Washing Machine Odor: The Cause And The Removal

Washing Machine Odor: The Cause And The Removal – Persistent, foul-smelling odors, produced by mold growth inside modern washing machines, have become a big issue for many today. For those facing this problem, the advantages which these machines offer are easily offset by the unpleasant odors left on their clothes, the hassle and inconvenience of trying to keep their washers clean, and the more serious health risks posed by this issue. The numerous lawsuits which have been filed in the years since these washers were first introduced attest to the high level of frustration felt by many such consumers today.

What causes washing machine odor?

So what causes mold growth and why does it seem to be more prevalent in high-efficiency washers, particularly front-loaders? Mold thrives in moist, dark environments and must have a good food source. These conditions are often met in our washing machines for the following reasons:

1. Most high-efficiency washers are front-loaders. Front-loaders, by nature, must be sealed watertight and often don’t have good internal ventilation. Residual water is not allowed to evaporate out of the washer between loads and is allowed to stagnate.

2. High-efficiency washers, because of the low volume of water used, have a harder time maintaining a warmer water temperature. This is compounded if the user tries to conserve energy even further by selecting lower water temperature settings. Cool water is not as effective at allowing detergent to fully activate and to dissolve dirts and oils. These, as well as the detergent itself, are then allowed to deposit inside the washer, which provides a food source for mold to grow on.


4. Excessive detergent use is another major culprit. Detergent that is not needed to break down dirt and oil will build up inside the washer and provide a perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Excessive suds can also deposit these contaminants in areas of the machine which normally don’t get rinsed. High-efficiency washers, because of their low water usage, require significantly less detergent. No more that 1 teaspoon of detergent should be used unless the clothes are heavily soiled. This is especially true if your water is softened or if you are using liquid detergent. This runs counter to what most of us are used to.

5. Liquid fabric softener is another source of problems. Softener will leave significant residues which can harbor mold.

6. Foreign objects caught in the drain sump, or even in the pump itself can impede the washer’s ability to drain the water and also provide another good breeding ground for odor causing agents. This is very common in front-loaders.

How to prevent this problem?

The following tips should be helpful in preventing this problem from occurring in your high-efficiency washer.

1. Leave the door/lid ajar between uses. This will help to ventilate and dry out your washer.

2. Use warmer temperature settings whenever possible.

3. For loads that aren’t heavily soiled, use no more than 1 tbsp of detergent despite the recommended amount listed on the product’s label. Use only HE detergent. You may even need to consider different brands of detergent.

4. Avoid liquid fabric softener. Use dryer sheets instead.

5. Periodically use a product designed to clean washing machines. Once a month should be adequate.


If your washer already has an odor or has visible mold

If your washer has already developed this problem you have several options. You can try to resolve the issue yourself. Hot water, bleach, and products like Affresh® are sometimes all that is needed. However these measures will not be sufficient in every case. Sometimes a service technician will be necessary. A technician will have access to technician-strength Affresh® which is significantly more powerful than the consumer version. A service technician can clean out the area around the water pump, a common source for these odors. The rubber door gasket may need to be replaced if the mold can’t be removed from there. Depending on the severity of the problem, the basket may even need to be pulled out and the interior surfaces cleaned. In any case, once your washer is clean you should follow the steps outlined above to maintain it and prevent the odor from coming back.

Its important to point out also that not everyone who has a high-efficiency washer has this problem. High efficiency washers are a responsible option for our society today. They conserve water and energy and are easier on our clothes. They have been generally shown to wash more effectively and often have larger capacities. With a little attention and care these benefits can be enjoyed without any accompanying odor.


Tags: cleaning home tips, cleaning tips, washing machine

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