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Musty Smell in a Front Loading Washer

Category Appliances
Washing Machine
Front loading washers in particular can develop a musty odor. This is a guide about a how to remove and prevent musty smells in your front loading washing machine.


Share on ThriftyFunThis guide contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

By 2 found this helpful
September 13, 2014

Some high efficiency washers have a bad smell inside. Rather than leave the door hanging open to air out (and risk hitting into it or a pet or child climbing inside and having it shut) I thought, for safety, that looping a bungee around the hinge and hooking it to a suction cup might allow you to keep the door open to air and not automatically snap shut.

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By 1 found this helpful
October 28, 2013

Those of us with front load washing machines know how important it is to keep the inside of the machine dry between uses to avoid unpleasant smells. Leaving the door open is one way to do that, but many machines don't let you just leave it ajar to dry out. I personally didn't like the leaving the door completely open where it would be in the way of traffic in my laundry room.


So to solve that, I put a plastic coat hanger in the opening to the machine, letting a little bit of it extend beyond the gasket and door frame, and just let the door close up against it. It leaves about an inch to an inch and a half opening, just enough to let moisture evaporate from the machine. No more smells!

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By 1 found this helpful
November 21, 2011

My high efficiency washer was serviced recently, and the tech gave me some tips to reduce the smell in my washer that I would like to share.

First, he suggested that I make sure that the drain pipe isn't resting on the bottom of the drain. It should make a gurgling sound when the washer drains. He attached the drain pipe to the water hose with a zip tie so that it will always be in the correct position. He said that if the drain pipe is resting on the bottom of the drain, the dirty water is sucked back into the washer.

Second, he suggested that I run the washer once a month with the hottest water and a tablet of dishwasher detergent. At the same time, run a small capful of dishwasher gel in the gasket to get out the gunk trapped there. I have done this once and it has made a difference already.


Source: Sears repair technician

By Barbara from Nazareth, PA

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By 1 found this helpful
September 9, 2009

In answer to smelly dishwashers. Well mine was over the top with smell. I was using an 'eco' cycle being the good human and trying to reduce our water usage. I had a buildup of muck at the bottom of the dishwasher so I would clean the filter etc. but to no avail, it still was stinky.

Just for a change I thought I'd try one of the other cycles available. Guess what, I used the 'normal' wash setting and, behold, the smell disappeared and has not come back. Yay! I know it sounds simplistic, but that was all I did.

By Dunoon from Australia

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By 2 found this helpful
September 13, 2011

Remember to not close the washer door until it has completely aired out. I have a pretty dishcloth I hang over the door so it won't close and everyone knows that the washer is drying out. Closing the door on a wet washer is what gives you that musty odor. Should you have a musty smell, run your washer on a quick cycle with some baking soda and 1/4 cup bleach.

By Maile from Onalaska, WA

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By 0 found this helpful
July 20, 2010

I have a LG Tromm front load washer. The clothes smell musty after washing. I have used Affresh to clean it several times. The clothes are briefly OK, then after a few days the musty odor comes back. We are on city water so I don't think its that. I was told not to use fabric softener any more and to use HE detergents. Still no improvement. Please help.


By Mark from Tyngsboro, MA

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July 31, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

I have a Kenmore Elite HE 4T and just went through this too. My husband took off the bottom of the washer to expose the drain. The black drain hose that comes down from the tub leads into an approx. 4" white "lint" trap that connects to the pump and the gray drain hose. He took off the white trap and it was awful. There was debris and stagnet water-the smell was awful. Needless to say, we removed it and cleaned it and put it back in. Ran 2 cycles of white vinegar and bleach and checked the trap again-it ran clean. I guess what they neglect to tell you is to clean that trap periodically. That solved the problem.

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February 5, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

Clean the filter! We tried everything! The only strategy that worked temporarily was adding a little Borax to every load. Then, finally, the machine stopped draining. We read online how to unscrew the front panel and clean out the filter. This not only is going to save the drainage pump, but it got rid of the smell. The interior filter (that is not easy to get to, but a do-it-yourself possible project), was clogged with sewage smelling water and lint. This may not be what's causing the terrible smells in your machine, but it fixed ours! I'm still going to add Borax to every couple of loads of laundry. Hope this helps anyone. The smell was so awful and now it's gone! We're going to clean the filter every few months, hopefully extending the life of the machine as well as keeping the terrible smell far, far away!

