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How can I make my HE washer stop smelling bad?

Question Posted Saturday January 15 2011, 2:05 pm

I bought a new HE washer 2 years ago and it's become increasingly smelly. I don't think anything has broken in the unit. It's gotten to the point that my towels and jeans come out smelling musty though. They do LOOK clean. I use the HE or high efficiency liquid detergent (ALL brand) and I don't use liquid fabric softener. I never put more than the recommended amount of soap in the dispenser tray. I don't sweat a lot so I don't think that my clothes are too dirty or something. I am just tired of them coming out smelly. It seems like the machine that is suppose to wash my clothes is too dirty to do it's job or something. When I open the door to the front loading washing machine it just smells nasty. What am I doing wrong? Do I need to buy a NEW washing machine already?

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Peeps answered Saturday January 15 2011, 3:27 pm:
These high efficiency washing machines are notorious for producing such musty, mildew smells. The truth is, it usually is a mold or mildew problem within the machine itself. Sometimes you, the consumer, can clean out the mold/mildew problem enough that the odor will disappear, and sometimes the problem is so severe that it's just hazardous to your health to continue keeping such a mess inside of your house.

You should always call the manufacturer about such problems first because your machine may still be under warranty. They can send a "repair man" out to your place that will give you some tips and, if he actually does his job, will open up the unit to show you how to clean out the filter or trap.

There are some lawsuits going through about these washers, too, depending on what brand and model you have. The rubber seal has been known to produce a specific type of mold that not much of anything can kill completely. After you drop quite a bit of money on one of these machines you don't expect it to be overrun with mold within a few months of use. ;) So, you might want to check into that.

In some cases, when the manufacturer sees fit, the unit may be replaced, or they may send you a new seal. Do not offer to buy the seal. They usually range a couple of hundred dollars. Don't go that route right off the bat. See if something can be done with what you have before you dish out another nice chunk of money. And, sadly, the chances that the mold from the seal has spread throughout the tubing and inner-workings of the unit is very high. Replacing ONE part isn't likely to fix the problem in the long-run. You'd have to continue to replace the part over and over and...over.

If possible, look up the make and model of your unit online and see if it's possible to reach the trap or filter. UNPLUG THE UNIT BEFORE REMOVING ANYTHING! This is usually in the front of the washer, below the door. It's typically screwed together with two or three small screws. From there you'll see a white colored knob that you can twist off. There is some water in that area that should be drained regularly. Sometimes coins, baby socks, dollar bills, and other pieces of lint and tidbits from pockets get lodged in this area. Be warned, they may be moldy, black or brown, at this point if you've never cleaned out the filter before. You want to remove the debris and clean this area well with some bleach water. Do this once a week for the first month and then, from here on out, once a month. If, for some reason, you aren't into the whole using-bleach option (understandable; bleach is horrible for the environment) then you can soak the stuff in hot water and vinegar. You may need to soak parts overnight in the water/vinegar solution.

If you haven't already, pull out the tray for your detergent and scrub it down in the same solution listed above (bleach water or vinegar water). Sometimes mold can actually grow in that little compartment, and a good scrubbing once a week for the first month, and once a month from then on out, can help remove that problem entirely.

Clean the seal in the front area of your washer with a strong vinegar solution. Scrub hard. Elbow grease! In addition, scrub the clear door down really, really well. I do recommend that if you have a rechargeable Scum Buster from Black & Decker you break it out, fill it with vinegar, and go to town. That little powered widget would save you A LOT of time, soaking, and work.

Rinse out the washer with vinegar. Pour a couple of cups of vinegar into the detergent and fabric soften trays. Set the washer on the longest, hottest cycle with a double rinse. You can throw in a towel or a few washcloths if you think their ability to scrub a little more would be helpful, but it isn't necessary. Turn it on and let the washer do it's thing.

Cycle your washer with hot water and vinegar once a week for the first month, and then once a month there on after.

Always leave the compartment for the detergent and soften opened after a wash to help it air out and dry properly. Always leave the door open after a wash to help it dry out and breathe, too.

Try to avoid using much bleach if you decide to go that route. The seal can easily be damaged if too much bleach is applied to it. Personally, I'd go for sanitizing most, if not all, of the washer with vinegar. Vinegar is cheap and less harmful.

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