How to Clean Your Front Loader Washing Machine


Did you know you needed to clean your washing machine? Well, we sure didn't-so embarrassing. We were noticing that our just-washed-laundry was smelling musty. We switched laundry detergent and that didn't help either. So when all else failed I looked at the owners manual to discover that we weren't properly maintaining our washer.
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
This is how much moisture there was 48 hours after doing a load of laundry. The high efficiency machines spin so much water out of the laundry that water sits inside the drum.
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
I pulled back the rubber seal inside the machine at the drum area...
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
...and found this MOLD! Yuck!!
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
I decided to give the entire washer a good cleaning.
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
I poured 2 cups of bleach into the dispenser...
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
And ran a cycle on "sanitize" which is our hottest cycle. Newer machines have a "clean" cycle.
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
Run another cycle using 2 cups of vinegar...
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
After you have done your laundry, be sure to leave your door ajar until it air dries.
how to clean washing machine sanitizing, appliances, cleaning tips
We are happy to say there is no long a stale, musty odor in our washing machine! Good Luck!

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Have a question about this project?

9 questions
  • Mary Coakley
    on Aug 7, 2016

    Can you use vinegar or is it too astringent? Thank you

    • Dixie Schulze
      on Aug 7, 2016

      Vinegar is a great cleaner and will not hurt your washer.

    • Karen V
      on Aug 7, 2016

      I also put a small towel or rag just under the rubber gasket to soak up any standing water

    • Magda Goossens
      on Aug 7, 2016

      I use vinegar instead of fabric softener: it is better for your machine (read above), it is better for your textiles! The colours are kept lively and the fabric stays stronger! Fabric softener bleeches away colours eventually. I don't use apple cider vinegar, but regular white vinegar - about 2 tbsp - and your wash stays vibrant, strong and smells fresh. Sorry for the people who don't like vinegar.

    • Mary Coakley
      on Aug 7, 2016

      Thanks ladies.

    • Linda Farnes
      on Aug 7, 2016

      VINEGAR us awesome ....much more environmentally friendly than bleach ....you may have gotten the same results with just vinegar alone .....I use WHITE vinegar fie everything from cleaning our hardwood floors to keeping miss at bay in our wet Northwest climate ! We buy 2-3 gallons at a time (Costco )

    • Linda Farnes
      on Aug 7, 2016

      VINEGAR us awesome ....much more environmentally friendly than bleach ....you may have gotten the same results with just vinegar alone .....I use WHITE vinegar fie everything from cleaning our hardwood floors to keeping miss at bay in our wet Northwest climate ! We buy 2-3 gallons at a time (Costco )

    • Julie
      on Aug 9, 2016

      I use white vinegar instead of laundry detergent on loads like towels, sheets, blankets and other loads that really don't need detergent. It is better for the clothes, and less expensive to use.

    • Mary Coakley
      on Aug 9, 2016

      Thank you for all your advice it helps a lot.

  • Fran Valone
    on Aug 7, 2016

    Does this process clean the gunk indie the rubber tubing?

    • Patti Blake
      on Aug 7, 2016

      you have to clean the gasket by hand

    • Matty watts
      on Aug 8, 2016

      I've had my front loader 3 yrs & have never had an Oder . But I clean it after my last load & never shut the door

    • Matty watts
      on Aug 8, 2016

      I've had my front loader 3 yrs & have never had an Oder . But I clean it after my last load & never shut the door

    • Fran Valone
      on Aug 8, 2016

      Any suggestions on how to remove black gunk? I've tried with products like Tilex but it's still there.

    • Kay
      on Aug 8, 2016

      After running a full hot cycle with bleach through the dispenser, try leaving a soaked, squeezed out cloth - placed in the rubber gasket to try and loosen any residual black mould overnight. Or ideally if going away, leave longer - then wipe

    • D_jyoung95
      on Aug 9, 2016

      If you are worried about any residual bleach left in the washer then you an add "bleach neutralizer" on a short cycle. The neutralizer works to stop the bleach from damaging your clothes because if there is still some in the fabric it breaks down the fibers (shorter life of the clothes) Just add the neutralizer to the rinse cycle. You can get the bleach neutralizer in the fish/aquarium dept. in Walmart or a pet store.

    • Ma_pa_jackrabbit
      on Feb 3, 2017

      If you leave the door open you might find some children fish in the bowl.

  • Muriel
    on Aug 7, 2016

    Does it need to be cider vinegar or would white vinegar do the same job?

    • Linda
      on Aug 7, 2016

      White vinegar works great. I use it all the time to clean and sanitize the washer, bathroom, clothes, kitchen sink and surfaces, carpet, etc.