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September 12, 20110 found this helpful

My 2008 LD front loading washer and the cloths washed in the machine smell very bad, like mold. We also have several pets and I am unable to get to where the dog and cat hair lodge in the washer.

I paid a lot of money for what I thought would be my last purchase of a new washer and dryer as most of my previous appliances over the last 40 years have served me well. I also have a Master Protection Plan that we purchased at the same time as the purchase of the washer and dryer.

I had nothing but trouble with a washer that didn't work most of the time until Sears finally declared the washer unfixable and let me pick out another replacement washer. This one smells terrible. Even with the Master Protection Plan I could not get anyone out to assist me and was told to periodically throw in a cup of bleach and run a cycle. That didn't work.

After spending a thousand bucks on a washer that I hate and being a good constant customer for more than 40 years, I was finally able to get a tech out to look at smell my washer. He said this was a problem with all the front loaders. He then laid a bath towel across the front of the washer to keep the door slightly open. That was his solution! How and where do I go to find some resolution regarding this matter?


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December 7, 20150 found this helpful

Switch to powdered HE detergent. All the liquids are petroleum based and stick to the plastic hoses and gaskets and other parts. Hint given to me by a repairman. Worked for me. Use only a tablespoon for an average load. Don't use liquid fabric softener either. Eventually same stink.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 16, 2011

My front loading washer has the worst sour smell. I need some help. I bought the washer cleaner, but it did not phase the smell. I used Clorox bleach and used the hottest water and ran it through two loads, but that still did not fix it. I need help immediately, please.

By Betty from Hurricane, WV

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August 17, 20110 found this helpful

I have a front loading HE washing machine as well. The cause of the odor is using too much detergent! We are all used to using too much detergent because of the older style top loading machines. These use less water and need less detergent. The detergent companies love us for these old habits.

The solution is to get down and dirty and clean out the mold from the rubber gasket. It is smelly and gross but you need to get rid of it. It is behind the gasket, under the folds of rubber or silicone whatever. Get an old washcloth, dampen it with water and scrap it out using the washcloth as your scraper. Next, use white vinegar and go over it all again.

Next, run the washer through a regular cycle or quick cycle with a quart or so of white vinegar. Make a habit of leaving that door open when you are finished with a load. Above all, learn to use less detergent so the mold doesn't have anything to grow on. You should hate having to clean out that disgusting mold. It is dangerous to your health and the health of your family. The clothes will be clean with less and your pocketbook will love you for it as well with a savings in detergent. Best wishes to all.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 8, 2011

How do I get rid of the moldy/musty smell in my front load washer? It smells like wet towels that have been sitting in the damp basement of an abandoned house! Please help.

By Hunter

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September 13, 20110 found this helpful

I had the musty smell whether I closed the door or left it open. I was about to throw the machine away even though it was only two years old. A repairman told me to stop using liquid detergent, use only powdered, and no liquid fabric softener. The liquids are petroleum based and leave a residue on plastic pipes and rubber gaskets etc.

Powdered HE detergent is hard to find, but worth the effort. Also, he said not to use as much as recommended, he said most people use way too much soap. There is absolutely no smell in my machine now, and amazingly the clothes are just as clean. For two people washing a small load of clothes I use only a rounded tablespoon of HE powdered detergent. Try it... the only thing you have to lose is a moldy smell.

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July 20, 20100 found this helpful

*Fixed* There is a drain hose next to the Filter (little trap door). Drain this line and clean the filter.

Using vinegar or bleach, clean the front rubber seal inside that touches the tub, you'll see lint buildup

Stop using fabric softener. Switch to Tide HE Power, and a small amount is all that is needed. Remember to remove the liquid tray for powder use.

