How to Clean Front Load Washer

January 15, 2015 by Jenny Melrose

Last Updated on

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.

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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 without adding a ton of harmful chemicals into the machine.  We are doing our best to rid our house of harmful chemicals that are in everyday products.  You can join in our FREE 10 Day Chemical Freedom Challenge HERE.

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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79 thoughts on “How to Clean Front Load Washer

  1. Jan Blair says:

    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.

    1. 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.

      1. Lurley Dean says:

        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!!

        1. Barb says:

          I used to do home care for a lady that used vinegar in her wash it was amazing to me. But hey clothes looked great shop I started doing it… Fantastic

  2. 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!

    1. Jenny says:

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

  3. Lily says:

    Any substitutes for essential oil?

    1. Flavia says:

      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.

  4. Paula says:

    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.

    1. Berny says:

      Really?? Where did you get the new rubber seal? I would really love to get one as mine is actually stained black from mould ๐Ÿ™ I have one of the first Maytag front loads sold in Canada and it is 13 years old.

  5. CLAUDEAN says:

    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!!!!

  6. Jenni says:

    Best preventative? Never close door while not in use. It well air out naturally. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Jenni says:

    Best preventative? Never close door while not in use. It will air out naturally. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Jenni says:

    Best preventative? Never close door while not in use. It will air out naturally. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. 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.

      1. Skip says:

        just open a crack, just to let air in.

      2. Sandy says:

        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.

    2. Katz says:

      I always leave my door open and still have mold! Thanks for the cleaning tip. Iโ€™ll have to try it this week!

  9. Happyhouse says:

    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!

  10. 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!

    1. Nelly says:

      Where is the filter on a front loader?

  11. Carrie says:

    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.

  12. michelle says:

    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.

    1. Chris says:

      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.

  13. Harriet says:

    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.

  14. Cooper'sMum says:

    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.

  15. Arkie Girl says:

    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.

    1. I do the same. Although I have a dedicated laundry room, I make it a point to keep the washing machine ajar. I use a dishtowel draped over the door and it is enough to keep the air circulating. I too, clean out the rubber gasket after washing. I do not do it after every load, as I am a one day laundry person. When finished washing I clean out the gasket, wipe up any water or damp spots. I have never taken the soap dispenser out, but will be doing it tomorrow just to see what is lurking there. I don’t think when I replace this washer I will get another front loader. I am not impressed with them, and the whole door thing is a pain. I will keep the base units that I have. I will admit, I got them for a steal on a yard sale site. $70 for two of them. Now that was a bargain!

  16. natasha says:

    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.

  17. Liz says:

    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.

  18. Michelle says:

    Today … you win the Internet! ๐Ÿ™‚

    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

  19. david hill says:

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

  20. Brown says:

    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!

  21. Carey says:

    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.

  22. Keisha says:

    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.

  23. GraceM says:

    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.

  24. anisa says:

    Thanks for your tips, its realy usefull

  25. Holly says:

    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.

  26. Claudia says:

    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.

  27. mizaree says:

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

  28. krystalee says:

    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

    1. Brandy says:

      White vinegar is distilled vinegar.

  29. Anne Kennon says:

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

    1. 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.

  30. Susan says:

    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.

  31. Yasmin says:

    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!

  32. Ed says:

    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.

  33. Beezee72 says:

    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.

  34. Barb Drenth says:

    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.

  35. Christina says:

    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.

  36. Maile says:

    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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