How to Clean Front-Load Washer (in 5 Steps)

Register Appliance
June 3, 2024
Washer Repair

If you’ve been noticing an unpleasant musty smell coming from your front-load washer lately, this guide is for you! Any washer can get a buildup of mildew and bacteria, but the seal around a front-load washer door is particularly prone to mold and mildew. It’s important to keep your washer clean to avoid bad smells, as the odors can even end up affecting your clothes! If your washer is starting to smell bad, or if you haven’t cleaned your front-load washer before, read on!

The Importance of Keeping Your Washer Clean

First things first—let’s take a look at why it’s important to keep your washer clean. You might think that washers are self-cleaning, thanks to all the detergent and hot water that goes through them, but unfortunately, this just isn’t true. Residue from detergent, fabric softener, and even minerals from the water itself can build up, affecting your washer’s performance. Water can collect around the door seal and in the filter, and this can lead to mold, mildew, and eventually unpleasant smells. All these issues can affect how well the washer cleans your clothes, and your clothes can even be affected by mildew and start to smell bad when they come out of the wash. 

Keeping your washer clean ensures that your laundry is fresh and hygienic. Removing mineral buildup and detergent residue also ensures that the internal components of your front-load washer are in good condition and able to function properly. 

Unique Cleaning Challenges of Front-Load Washers

While front-load washers are known for being energy efficient and saving water, they do present unique cleaning challenges. The main issue is the door gasket, where moisture can become trapped and lead to mold and mildew. Because the door is at the front rather than on the top of the washer, a rubber gasket is needed to prevent water from escaping. If the water is not able to evaporate, over time it will become moldy and smelly. 

Many front-load washers contain a filter or coin trap at the front, which collects lint, debris, and tiny items that may be put into your wash accidentally, such as coins or Lego bricks. If the filter isn’t cleaned out regularly, a plug of lint, hair, and small items might form in the filter, and this can be a breeding ground for mildew and bacteria. 

Cleaning Your Front-Load Washer

Step 1: Clean the Filter

In most front-load washers, the filter is located at the bottom front of the appliance—you might need to remove a small access panel to get to it. If you’re having trouble locating yours, consult your washing machine manual for specific instructions. Here’s what to do:

  • Locate the filter and remove the front access panel. 
  • Get a shallow bowl and an old towel to catch any water runoff. 
  • Many front-load washers have a small drainage hose you can use to drain off any residue in the filter. Drain this water into your bowl before unscrewing the filter. 
  • Unscrew the filter, using a towel to catch any water that may spill out. 
  • Thoroughly clean the filter under running water. If it’s particularly dirty, you can use a small brush to clear away any stubborn debris. 
  • Wipe out the filter housing with a soft cloth until it is totally free of debris. 
  • Put the filter back in place, ensuring it is firmly screwed in. A loose filter can lead to leaks! 
  • Replace the access panel, then move on to the next step in our guide. 

Step 2: Clean the Washer Drum

The washer drum is the place where soap scum, fabric softener residue, and mildew can build up over time. Here’s how to clean it:

  • Take a soft cloth and a mild detergent spray, and thoroughly wipe down the interior. 
  • If you can see a mineral buildup, spray the interior of the drum with white vinegar, then shut the door and wait for half an hour before wiping it away. 

Step 3: Wipe the Gasket and Door

The door gasket is the most common culprit when it comes to odor and mildew in a front-load washer. Here’s how to clean it:

  • Open the washer door and thoroughly clean the glass front panel with a soft cloth and mild detergent. 
  • Pull back the gasket to access the interior folds—this is where mildew often grows. 
  • Make a mixture of half water and half white vinegar.Dip a cloth or rag in it and use to wipe out all the trapped grime and debris. 
  • Once thoroughly cleaned, use a clean, dry towel to ensure all moisture is removed. 

Step 4: Clean the Detergent Dispenser

The detergent dispenser is often neglected during washer cleaning, but it can often accumulate detergent residue—particularly if you frequently use fabric softener. 

Here’s how to thoroughly clean it:

  • Open and remove the dispenser drawer. 
  • Clean the drawer under running warm water. You can use a scrubbing brush to remove any residue. 
  • If there is any stubborn residue, soak the drawer in warm, soapy water for half an hour, then try again. 
  • Make sure you thoroughly clean the dispenser housing to ensure all residue is gone 
  • Put the dispenser drawer back in. 

Step 5: Run a Cleaning Cycle

The final step is running a cleaning cycle to get rid of any lingering mildew or bacteria. You can choose whether to use a commercial washing machine cleaning product purchased from the supermarket, or whether to use a cup of white vinegar. 

  • Follow the instructions on the washing machine cleaner, or add a cup of white vinegar to your dispenser drawer. 
  • Choose the hottest cycle your washer has available. 
  • Run the cycle with an empty drum. 
  • Once the cycle has finished, leave the drawer open to allow it to dry. 

Keeping Your Washer Clean Going Forward

To maintain a clean, odor-free front-load washer, try these tips:

  • Leave your washer door open between cycles to allow airflow and prevent mildew. 
  • Run a cleaning cycle every few months. 
  • Every month or so, wipe out the gasket to ensure mildew can’t build up. 
  • Regularly clean the filter.
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