Front load washer tricks needed!
October 24, 2018 6:21 AM   Subscribe

We're adjusting to a HE front load washer with hang to dry clothing and free and clear detergent - tips and tricks needed!

We recently moved, and purchased a front load Samsung washer. It uses HE detergent.

I have many dresses that I primarily hang to dry - some require it, and others don't, but I want them to last longer, so I hang them to dry.

With the new washer, I seem to have a lot more trouble with an almost sour smell - not with everything, but with some things. I am not leaving things in the washer, I'm hanging them on a drying rack. The house temp is normally 65 degrees or so, but that isn't different from the last house.

I've tried switching to All free & clear with odor control, I've tried the occasional vinegar rinse (the last time I tried, everything still reeked of vinegar when removed from the washer, even with an extra rinse). I'm thinking of switching to another detergent, but am concerned I will be allergic to it, plus, I've read you have to use HE detergent, not just HE compatible detergent.

Should I use a fan on the clothes that are drying? Any suggestions?

The washer is new - has been used for approximately one month, and I leave the door cracked, so I don't think it's the washer itself that is the problem.
posted by needlegrrl to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'd try adding less to the load to see if that works.
posted by london explorer girl at 6:27 AM on October 24, 2018

For smells, almost nothing beats a dash of OxyClean in the detergent. I'm not the type that will add it to every load, but if there's food debris or something stinky in there, that will almost always take care of it. I like to use warm wash with it too. Cold wash just isn't enough for some loads.

Addenda: check your filter. Most newer washers have a filter on the drain. If this is clogged, you might not be getting a full drain, which might limit the effectiveness of rinsing of your washer.
posted by sydnius at 6:28 AM on October 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have a cheap front loader. I find that sometimes after I've done a load I just let it "air out" and dry. Water and moisture and goo can collect in the rubber parts of the door of mine, so I wipe them down with a dry dirty cloth after a wash so goo doesn't collect and gather funk.

See if that helps?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:29 AM on October 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

* Run it though the clean cycle and use a product like affresh or whirlout.
* Take a clean dry towel and wipe down all the rubber seals
* Remove the soap tray and give it a good cleaning.
* Always keep the door slightly ajar to let the washer air dry between uses.
* Liquid fabric softener seems to cause buildup in spaces that create the sour smell.
posted by ShakeyJake at 6:29 AM on October 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Does the washer fully dry out if you are just leaving it cracked open? You may need to leave the door all the way open to ensure that it dries completely and in a reasonable period of time.
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 6:34 AM on October 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

If it’s not even rinsing out vinegar, it’s the washer. There are a lot of techniques you can use to improve the rinsing function on the washer. Ineffective rinsing is a well-known issue with front-loaders. Sometimes it can be fixed with a valve on the washer; sometimes people finagle it by bypassing the washer’s sensors in various ways.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:40 AM on October 24, 2018

If you decide that masking it is the way to go, you might get some use out of my previous question:
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:41 AM on October 24, 2018

Run an empty load (or white towels) with a lot of bleach on the sanitize cycle. You'll probably want to run a second empty load to wash out the bleach smell.

I live in a very humid area, and do this a couple of times a year. It handles the washer smell nicely.
posted by gregr at 6:43 AM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

What kind of HE Detergent are you using? Powder or liquid?

I've found that you need a LOT less detergent that you think. I probably use only a TBSP of liquid per load. I always use "extra water". And use the clean machine cycle once a week.

Try running a load with just one or two things, no detergent, and see if you get bubbles. IF you do, you have a build up on your machine that needs to be dealt with.

If you close the door on the machine while not in use, and open it after a few hours, how does it smell?

Our machine requires a lot of maintenance in order to keep it smelling clean. I hate the damn thing. Our repair guy said that the drums cake up with detergent, and that is the cause of the smell. He showed us a drum he'd just replaced, and the detergent cake up was like cement.

Also, have you emptied the filter - mine is on the bottom at the front, you open it, unscrew a lid, and there's a little hose that empties water.
posted by Ftsqg at 6:50 AM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nthing using Oxyclean and using less detergent. I lived in a hot and humid area and almost exclusively used drying racks. For thick cotton items I totally did point a box fan at the drying rack.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:26 AM on October 24, 2018

When we switched to a frontloader, we had to make some adjustments, too.

