Most people either love or hate their front-load washer. These appliances are high maintenance and when they are maintained well they do a better job and are more efficient. The number one complaint I get about front-load washers is an odor inside them. This odor can certainly affect how your laundry comes out smelling, and sometimes even how the laundry room smells.
The number one factor in preventing odors is leaving the door open. After a cycle is completed and the washer is emptied, leave the door wide open until the moisture inside evaporates. Closing the door between cycles causes the moisture to stagnate and can cause mold in your washer. Some newer models have a ventilation fan that turns on after the cycle to assist with this.
The door seal should not have a standing puddle of water in its groove. If it does the drain holes for the door seal are probably clogged. These can be cleaned carefully using a pipe cleaner or small screwdriver (being careful not to puncture anything). A puddle of water will certainly cause the door seal to mold and stain.
The detergent you use in a front-load washer is especially important and the wrong detergent can actually cause your washer to fail. Some detergents are even labeled HE (high efficiency) but are not good for your washer. I recommend using All or Tide HE detergents. Both offer a free and clear option. Cheap or even all natural detergents tend to cause too much sudsing in the washer. Suds then build up in areas the water can’t reach causing odor issues. Suds can also get into your pressure hose and foul your pressure switch, which detects and determines your water levels. Once that happens the pressure switch would likely need replaced. Basically, during the wash cycle, you should only see soapy water in the drum, you should see very little suds at all. Keep in mind that you don’t need the same amount of detergent in a HE washer as you did in the old fashioned washers. The old washers filled with gallons of water so you needed a full cup of detergent. HE washers use very little water in comparison, so therefore you don’t need as much detergent to get the same ratio. Detergents have also greatly improved over the years. It is recommended to only use about two tablespoons of detergent for a full wash load. Using an excessive amount of detergent also leaves detergent residue in your clothes that doesn’t get fully rinsed out, causing your clothes to look dingier and attract dirt while you wear them.
Clean the inside door glass regularly. Its easiest to clean right after a cycle when any build up is soft and wet. Build up and even hair can cause the door to leak a little. When cleaning pay special attention to the outside edge of the glass where the door seal presses against it.
Run the clean cycle regularly. It is much easier to maintain the washer than it is to get it cleaned out once an odor starts. Manufacturers recommend running the clean cycle monthly. I generally recommend at least every 2-3 months depending on usage and care to keep it maintained. Use a cup of bleach or bleach, or you can buy a washer cleaner product at the store. I like to alternate between bleach and vinegar for cleaning my washer.
Make sure to empty all pockets before doing laundry. Foreign objects create a lot of service calls. Many front-load washers have a filter you can remove and clean at the bottom/front of the appliance. But be prepared, there is always water inside. You can use a pan to catch the water or a wet-vac to suck it up as it comes out. Once the filter is out clean it in the sink and use a flashlight to see if there is any more debris inside before reinstalling the filter. If you do not see a filter or a small access door for the filter, then your washer either doesn’t have a filter, or it is inside and would need the front panel removed for access to the filter.