Asked on Sep 27, 2012

Has anyone had any success at getting the sour smell out of front load washers?

Kay Cass
by Kay Cass
I have an LG front load washer that smells, and makes my laundry smell also. I always leave the door and soap tray open. (which I don't like and shouldn't have to do). I have tried bleach and vinegar--not together. Didn't make any difference. I am ready to junk it, but it was expensive.
  71 answers
  • Shari Shari on Sep 27, 2012
    This all-too-common complaint with front load washers is what made me drag my feet for close to 2 years before I finally broke down and bought a FL washer. I did a ton of research before buying one and came upon some interesting websites regarding this problem. It armed me with some of the information I needed to know about the things to do (and not do) as a FL washer owner. This site is devoted mostly to the Whirlpool Duet model but if you have the patience to read through the 400+ comments, there are many good tips, tricks and products to try. (There are also some links to class action lawsuits that are being filed against some of the manufacturers because of this mold/mildew problem.) Here's a link for a review on a little washer fan that is suppose to help. One interesting theory I read more than once during my research is fabric softeners and liquid laundry soaps (even HE formulas) cause, or at least contribute to the mold and mildew problem. Apparently, the oils these products contain are not adequately washed away because of the energy-saving low water levels. The oily film left behind on the washer's internal parts is thought to be enough to trap moisture and in turn, cause mold and mildew. If you are using fabric softener or liquid soap, you may want to change to just white vinegar as a softener, and powdered laundry soap. This HomeTalk member made her own powdered laundry soap and found that as a bonus, the moldy smell in her machine and clothes disappeared.!/593502 You don't say how old your machine is but because these FL washers ARE such an expensive investment, if I were you, I would try a few other things before I threw in the towel (pun intended). :) Good luck! I hope some of these links help you solve your problem.
  • Shari Shari on Sep 27, 2012
    Sheeesh! What's up with the comment spacing on this site? When I typed it, my comment above was all nice, neat and perfectly paragraphed. This drives my OCD tendencies crazy! ;)
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Sep 27, 2012
    We also have a Whirlpool front loader. You MUST leave the door open all the time when not in use! Make it a point to put in 1/3 cup bleach and turn it to the "clean" cycle. I do this the first of every month and then make sure I wash a load of white towels, dish cloths, etc. as the first wash after using the bleach! Tide makes a front loader tablet you use once a month, but I just use the bleach method!
  • Kay Cass Kay Cass on Sep 27, 2012
    My machine is LG and does not have a clean cycle. I have never left the door closed.
  • Sarah T Sarah T on Sep 27, 2012
    I run a load, that is just a couple of hand towels baking soda. I've never really had it smell.
  • Debra D Debra D on Sep 27, 2012
    There are products now to get rid of the smell. Try Lowe's or Home Depot. And yes you have to leave the door open when not in use.
  • Carroll A Carroll A on Sep 27, 2012
    Have you cleaned the trap and drained the lines? (on my machine it's on the front at the bottom) Try the Tide bars for cleaning. I have not used them because my machine has a self cleaning cycle, my friend Vickie uses them and she really likes them. I also leave the door open and take the soap drawer out when not in use.
  • Leslie D Leslie D on Sep 27, 2012
    I was told that most of the smell comes from using cold water and normal detergent. Laundry soap does not break down well in cold water and leaves the residue that creates the smell. I wash everything in warm water (there goes the energy savings), and run one out of every 5-10 loads on hot with chlorox added, which kills anything that has accumulated. I also only use "he" detergent to cut down on sudsing, which is part of the problem with odors. It's eliminated the smell, although I do have to leave the door open at all times.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Sep 28, 2012
    Leslie, I would question this because it NEVER happened in 50+ years with our top load washer. And we always use the HE (High Efficiency) soap designed for front loaders. I have called repair on this washer and my new dishwasher. I was told "a little water remains inside the machine to keep the seals from drying out"! Standing water usually sours! I do not know if this is true or not, but I can tell you for sure a front loader will smell if you close it and if you do not clean it! Mine is about 3 years old so they may have eliminated the problem by now.
