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9 Ways to Beat Odor Problems in Modern High-Efficiency Front Load and Top Load Washers

Samurai Appliance Repair Man


1. Use Only HE (High Efficiency) Detergent

And no, using a smaller quantity of conventional detergent is not the same as using HE detergent, as explained below. HE detergents are not simply a concentrated formulation of the regular stuff. Since front loaders and HE top loaders use much less water than conventional top loaders (about 12 gallons per wash load vs. about 56 gallons in a conventional top-loader), HE washers require a detergent with a whole different chemistry. You can read more about it in my magnum opus, High Efficiency Detergents, Front-Loading Washers, and the Great Unwashed.

If HE detergent is not used in these modern, low water-use washers, residue will accumulate in the outer drum and emit a foul odor. Or, as Martha, the sister of Lazarus observed, "Lord, by this time he stinketh."

"What's the best HE detergent to use," you ax? I gotta recommend Woolite Complete from the Reckitt-Benkiser folks who put on the awesome detergent training seminar for professional appliantologists at the Appliance Service Training Institute every year.


2. Run the "Tub Clean" Cycle Once a Month

Using either non-HE detergent or too much HE detergent will cause the build up of a residue called scrud (a mixture of scum and other crud). Once the Funk From Within (FFW) has taken hold inside the washer drum or tub, neither bleach nor vinegar will eliminate the odor. De-stinkification at this point involves scrud removal. You'll need to run a product called Affresh through it on the "Tub Clean" cycle. This cycle, combined with Affresh, is specially designed to remove scrud build-up.


If the washer doesn't have a "Tub Clean" cycle, then just run a hot water wash at maximum water level.

When running a Tub Clean cycle with Affresh, do not add any clothes or detergent. Just hot water and Affresh.

3. Reduce Detergent Use for Soft Water or Water Softener

Soft water will cause over-sudsing even when using HE detergent. To prevent scrud buildup, the amount of detergent used in each wash needs to be reduced to prevent forming suds during the wash cycle. If the water is very soft, as with some city waters where they soften it, the detergent usage will need to be reduced even below the recommended amount.

"But I like to see lots of suds in my washer because then I know my clothes are getting clean!"

You have to start with the understanding that the tumble action of high-efficiency washers (i.e., front loaders) produce more suds than the agitator action in top loaders. Now most of people think, “Oooo, sudsy, that’s good!” No, not good. Suds do nothing to clean your clothes and are actually an undesirable by-product of the detergent’s chemical interaction with the water.

Is it possible to know for sure what kind of water hardness you're dealing with? Ya sure, ya betcha! Just use this Maytag water hardness testing kit. You can read more about water hardness, what that means, and how it affects detergents.


General detergent guidelines for any front load or agitator-less top load washer with tub sizes 3.0 cu ft and larger is as follows (adjust as needed to eliminate undesirable sudsing):

HE: (2) Tablespoons Per Wash Load

HE 2X: (1) Tablespoon

HE 3X: (1) Teaspoon

4. Ensure Drain Hose is Installed Properly

If the drain hose is not installed properly, the unit will not drain properly. Additionally, if the washer drain hose is crammed so far down the drain pipe that it's submerged in the standing water in the pipe, it will do two things: 1) bring odors back up into the drum and 2) cause siphoning which, in turn, causes improper filling and other weird symptoms.


Never extend the drain hose more than 4 inches beyond the end of the elbow, and drain hoses should never be inserted more than 6 inches into drain.

5. Dry Door Gasket when Laundry is Finished for the Day

The door gasket on a front load washer should be wiped dry when the washer is finished working for the day. Water left in the bottom arc of the gasket is normal, since there is no suction pump attached to the gasket. However, if not dried out, stagnate water could begin to stinketh.

6. Periodically Inspect the Door Gasket and Clean Off Mildew as Needed

Periodically, check the door gasket on a front load washer for mildew buildup. If you're a bleach fan, mix 3/4 cup bleach with a gallon of hot water. Use the bleach mixture and a cloth to wipe out the gasket. (Do not use bleach alone. Undiluted bleach will damage the gasket.) Or, we've found that Simple Green works pretty good, too, and it's a little less fuss to use.

