How to Clean Front Load Washer

January 15, 2015 by Jenny Melrose
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Do you have a front load washer or know someone that does?  Have you noticed something about your washer yet?  Might it be that your washing machine isn’t all that clean?  I have a sneaking suspicious that you’re most likely thinking, “How did she know that?”  Don’t bow your head in shame.  I know because I was there and I couldn’t believe that my washing machine that cost more 1k dollars was making my clothes begin to have a mildew smell.  Gasp!  I admitted it.  Don’t worry though. I’m going to show you how to clean your front load washer like it’s your job.

How to Clean Front Load Washer

How to Clean Front Load Washer

Before I continue, I’m warning you that these pictures are not pretty.  I did not dump pond water into my washing machine prior to taking these pictures and neither my husband or I has our clothes smothered in muck that then get put into our machine.  This is the bottom of the machine from having a family of four clothes washed in it.  The issue is that I can’t keep my washing machine door open because it is in a closet and just not viable to have the doors open long enough to have the inside air dry.

front load washer grime

Consequently, mildew has grown on the inside of my machine.  Our front loader is a year and half old so you’re not looking at a machine that has sat around for ten years.  This baby is still under warranty!  I had tried everything to get it clean.  The repair man recommended Affresh tablets, which I found did little to nothing to help with the problem.  Luckily, I have found the solution and it’s easy to fix.  {No.  It’s not buy a new washer}.

front load washer side grime

All you need is a cup of distilled white vinegar and Melaleuca Essential Oil {otherwise known as tree tea oil}.  We love our Young Living Essential Oils because we know that the oil has been extracted to remain at it’s purest form so the potency is strong enough to have an effect.  Be sure to scroll down to check out the amazing deal that we’re promoting for the month of March on the  Young Living Premium Starter Kit.   You’ll need to pour one cup of vinegar with 5-6 drops of the Melaleuca into the compartment for detergent and then run your machine on it’s regular cycle.

front load washer cleaning ingredients

Once the cycle is complete comes the part where you will need to use a little elbow grease.  Luckily, if you use an EnviroCloth like I did then you’ll benefit from the microfiber cloths that contain a micro silver antibacterial agent and it will cut the cleaning in half.   I used a Pedicure Nail Brush {affiliate link} to really scrub off any of the mildew and get into those hard to reach spaces.  You’ll need to be sure to pull back the rubber of the drum like you saw me do above to really get into it.  Be sure to scrub in every crevice and don’t be afraid that you’re going to break it.  The rubber will stay attached and you should be able to get the length and width of the brush into the crevices to clean it.

front load washer cleaning brush

Not only was our machine shinier and cleaner, but it smelled amazing.  There was no more of that mildew smell.

front load washer clean

Now I don’t need to worry about our clothes having that funky smell to them anymore.

front load washer side clean

The difference is in the pudding.  Just look at how much better it visually looks!

front load washer before and after

In order to maintain this, I’ve been drying the drum of my washer off after every use.  I certainly do not want to have to do the deep cleaning that I did last time so I’m making sure to maintain it.

front load washer side before and after

Essential Oils Freebie

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Check out all the details on our essential oils information page.  These are the oils we use and love!

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    Comments

  • Jan Blair


    I have been told that vinegar is not good for the rubber gaskets inside your machine. It dries them which then causes bigger problems and if I am not mistaken may void your warranty.

    • Jenny Melrose


      Thanks so much for the information. I was told that Vinegar is safe for natural rubber seals and parts constructed from ethylene-propylene, silicone, fluorocarbon, virgin Teflon and butyl synthetic rubber seals. It is a non-toxic product that is biodegradable and safe to use.

      • Lurley Dean


        I use white vinegar instead of fabric softener in my washer. My clothes are whiter and brighter (even older ones) and the vinegar keeps my washer and dryer smelling clean. I don’t use fabric softener in the dryer either as softener coats the fibers and ruins the absorption of material. Many, many good uses for white vinegar!!

  • Kristen Lunsford


    Holy cow girlfriend that’s awesome!! Love the use of an essential oil and vinegar always makes stuff so clean!! Thanks for the tips and the washer looks great!

    • Jenny


      Thanks so much! Plus it smells pretty like a washer should!

  • Lily


    Any substitutes for essential oil?

    • Flavia


      if you don’t want to use essential oils, just leave that part out. They are very caustic and can cause the rubber gasket to grow weak.

  • Paula


    You can also buy a new rubber ring for the inside. My husband did and replaced it himself in about 20 minutes. Cost was under $30 too.

    • Berny


      Really?? Where did you get the new rubber seal? I would really love to get one as mine is actually stained black from mould 🙁 I have one of the first Maytag front loads sold in Canada and it is 13 years old.