  • Melody D Melody D on Sep 28, 2012
    Check inside the front rubber gasket to make sure there isn't a sock or something else hiding :-). I use about 1 - 2 cups of bleach on the cycle that will allow the hottest water, I also wipe the door and gasket dry, remove the soap dispenser and dump the leftover water in it after each load and always leave the door open. good luck!
  • Kay Cass Kay Cass on Sep 28, 2012
    Carroll, I don't know how to clean the trap. I have drained the lines and surprisingly, the water in the trap doesn't smell. I dry the seal. I only use he detergent. My soap dispenser doesn't come out, but I always leave to door to it open. My machine has a sanitizing feature that heats the water hotter than my hot water heater. I use that cycle with bleach. I haven't tried baking soda. At least half of my laundry loads are done in hot water. So I don't think the problem is from using cold water. I agree with Jeanette--we never had this problem with top load washers. Anyone want a beautiful front load washer? It looks really nice.
  • Melody was sort of on it. The LG machines which we have, has a few small drain holes at the bottom of the door gasket. If you pull the rubber back you will see them. Make sure that they are clean and clear to assure that they are draining properly. In the front load machines it is common for these odors to exist as a very small amount of moisture still lingers between the drum and the part that holds the water that is located outside of the drum that you cannot see. There is a filter, or at least on mine there is. on the bottom front door. Open that door and the filter can be removed and cleaned. One of the reasons why some machines smell is because of using the wrong detergent While all types work, the standard soaps tend to create more bubbles that tend to leave a film because of lack of extra water to rinse them away. Using a powdered dishwasher detergent with just a few small white towels, Set machine on hottest water and run through a cycle or two. That should help as well. The dishwasher detergent has chemicals that break up hard water and will help rid the machine of the film that has collected that is causing the odor.
  • Kay Cass Kay Cass on Sep 28, 2012
    I use liquid Tide he, but I will try the dishwasher detergent. This is the first time I have heard that suggestion. Thanks.
  • Kay Cass Kay Cass on Sep 28, 2012
    how much dishwasher detergent do you use?
  • Z Z on Sep 28, 2012
    I've had an HE *top* loading machine for nine months now and love it. My hubby had wanted to buy me a front loader for years, but I kept talking him out of it because of stories like these. Though my HE top loader uses more water than a front loader, which was another reason I didn't want a front loader because in my opinion you need water to dissolve the soil on clothing, it still uses far less than an old fashioned top loader. I do leave the lid open while drying the load to let it air out, but close it to use to fold clothing as soon as they are dry and have not had any trouble with odor as long as I remember to do that. So anyone in the market for a new washer and want more efficiency without the problems I highly recommend an HE top loader.
  • Use it like you would normal washer soap. I suppose about 3/4 of a cup should be fine. Then do a small load using a hot water setting. That should do it fine.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Sep 29, 2012
    No matter what kind of washer you look at, it just seems WRONG to me to have to go to so much trouble to clean something that is supposed to be a "cleaning device"! Particularly since what came out of the thing was supposed to be cleaned when taken out! Many have a cleaning cycle, or you have to buy machine cleaning products, you have to leave the door open, you have to run a cycle to rinse the machine before you can wash clothes...there just seems something so wrong about this! I guess I am disgusted too because I am very unhappy with my dishwasher too!!!!! I have a front loader, but if I had to do it again, I would not buy one! And I am about ready to get a dish drainer and hand wash my dishes!!
  • The issue is that many of the earlier machines do not dry out enough between the two drums. Leaving a slight amount of water, the same thing happens with the top load as well. But with the high efficiency units, the water remains in the tub and does not go down a pipe to rest elsewhere where it will not sink. Its not a lot of water only about less then 1/4 cup. They have become better having a auto clean cycle added on the better models. But I agree Jeanette, it is kind of strange having to clean something that cleans. We have not had this issue at all with our machine, but I think it is primary because we do two or three loads a day. Various sizes mind you but the unit runs. Because it is doing this, I think the bacteria that is causing the smells people have is not having a chance to develop with fresh water going in every night. I would venture a guess that many who are having odor issues, most likely only do laundry perhaps once a week allowing the machine to rest for several days between loads. This will allow any soap or soil that remains in the tub to develop into a smelly film.
