Mold and mildew can be a problem for washing machines, especially high-efficiency washers. Such appliances use less water and require special care to prevent conditions that promote bacterial growth and the consequent accompanying odor. Mold and mildew can be easily prevented or eliminated by following a simple routine and sticking with it. After the washing cycle is completed, the tub, soap dispenser, door gasket, tub strainer (the visible section of the tub with drain holes) and drain hose remain damp and can promote bacterial growth. While the drain hose and tub interior are not accessible, the door gasket and strainer are. After each wash, dry the strainer, door gasket, door interior and soap dispenser with a towel and leave the door open. If you have repeated problems with mold and mildew due to damp conditions, place a pedestal fan aimed toward the open washer door.
Because high-efficiency washing machines use less water, they require special high-efficiency detergent for thorough rinsing. If standard detergent is used, residual soap can be left behind and promote the growth of bacteria. While special detergent may cost more than bargain soap, it will pay for itself over time through the water and energy savings you’ll achieve with a high-efficiency machine. Follow instructions on the detergent package, and don’t use more than recommended. Your washer manufacturer may also have specific instructions and recommendations on detergent use that can be found in your washer manual or manufacturer website.
Running a preventive maintenance wash cycle will help take care of bacterial growth and residual soap. Once each month — or more frequently if desired — run a hot water wash with no clothes and use bleach or white vinegar instead of detergent. Both liquids rinse clean, so you need not worry about lingering bleach or vinegar smells. Alternatively, you may use a commercial washing machine cleaning product during the maintenance wash.
Wet clothes can cause mold and mildew to grow rapidly, so always remove clothes from the washer and transfer them to the clothes drier as soon as they are finished. If you’ve forgotten to remove them, wash the clothes again and add white vinegar or color-safe bleach for colors, vinegar or standard bleach for whites. This second washing will eliminate bacteria and odor from the clothing and washer.