By ahardytx from Keller, TX


Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

Bio-Kleen. ( I have a bottle of their Bac-Out concentrate for stain removal. Since the concentrate can be used to de-clog drains, I emailed their customer service to see if I could use it in my washing machine. They said the natural enzymes in Bac-Out are perfect for cleaning the smelly gunk in water drains and advised me to use the cold water wash (hot water would kill the enzymes). I put 1/2 cup of the Bac-Out concentrate in the bleach filter of my front loading washer and ran a cold wash with a few rags. The bad moldy smell is gone. Yay! (03/28/2010)

By trinap

Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

We've tried everything posted on internet at least once with disappointing results. Affresh, bleach, wiping the interior, adjusting the drain hose, cleaning out the drain port, leaving the door open, etc. and nothing worked for long. Then I read a post somewhere which suggested simply trying powdered detergent. Blam, two days later smell almost completely gone.

Two months later we've basically forgot we ever had the problem. Towels are fresh smelling again. I'm rarely one to post comments, but this worked. We use dry detergent (HE type) into the front of the loader (not in the detergent dispenser). We never leave the front open. We never wipe the interior. We never use bleach. I have not idea why liquid detergents make front load washers smell, but it does. Best of luck to all! (04/12/2010)

By Joe Schmoe

Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

Washing machine problems?
Bad Smell?
Error Codes?

Today while using my Kenmore front loading washer I got an error code E20 and it did not finish it's cycle! We have had foul odors while washing our clothes for a few months now.
I searched the internet for a solution and found one.

It suggested I get a wet/dry shop vac and vacuum out the water, then vacuum out the hoses and then locate the pump to the washing machine and vacuum that out as well and also reverse the vacuum if you can, then hook it up again. So I did that, ran a cycle when it came time to drain I heard the pump make a funny noise and then a pop. The hose popped off at the pump. I had water everywhere! Oh no! Oh well, it went down the sewer drain anyway, so I unplugged it and opened it back up to reconnect the hose again only to find my 1 year old son's sock had come out of the pump.and yes it stunk. Check your washing machine's pump, there is a possibility you have a blockage in the pump.

While using the shop vac the water it was picking up smelt like raw sewage, but it's working like a charm now. (05/03/2010)

By fixitnow

Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

It's nice that there are temporary remedies. However, if you do a search on front loading washer class action suits, you may find that you have the opportunity to join in a suit. Various firms are handling suits against different manufacturers. One should not expect to pay a premium price on a Duet, e.g., and go to extraordinary means to keep one's clothes from having a musty smell.

I used various cleaners and replaced the rubber front gasket and even used a toothbrush to clean around the door (the entire circumference). The only thing I haven't tried is to get at the filter in the lower part of the washer. I'm told that one can remove the screws to get at the filter for the Whirlpool Duet, but have a bucket of some type to catch all the filthy water. Keeping the door open is not going to help. I suspect that if one washed every day, no mildew/mold would accumulate once it's cleaned. Best of luck. (06/15/2010)

By TopHat

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February 19, 20100 found this helpful

How can I remove mouldy smell from my front loading washing machine, please?

By Elizabeth from Gold Coast, Australia


Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

Check to see if your washer has had a recall to fix the matter. Our washer had the same problem but through the manufacturer's recall, the problem was taken care of. (12/22/2009)

By Squirrley

Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

The store where we purchased our washer/dryer suggested we use In fact they gave us a 12 oz jar of it to use. I used this just once following the instructions. I was disappointed because I could still smell the odor but after washing one load the odor went away.

The other suggestion was to use about a soup spoon of liquid 2X Ultra Tide. I had been using way too much. I also cut back on the fabric softener and so far after about 3 weeks the odor has not returned.

I do plan to use the Smelly Washer once a month or when/if the odor returns. That smell is pretty awful, isn't it?? Hope this helps some of you. (12/25/2009)


Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

These machines are using too little water for rinsing. The exhaust is so concentrated that the soapy residues are accumulating on internal parts, under the seal, inside the exhaust pipe (just pUll the pipe and look inside! All you need to do is to put few rugs inside the drum and run baby wash (or sanitary) cycle with extra water option repeatedly without detergent. Don't add A-Fresh in the drum - it will be purged in few minutes after pre-wash is done. Dissolve it in hot water and pour into the machine through the detergent drawer after pre-wash.