  • CLAUDEAN


    I figured out that I did not want any front loader in my house the first month I had the machine. I sent it back. It started smelling right away of mold and mildew and started building up under the rubber. These machines are not worth the effort you have to put out to maintain them. I say good riddance. I bought a very simple washer and dryer that does a great job and it cost me $2000.00 less. I’ll never consider a front loader again!!!!

  • Jenni


    Best preventative? Never close door while not in use. It well air out naturally. 🙂

  • Jenni


    Best preventative? Never close door while not in use. It will air out naturally. 🙂

  • Jenni


    Best preventative? Never close door while not in use. It will air out naturally. 🙂 We bought our set used and this advice from the previous owners proved to be excellent. We’ve had them almost five years and no mildew at all…and we live in the wet northwest 🙂

    • Jenny Melrose


      I wish I could do that. Unfortunately, our washer is in a closet where if you kept the door open it would take over part of the hallway and with two young girls running around that’s just not possible.

      • Skip


        just open a crack, just to let air in.

      • Sandy


        i just close ours with out latching it. you don’t need to leave it wide open. As long as air can get in, is all you need. We’ve had our front loader for 3 years, I’ve also religiously used Affresh every month (my washer reminds me when it’s time to clean). Before I start the cleaning cycle with the Affresh tablet, I take a damp rag, or wet wipe and wipe down the door and front of the washer as well, and it basically looks as good as it did the day we got it.

  • Happyhouse


    Here in England most households have front loaders. Best thing to do is keep a cloth/towel nearby and dry the rubber seal off after a wash. Only takes seconds and prevention is better than cure!

  • Mandie Gillmor


    Thanks for posting this, it’s definitely an alternative to running the “clean washing machine” cycle for over an hour.
    I just posted a piece on how to clean your washing machine filter, I actually didn’t realize it was part of the maintenance!
    http://hellohomemaking.com/washing-machine-filter-cleaning/

    • Nelly


      Where is the filter on a front loader?

  • Carrie


    Using Melaleuca, Inc natural and powerful laundry and cleaning products, wiping it all out every so often, and leaving the door open between uses, has kept my front load in good shape.

  • michelle


    even better, cut back on the amount of soap and softener you are using in your wash. we went to making our own laundry detergents, have had the same front loaders since 2001, and have no problem with mildew, once we learned the main culprit is overuse of detergents, and the animal fats in the detergents.

    • Chris


      This. I also have stopped using fabric softeners completely and frankly my clothes & towels are better off for it, With microfibre cloths or reusable mop cloths (like the rubbermaid variety) you can’t use fabric softener or it will ruin them.

      I have a pet peeve against fabric softeners lol.

  • Harriet


    I leave my door and the detergent tray open as much as possible. However, a couple of months ago I needed to completely take out the detergent tray. The amount of black mold/mildew lining the underside of the tray was horrifying. Check that and I bet you will be horrified too. It’s not just the inside of the washer that holds the mildew.

  • Cooper'sMum


    I also have a family of 4 and have a front load washer in a closet as well (2 years now). I leave the washer door open while the clothes are in the dryer (to air dry) – and shut everything once the dryer is stopped and have NEVER had any issue with funky smell or mildew. Leaving the closet / washer door open for an hour blocks off the entrance to hall bathroom but we have learned to live with it – and really…. The queen isn’t visiting, I am not entertaining guests on laundry day.

  • Arkie Girl


    I always take the detergent/bleach/softener tray out so It can let air in after using and place a hand towel over the door and never had any bad smell. This only allows the door to be open about 1/2 inch. Also I always wipe the seal and the door down when I am done washing.

  • natasha


    I clean ours often….but never tried vinegar…gonna try!! I NY forget about detergent tray and also where the water comes from to fill waser….it gets really funky.

  • Liz


    I’ve been told that washing under 60 degrees combined with the washing powders are part of the problem. The cooler washes don’t kill the bacteria and the biological powders/detergents work with the bacteria and mould grows. It affects the inside of the machine as well as the door seal and detergent drawer.
    I like this idea and will give it a go as I’ve also got an 18 month old front loader with the same mould issues.
    Thanks for the tip.

  • Michelle


    Today … you win the Internet! 🙂

    My front loader is fairly old and the machine has recently started giving the clothes a ‘smell’.
    I can’t afford a new machine as yet, and so did a thorough clean as per your instructions. (Oh my … the gunk that came out of it!) Anyhow, am very happy to report that the machine has a new lease of life and the clothes smell wonderful!

    Thank you so much. x

  • david hill


    Such a deyailed discussion. I never learned so much! You guys should sort out our politics.

