Reviews of front loading washers and that moldy front load washer smell

by KayLaura

Comparing front-load washers to standard top-load washers. Don't be in such a hurry to "upgrade" to these popular, fancier looking washers. They might not be an "upgrade."

   I've lived 36 years without using a front load washing machine.  Of course, they only started becoming popular in the U.S. a few years ago.  They are very popular in Europe and in the Middle East.  The new home we moved into recently had a front load washing and drying machine.  They definitely look fancy!  But are they really "all that??"  I thought I'd do a comparison between front load washer/dryers and top load washer/dryers to help people in making the best choice before going out and buying the most expensive and "latest" thing out there.  More expensive doesn't always mean better!

   Before we start, if you are interested, you can read the history of washing machines and some good information about them on the following Wikipedia link...

A washing machine is a machine designed to wash laundry, such as clothing, towels and sheets. The term is mostly applied only to machines that use water as the primary cleaning solution, as opposed to dry cleaning or even ultrasonic ...

Aren't clothes supposed to SMELL clean too???

   As obviously stated in the above Wikipedia quote, a washing machine is supposed to wash clothes, towels, sheets, etc.  And one would assume that something that is washed would not only look clean, but would smell clean and fresh and yummy too.  When I first started using the front load washer at our new home I was disgusted at how gross all my laundry was smelling!  It smelled worse after coming out of the washing machine than before it went in!  Especially the towels and baby blankets.  When you took in a good, deep breath, the horrid smell of mildew filled your nostrils.  Yuck!

   I thought I needed a stronger detergent, although I'd used Tide with Bleach or Tide with Febreeze for the past 12 years and never had a problem with my clothes smelling gross.  I wondered if I had left them in the washing machine too long after being washed.  Sometimes in the past I would forget to transfer my washed clothes to the dryer and if left over night in the washing machine they would smell bad.  But I was really conscientious to transfer the clothes promptly from the washer to the dryer in our new home and STILL they came out smelling rotten.

   I tried adding Oxiclean (versatile stain remover) to every load because I have had the best success with this product in getting out even the toughest, set in stains, (that is a post in and of itself!)  But even Oxiclean didn't remove the smell. 

3.5LB Oxi Stain Remover

3.5 LB, Oxi Clean, Multi-Purpose, Stain Remover, Harnesses The Cleaning & Deodorizing Power Of Oxygen To Attack Tough Organic Dirt, Stains & Odors On Carpets & Other Surfaces, ...

$11.99  $7.99
OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover, 14lbs/2pk

An incredible oxygen-based stain fighter that's chlorine free and color safe. Designed for maximum strength stain removal, in your laundry and around your home. Use in every ...

CDC51758 - OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover

For in the wash and as a pretreater for the removal of grass stains, grease and dirt. Can also be used on carpet, upholstery, kitchen and bath surfaces

31.5OZ Stain Remover

OxiClean, 31.5 OZ, Active Stain Remover, For Laundry, Carpets & Beyond, Color Safe, No Harsh Chemicals, Works Better On Set In Stains.

Only $14.16

   I had to figure out what the cause of the stench was and I finally narrowed it down to the washing machine itself because that was the only thing different about my laundering experience in the past few months and the only time I'd ever had a foul odor in my laundry.  Was the machine old?  It looked so new and fancy.  Was it dirty?  Did the previous owners wash weird stuff in them???

   I happened to talk to my sister on the phone right around this time and she mentioned that she recently purchased a brand new front load washer/dryer.  She complained to me of the odor her laundry had developed.  We live in different states and different climates-I live in Southern California where there is higher humidity than where she lives in Utah.  As we talked and complained about the problems we were having with our front load washers, I quickly hopped online and searched about the odor from front load washing machines.  I found several great articles that verified my assumption--that the musky, moldy smell in my clothes was due to the "high tech/fancy" front load washing machine. 

What type of washing machine do you use regularly?

Some things I learned, in a nutshell:

1. Front load washing machines tend to trap water in the front, rubber seal of the door which allows mold to build up even in dry, desert climates, and that moldy, musky smell is then deposited on the clothes you wash in the machine unless the mold is cleaned out.

2. You need to use the laundry detergent with the "HE"(high efficiency) symbol on it for front load washing machines or else you are more likely to develop dirt build up on the drum itself which will deposit dirt and smell on all your loads and make your clothes look dingy.  It will continue to build up on the drum unless the drum is cleaned out regularly.

