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Mold in the washing machine

Front load washing machines offer many benefits – reduced water consumption, less wear and tear on your clothes, etc. This benefits comes at a cost, or more precisely, a smell.  Front loaders are inherently far more likely to suffer from musty odors and mold growth than their more traditional top loading counterparts.

This has become such a problem that several of the largest appliance manufacturers were required to settle a class action lawsuit against them for mold growth.

Mildew on clothes washer door.

There are couple of reasons for this. At the top of the list is the rubber gasket on the door. Because the door on a front loader is horizontal, any lingering water is likely to pool. In a top loader, the residual liquid will simply drain via gravity into the basin below. It’s also much easier to leave the door open on a top loader after a wash cycle. This allows the rubber gaskets to dry before mold growth can occur.

Black mold growing on washing machine door

But I don’t see any mold in my washing machine

You’ve scrubbed and cleaned your door, the rubber gaskets, everything.  And yet the odor persists, right?  This is very common.  Unfortunately, front load washers are built in such a way that virtually guarantees the pooling of water in tight recesses within the machine, well out of reach of your best dry out efforts.  Even the most diligent cleaning and drying out of the washer door will not solve this problem.

Some good news.  The odor you’re encountering does not indicate your home is now full of mold.  In fact, your much more likely smelling bacteria than mold growth.  Molds typically cannot thrive in a completely saturated environment such as a drain line.  Bacteria, however, can flourish quite well in these conditions.

Solutions

Leave the door open when not in use

It can take a surprising amount of time for the rubber gaskets to completely dry after a load of laundry.  To prevent mold growth, you need this dry to finish before it becomes saturated again.  Typically, the only way to accomplish this is by propping the door open 24×7.  Keep a hand-towel nearby to keep the door from drifting closed.

Wipe the gasket dry after each use

Use the towel you’ve assigned to prop the door open to quickly wipe down the excess water from the door.

Follow the drainage / cleaning instructions zealously

It’s a pain, I get it.  What is the point of owning a high-end front load washer if it requires more maintenance than your old top loader?  This is a valid complaint, but it won’t do much to prevent those odors.  If anything, I recommend cleaning your washer more often than the manufacturer recommends.

 

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