  • Z Z on Sep 29, 2012
    That makes perfect sense WE.
  • Robin Robin on Sep 29, 2012
    Tide makes a cleaner for front loading washers that gets rid of residue build up that causes the odor. I use it once a month and it keeps my washer clean and odor free.
  • Terri Terri on Sep 29, 2012
    I use Affresh. I usually do all my laundry one day a week and then after I am finished with the last load I run the clean cycle with Affresh. I also start out my washing with the white sock/underwear load and use bleach and hot water. This seems to keep any other loads from smelling even if the wet laundry has set in the washer for a couple hours. Hope you can find something that works consistently without too much effort!
  • Kay Cass Kay Cass on Sep 29, 2012
    I have looked and looked for the Tide cleaner and have been unable to find it in our town.
  • Eileen Gensel Eileen Gensel on Sep 29, 2012
    I just actually throw mine out.. I can't stand it any longer and will never buy a front load again.. I went back to top load and so happy.. I have tried everything to rid the problems of smell slimy front seal you name it.. I have also used the cleaner they recommended and still to no resolve.
  • Sandy Sandy on Sep 29, 2012
    I have a front loader, I dislike it. I have had it for 6 years and will keep it till it dies. When it does I am going back to a top loader. All of the info is wasteful and dangerous for small children. Leave the door open, use bleach to get rid of the smell, extra rinse, special products, etc..... Plus I really think my clothes are not getting as clean. The only plus I can see is it spins better! BTW I have several children and have been doing laundry for my family for over 35 years!
  • Jeannie Hoover Jeannie Hoover on Sep 29, 2012
    Lowes carries the Tide front loader cleaner. One box will clean 4 x. I did the first week the other day. It did leave a residue in the cleaner drawer but I just flushed the stuff and cleaned it. Smells better already with just one cleaning. It is a powder cleaner but left no residue inside the washer, just the little box for liquids.
  • Cynthia Maynard Cynthia Maynard on Sep 29, 2012
    Every now and then do a vinegar rinse and on occasion, wipe out the rubber opening and the drum with a disinfectant like a charm.
  • Jerry H Jerry H on Sep 29, 2012
    For some reason it is liquid detergents. My mom had the same issue, it got to the point we hated taking showers because the towels smelled so bad.. we tried the vinegar, we tried leaving door open to dry, we tried the tide cleaning packs. but on another forum i read where they went back to powdered detergent, I had her try that,, within a week, sour smell gone,, fresh towels back on the rack.. I don't know what it is about the liquid detergent, but she is now a powder gal LOL...
  • Tina B Tina B on Sep 29, 2012
    I'm disabled and wanted a front loader due to that, however I am with you guys. Even when I towel dry the inside and door, it smells. Used the tide cleaner, didnt work. I think my clothes get cleaner in a front loader, but heaven forbid if I leave a batch in for an hour.
  • Diane Kaul Diane Kaul on Sep 29, 2012
    I did a post on this just the other day. Here's a link to surprising solution I found, by mistake!
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Sep 29, 2012
    the commercial cleaners help a lot, if used on a regular basis, also need to drain it when done doing the weekly wash. Find since I have been draining at the end of the laundry cycle, the odour is gone.
  • Marie Duby Marie Duby on Sep 29, 2012
    I used to have this problem, I stopped using the fabric softener, I only use the dryer sheets now, what a big difference, this worked for me,
  • Heather Page Heather Page on Sep 29, 2012
    I was wondering why tide came out with that washing machine cleanser. If I have to buy a special cleaner for my WASHING machine, I'll stick to my top-loader.
  • Alison Legrand Benner Alison Legrand Benner on Sep 29, 2012
    i have used the afresh tabs and that has taken the sour right out for me, however i do have to use a cleaning cloth for the rubber around the drum to clean the residue
  • Elaine M Elaine M on Sep 29, 2012
    I cleaned out my washer using a post from "Ask Anna". She has a tutorial on cleaning washer whether you have a HE or regular one. Mine smells much better now.