    • Peggy
      on Aug 7, 2016

      Any kind of vinegar I use white vinegar

    • Connie Latham
      on Aug 7, 2016

      General rule white vinegar for cleaning & household chores. Apple cider vinegar for cooking

  • Toni Tucker
    on Aug 7, 2016

    How do you clean around the rubber gasket?

    • Cla9566322
      on Aug 8, 2016

      After my last load of laundry I take several paper towels and wipe the inside of the rubber seal and basically dry it and wipe out the whole washer and inside,of the door to get rid of as much moisture as possible. Sometime the rubber seal will hold water and that means the tiny holes at the bottom are clogged. I use a toothpick to stick in each one to help unclog so it will now drain. Just open door and pull the rubber gasket back and wipe all around it

    • Marie Stewart
      on Aug 8, 2016

      I also tuck a microcloth between the drum and rubber ring - microcloth draws moisture - started since we bought our washer and have had NO smells

    • Cindy Delgado Leas
      on Aug 9, 2016

      I had a similar situation. I found a bunch of missing baby socks, rubber bands & shout color catcher sheets in that rubber seal area. . along with mold! Thank you for sharing this story. I wish i had known about this before purchasing our first front loader.

    • June
      on Sep 15, 2016

      Safety pin color catcher sheets to a mesh bag used for delicate items. No more sheets clogged in rubber seal area. Works great!!!

    • Marilyn
      on Feb 2, 2017

      I have a top loader and always leave it open after laundry is done.Instructions actually say to do this.Never any mold or smell in over 2 years.

    • Sylvia Picone
      on Feb 2, 2017

      June why not just put the color catcher sheet in the mesh bag. A safety pin could catch and snag garments.

    • Lesliesk
      on Sep 5, 2017

      You can use a Mr. Clean magic eraser to clean the rubber gasket. Works great to get rid if the mold and mildew and is flexible so it gets all of it.
    • Carla Schulz
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I have taped down a towel to the top of my front loading washing machine that hangs down to about a quarter of the door. When I am through with a wash I fold down the towel and place it inside the door so that the door will not close all the way. This give the inside of the machine time to dry between washes. Yes I still have to run a clean cycle from time to time and yes cleaning inside the rubber gasket is always a good idea, but not needed to do after each wash.
    • Elizabeth Ann Stevens
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I attach a clothespin to door latch and let it rest against machine. It leaves door open enough to allow air to circulate. I also use a product called Techno Fresh. Works great to help eliminate odor
  • Julie
    on Aug 9, 2016

    Why not white vinegar?

    • Joan Gondeck
      on Aug 24, 2016

      I was told by a wahing maching repairman to use white vinegar

    • Doris Cote
      on Oct 12, 2016

      White vinegar is fine for cleaning. For your daily use, the Apple Cider Vinegar has enzymes to aid your digestion. I make a cleaning solution by adding citrus leeps to a very big jar of vinegar and letting the citrus oils leech out into the vinegar, strain and used to eliminate odors on kitchen counter tops, any cleaning actually. Also kills germs. Originally got the "recipe" from Susan Burek, an herbalist on FB. Others have copied her original "recipe."

    • Vivian Reilly
      on Feb 2, 2017

      Are we drinking the vinegar, or wanting to use it in the washer? All washer lids need to be kept raised, or open so they will dry out and mold won't form. I thought everyone knew this. It's good to tell this from time to time.

    • Julie
      on Feb 3, 2017

      Vivian, I have a front loading washer. White vinegar is a fantastic laundry booster sooo, I just put it in with my detergent. I end up with cleaner, brighter laundry and a clean washer as I use it with every load. You really should try it.

    • Renata
      on Feb 4, 2017

      Very interesting Julie, Thanks , I will try this. Sooo much cheaper than those cleaning pods they tell you to buy.

    • Amber Cole
      on Feb 6, 2017

      I heard the cleaning pods leave a film on your clothes.

    • Hank Wyllie
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I agree with Vivian. White vinegar works fine for removing mould and I do that at least once a month. Will use the citrus oil thanks for the tip. It's definitely a good idea to leave the lids open whether they are a front or top loader.