1. With conventional washers, you can be a little lazy about moving clothes to the dryer. With the FL machines, DO NOT DO THIS. Get up and move the clothes over quickly.

2. If you live in a humid place, you'll also want to be sure to let the machine stand open for long enough to dry out after each use. Otherwise, you risk funkiness.

We're safe from funk as long as we keep to these two rules.
posted by uberchet at 7:30 AM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had "sour smell" issues when first using a HE front loader last year, following switching from a top-loader. Here's what helped:
1. Use a *lot* less liquid detergent. The minimum required. As Ftsqg said, a TABLESPOON of liquid detergent is enough for most loads.
2. Switch brands to a high-end liquid detergent. Persil ProClean 2-in-1 is excellent.
3. NEVER let wet laundry sit in the drum after the load is complete. In the old top loader, if I forgot it for a few hours (up to next day, in cold weather) the wash would be OK. NOT SO in the front loader, wet wash stinks after a few hours and the smell hangs in the drum.
4. Run whites with Real Bleach once a month, this helps clean the washer too. (used to use OxiClean only on whites prior.)
5. Leave the door open for a few hours after use to let the drum dry.
6. Clean the washer regularly ; use Affresh and the cleaning cycle.
posted by Ardea alba at 7:44 AM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

My front loader *must* be left open, kind of a pain in the only location available. When it goes funky I wash a load of whites on hot with bleach. I have an old towel that I put in the washer, partly hanging out - this keeps the door from closing, and the towel absorbs moisture reducing the mildew/ funkiness issue. Vinegar only sort of helps with smell. I had the same issue.
posted by theora55 at 7:44 AM on October 24, 2018

When you leave a load in the washer a little too long, even if they don't seem to smell, run them on a rinse-only cycle. Sometimes those smells are not apparent right away, and especially if you're air drying, that gives whatever bacteria are on there more time to develop.

As mentioned several times above, don't fear the chlorine bleach. I occasionally run my towels on the very hot "sanitize" cycle, with bleach, which is overkill for the towels but good for my machine. In my experience, vinegar really doesn't do much, either to keep the machine clean or to salvage stinky laundry. The only thing mildew respects is bleach. And on that note, if you do get a stinky load, you'd be surprised how many things can survive a load with just a tiny bit of bleach in it. Bleach doesn't always ruined colored clothes and it only takes a little to wipe out mildew smell. If you're thinking of giving up on something that smells, try bleach as a last resort.

Finally, leave the door all the way open, not just cracked. If it dries, it dies. Leaving it only cracked still allows a humid environment in there.
posted by HotToddy at 7:55 AM on October 24, 2018

If you have a sink near the washer, try running the hot water at the sink until it gets up to temperature, then start the cycle.

HE washers use very little water, which means in some households you aren't getting warm water far enough into the washer at all. This is especially true if you have a tankless heater.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:57 AM on October 24, 2018

I am using liquid detergent, and likely using far too much of it. I may also be filling the washer too full - it's hard for me to tell that too.

I am washing in cold water.

I will check the filter, leave the door fully open, and start wiping. Thanks for all the advice!
posted by needlegrrl at 8:16 AM on October 24, 2018

Regarding detergent, The Wirecutter gives it's highest recommendation to Tide Ultra Stain Release Free.
posted by Ardea alba at 8:22 AM on October 24, 2018

Lots of good advice here. I'll just nth that you have to leave the door open all the time, not just for a while after washing. The manual on my Whirlpool FL washer says to always leave the door ajar. And leaving it wide open for at least a few hours is even better. It can take a long time for the innards to dry properly. Also, I find that I need to use a paper towel to dry up a little pool of water that forms in the rubber door gasket, and even then I need to clean that out with vinegar now and then.
posted by beagle at 8:32 AM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also check the detergent dispenser drawer. Pull it out completely and wash it down when you do your clean/purge of the filter. The drawer can build up some nasty mildew and mold in the crevices and this gets washed right back into the clothing.