  • Donna Donna on Sep 29, 2012
    About two months ago I literally tore my machine apart after reading many comments on the internet citing that a dirty residue left in the machine was my culprit. Once the machine was dissembled, I found absolutely nothing that was contributing to the smell. Turning to the internet once again, I learned that I needed to stop putting liquid fabric softer in my washing machine...which creates a buildup/residue in your laundry. I now literally dump about a cup of baking soda, along with about a cup of white vinegar in my machine (along with my regular detergent) before adding my laundry (I only do this with my towels...anything that gets the least bit damp upon use.). It took a few loads with my towels before the smell was completely gone. I also quit using liquid fabric softener and have gone to dryer sheets. Good luck...this was very frustrating for me, too!
  • Terikirkwood Terikirkwood on Sep 29, 2012
    I have an HE top loader and the towels almost always smell yucky! I don't have an answer but I find comfort in the fact that it isn't only me!
  • Jane Graettinger Jane Graettinger on Sep 29, 2012
    had problems my first year. Used Clorix product. Had to break personal habit of leaving wet load in machine (for days :~( ) & now empty immediately & leave door open to dry out.... I DO VERY SMALL LOADS (1 queen sheet) only 2 TBS detergent & always EXTRA RINSE.. defeats low water usage but this has worked for me. Sad for families with loads of clothes. How can clothes get clean when they are barely damp & full of detergent? Sorry I purchased it, but, will continue this way for now.
  • Shari Shari on Sep 29, 2012
    @Jerry H, @Marie Duby, and @Donna: My pre-purchase research on front load washers indicated there was a very strong correlation between liquid laundry soaps and liquid fabric softeners causing or contributing to the mold/mildew problem so common with these machines. The original poster on this thread, Kay, also said she uses liquid Tide. @Diane Kaul said she made her own (powdered) laundry soap and the smell in her washer went away. This is just convincing me more that every FL washer owner should be completely avoiding the liquid soaps and softeners (even the recommended HE formulas). I know from personal experience the selection of HE powdered laundry soap is slim compared to the liquid choices (I only use powdered), but if switching to powdered soap will help avoid or eliminate the problem smell, it seems like a pretty easy solution. I buy a 4 1/2 pound box of HE Purex powder at Walmart for around $4.00. It lasts forever using only about 2 tablespoons per load. It does a good job of cleaning the clothes my husband gets really stinky and dirty while working around our horse farm.
  • Z Z on Sep 29, 2012
    Makes you wonder why they keep making HE in liquid, doesn't it?
  • Sally Walsh Sally Walsh on Sep 29, 2012
    I had a very expensive Frigidare front loader that lasted 3 years and the tub broke and the warranty did not cover repair. I bought a new traditional top loader for about the same amount of $ that the repairs would have cost!
  • Jerry H Jerry H on Sep 29, 2012
    lol well of course they keep making their liquid soap, that way they can then sell us their "cleaner" packets :-)
  • Becky from Practips Becky from Practips on Sep 29, 2012
    I have a Kenmore HE3 front load machine. I replaced the door gasket once, because it's a HUGE odor collector. But decided to take on a more practical, cost effective approach. I now use homemade laundry detergent and the only thing I use in the fabric softener well is white distilled vinegar. Concentrated detergents build up "gunk" in the machine over time. I keep my door open (only a little) to allow air to circulate. I see that you have tried bleach and vinegar in the past. There are cleaners out there, but I agree with many who have already posted. Manufacturers want you to keep spending on additional products. You may want to try to replace the door gasket. Check out for a great price and quick shipping.
  • Z Z on Sep 29, 2012
    LOL Ya got me there Jerry! It's all about money in THEIR pockets!
  • Hollis Henegar Hollis Henegar on Sep 29, 2012
    I, like Anne D., have had a front loading washer for years and never have that "sour" smell. I don't use baking soda but do leave the door open for about an hour after the last load is done so it can dry sufficiently. As an added measure the door and gasket get a shot of Lysol spray every couple of weeks before it's closed.