If the mildew cannot be removed, the gasket will have to be replaced. You can buy the replacement door gasket for any brand and model of front loader right here with a one year return policy. Most door gaskets you'll find here have a how-to replacement video that shows you exactly how to replace it.

7. Keep Washer Door Open or Lid Raised when Machine is Not in Use

After a cycle, small amounts of water are left in the machine. When finished with the unit for the day, dry the gasket (on a front loader) and leave the door open for a couple hours to allow the moisture to evaporate and dry out. On top loaders, just leave the lid raised.

8. Clean Detergent Dispenser Regularly

Once a week, remove the dispenser drawer and clean out the gookus in the sink with hot water and scrub brush.

9. Clean the Drain Pump Filter Regularly

Most front load washers have some type of "coin catcher" or screen for catching "gookus" -- that's a technical term we professional appliantologists use to refer to anything that ain't supposed to be there. This drain pump filter should be cleaned about once a month to prevent odors.

Remove the pump filter or coin catcher and scrub it under hot water to get all the nooks and crannies.


Accumulations of gookus on the drain filter like you see above prevents proper drainage and makes a great habitat for little stink-maker bacteria to grow, thrive, and stinketh.

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Mr. Lee Fix


I am so glad that I don't own an HE front loader.  Seems like a pain in the tookus.  Nice lesson in washing though, and with detailed instructions and reasons...it is a WINNER!  Three cheers for the Inebriated One -BANZAI!  BANZAI! BANZAI!


Mr. Lee Fix

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man


Domo, Brother Lee Fix!  Though I would just point out that we have used a front load washer for over 16 years now and have never had an odor problem, not even the slightest hint of one.  Basically it comes down to two things:  1) leave the door open between washes and 2) use the proper amount of HE detergent.  Pretty simple, really.  And front loaders are so much easier on your clothes because there's no agitator jerking back and forth yanking the threads in your clothing.  IMHO, front loader washers are the only way to go.

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If one is a humble amateur appliantologist with infrequent water testing needs, any store that sells tropical fish can test your water hardness, generally gratis.

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man


Good tip, sirwired!

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Oh the advice of the Supreme master of Appliantology, I purchased a new LG front loader.. and low and behold, noticing other companies who have been chastised for "the washer that doth stinketh" LG has both a washer clean cycle AND they have a magnetic latch that holds the door open slightly to keep some air moving and dry it out.. 

Kudos Samurai Appliance Repairman.. the best advice I could have received.. machine is awesome.. but truthfully I can wait to see how easy it is to repair.. 

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Scum is NOT the only problem with suds, when the clothes fall from the top of the tub into the water/detergent it penetrates the fabric and brings the soil out with it.. with too many suds.. there is NO penetration into the fabric(like falling into fluff) and hence it cleans poorly, and of course worse, if you cut back on the amount of detergent to reduce sudsing.  "He" detergents are priced almost equally in most markets now.

Listen to the Master Samurai, be humble, blessed, be prepared, have long washer life and a sparkling clean  fresh smelling kimono..  for those surprise attacks by unruly and badly behaved appliances.

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So right!! my stinking front loader was driving me out of the utiity room, I did not know about the Affresh - and have had  fair success with a product i found on amazon called "smelly washer". it stopped the stink and i use it once a month. Will try and find some affresh for the next monthy cleaning and compare. My Samsung does not have a filter, but have learned how to take a part the pump and clean it out as it gets do much gunk that it stops the unit from draining.  This site was very helpful in teaching an older lady like me to do this.

This was not a problem in the old type Westinghouse front loader I had 20 years ago. I still don't like the fancy front loader for my dirty farm clothes and solved the problem by having a  top Top loading amana that cost a less than a 1/4th of the front loader installed next to the fancy front loader.for the really dirty clothes. Use the front loader is best for delicates, hand washables, house hole stuff and bedding. Went to the front loader because on the farm try to save water from the well, especially when we have drought years, but hated giving up  the cleaning power of the old time washers.  Now have the best of both.  but am also scouting for an old wringer washer for washing horse blankets as am afraid to put them in the more delicately made  washers we have today, and hosing them off does not get them clean as would like.

This site has been wonderful for helping me not get ripped off and learning to care for all my appliances.

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Also, powder is less likely to stink than liquid detergent.

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