3.  They say that front load washing machines hold more clothes.  I found that my old, extra capacity top load washing machine held just about as much as the new front load washer I use now.  However, it is true that they cut the drying time down by about 15 min. a load because they wring out more water than top load washers.

4. Front load washing machines have more settings than a typical. lower end, top-load washing machine so  specialty settings such as "silk, hand washables, sanitize" make it convenient for washing specialty clothing.  However, there are plenty of newer and high-end, top-load washers that have these specialty settings and digital settings as well.

5. I have found it slightly easier to reach in and get the clothes out of a front-load washer than out of a top-load washer.

Whirlpool WTW4800XQ 27 Top-Load Washer 3.4 cu. ft. Capacity Quiet Spin Technology

3.4 Cu. Ft. White Porcelain Wash Basket Xtra Roll Action Plus Agitator Fabric Sense Wash System Care Control Temperature Management Quiet Spin technology 700 RPM Maximum Spin ...

Haier RWT350AW 3.1 Cubic Feet Top Load Agitator Washer, White

The 3. 1 cubic feet Haier Top Load Agitator Encore Washer includes seven wash cycles along with a stainless steel tub. Additional key features include rotary controls, bleach ...

Samsung WA5451ANW 27 Top-Load Washer 4.7 cu. ft. Capacity, 1,100 RPM Stainless Steel Diamond ...

Digital controls: With LED display for easy operation. Child lock prevents unauthorized use. 4.7 cu. ft. capacity: Accommodates large loads, saving you time and energy. 11 ...

Only $999.00

Just because a washer is tough on dirt and stains doesnt mean it needs to be tougher on your clothes In this case its even more gentle Our new Wave Series washer is loaded ...

Amana 3.5 cu. ft. Front Load Washer, NFW7300WW, White

The combination of Whirlpool and Amana will create significant value for their shareholders and direct benefits for consumers trade customers employees and shareholders ...

Only $699.00
Samsung WF210ANW 4 cu. Ft. High Efficiency Front-Load Washer - White

4 Spin Speeds 6 Wash Cycles 3 Options Stainless Steel Drum End of Cycle Signal Up to 19 Hour Delayed Start The ability to delay the start of a cycle until a future time. ...

Samsung WF331ANW / WF331ANW/XAA / WF331ANW/XAA WF331ANW Front Load Washer

Total Capacity: 3.7 cu. ft. VRT Steam Washing Diamond Drum PureCycle Direct Drive Max. Spin Speed: 1200 RPM Internal Water Heater 11 Preset Wash Cycles 4 Options

Only $1198.65
Maytag Maxima EcoConserve MHW6000XW 27 Front-Load Washer with 4.3 cu. ft. Capacity - White

This43 cu ft DOE equivalent washer is rated CEE Tier 3 delivers the best cleaning in the industry1 enabled by the PowerWash cycle and offers a 10-year limited parts warranty ...

Only $1214.87

   Not much price difference!  Sure, you can get a low-end, smaller capacity, top-load washer for under $350, but if you want the digital settings, the specialty settings and the larger capacity, then you are looking at an appliance in the $500 range.  You will pay about the same price for a top-load washer that has all the whistles and bells as you will pay for a lower-end, smaller capacity front load-washer because they are the current "craze."  And with the front-load washer you have to deal with the dirt build up on the drum, making sure the detergent you buy is "HE" and also keeping the mold build up on the rubber door seal cleaned out or else you will get a foul odor on all your freshly laundered clothing and towels.

   For me, it's a no-brainer.  I like whistles and bells but don't like paying a lot for them, but I am equally practical as I am concerned about appearances.  Since top-load washers come with them whistle and bells now too and are less expensive than front-load washers, and are easier to care for, the next time I buy a laundry appliance it will be a top-load washer.  We lived on the Southern California coast for the past six years and made weekly or bi-weekly trips to the beach.  I never had to think about or fuss over the top-load washing machine I had then.  I would take our 6 sandy, dirty towels, throw them in the washer and they would come out clean and smelling fresh 50 minutes later.  No fuss, no hassle.  I never cleaned my washing machine or thought twice about it.  I have too many other things I have to fuss over and take care of.


It's OK to prefer front-load washers even after all this!