Also check the inside spaces of the drawer compartment (unappetizing example image). This is another trouble area with front loaders.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:03 AM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Excess detergent will cause a buildup, and so will fabric softener. In my experience that particular sort of buildup smells more funky and musty than it does sour, though. My suspicion would be that you're still getting some leaching of some sort of lubricant or solvent used in the manufacture of your washer. It should fade with a bit more time, but it might fade faster with a hot water wash with chlorine bleach, or a cleaning cycle using a product like Affresh, or maybe even a mild degreaser like diluted Simple Green or something (not all at the same time).
posted by fedward at 9:21 AM on October 24, 2018

There is some amazing advice in this thread. What I have learned over the years from UK front-loaders (lots of repeats from things already said):

Always keep door fully open
Run through an 4 empty cycles with bleach, vinegar, bleach again, then laundry soap 4 times a year (on hot)
Keep the detergent drawer really clean (I take it out and run it through the dishwasher if I can)
Don’t overload with clothes, I fill it 3/4ths full
Hang clothes up to dry immediately (I don’t have a dryer)
Check/empty the filters 1-2 times a year or more if there are weird smells
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:56 AM on October 24, 2018

On mine, the gasket can build up some tremendous gunk which requires the occasional (annual?) wipe-out with paper towels. Actually I could probably use to replace it, but accessing the gasket is a serious PITA that'll involve unstacking it from my dryer, and taking apart the top and front of the chassis. It's still sealing; it's just gross.

I agree with some of the above advice: try a hot cycle with bleach, wipe out every accessible nook and cranny of the gasket.

I leave my washer open as a bad habit, but maybe that's been working in my favor from time to time.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:03 AM on October 24, 2018

I agree with most people here, but would like to add: have you read the manual for your machine?

What I learned when I switched to a new front loader almost two years ago:
When in doubt, do a smaller load.
Adust the amount of detergent to suit the load size, use a max of 2 tbsp of liquid or 4 tbsp of powder.
Use a literal tablespoon measure for this. Or the scoop that comes with Seventh Generation powder, which is two tbsp.
Oxy powder only works in hot water, no matter what the package says.
Use powder for the hot loads and liquid for warm and cold loads. Variety keeps the machine cleaner.
Do hot loads once a week-ish. Use bleach now and then.
For non-delicates, wash in warm. It makes a difference.
Wash towels in hot water. They get cleaner, and it helps keep your machine clean.
For cold water delicates, get some "no rinse" lingerie wash because it gets them cleaner and rinses better.
Fabric softener is terrible and makes clothes smell funky. Especially if it isn't fragranced. But if you want to use fabric softener, dilute it by half and then use just a tbsp.

If your machine has a seperate/removable liquid detergent cup USE IT. Otherwise the liquid detergent leaks down inside the drawer housing and needs to be cleaned up. (Ask me how I found out. At least the person only did it once.)

Do not use Simple Green. It is too foamy. (Ask me how I know.)
Don't bother with vinegar. It's pretty useless for laundry, and might be corrosive in the detergent drawer in a way that detergent and bleach are not.

Affresh works really well for maintanance cleaning.

And most important: The door should only be closed if it's running.
posted by monopas at 10:05 AM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Do not use Simple Green. It is too foamy. (Ask me how I know.)

Good to know. The last time I used it for any laundry purposes was as a spot cleaner, and that was before I had a front loader. The foaminess never would have occurred to me. Please consider that recommendation in my comment retracted.
posted by fedward at 10:21 AM on October 24, 2018

After every wash, pull the soap drawer out completely and let it air dry. I usually leave it upside down inside the drum of the machine, with the door wide open. If you use liquid detergent, it can get pretty gunky.

Check the coin trap every once in a while.

nthing the use of bleach over vinegar on a hot wash every few months.

As for drying the clothes, a fan does help. Having enough space for air to circulate between articles of clothing, as well as between each layer of cloth is important. Hanging outside is the best, or sunshine and an open window can also do the trick.
posted by hooray at 7:11 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

OMG YES to letting the detergent drawer dry. I wish I could unsee the first time I took it apart to clean...
posted by advicepig at 2:03 PM on October 25, 2018

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