How To Clean A Smelly HE Washer

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For every person who loves their high-efficiency washing machine, there seem to be two more wondering how to clean a smelly HE washer.

Hand pulling back gasket on smelly HE washing machine to show mold as the cause of the HE washers smell

It’s frustrating to spend the extra money on a high-efficiency appliance only to have it stink up your clothes, your laundry room, and eventually your home. Here’s how to clean a smelly HE washer so you can go back to enjoying yours.

How to Clean a Smelly HE Washer

Most times when HE washers develop a musty smell it’s from using too much detergent. The soap leads to build-up which just sits there breeding bacteria. If the door is left closed for too long, mildew sets in, too, and the combination of all that gunk stinks.

1. Tackle the Mold and Mildew

It is particularly important to check your HE washer for mold if you’ve been using cold water in the wash cycle to save money. Cold water doesn’t kill bacteria, so start cleaning your smelly HE washer by washing it by hand using 1/2 cup of bleach added to 2 cups VERY hot water. Dip a cloth in and wipe every surface inside the machine, including the glass on the inside of the door.

2. Wipe Behind the Gasket

Put a towel down on the floor in front of the machine, because this next part is messy. Carefully pull the rubber gasket open with your fingers and clean it with bleach water and a fresh cloth. You may need to use an old toothbrush to scrub away buildup. Get the area between the rubber gasket and the machine very wet and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Change your bleach solution and, using another clean cloth, wipe the inner seal again. Follow with a clean, dry rag.

3. Scrub the Dispenser

Detergent buildup is another main reason that HE washers smell. Remove the tray and soak it in hot water for 30 minutes to loosen residue, then scrub well and rinse. Next, wipe it down with bleach solution to kill any lingering mold spores. Let that air-dry. Before you return the tray, clean inside the tray compartment with another clean rag and bleach solution. When the tray is dry, return it to the clean chamber.

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4. Run a Cleaning Cycle

Add 1/4 cup of bleach to the detergent tray and run the machine on its “clean” setting. (Or whatever yours calls that cycle.) Make sure your water heater is turned to at least 120°F so the water is hot enough to disinfect the machine and its hoses.

5. Wipe and Dry

Since the cleaning cycle probably loosened more crud, repeat steps 1 and 2 by cleaning the washer’s drum and the gasket. Then, let it air dry overnight with the door propped open so the machine and its hoses can fully dry out.

How to Keep Your HE Washer Smelling Fresh

Let it dry out. Make a habit of leaving your machine’s door open so the drum and hoses thoroughly dry out between loads.

Use detergents specifically for HE machines. Since high-efficiency machines use less water, the best detergent for them also dissolves in less water. Look at the packaging and make sure you’re using one specifically designed for HE washers and you’ll reduce the smell that results from excess detergent.

Once a month, run an empty laundry cycle with bleach but no detergent and no clothing. This allows bleach to effectively clean the washer and lines without being overwhelmed by soil and other organic matter that reduces the disinfection. After running this load, wipe the gasket to remove any loosened residue.

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