  • Mary Mary on Sep 29, 2012
    In the 3rd container of my front loader, (reserved for bleach), I fill it to the line with white vinegar (undiluted) in EVERY load. It does help eliminate any sour smell. I leave the door open between loads, and remove all wash soon after the cycle finishes. Vinegar is the miracle cleaner. Just ask Heloise. ;-)
  • Debi C Debi C on Sep 29, 2012
    I also have a Sears HE front load machine.I did have the sour smell also. My machine was under warranty still so I had Sears come out and do a check. Well- me bad. They make HE detergant for a reason and if you use anything but - then most likely you will get the "smell". The fix - Tide Washing Machine Cleaner - it removes odor causing residues in any washer. I gave my left over regular washer detergant to my friend. Only use HE detergent! No more smell and yes- leave the washer door open when not in use.
  • Trish7375 Trish7375 on Sep 29, 2012
    Leaving the door open for a while so the gasket dries out works for me.
  • Debbie Lorincz Debbie Lorincz on Sep 29, 2012
    I use 3 drops of tea tree oil in the detergent side and it does the trick - supposedly kills dust mites too :) You can get tea tree oil at Wal-Mart in the vitamin section (or ask the pharmacist)
  • Amy Little Amy Little on Sep 29, 2012
    As people keep saying leave the door open after use, use the proper soap, the tide packets help and should be used monthly. Also completely remove the soap tray and clean the entire compartment especially the top where water spouts are. Clean the rubber gaskets and any other reachable parts. Routine maintenance is key.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Sep 30, 2012
    Geezzzeee! I have had an automatic washer for 50 years and I NEVER had to clean the darn thing! I threw in dirty clothes, added powdered detergent, turned it on and when it stopped washing, I threw the clothese in the dryer! Now our energy saving gadgets require an engineering degree just to keep them "clean" enough to "clean"! Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? I am about ready to take out my dishwasher and build some storage shelves in that space because as the repair guy said, "...they all hold a little water in them to keep the gaskets from drying out" (I think this was crap because he just did not know what to do to solve the problem). I guess it is time to go back to the rub-board to wash clothes...or just wear dirty underwear!
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Sep 30, 2012
    PS...without any special care, my last dryer lasted 37 years and we replaced the washer of about 25 years when we had to replace the dryer.
  • Susan F Susan F on Sep 30, 2012
    Sue B. Plainfield, Indiana I called appliance store about it and they said too bad and to call GE- GE customer service said there are issues with all the front loading machines- mine doesn't smell bad- but looks like it is growing something toxic- have used the expensive packets that are supposed to clean it- they don't do much-
  • M A M A on Sep 30, 2012
    I run a vinegar rinse about once a month. This seems to do the trick.
  • Esther Vinson Esther Vinson on Sep 30, 2012
    my front in loader has a clean cycle for the washeri use it once every few mths with vinegar]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Oct 01, 2012
    Chilly rainy morning in Atlanta...a good time to go run the "clean" cycle on my front loader...I do this with 1/3 c of bleach the first of every month!
  • Audrey Audrey on Oct 01, 2012
    I will never buy another front loader! Would like to get rid of it, but it was expensive. Smells like egg water when it drains and mold/mildew grow along the rubber gaskets on the door, in spite of cleaning with many of the above methods. If you re considering purchasing one, don't!
  • Diane Holick Diane Holick on Oct 02, 2012
    ATTENTION EVERYBODY!!! The funky odor is coming from under the big rubber gasket that seals the door. Pull that thing back and you'll see what I mean. Wipe that nasty hidden area out with your favorite bleach cleaner ... I like Clorox clean-up... a couple times a year and all is well! Leaving the door ajar is a must! Running a whites load with bleach occasionally helps too but the biggest problem isn't the drum, it's the gasket!
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Oct 02, 2012
    Can you imagine how difficult it is for a Sr. Citizen to stand on their head to clean inside the top of the gasket?? And I love the sleek look of them in the ads but then notice how tacky mine looks with the door open! Hate the darn thing! Will never get another one if I don't have to!!!!!!!
  • Diane Holick Diane Holick on Oct 16, 2012
    It's all on the bottom where the water settles, along with lint and fabric softener. No need to be an acrobat!