    • Karen Laska
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Using vinegar to get the smell out of towels works great
    • Jad25928247
      on Sep 5, 2017

      thanks for the info. I just purchased a front loader for the first time and this is great information for me to have in advance.
    • Marti
      on Sep 5, 2017

      White vinegar works as a fabric softener extremely well. Removes waxy build up on towels and makes them more absorbable again. Also helps clean the machines buildup. Had a repairman tell me this tip...
    • GG
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Marti, I agree with you, my mom told be about using white vinegar when we ran out of fabric softener and it is cheaper.
    • JWL
      on Sep 5, 2017

      How much white vinegar would you add to the largest load setting on a top loader?
    • Karen Fritts Cathers
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Along with detergent I add white vinegar and 1/2 cup of baking soda to every load
    • Pat
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I have a top loading washer which I wipe down once a week. I have replaced fabric softner with white vinegar and it's a great alternative. I also soak my white towels and white laundry in whithe vinegar, then use detergent for regular wash cycle. Everything comes out bright, fresh smelling and no static. Vinegar also helps keep washer clean as new.
    • Linda Holland
      on Sep 5, 2017

      With adding Vinegar and baking soda how do you keep it from Foaming!! I use this for cleaning sink drains.. About once month. Keeps the drains running smoothly.. Also add vinegar to a Load of Towels, after washing, then run a cup of vinegar through. Helps keeps colors bright... Towels are soft with out buildup like fabric softner can do.
  • Lindagordon35
    on Sep 12, 2016

    my issue using bleach is that it stays in the washer and ruins the next load of wash. Is this why vinegar is used on a second cycle?

    • Carey
      on Sep 14, 2016

      The vinegar rinses out the washer more thoroughly. Removing any residue of soap that may have collected. I have always made a point of washing a completely white load as the first load after cleaning so that all it did was whiten that load. I don't use a lot of bleach anyway, but that is one time that it is worth it!

    • Lindagordon35
      on Sep 27, 2016

      I heard recently that running a cup of mouthwas h thru the wash cycle will clean and deodorize your washer. Has anyone tried this?

    • Karyl Zimmerman
      on Oct 23, 2016

      It's great for foot fungus 1/4 green listerine ,1/4 vinigar; an warm water an soak them

    • Karyl Zimmerman
      on Oct 23, 2016

      Lol

    • Cam19489551
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Just leave the door of the wash machine ajar between washings, and there is never a problem!!! I have had my machine for 5 years, so I don't waste any time cleaning.
    • Cal2701456
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I have not ever closed my washer (front load) since I got it 4 years ago after doing a load and the mold and smell keep coming back. I see a collection of standing water when I pull back the rubber on the bottom from of the washer almost every time I wash a load. It never goes away. What am I doing wrong?
    • T
      on Sep 5, 2017

      One possible solution could be that your machine is not level.
    • Hoss
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I used a front loading washer at a rental where we were living..I too, noticed that water seems to reside in the bottom after each washing. In the past I had heard of this problem with front loaders. I didn't know if the issue had been resolved. Sometimes I would remove as much of the residual water I could, with a sponge, but I did not follow through after each washing. The machine was a year or two old at the time.
    • Melissa Grethey
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Your lint trap may be clogged. Newer machines have them. Check your manual.
    • Pat Hylton
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I wipe down the area around the rubber seal then pull back the seal and lightly stuff a hand towel underneath..and leave the door ajar.
    • Kathleen Ford
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Most newer front loaders also have a drain that needs to be emptied once a month depending on how much you use your machine. I only just learned this and it has made a huge difference although I still keep door opened in between washes.
    • Yofrendonna
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I bleach the last load every week. Hasn’t ruined the next load yet. And my washer doesn’t stink. Been doing this for years.
    • Twe29291368
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Having had a front loader years ago that I eventually abandoned because of the mold issue, when I purchased a newer model I made sure to follow the instructions for keeping the same problem from recurring. Ten years (at least) later, no problems. Simple procedure: after the final wash load of the day, I take half a minute to use a washcloth to (1) wipe the inside of the glass door, (2) wipe the interior of the tub, and (3) wipe the gasket thoroughly all the the way around with particular attention to the bottom of the circle where a little water collects. I keep the door slightly ajar between wash days by putting washcloth at the upper hinge of the door so that the door neither closes nor swings open. Occasionally (less often than the manufacturer recommends), I run front loader cleaner through a cycle. As mentioned by another contributor, I feared the bleach content of the cleaner might cause a problem. I've never had a problem with that, but I do always try to make sure that my next load is something like towels or sheets...just in case.

