have been cleaning my seal for several hours now trying to get a hold on this nasty stuff , still no luck I even took my seal off and let soak in bleach and scrubed with stiff brissel brush and still no luck, I think that all the distributors of these pieces of —– should be held liable and be forced to inform all future buyers of these problems.

  9. Marilyn Simpson Says:
    August 23rd, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I appreciate this info. My family had accused me of letting the clothes sit too long in my front-loading Amana washer because they had such a fowl odor. Now, I understand it was a mold problem. But to address the problem before I read this info today, I started using approximately 11/4 cup of baking soda and 11/2 cups of white vinegar with my detergent in each load. Now, the clothes FRESH.

    I am running a 75-minute hot water cycle with bleach right now, though, because I may still have a mold problem and not know it.

    Maybe this will help you, too.

  10. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    August 25th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Marilyn,
    Thanks for the suggestion and feedback!

  11. Jacqui Rogers Says:
    November 6th, 2013 at 11:37 am

    gr8 tips & id like 2 add that i also wipe the door with a dry handtowel (which i keep in the laundry)after every single wash & i use eucalyptus spray. eucalyptus oil is another option but the spray is easy. Exit mould is my best friend & once a week on cleaning days i like to squirt it through my front loader, 1/2 cup of gel bleach 2 the dispenser & do hot wash. small wire brush could be used on blackened mouldy rubber after spraying it with and leaving it for an hour with the exit mould

  12. STACY B Says:
    November 12th, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I BELIEVE MY WATER LINES OR SOMEWHERE IN WASHER IS CLOGGED WITH MUD, FROM A WASHLOAD THAT WAS QUITE MUDDY. NOW WASHER WILL NOT FILL WITH WATER NOR WILL IT DRAIN THE WATER THAT IS IN THE WASHER? HOW DO I FIX THIS PROBLEM?
    THANKS FOR ANY HELP WHATSOEVER……….

  13. Alison Says:
    December 3rd, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I just took the dispenser drawer out from my GE front loader and the whole inside of the washer was covered in black mold. We’ve been getting very itchy lately and tried changing detergents. I’m wondering if it’s the mold that is getting into my clothes! Very upset about this.

  14. Ian Says:
    January 7th, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    I was told by an expert in bio hazard abatement that bleach doesn’t kill mould. It’s a myth that it does. It will kill some of it but it mainly bleaches it. It will become visible again. He said his company uses hydrogen peroxide to kill mould. I have used it in my shower with great success. After reading many of the woes others have with their front loading washers, I think I’ll try cleaning with hydrogen peroxide and running a few cleaning cycles with it as well.

  15. Sara Says:
    January 10th, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Hi, I have just been cleaning the washing machine and realised the mould has built up inside the pipe of the dispenser (where the detergent goes through)I have run the self tub clean function using a washing machine cleaner twice(Dr beckmann service – it) but the mould is still there and I am having difficulty reaching the area with a cloth, so I have tried scrubbing it with a toothbrush! How on earth do you clean the inside of the pipe without tearing the machine apart! If you can kindly suggest anything that I can do, is it worth calling someone out for a machine service? Thanks in advanced.

  16. Nora McKiddie Says:
    March 28th, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Pipe cleaners? A little fuzzy and bendable. If you could get longer ones would be good.

  17. Heidi Says:
    May 20th, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    I too have had my LG front loader for almost 5 years and now have black mold on the rubber gasket. I was hospitalized for a week and a friend forgot to take out a loss of delicates so I came home and opened the door to a nightmare! Brand new clothes that smelled up the whole house. I’m still in the prices of trying to clean up the mess 3 days later. I live in West Texas where the temps reached high 90′s the whole week the washer sat. I immediately ran the clean cycle twice with bleach but the gasket remains a problem. I’m going tho try the paper towels in strips with hydrogen peroxide or borax (I already tried bleach). And I’m going tho soak the delicates in vinegar and then wash with some of the ideas posted. Thank you all for helping me save about $300 worth of clothes.

  18. Louise Davies Says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I struggled to get rid of mold in my 12 year old Bosch front loader. I realized that the water is at a low level but the mold is at the higher level. I decided to forfeit a single blanket, stuffed it into my machine, added a cup of each: white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and bleach. As I realized that there must surely be a build up of soaps and softness, I added half a scoop of washing powder. I used the 90 degree C cycle. I had soap suds pouring out through the soap dispenser, but I cleaned up as it came out. The poor blanket was ruined, but the machine smelt fresh. Since then when I do a load of towels and whites, I add a cup of vinegar and half a cup of bicarbonate of soda, no more smelly clothes. As for the gasket, keep is DRY, leave the door open and REMOVE the soap dispenser completely after the washing is done. Never leave the wet washing in the machine, it will stink the next day. Darkness and moisture also plays a major role I believe in mold.
    My husband cleans our shower with Epsom salts mixed with a good quality dish washing liquid, using a pot scourer that comes with the sponge on the other side, we never have any mold and the shower cleans up beautifully in no time at all. The best we ever used.