  • Kay Cass Kay Cass on Nov 30, 2012
    I originally started this post. Someone suggested using powdered soap instead of the HE liquids. After trying everything suggested, I tried going back to my old favorite--Tide with bleach, powder. It worked. My towels no longer stink as soon as they get damp. I still dislike front load washers, and would never buy another one. But since that is what I have for the time being, it is nice to have found a way to live with the machine without putting up with freshly laundered things that STINK!
  • Katie Katie on Apr 24, 2015
    Have you removed the dispenser drawer? I have to do this monthly and clean the mould from not only bottom of drawer, but the 'roof' of the drawer.
    • Shari Shari on Apr 24, 2015
      @Katie If you have mold in the dispenser drawer area, there is a high probability that you have it in other parts of the machine that you cannot see. Try switching to powered soap and if you use liquid fabric softener, stop. There is a very strong correlation between liquid laundry soaps and liquid fabric softeners causing or contributing to the mold/mildew problem so common with these front load machines. Apparently, the oils these products contain are not adequately washed away because of the energy-saving low water levels. The oily film left behind on the washer's internal parts is thought to be enough to trap moisture and in turn, cause mold and mildew. I'm willing to bet if you stop using liquid laundry products you won't have to clean the drawer again.
  • Bonnieedmonds2 Bonnieedmonds2 on Jun 01, 2015
    I love my front loading washer. I cleaned the rubber gasket with bleach; actually left a bleach-soaked cloth at the bottom awhile. I dry the gasket after the final load & my door has a latch to hold it open. Keeping it dry does the trick. I make my own natural laundry soap & I believe that helps.
  • Joyce Wagoner Joyce Wagoner on Jun 16, 2015
    Once every three months, use the Tide cleaning packet for front loading washers. It works great!
  • Rose Rose on Aug 23, 2015
    You have to lift the rubber ring that goes around get your hand in there with a wet would be surprised how much gook is hidden in there I do this quite often and it works.
  • Nadia Najjar Nadia Najjar on Sep 21, 2015
    I have had my front loader for about 7 years now and right from the first day I have always left the door ajar a little bit and opened the lint/drain hole on the front (at the bottom) to allow any water that is left inside the pipes to drain out. The instruction book recommends doing this periodically but I do it EVERY WASH-DAY, after I've done my 2 or 3 loads...and I've NEVER smelt any odour...! I prefer to use liquid detergent myself, plus half a cup of Baking Soda. I really believe that letting my machine dry out in between wash-days will help prevent those odours from water left sitting there...! I only do laundry once a week normally and I ALWAYS dry my washing outdoors on a line...... :) I don't own a clothes dryer and wouldn't have one if you paid me...!
  • Joanne Joanne on Sep 21, 2015
    Instead of use fabric softener I use white vinegar when I do the wash. Ever since I started doing this a couple of weeks ago the door disappeared. You also run your washer empty of clothes using bleach. It kills the door and what's causing it. I've done this a few times as well before I started using the white vinegar. Your clothes will not smell like vinegar but very fresh actually when they come out of the dryer.
    • KathiT KathiT on Nov 14, 2016
      How much vinegar do you put in each load? Do you put it in the fabric softener dispenser?
  • Erin Kunitz Erin Kunitz on Nov 03, 2015
    I hate my front end load washer, but have had it 2 years, it NEVER stinks, because I put 1 cup of baking soda in every load of clothes, and leave the door ajar with a towel in the rubber seal.
  • Tlmonday Tlmonday on Nov 03, 2015
    I was told that the odor might be caused by using too much detergent. So, even though I use TIDE HE and had been using the cap to measure, I tried using a little less than before. It does seem to have helped the problem. It's worth a try!
  • Kay Cass Kay Cass on Nov 03, 2015
    I have had this problem since buying a front loader too. I have had pretty good success by using only powdered detergents--NO lquid, and don't use HE detergents at all. It is much better, but I still hate the machine. Still have to leave the door and soap dispenser open all the time.
  • Joanne Joanne on Nov 14, 2016
    I just fill the fabric softener compartment with vinegar and when I do my husbands work clothes I also fill the bleach compartment with vinegar
  • Pixie Pixie on Sep 20, 2023

    Use washing machine cleaner every 3 months . Also Never close your washer door fully .