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Your front-loader stinks? It’s not really a problem

Consumers complain about it. Lawyers have seized on it. But it’s nothing a little vinegar can’t fix.

My first consumer email to Wise Choices came from a gentleman complaining about his front-loading washing machine. He wrote that he noticed “black specks after washing and our clothes not smelling clean.” He also wrote that he Googled the issue and found other consumers having the same problem with the same washer model.

It’s not necessarily the specific model. It’s a failure of the front-loading design.

Consumers have filed complaints about mold, mildew and odor with front-loaders as far back as 2008. Washing machine manufacturers Whirlpool and Sears actually settled a class action lawsuit over the stink and moldy stains. The problem is the upright designs of the door and its rubber ring tend to allow moisture and soap scum to collect, eventually mildewing and raising a stink.

I’ve owned a front-loading washing machine for nearly the entire time they have existed. I’ve loved it. It holds more laundry, uses less water — it’s very efficient. Yet, I get the stink and residue, too. But I’m not suing anybody over it.

Instead, I’ve found solutions that solve the problem:

  • Scrub the rubber ring just inside the door. Use a rag with a little bit of bleach or mold/mildew cleaner. Do it regularly, like once a month.
  • Run one cup of vinegar through a normal cycle under cold water once a month. Yes, vinegar. I swear it works, and it won’t make your clothes smell like barbecue sauce.
  • If you’re wary of the vinegar idea, run a short cycle of bleach with warm water once a month. The amount of bleach you use depends on your washing machine’s specifications. Check the owner’s manual or Google it.
  • Leave the door open after each wash.
  • Dry off any condensation on the inside of the door’s window with a towel.