  19. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    May 26th, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Louise,
    Thanks for the tips dealing with mold and mildew in a front-load washer and cleaning a shower!

  20. brent Says:
    May 28th, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Best way to prevent mold is to follow manufacturers instructions to the T. Dry the seal after each load, keep the door slightly ajar after washing, only use HE detergent, never overfill the detergent line. I’ve had my LG frontloader for 4 years and never had mold or smell problems.

    Many people dont realize that the suds from regular detergent fill up inside the seal which in turn causes soap residue and then mold. Using low suds HE detergent in recommended amounts is a MUST.

  21. MISS HELEN Says:
    May 30th, 2014 at 7:48 am

    I tried every comment on this website and the only thing that worked is the peroxide. I had black mold all over the rubber on the front loading door. Nothing took away the stain except straight peroxide. It is now completely gone. I put peroxide in the rubber well every time I do a load of white clothes so if it gets on the white clothes it won’t hurt them. Don’t get on colored clothes it will bleach them white. I also use on mildew in shower. it works great there too and it is so cheap to buy. This is a great website. Thank you.

  22. Gene Says:
    May 30th, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Louise, your advice sounds like shooting in the dark, making your successful outcome quite remarkable. Just the bleach or the bicarbonate of soda would have helped if you used either of them separately. By mixing them arbitrarily, you have simply wasted a significant amount of one or the other. Vinegar probably didn’t do anything (it can suppress growth during the time the mould is exposed to it, but it does not kill. And your blanket had no effect at all because it was confined to the drum. The mould grows on plastic and rubber surfaces outside the drum.

    Brent: Following manufacturers’ instructions will certainly help a lot of people, but there is no guarantee. Your outcome will depend on your environment as much or maybe more than on the procedure you use. I did not have any problems with any washing machine I happened to use for 30+ years (except for heating elements burning through in hard water) until one day I found mould clogging the pressure sensor tube in a new machine, causing the tank to overfill. I cleaned that tube and its fitting, but some weeks later it was fouled up and overfilling again. There was no trace of mould anywhere else in that machine. It was just that particular species of mould preferentially colonising that particular tube. The problem was resolved by putting in the tube made of a different material and with a wider i.d.

    A lot of our experience is not portable and there are no universally helpful instructions. The best portable advice is adapt as you go.

  23. Kisah Says:
    June 1st, 2014 at 9:37 am

    I’ve got a frigidare affinity front loader. I need help!!!!!! How do I get rid of mold on the rubber seal part. I’ve called sears and they told me straight bleach and run hot hot water cycle and then try afresh. What else does anyone recommend . Help appreciated. I’ve tried bleach three times. Nothing works

  24. David Says:
    June 1st, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I have a top loader washer that periodically has greenish leaf like debris in the washer. The washer appears to be on a properly installed drain system. We do use well water. Of course we are not putting clothes in the washer that have leaves, grass, etc. on the clothing before the wash cycle begins. Any ideas as to what might cause this greenish leave like debris and what help eliminate this problem.

  25. Patrick Says:
    June 2nd, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    There is a post suggesting mixing vinegar and bleach, note this creates a toxic gas harmful to the body. http://chemistry.about.com/od/toxicchemicals/a/Mixing-Bleach-And-Vinegar.htm

  26. Ed Says:
    June 10th, 2014 at 8:22 am

    HI guys,

    what works for me is: a cup of vinegar and a handful of rock salt and wash at hottest temperature. Rinse and dry. it cleans out the pipes and everything of the soapy stuff, next cycle i use pool shock cleaner and voila!

  27. Huetta Says:
    June 12th, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    For David with the green leafy matter in his washer: unscrew the filters in your faucets and see if you have matter in the screening. We have a well and had a problem with the filter on the washing machine clogging with dark matter. The well man said it was tree roots getting into the well and he had to blow out and empty our well and wait a few hours and then the water was fine. Roots from a long ago cut-down Elm tree worked their way into the well. This just might be your problem also.

  28. Donalda Annan Says:
    June 17th, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    hi i bought a second hand front loader and my washing was coming out clean but smelling awful after owning for over a year iv discovered the rubber is totally black due to bad hands i havent been able to move much and have tried use bleach a few times but to no avail. my hands are bad so i cant get down and really clean like i would like, i do take washing out straight away and leave door open after each wash. please could u help would be very appreciative…….buy a new machine not a possibility

  29. wayne Says:
    June 27th, 2014 at 5:56 am

    BAD SMELL GONE!!

    I had a really bad smell from our front loader. We washed our sheets the other day and they smelt so bad we couldn’t put them back on the bed!! We rewashed the sheets last night using the last bit of white vinegar we had in the bleach and liquid fabric softener dispensers along with detergent in the soap tray. We have fresh smelling sheets again…I’m off to the store this morning to buy more vinegar and I will run a wash cycle just on hot and fill vinegar in the bleach and softener trays with no laundry just to neutralize anything that is left. From now on, each load will have vinegar…its cheaper than fabric softener but softens the clothes just as well and also keeps the machine smelling clean.

