How to Clean Your Front Load Washer Naturally

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How to Clean Front Load Washer

Learn how to clean a front load washer naturally. Regular cleaning boosts performance & extends the life of a front-loading washing machine!

Tip: learn to make homemade laundry detergent!

My Old Top Loader Washer

Let me tell you a story about my old top-loading washing machine.

It was an old, white, top-loading hand-me-down washing machine. I did a lot of laundry in that old machine. Like my husband’s work clothes and all the newborn clothes from both of my children. It also cleaned all the other bits and pieces of our four-person household.

As Betsy instructs in her post on how to clean a top-loading washing machine, I always kept the lid open on my washer. I wanted it to air out to decrease the likelihood of mold and mildew. At our new house, I kept that habit up even though our washer and dryer were in the garage.

One day while unloading the washer I felt at the bottom a very soft baby sock. I couldn’t see it, but I remember thinking that it was even softer than usual. So I took a good look as I pulled it up and it was not a sock. It was a small, dead, waterlogged mouse!

You can imagine the shrieking that went on! It’s one thing to find a dead mouse at the bottom of your washing machine. It’s another thing to realize you’ve been squeezing it in your hand. So, I re-washed the clothes and ran a cleaning cycle of the washing machine. And I nearly scrubbed my fingers to the bone washing my hands.

My New Front Loading Washing Machine

I did manage to survive the encounter and haven’t had it happen again! But when my sister- and brother-in-law offered to give us a newer, high-efficiency, front-loading washing machine, we were thrilled. There are many reasons to use a front-load machine, but for me, I think my favorite thing is a pretty much non-existent chance of accidentally grabbing a dead mouse from inside it! Plus they use less water.

We’ve had our new machine for almost a year now, and like all appliances, I have to keep it clean. It was easier to ignore the grime in my top-loading machine because I couldn’t see it, but with my HE washer, it’s noticeable. Also, front loaders use less water, and less liquid means things like soap scum and buildup from fabric softeners happen more often. So I learned how to clean a front loading washing machine and am sharing it with you.

So here are a few tips for cleaning a front-load washer and keeping it fresh:

Cleaners and How to Clean a Front Load Washer


  • 2 cups of white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of baking soda
  • peroxide (optional)
  • cleaning rag
  • old toothbrush (optional)


Your HE washer probably has a cleaning cycle, but before you even begin that, you’ll need to do some detail work. The rubber gasket, or rubber seal, at the front of the machine, is notorious for buildup and growing mildew. I’ve also noticed they tend to be a magnet for hair, especially pet hair. The people who had the washer before we did had a few cats, and there was a lot of cat hair stuck in the gasket when we first got it.

How to Clean Front Load Washer 1

Clean Rubber Gasket

I cleaned the gasket by spraying vinegar into the folds and then rubbing them down with a cleaning rag that I first applied baking soda to. The baking soda makes it a bit more abrasive and reacts with the vinegar once contacting the surface-to-be-cleaned. Our gasket has never had the chance to grow much mold or mildew, but if it did I would apply peroxide following the baking soda and vinegar. Peroxide kills mold. Alternatively, you could scrub the inside of the gasket with an old toothbrush. (Peroxide is also the best way to clean your toothbrush!)

Once you’ve cleaned the gasket, make sure to give the door a good wipe-down, too.

Cleaning or Washing Cycle

When you’re ready to run the cleaning cycle, sprinkle  1/3 cup of baking soda into the drum of the machine. (If you don’t have a cleaning cycle, just use the regular washing cycle.) This step delivers an extra odor-fighting boost. Pour two cups of vinegar into the detergent dispenser, or detergent tray, choose hot water, and turn the dial of your machine to the cleaning cycle. The cycle should take from an hour to an hour and a half. No, you don’t need to use bleach, but of course, you can if you’re comfortable with it. Also, we don’t use soap because the soapy water could be contributing to soap scum buildup and even dirt buildup.

How to Clean Front Load Washer 2

Tips for Keeping Your Front Load Washer Clean

Now that you have your tub clean and gaskets clean, let’s keep them clean!

Always Leave the Door Open

Make sure you leave the door open all the time. Except when you’re washing clothes, obviously. This is even more important for front-load machines than for top-loading ones because they become smelly quickly. Every time I have shut the door to my machine, I have regretted having done so the moment I opened the door again.

Don’t Leave Clothes Inside the Washer

Don’t let your clothes sit. I will admit that I used to have a bad habit of letting my clothes sit in the washing machine for a few hours after I washed them. It was never a problem with my old machine, but with my HE machine, the clothes get that strange smell to them quickly. It’s best to remove the clothes immediately after they’re finished washing.

Always Fully Drain and Wipe Out Machine Regularly

Wipe your machine out regularly and be sure it always drains completely. You won’t want to spend the time or resources to do a full cleaning on your machine very often, but if you give it a quick wipe with a dry towel after you are finished with your laundry for the day, it will stay fresh much longer.

