Mold and mildew are taking over your washing machine. How to remove the gross bacteria – CNET


Clean your washer regularly to prevent mold and mildew growth. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Doing laundry is pretty simple. Add clothes, detergent and push “Start” on your washing machine. Then after some time, voilà — clean clothes. But your clothes may be swimming in bacteria, especially if they have a sulfur smell after washing. Using the cold-water setting may make your washer more likely to grow mold and bacteria. Or if you leave your machine lid closed, or don’t dry it, it may have more germs than you think. 

The best way to spot mold is if your clothes or laundry room have a rotten egg or sulfur smell. It’s a sign that gunk is growing. It may be time to give your washing machine a deep clean or eliminate the mildew inside your high-efficiency washing machine. You don’t have to live with that smell. There’s a way to get rid of it and keep it from happening again.

Washing your clothes over and over again may not solve the smelly problem, but there are a few simple solutions that will get your clothes and washing machine smelling clean again. I’ll walk you through a few steps to prevent your washing machine from being a home for bacteria and how to kill mold that may already be there.

Wipe your washing machine out

After you’re finished using your washing machine for the day, make sure you wipe down any part of the washer that is damp. This includes the lid, drum, door, rubber gaskets and detergent dispenser (if your machine has that feature). Keep an old towel on hand just for this purpose.

Leave the lid open

Mold grows in dark, moist areas, which is what your washer becomes after you’ve unloaded the clothes. Leaving the door open helps to ventilate the washer and prevent mold from growing in the first place.

Don’t wait to remove your wet clothes

When you’re planning to throw a load of laundry in, make sure you’ll be home to remove the clothes when the timer goes off. That means don’t start the washer before going to work or bed. Not only does this prevent mold from growing in your washer but also keeps your clean clothes from mildewing.

Clean the washer seals frequently

While mold contamination can happen in any washer, it’s especially common in high-efficiency (aka HE) front-loading washers. That’s why you should regularly wash the gaskets and seals around the door. The gaskets make sure water doesn’t leak out around the door and also do a good job sealing in the moisture that can help mold grow. Make sure you dry the seals along with the rest of your washer to prevent moisture from sticking around.

Use HE detergent powder (but not too much)

Liquid detergents can leave a residue in your washing machine, giving mold a food source. So the first thing to keep mold in check is to make sure you’re using a laundry detergent made specifically for your HE washer, which will produce fewer suds. (Look for the letters HE on the soap container.) The next step is to steer clear of the liquid and switch to powder detergent or pods. And whichever you choose, make sure you’re using only as much as you need to wash your clothes. If you use too much, your clothes may have a smell and residue that may not really clean your clothes.


If you’re using an HE washer, it’s best to use a detergent that is made for HE washing machines. 

Taylor Martin/CNET

How to kill mold that’s already in your washing machine

If you’ve got mold, here’s how to get rid of it:

1. Start by putting on gloves and grabbing an old towel that you don’t care about.

2. Mix a solution of either bleach and hot water or vinegar and hot water. Never mix bleach and vinegar together, as it creates a chlorine gas that can be harmful to you.

3. Dip the towel in the mixture and start scrubbing away any visible mold. Make sure you hit the detergent dispenser and around the gaskets.

4. If there’s a gasket around the door (front-load washers have them), carefully and thoroughly clean and dry it, including all the folds.

5. Run a wash cycle on the hottest setting your machine offers with a cup of bleach or vinegar. If using bleach, pour it in the compartment designated for bleach. If using vinegar, pour it in the detergent slot. If your machine has a clean cycle, you can use that setting. This should kill any hidden mold that you may have missed.

6. Next, use another old towel and wipe away all the moisture in your washing machine. This includes the drum, dispensers, seals and any other areas you can reach.

7. Last, leave the door to your washer open to allow air circulation to dry out any parts you missed. Doing this monthly will help prevent mold growth.

Once, you’ve cleaned your washer, it’s time to move on to the rest of your house. Start with the bathroom: Here’s how to clean your shower head, a simple one-hour science hack for degunking — and how to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

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