In the course of a year, the average American family does 300 loads of laundry, according to Energy Star. And if you happen to own a front-loader, your work doesn’t end there. According to our surveys of tens of thousands of CR members, 17 percent of those who own a front-load washing machine report problems with mold.
The truth is, there’s no guarantee that you can prevent mold from developing in a front-load washer. That said, doing nothing certainly won’t help. Your best bet? Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual. Here’s a cheat sheet to what various manufacturers, as well as repair technicians, recommend doing.
1. Combat Residue
It feeds mold. Skip fabric softener—which may produce residue—and use only high-efficiency (HE) detergents. (Regular detergent is too sudsy for water-efficient washers and will leave behind soap scum.) According to Samsung, HE powder detergent is less likely to build up than liquid detergent. “And don’t use too much detergent,” says Shawn Beguesse, a technician for Appliance Doctor in New York City. “The excess builds up, and eventually you’ll see a film” in the dispenser drawer. (See CR’s review of the best and worst laundry detergents.)
2. Remove Your Clean Laundry ASAP
Transfer wet clothes to the dryer as soon as the cycle ends to keep moisture from lingering.
3. Wipe the Door and Gasket
Use a rag to dry the inside of the door. Gently pull back the gasket, wipe it clean, then dry. And be on the lookout for socks and such that get stuck here, because they can become moldy.
4. Leave the Door Open
Keep it ajar or wide open between loads to allow moisture to escape. If young children are present, lock the door to your laundry room. (CR shows you how to keep young kids safe from a front-load washer accident.)
5. Mind the Detergent Drawer
Remove it and clean on a routine basis. Rinse the drawer with water, wipe away the soap buildup, then let it dry. Between loads, wipe it dry or leave the drawer open so that it can air out.
6. Run a Tub-Clean Cycle Regularly
The recommended frequency varies—some brands say monthly or every 50 wash loads. If your washer doesn’t have this feature, Beguesse suggests running the sanitary cycle or simply a hot-water cycle and using a washer cleaner with bleach, such as Tide Washing Machine Cleaner, monthly.
7. Ensure That the Machine is Level
Wash water will not drain properly if your washer isn’t perfectly level, so check it every so often. If you need to make adjustments, extend one foot at a time and check front-to-back and side-to-side with a level before tightening the lock nuts on the feet.
8. Check the Drain Hose
It shouldn’t be too long and should be inserted only 6 to 8 inches into your home’s drain pipe. More than that, and it can siphon foul-smelling water back into the washer, where it can sit.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article also appeared in the May 2020 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.