Beside that, I run washer through rinse AND spin cycle with water plus and warm-warm setting over and over again. It is obvious now that the detergent build-up is pretty much dissolved. Smell is gone. Still, after every washing session, I send my empty LG through rinse and spin cycle with water plus and warm-warm setting and low spin. It purges all retained detergent from internal surfaces and exhaust, and keeps machine clean. Good luck! (12/29/2009)

By yuri G

FIXED RE: Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

I too had the mildew smelly problems everyone is talking about. We've had the washer for around 2 years. The mildew small has been a problem almost from day 1. We've had Sears techs visit only to tell us try using the "sanitary" cycle with more bleach. Been there done that. Leave the front door open to dry out, done that. I finally broke down and called LG's 1-800 number for support.

I was surprised they were actually very nice and offered to give me an extension on my expired 1 year warranty. That way LG could dispatch a LG certified tech, not a Sears techie. The smell is gone but it's a combo of things that I believe fixed the stinky mildew smell. I think the thing that made the smell go 90% away was switching to powdered soap. There is also a drain tube in the front of my washer, behind that little trap door.

The LG tech drained the water front hat rubber hose, about 3 cups worth of very stinky water came out. It's been over a month and the smell is 95% gone. The only thing we have continued to do is use the powered soap, we have not drained the water since. In the future we will prob drain those hose once every month or so. Give it a try I hope this helps someone. Stinky musty smelling towels are good again. (01/09/2010)

By bbostic

Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

OK, here's what I've found regarding stinky washers. We used to have a front load HE washer that smelled terrible. I think you know what I'm talking about. I would come home, walk into the laundry room and practically be knocked over by the smell. I'm a handy guy, so one day I decided to rip that washer apart and clean everything I could remove. Turns out that the inside hoses and containers you can not see were loaded with mildew.

I removed the hoses that the water runs through, cleaned them with mild detergent and a tooth brush and was disgusted with what was coming out. I'm talking about clumps of grimy, gooey slime that stunk to high heaven. I could only imagine what was in the areas I could not get to. I ended up soaking the hoses in a diluted bleach to clean them even better. I then removed the bottom agitator drum and cleaned everything thoroughly.

I can tell you one thing for sure. Nothing you run through your washer is going to get that slime off the inner parts. I don't care what things claim they can do. I had to scrub the heck out of those parts to get that crud off. After I put it all back together I ran bleach through a cycle. Ran oxy clean through another and bought some Affresh tablets to run through once more. It worked for a while, but the smell eventually returned.

The only thing I can think of is that the parts I could not get to were covered in slime. In short, what I'm saying is, nothing will work 100% to clean your washer. We ended up getting a new front load Samsung washer and I was determined to not let the same thing happen to this one. I did tons of research on smelly washers and the one constant I found was this. Do not use liquid detergent in your HE washers. Liquid detergent contains animal fat. This fat sticks to the inner workings of your washer, eventually creating that lovely smell we know and love. HE washers are energy efficient thus using less water to wash our clothes.

The lack of water also allows something else. It does not flush away a lot of the residue that old washers would. That's probably why our parents washers never stunk. After much research, this is what I found. Only use powdered HE detergent in your washers. They do not contain animal fat and clean your clothes just as good. It has been over 6 months with our new washer and it smells just as clean as the day we purchased it. I would recommend switching to powered detergent after cleaning it as thoroughly as possible. I did read that many people had success with this.

Good luck with this. I hope this helps somebody because I truly feel your frustration. (02/06/2010)

By Monticello

Musty Smell In Front Load Washer

So, I've only owned my set for less than one year. My clothing and towels started to smell bad. I had the same problem and the LG tech had me do the same thing. Although, I have a laundry closet so leaving the door open is a pain and I was draining the little tube after I did the week's laundry, which became tedious.

I would like to know if you use the powdered detergent, does it just go in with the clothing directly? (02/09/2010)

By consieone

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December 21, 20090 found this helpful

Does anyone know how to get the musty smell out of a front loading washing machine? I have tried cleaning the rubber seals, bleach, vinegar etc., and nothing is working.

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November 6, 20080 found this helpful

With my first front load washer, I continually had problems with the spin cycle not spinning the clothes properly.

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February 24, 20050 found this helpful

I have a front loading washer (which I LOVE!) but I have developed a problem.

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