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Why Do Front Load Washers Smell?

by Megan Shaffer

When it comes to looking for a new laundry set, customers typically go with what they are used to operating regarding top load versus front load. Front load washers should be considered when purchasing because they are bigger in capacity, save more water and energy, and have a faster spin which means... less drying time! The comment used most by customers when bringing up a front load washer is, "I do not want a front load because they smell!" The odor in front loaders can be prevented and should not steer you away from considering a front load unit. To help eliminate the odor rumor, there are simple steps that can be followed to prevent odors from forming. But what causes them in the first place?

What Causes Front Loads to Smell?

Consumer User Error

Consumer misuse is one of the leading factors that causes front load washer smells. It is not that consumers do not want to take care of their investment but that they are not made aware of the potential issues and how to prevent it. This leads to maintenance neglect that front loaders require to maintain optimal performance.

Too much Detergent

The more soap does not equal cleaner clothes. An excessive dose of even the best washing detergent makes it more difficult on the machine to rinse garments, which endangers our washing machine and can leave a greasy residue inside the unit and on our clothes. This residue build up will eventually lead to a smelly washer.


Due to the nature of a front loading washing machine’s design, there is a rubber gasket that lines the door. This prevents leakage but is also a breeding ground for bacteria and mold to build. Any residual water left in the machine has nowhere to go which is how mold and mildew forms causing the machine to smell. If there is enough mold that is formed and gets through your system, it is nearly impossible to get rid of the odor.

Ways to Prevent Odor Build Up in Washer

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent your front loader from smelling like your uncle's sweaty socks.

Use Less Detergent

The amount of laundry detergent you should use per load of laundry depends on the type of washing machine you use, the size of the load, the level of soil on the clothes, the hardness of your water supply, and the stated concentration of the detergent. Most or all washing machines on the market are High Efficiency which will be indicated by a "he" symbol on the washer. For a normal size load of laundry, about 2 tablespoons of liquid or powdered detergent should be used because HE detergent is highly concentrated.

Leave the door open!

It is as simple as that! By leaving the door ajar, water is allowed to evaporate. Remember to always grab a towel and dry off the gaskets after every load. This also means to leave the soap dispenser open. Once the detergent is dispensed, small amounts of water goes through to flush out the dispenser.

Clean the Unit

Depending on the brand, they have a cleaning cycle option for your unit, which depending on how often you wash clothes, should be performed every 1 or 3 months. Whirlpool units, for example, have a "Clean Washer with Affresh" option. Affresh is a tablet cleaning agent that dissolves during the cleaning process. The soap dispenser can be removed and should be cleaned regularly. Cleaning the gaskets should be done as well since this often times the source of the smell. You can completely remove the gasket or grab a Q-Tip to get in between the gasket to remove any kind of gunk build up.

As long as these simple steps are followed, the reason you are getting a new washer will not be because of the odors.