Consumer Reports: How to combat front-loading washing machine odors

Is there a bad smell coming from your washing machine? If you have a front-loader, it could be mold or mildew.

The problem's been around for years, but why?

Consumer Reports scientists have some explanations and solutions if your front loader has an odor.

"I just completed a load of laundry and I wanted to show you the gray, mildewy gook. It smells like a damp basement," said Deirdre Myles.

The problem isn't new.

According to Consumer Reports, smelly washers and mold have been a problem for about 20 years.

"Over the years manufacturers have made design changes to try to combat the mold issue," says Consumer Reports Home Editor, Sara Morrow-Harcourt

But that hasn't solved the problem, so manufacturers went back to the drawing board.

Last spring CR tested a new front loader from GE designed to eliminate excess moisture. The results: It reduced humidity levels inside the drum, but CR says that's not a guarantee that mold or bacteria won't grow.

"Mold spores can be found anywhere you wear your clothes. So you actually toss them into the washer where there might be residual detergent, leftover lint, hair, and any other organic material, add to that lingering moisture in the machine and mold can flourish," says Morrow-Harcourt.

Like many other frustrated consumers, Myles finally gave up and is getting a new top-loading washing machine.

"Our tests are finding many high-efficiency top loaders are actually performing nearly as well as many of our recommended front loaders," says Morrow-Harcourt.

Among them, an LG, a CR best buy for about $650.

It offers excellent performance and water efficiency, plus very good energy efficiency.

Shopping for a pair?

The matching electric LG dryer also performs well in CR's tests, earning excellent ratings for performance and reliability. It'll cost you around $1,300 for the set.

For all the consumers stuck with, or committed to the benefits of a front-loader, CR says there are steps you can take to help prevent mold and mildew.

Run the tub-clean feature regularly. If your washer doesn't have that feature, run the washer on the hottest water temperature setting with a cup of bleach.

After the last load of the day, dry the inside of the door and the rubber gasket, carefully pulling it back to clean away residue.

Between loads, open the dispensers to give them a chance to dry.

If there aren't any young kids in your home, keep the washer door open between loads to give the washer's interior a chance to dry out.

You can find the top models CR recommends here.
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