How to keep your front-load washer dirt and mold free:

   Some people just like the look of the front load washer better.  They do look fancy.  They do carry a "status symbol" because they are uber-popular right now.  They are easier to reach into, especially  for shorter or younger people, such as my children (I start teaching them how to do their own wash at age 7).  Some even have the "VRT" label (vibration reduction technology).  So if you are one of those people, there is still hope for you to have a front-load washer and come out with good smelling clothes.  You just have to pay more attention to your appliance than a top-load washer owner would have to do.  Some things you can do are:

1. Leave the washing machine door open when not in use.  That will help the water build up in the rubber seal slowly evaporate and prevent mold build up.  But make sure you wipe it out about once a week and use a mold remover on the seal about once a month to keep it mold free and your clothes free of the musky smell.  This will be the most important thing you can do.  Sure, it makes for an untidy look in your laundry room, and I have to remind my kids and husband to leave the door open, but it really is the best preventative measure you can take.

2. Occasionally, like maybe every 3 months, you should run your front-load washer empty of any clothing or towels and run it on an extra hot water cycle and fill the detergent tray with a cup of bleach for a quick cycle (20 or 30 minutes).  That will clean the dirt and mold build up out of the drum.

3. Wash your white clothes or towels on hot water and with bleach because that will also help keep the drum clean.  Hot water dissolves laundry detergent better, helping prevent build up and bleach is a good bacterial killer.  But remember that both bleach (unless color-safe) and also hot water tend to fade colored clothing.  That is why I recommend you do this process on white clothes or towels.

The products you will need for your front loading washing machine...

   In case you aren't familiar with the laundry detergent that carries the "he" label on it, here it is so you will know what to buy for your front-load washer.


Tide Free and Gentle High Efficiency, 48-load, 75.0-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 4) (Packaging May ...

Get great performance out of your HE washer with Tide HE Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent while using only a fraction of the amount of water used in traditional ...

Only $189.99
Cheer 2x Ultra Liquid HE Fresh Clean Scent, 64-Load, 100-Ounce(Pack of 4)(Packaging May Vary)

2x Ultra Cheer HE Fresh Clean Scent. Stay Colorful. Cheer is made for colorful clothes.

Only $99.99
Tide Ultra High Efficiency Original Scent Powder, 80 Loads, 113-Ounce

HE stands for High Efficiency, the next generation of washers that save water and energy. There are two types of HE washers, front and top loading. Tide HE is formulated to ...

Only $43.99
Gain 2X Ultra Gain Liquid Joyful Expressions Apple Mango Tango HE 48 Load, 100.0-Ounce Bottles ...

Reward your high efficiency washer with a scent that's a tiny bit tart, a little bit sweet, a whole lotta fun for your nose and your feet. Catch a whiff then dance the night ...

Only $189.99

    Also, Whirlpool has produced a product called "Affresh" that is a front-load washer cleanser.  You place the tablet in the washer drawer and run the machine on hot water for a quick cycle and then wipe it out with one of their "gripper" cloths, leaving your washer smelling fresh and clean again.

Whirlpool W10135699 Affresh High Efficiency Washer Cleaner, 3-Tablets

If your clothes have started to smell not so fresh, it could be that your washer just isn't clean. Over time, dirt, grime and oils build up and don't come off in the washing ...

Only $6.95
Whirlpool W10194073 Affresh High Efficiency Washer Cleaner with Grit Grabber Cloth

Affresh Washer Kit, Cleaner Removes & Prevents Odor Causing Residue That Can Occur In All High Efficiency Washers, Contains 3 Pucks & 6 Grit Grabber Cloths.

Only $15.53
Updated: 02/01/2012, KayLaura
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charline on 05/12/2015

Thank you for the great advise. I'm ready to buy my Washer now :). Which will be a Top Load

KayLaura on 05/07/2012

That's awesome advice. Thanks!

Deidre on 05/05/2012

I spoke to a man who fixes appliances and is very reliable. I tried what he said for about a month and no more smells from my washer.
First run a cycle w/ 3 cups of bleach in the hottest water. Leave door open to dry. Next day run a cycle with 1/2 gallon of vinegar, again in the hottest water. NOW HERE'S THE IMPORTANT PART. He asked me what detergent and fabric softener do I use. When I told him Costco brand detergent and Downey fabric softener, he explained to me about animal based products producing mold after longtime use. I have switched to all PLANT BASED WASHING PRODUCTS. I now use Next Generation detergent and fabric softener, but there are many others out there on the market. Since switching about a month ago and first cleaning my machine with the bleach and vinegar I have had NO MORE SMELLS FROM MY MACHINE. I don't usually post things but this was worth it and I really want others to please try it. I tell you it has worked for me. My laundry room smells so much better.

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