  • Brown


    TV Handyman show had an appliance repair guy on and his advice, only use 1 T of liquid detergent per load, all that is needed and reduce softeners. These are the main culprits. Keep the door open if you can or dry as much as possible with fan/towel whatever and leave open a crack if you have it in a closet.

    I only use white sheets, towels etc. and wash these only on hot with a tsp of bleach. I start washday with this load and keep the door open when done. Haven’t had problems since. Try it!

  • Carey


    Question–do you have tips for cleaning out the detergent and fabric softener “drawer?” Mine gets mold there too and isn’t easy to clean. Is it removable? I’m afraid to break mine, with four kids that would be a death sentence.

  • Keisha


    We have this foam object that we bought for our toddler that keeps a door from slamming. I use this to keep the washing machine lid from shutting so it doesn’t get as moldy.

  • GraceM


    To keep the smell out, we wipe out the drum and rubber insert after the laundry is done. Because we can’t leave my door open as it blocks passage, my husband cut a wire hanger and cut it long enough to hook each end onto washer and dryer door, we then can prop open the washer just enough for it to air out. We haBe done this for the past 3years and still no smell! Oh by the way, did you know using liquid softer in the wash will make your towels smell bad -use backing soda instead to keep a fresher smell.

  • anisa


    Thanks for your tips, its realy usefull

  • anisa


    Hope for the best

  • Holly


    I add a drop or two of tea tree oil to every load. My clothes come out smelling nice and clean and even if I forget them overnight or a day they don’t get that funky smell.

  • Claudia


    The post is great! I am ready to clean my machine now! Seems so easy! Thanks for the tips and wish me luck! Greets, Millwall Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  • mizaree


    after each washing I dry door and gasket and inside under the gasket keeps it clean and from rusting leave the door ajar.

  • krystalee


    Would it make a difference if I used regular white vinegar instead of distilled I cant seem to find any at my local grocery store

    • Brandy


      White vinegar is distilled vinegar.

  • Anne Kennon


    any tips on cleaning the detergent/fabric softener tray? That’s where we have the biggest problem….and yes, it’s beyond disgusting.

    • Jenny Melrose


      I get in there with a baby bottle brush. The teeny tiny kind that is meant for the parts of a breast pump or the nipples on a bottle.

  • Susan


    Hi, I use a plastic moisture capturer (the ones you buy in hardware stores for caravans), after my washes to get the last of the moisture out. Works for me.

  • Yasmin


    Really good idea to clean the front load washer… I usually don’t clean it… in fact I have never cleaned it before…just because I don’t know that it I love to use white vinegar and essential oils for cleaning at home! Thank you for the post!

  • Ed


    We like our front loader. It is gentler on clothes since it does not use an agitator. It uses far less water than a conventional washer. It also uses less energy for drying since it extracts so well. Since it only goes in one direction it does not require a heavy transmission to make it agitate back and forth. Commercial washers are frequently front loaders because they last longer, clean better and can hold more per unit volume.

    One pitfall is that an amount of water remains in the sump following the wash. We have found that the last load is for whites and we use a little chlorine bleach in that load. That leaves a little residual chlorine in the sump and seems to prevent the odor problems. Regular cleaning of the front rubber seal is important since it is out of the spray and cleaning area of the washer. As such, some of the dirt and soap residue will remain in the creases. That needs to be cleaned out regularly (probably once a month) to keep things clean. We also leave our door slightly ajar in our washroom.

    As an aside, if you leave shampoo or bath soap on your shower curtain soap scum forms and can also produce mildew. The soap becomes a nutrient for the mold. So always rinse off any soap that gets on your shower curtain. It will stay clean much longer. I also tend to squeegee it and the walls after each shower. That keeps soap scum and mineral scale off the metal fixtures, suppresses and mildew and mold growth on the caulk and is easier on air conditioning because most of the water goes down the drain instead of evaporating into the air.

  • Beezee72


    All you need to do with that bottom gasket is take a dry towel or
    paper towel and soak up the water that accumulated there. Have had my front loader 7- 1/2 years and no mildew ever.

  • Barb Drenth


    be careful with Tea Tree Oil. Many people are sensitive to it, like myself. Be sure to test to make sure you are not one of the unlucky ones before using.

  • Christina


    Don’t forget to clean out the soap dispenser tray too! If you can’t leave it open after every wash, pull the whole thing out to let it air dry. Clove oil is also supposed to work well on mold and it smells a lot better than tea tree oil. Another product that can help a lot is a desiccant like Damp-Rid. You can get it in a tub and just place it inside your washer between loads.

  • Maile


    Any suggestions for cleaning the dryer? Mine has started to have a bit of a smell to it that i feel is being dried into all my clothes. To me it seems like a sweat smell. Not B.O., just sweat.

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    Yes! Finally something about wrenches properly.

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