How to Clean your Front Load Washer Naturally

How to Clean Front Load Washer

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

It was an old, white, top-loading hand-me-down that had been used for many years before it belonged to us. I did a lot of laundry in that old machine–my husband’s work clothes, all the newborn clothes from both of my children, and all the other bits and pieces that come from having a 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. When we moved to our new house, I kept that habit up even though we now had the washer and dryer in the garage.

One day as I was unloading a bunch of my daughters’ laundry, 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, and I tried to visualize which sock it might be. I took a good look at it as I pulled it up from the depths of the washer, at which point I discovered that it was not a sock at all. 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, and completely another to find you’ve been squeezing in your hand. Needless to say, I re-washed the clothes and I ran a good cleaning cycle of the washing machine, too, and nearly scrubbed my fingers to the bone washing my hands.

I did manage to survive the encounter and it never happened 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!

We’ve had our new machine for almost a year now, and one of the things I’ve learned is, like most all appliances, it must be kept 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.

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

How to Clean Front Load Washers


  • 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 setting, but before you even begin that, you’ll need to do some detail work. The gaskets at the front of the machine (they are usually gray and rubbery) are notorious for 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

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.

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

When you’re ready to run the cleaning cycle, sprinkle  1/3 cup of baking soda into the drum of the machine. This is just an extra odor-fighting boost. Pour two cups of white vinegar into the detergent dispenser, and turn the dial of your machine to the cleaning cycle. The cycle should take from an hour to an hour and a half.

How to Clean Front Load Washer 2

Tips for Keeping Your Front Load Washer Clean

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 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.

Wipe your machine out regularly. 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 outside of the machine clean. 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.

Happy cleaning, everyone!

What are your tips for cleaning a front load washer?


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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

    • 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.

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

  3. 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.

    • 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.

  4. 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. 🙂

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

    • 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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. 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.

    • Yvonne,
      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?

  11. 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!

    • 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.

  12. 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.

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  14. 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!!

  15. 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.