Keep The Exterior Clean

Periodically wipe the exterior of the machine down. I’m telling you this because I need to remember it myself. Between the dryer dust and laundry detergent residue, my washing machine can get gross pretty fast. I cleaned the outside of the machine while the cleaning cycle was running, and I’m so much happier to have a washing machine that isn’t covered in dust.

Now Go Clean Your Washer!

Now you know how to clean a front loading washing machine! So what are you waiting for?

What are your tips for cleaning a front load washer?


About Emry Trantham

Emry is a writer, teacher, photographer and mother. She is interested in all things DIY and is willing to try any project at least once. She loves spending time with her kids and loves gardening, projects, and chickens.

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  1. Chuck says

    soap scum under metal bin, nobody addressed that, it is impossible to
    get rid f it without taking the machine apart, don;t understand why this occurred
    after only 5 years use, it’s a Whirlpool front loader and I use very small amount
    of one of the best HE liquid detergent

  2. Marian says

    I, too, use baking soda. I do not put it into the drum but on the gasket itself. As the washer fills with water the soda is gradually mixed in with the water. We have hard water and that is partially why I use B. Soda. I use at least 1/2 cup per wash and never have a smell. Once every 2 or 3 months I will run a cloth around the gasket to get out any little bits or pieces. I always use vinegar as a rinse agent. Never have to worry about static cling ( except microfibre cloth that likes to cling to everything). I think static cling may come from clothes that still have soap in them.

    • Sandy Stephens says

      When making my own laundry soap it has baking soda as well as washing soda in there. I will try your methods of adding baking soda to the gasket also. I don’t have odors since I have something to prop the door partially open and that eliminates odors. I use white vinegar for softener in my washer and dryer balls in the dryer. Don’t like all the chemicals in the dryer sheets as well as the fire factor on build up.

  3. alexandra ward says

    I have loved using our front loader for several years now and had no mold problems until our adult children moved home and started using it on a regular basis! Dang kids. I have become interested in using chemical free laundry soap to help control buildup in the machine as I understand mold loves that stuff. Looking for advice on how to clean mold out once and for all, I just found this on YouTube and thought it might be helpful to your readers who are wanting to save their front loaders instead of replacing them. Looks like a pain to do but cheaper than buying another washing machine and once you’ve cleaned it out this well and stopped using commercial products it seems unlikely you would have to go through this again.

    Of course, this will lead you to others sharing their machine cleaning tips. And thank you Emry for the wonderful advice. Good luck everyone.

  4. Sandy Stephens says

    I too have a front load machine. I love the machine! I also make my own dry laundry soap. I try to clean my machine (sometimes!) but when I do a load I leave my door partially open with a magnet that has a hook on it and a ponytail holder! it works great! Thanks for your cleaning tips!!

    • Sandy Stephens says

      I use White Vinegar in one of those Downy Balls that goes in the washer with downy in it. I have 2 so in case one breaks, I have a spare!

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  6. Rosie says

    We used to have that funky mildew smell in our clothes, as well, even with a top-loader. We started adding white vinegar with tea tree oil (also a great anti-fungal) to every load. I’ve now started substituting hydrogen peroxide for bleach, as well.

  7. Karen B says

    I am on my 3rd front loader & loved them all…even thru raising 4 boys!! I’ve never had any mold problems but, with 4 boys, def. smell problems. I have used the soda & vinegar for over 15 yrs. The most recent FL we have is a Bosch…so nice! If my hubby or youngest son have smelly clothes, I add (I am an essential oil fanatic) Purify (an awesome blend) that kills any & all stinky smells as well as germs or mold!

    • Dee says

      Was wondering about the ‘Purify’…can you tell me what it is, where to get it, etc…? I too, am a big EO user and always looking for new ones that work well around the home.
      Thank you.

  8. Yvonne says

    Your article was great but I have found since I have quit using commercially bought soaps and cleaning items (I now use baking soda, vinegar and such) to do my laundry, my HE machines don’t have mold, mildew or any smell. And the clothes are fresh, clean and smell good as well. Saving big bucks every load I do.

    • Lisa says

      I just finished washing my gasket and the clean cycle is running now. Would you be willing to share your homemade laundry soap ingredients with us?

  9. Dawn says

    The best way to get rid of odors in laundry is to wash and then hang the laundry in the sunshine. This even works for barn clothes.

    • Dee says

      Aahhh, the good old days of hanging clothes outdoors to dry (sure miss doing that)! However, our home now is connected to a golf course so hanging clothes outdoors is not allowed. I have been putting white vinegar it my (home-made) fabric softener bottle since I got my new front-loader & have not had any issues with smell, mildew, etc. Hope this helps some of you.