    • Eileen Ripp
      on Sep 5, 2017

      I too always use bleach in last load of week but I not only leave door ajar I open detergent/softener drawer to let that dry out also.
    • Lam26443706
      on Sep 6, 2017

      After every couple of loads use Vinegar, I place it in where the soap dispenser goes and put the machine on for a warm wash. This plus leaving the door ajar seems to work fine for my front loader
    • Leslie Schmidt
      on Sep 6, 2017

      I was told that using liquid detergent and fabric softener was a reason for the smell and mold. I quit using them and have not had a problem since. I do leave the door open and the unit unplugged when going several days without using the machine.
  • Andrea Bethel
    on Sep 5, 2017

    what about top load washers?
    • Deborah
      on Sep 6, 2017

      No answer, I would like to know too, how to clean a top load washer?
    • Nancy
      on Sep 6, 2017

      I just pour detergent on wet cloth and wash down interior of tub, rims, ect. Then run hot cycle with bleach.
    • Andrea Bethel
      on Sep 6, 2017

      Thanks I'll try that!
  • Bev22223213
    on Sep 5, 2017

    My washer doesn't have a sanitize or clean cycle. Should I use the hot water and heavy soil setting?
    • Dl.5660408
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Yes, mine doesn't either and that's what I do, plus wipe the seal often ad leave the door ajar after every wash
    • Vivian Reilly
      on Sep 5, 2017

      Every washer we've ever had, be it top loader, or front loader, in the instructions it has said to leave the lid up, on top-loaders and slightly open, on front-loaders, to keep mold from building up. It works. It's good to run bleach through a super-hot cycle every so often. It's especially critical to leave the door ajar on front loaders because they seal up tight and mold loves that kind of atmosphere. :D
    • Pet10403590
      on Sep 6, 2017

      I put a magnet over the button for the light so I can leave the door open
    • Joa25118238
      on Sep 6, 2017

      since there will ALWAYS be standing water in the gasket after any wash,
      we keep a stack of 12 x 12 microfiber towels nearby... which routinely we lightly 'stuff' into the wet area at the lowest point. Air alone will not re-absorb this much water. Throw this little towel in with the next wash. This is in ADDITION to all of the above! With diligence, this method will also make the heroic clorox/vinegar routine unnecessary over time.
    • Danielle Odin
      on Sep 6, 2017

      DO NOT MIX CLOROX AND VINEGAR AS IT IS TOXIC.
    • ShelbyNeen
      on Sep 7, 2017

      I believe that is Clorox and Amonia that is toxic. I use Clorox & Vinegar together all the time, mostly for pre-spotting white towels and white undershirts.
    • Fai29563278
      on Sep 8, 2017

      Clorox and vinegar mixed produces chlorine gas. Under proper conditions, it can kill. NEVER. Mix those two
    • Cheryl Clifton
      on Sep 10, 2017

      After I got my front loader washer I started getting a code on the front and it stopped working. I had to call a repairman. That is exactly what he said to do. Cut the Downyor Gain fabric sofe with vinegar. It clogs in the soap /softener dispenser. He said to use bleach and vinegar. Didn't know it was toxic. I've never had a problem.
    • Michele
      on Sep 26, 2017

      I never found where it was recommended to mix bleach & vinegar. When cleaning the washer I wipe out all the rubber seal areas to start then follow with a hot bleach wash & rinse. When that's done follow with a warm vinegar rinse. I also add a tablespoon of baking soda in with dirty ranch clothes and it has clothes smelling clean.
    • April
      on Oct 25, 2017

      What do you do if you can't use Clorox or bleach because of a septic system.
    • LeAnne Chumley
      on Nov 24, 2017

      If you google this question, you'll find they do not advise mixing bleach and vinegar. https://www.thoughtco.com/mixing-bleach-and-vinegar-609281
  • NonnaDukes
    on Sep 6, 2017

    I have used these ideas for my machine. I want to know how to unclog the rinse tray without taking apart the whole machine? Whenever I use cold water for rinse, the softener doesn't dissolve, and just sits in the tray. I had seen this in the laundromat too. This is the only reason I do not like front loaders....you cant keep trays clean/empty.
    • Danielle Odin
      on Sep 6, 2017

      Try running a cycle using white vinegar as the soap and as the rinse. Most people use way too much soap and softener. Softener sticks to everything and remains in your clothes to keep them from clinging so it never really washes out. I use and have used white vinegar to rinse my clothes. It works better and really rinses the soap out so my clothes neve look dingy and they smell fresh. I had to do that because I am allergic to softener, even the stuff they spray on carpets.
    • Susan
      on Sep 10, 2017

      I have had a front load machine since 1998 and I always use fabric softener and cold water rinse. I found out a long time ago to cut my fabric softener by 50 % with water. Save your old fabric softener bottle and use that one for the diluted mixture. Good luck.
    • Brenda
      on Sep 11, 2017

      Its easier to add tea tree essential oil to your wash! Cleans deoderizes at same time! Much cheaper too and better for you
    • Janice Van Cleve Rasmussen
      on Sep 19, 2017

      I dislike the smell of tea tree oil.

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