  30. Jamie Elliott Says:
    July 9th, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    How do you clean the second drum under the visible drum after there has been mold in the washer?

  31. Teresa Says:
    July 10th, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I have a 7 year old Tromm front loader. Recently noticed the bad mold smell even after doing the tub clean. Researched the internet and found a great post where the appliance repairman suggested unscrewing the roller bars inside the drum and sliding them off. So, I used a phillips screwdriver and loosened the bar and removed them. What I found was both pieces coated with black, smelly gunk! I had to use my hand-held steamer on the attached bars and scrubbed the part of the bar that came off. I reattached them all, did a tub clean with cascade, and it has been a week and no smell!

    I have before and after pics but cannot figure out how to post them.

  32. Rita Says:
    July 24th, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I too have found black mold on the rubber seals of my front loading washer. This is most distressing. I recently (3 months ago) moved to a new location, close to a lake and the ocean. Mold is a terrible problem in this area. I am removing water from my shower, immediately, and repeatedly after each shower. I am hand drying all my dishes, immediately. I had left a towel under my dishes, on a wooden cutting board for a week or two, and it was covered with black mold, so I immediately threw them out, and I hand dry all dishes, pots and pans, etc. thoroughly. However, I had no idea that black mold could grow on rubber gaskets in the washing machine! I think the manufacturers bear much more responsibility for warning customers of this possibility, and making recommendations! My machine is only 3 months old, and I am very, very upset. All in my family have allergies, and asthma, and this is very disturbing and disconcerting. I’m angry and sad, and I hope we’ll be able to manage the problem, soon. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, but there is such a far range of possibilities, it’s hard to know which to try. I’ll probably try all of them.

  33. Gene Says:
    July 24th, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Rita,

    Before you blame manufacturers, here’s a bunch of facts/suggestions/questions to ask that might help you figure out your problem.

    1. Is anybody in your house verifiably allergic to mould? If so, what kind of mould? Is it the same kind as you see in your house (usually there is more than one kind in the same place).

    2. Allergies are tricky. Even though the mechanisms of immune reactions involved are reasonably well understood, usually there is a significant neurological component on top of that, which is mysterious and hard to control. For example, I am allergic to pollen; this type of allergy is seasonal and I only experience significant symptoms during a couple months each year. But I can also have a full-blown allergic reaction in winter, caused simply by viewing a convincing image of the weeds to whose pollen I am allergic. The symptoms are real, while the cause certainly is not. If you do have any elevated response to mould at home (compared to other environments), try to think of them as your friends, or at least as a curious subject of study, and see if that new mindset changes your response. Just the knowledge of the possibility of psychosomatic reactions may be enough to reduce their occurrence and impacts.

    3. Allergies are irritating, but seldom hazardous. Mould can be hazardous, although rarely, and even more rarely, the hazard will have anything to do with allergies or asthma. There are toxic or parasitic species of mould. In any case, it helps to know exactly what you’ve got and how it affects you, if it does. You can’t worry about everything.

    4. The mould of any kind requires two conditions for growth: an organic substrate and a 100% humidity. While you can’t eliminate the former, the latter is relatively easy to control. If you find mould everywhere in your house, it means you have problems with insulation, ventilation, or both. If the problem becomes worse in winter, there is hope that you can eliminate it by fixing insulation and ventilation and by properly heating your house. If it persists year-round, and your environment is likewise persistently humid, you may need a dehumidifier in every room, as well as a tight control of all sources of humidity (shower in a closed cabin with an extractor fan, boil your water under an extractor hood — not the phoney filter hood that is more common).

    5. Even in a dry house, there are always places with high humidity. Your washing machine is one such place, especially if you keep its door shut. It is not possible to evacuate all water from a washing machine without disassembling it. It will always have at least half-a-litre in it. The door gasket is one first things to get infested with mould because (1) it is made of a digestible organic material, and (2) liquid water gets trapped in its folds when you shut the door.

    6. Three months is not a long time. Generation time for most species of mould is several hours; some can double in less than an hour. Under favourable conditions, it only takes a few days for them to grow to a maximum density.

    7. Don’t try to “save energy” by doing cold wash. You are likely to spend more fixing problems resulting from doing so. Use the highest temperature that the fabric allows.

    8. It is possible to control mould with anti-fungal chemicals and oxidisers, but that is often like swimming upstream. Controlling the sources of moisture is an easier long-term solution.

    9. (a bonus item) Remember your troubles with mould when you hear people preach doom and rave about life being in a “delicate balance”, prone to destruction by one made-up hazard or another. Mould demonstrates that life is practically indestructible.

  34. Sherry Says:
    August 26th, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks for all the info, for the washer.. I also have a lint catcher on the washer one time couldn’t figure out why my washer wasn’t draining. I opened it up the lint trap n I had water all over the floor. We have 2 dogs 1 is a lab and when I wash the couch n chair covers it filled up the lint trap so now I check it 1-2 months.

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