Front-load washer maintenance
Updated: May 20
Front-load washers are designed for high-efficiency operation while using low energy. But unfortunately, there is a downside to this energy-saving washer model. Some consumers have experienced mould or unpleasant odours developing in their front-load washers. Once present, these issues can be quite difficult to resolve. However, with a little extra care, you may be able to prevent these issues from occurring. It should be noted that not all high-efficiency front-load washers have had these problems, and I assume that design modifications have been implemented in newer models to prevent, or at least reduce, the risk of such problems.
What causes mould, mildew or unpleasant odours?
There are various causes, but the main culprit is humidity that stays in the washer. Excess soap and grime can also leave some areas damp. Because of the low water level, wash-residue such as grime, dirt and even skin flakes, as well as water softeners and detergents, does not always fully drain from a front-loading washer. Using cold water for most loads can also add to the problem. Residue can build up in the rubber door gasket, in the soap/softener dispenser, or in other parts of the washer. Over time, mould can begin to form, or the washer can begin to smell.
Tips for preventing mould & smelly problems:
Always leave the door and dispenser unit slightly ajar after the laundry is done. Front-load washers and the detergent/softener dispenser drawer must dry out.
Never leave a wet washload in the washer overnight; remove it when the washing cycle is complete and leave the door open.
After a load is done, always rotate the drum with your hand to see and remove all items. Some could be sticking to the top or sides of the washer drum.
Use softener sheets in the dryer, instead of liquid softeners in the washer.
Liquid detergents may leave less residue than powdered formulas, which may not dissolve properly.
Use less than the recommended detergent level for your load. Too much detergent can cause a residue buildup. Experiment until you find a minimum measurement that delivers a clean wash. This is also a money-saver.
Occasionally, wash some loads (such as whites, linens and towels) in warm or hot water, to help flush out wash residue.
Always clean your washer as per your product manual. High- efficiency front-load models have a cleaning cycle and it’s imperative that you periodically run this cycle as directed.
Check the gasket just inside the door opening and remove any visible debris. You can also wipe it to speed up the drying process.
Always use HE detergents with high-efficiency front-load washers. Specially marked HE laundry detergent is low-sudsing and is recommended for these low-water washers.
Best defence: Install a washer fan on the back vent of your front-load washer. It appears to be the best long-term solution for preventing washer mould.
If you already have a front-load washer mould/smell issue
If your front-load washer is still under warranty, contact the manufacturer for repair or replacement. You may need to take a firm stand with your dealer or manufacturer to ensure they remedy this problem.
If your warranty period has expired, your first line of attack is to try and clean the washer to remove any offending mould. Some consumers have had good results with products such as Affresh®, which is designed to clean high-efficiency washers. However, some have had no success with such products. If the gasket appears to contain mould, replacing it may solve the issue.
Are mould/smell problems expected with a front-load washer?
Not necessarily, but until there are adequate front-load design changes, the mould risk is high. Prevention tactics are essential and you should be aware that this washer model requires more care than top-loaders. Front-load washers are considerably higher priced — at least double, if not triple the cost of a traditional top-loading model. That being said, they are beautiful to look at and are fun-to-use laundry appliances with great convenience and energy-saving features.
However, they are designed to use very low water levels and this can cause problems with expelling wash residue. The appliance design also contributes to its components never completely drying out. Repairs may also cost more over the long run, than with those associated with top-load washers.
Problems with mould and odours have been occurring in some models since these were introduced, but may not be typical of all front-loaders. Since washer use and care varies with different appliance owners, one person may have problems, while another may enjoy a high-efficiency washer without serious complaints.
I cannot stress enough the importance of preventing mould or odour problems from developing. But if the situation already exists, finding a solution as quickly as possible is very important. These issues are not only nasty and inconvenient, they could lead to severe health issues.
When buying a front-loader you should be prepared to give your washer a little extra care to prevent such problems: adhere to manufacturer recommendations regarding running the cleaning cycle; use only HE detergents; and follow the above tips to prevent any issues from developing. Buy from a trusted source and inquire about the retailer’s return policy, and about how warranty repairs are conducted should the need arise.