  10. Bruce says

    We cleaned and cleaned our front load washer and still could not get rid of the smells. We found the front gasket was one giant mold machine. Even after cleaning the gasket, we still had the odors. Talked to a washer service rep and he showed us pictures of washers that had been badly infected (if that’s the correct word) with mold. The back of the drum where you can not see was covered with soap scum and mold. It would take a complete rebuild of our machine to get rid of the mold. We scrapped the washer and bought a top load. Hated to do that but the mold and smells had taken over.

    When the new top loader was immediately put to use. Had to wash all the cloths, towels and other items in vinegar and baking soda, as you had recommended. No more mold. Thank you for the vinegar and baking soda trick.

    • Lisa S says

      I also just scrapped my front loader due to the mildewy smelling clothes. I had tried everything possible to get the smell out but could not, upon taking the front loader apart so we could keep the stainless steel tub we found the front of the washer that holds the gasket in place and that the tub was connected too was full of water which is a flaw in the design. I have since purchased a top loader and am in the process of rewashing everything in our home.

      • Mary Ann Davis says

        With the model HE front load washer model I have, I found that the bleach dispenser still had water in it after the cycle was completed. I found that by removing the soap/bleach/rinse dispenser drawer, wiping down inside the area the dispenser drawer resides, as well as the drawer itself and tub gasket, was another key element to eliminating mold and it’s accompanying order. I also use vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener and leave the dispenser drawer and front door open to allow the machine to completely dry from the dispenser drawer opening down to the tub itself. Wool dryer balls make my clothes soft in the drying cycle and I minimize the build up of chemicals in my clothes and dryer screen, and save money too.

  11. BooBear says

    We have well water and with that said, minerals to deal with. What I have found works very well for our front loader machine to keep it clean and not stinky is using both baking soda and white vinegar with each load. Since I began doing this my machine has not once had that smell back draft when I open the door, and my clothes benefit from this method as well! Especially towels and dog blankets!
    Use approx. 1/4 cup of baking soda and just fill up the softener cup with vinegar!

  12. Grammy says

    Great tips! In the past I have had that nasty smell we all know. We have well water and it makes the stench particularly bad. Tips: clean the drain at the front bottom according to manufacturer’s instructions. I was shocked (and a little disgusted) at the grime that came out. It helped tremendously. I now spray vinegar into the drum and around the gasket at the end of washing (and also leaving the door open as much as possible) and have been amazed at the difference such a simple step has made.

  13. Julie Rider says

    I have followed you for several years now and I just adore all your tips and ideas… This one is a winner… My 10-year-old frontloading washer needed serious help… I did the wash although I don’t think my washer has a tub clean cycle and I’m going to start leaving the door ajar as you suggest! Thanks so much!

  14. Kelly Quinn says

    Thanks for all the great tips, I just got a front loader and I love it, but it does have some strange smells! I will put all these tips into practice.
    I find that if I have a towel headed for the laundry, I have been just grabbing that to wipe down the wet insides, then I don’t have to dirty a clean one. 🙂

  15. Sheri Lyle says

    thanks for the tips. I also keep my soap dispenser open as Karen mentioned. it can get yucky just as quickly as the machine door.

    • Dee says

      Did you check to see if your ‘soap dispenser’ comes out? Mine does & so I periodically remove it & clean it with a toothbrush. Amazing how much gunk you can find there.

  16. Karen says

    How do you get the funky smell out of clothes that have been left?
    Also you forgot to mention that special place called the soap dispenser and how icky that can get. I use baking soda to wash mine.
    Thank you for all the good tips.
    I use an unmatched sock to clean off my front loading machine and then I throw it in the laundry with everything else.
    Mine is very old also 2006 so it does not have the tub clean function but you are right about the gasket it does get icky.

    • Lelia Crispen says

      In order to clean out front loader “soap dispenser” which I believe have found that most dispensers can be removed from machine and upon inspection (regardless of keeping front door ajar to air out & prevent mold); the dispenser DEFINITELY generates mold if not cleaned & lots of it!!! Not just the dispenser unit but the entire area where dispenser is removed from (top/bottom/sides/back) MUST be cleaned separately from just utilizing the washing techniques as described!!! Unfortunately there is no information supplied when purchasing these machines; too bad; and so many people do NOT realized the issues with mold; ESPECIALLY on the front loaders; until build up is totally noticeable.

      • Chrissy Bridges says

        I put my soap dispenser in the top rack of the dishwasher. It works really well.

  17. Kristina Weber says

    After several washings and, especially after washing dog blankets, I let my washer dry completely (usually a day or so) and get out the vacuum. I take the hose attachment and vacuum out the gasket and the drum, as well. Even with one dog (lab), it’s caked in hair! I’ll follow your cleaning suggestions now, too. Thanks so much!