Moldy washers... what's growing inside

Many owners of those front end loading washing machines complain of a moldy smell. Jackie Hughins has had a front loader for years. "We thought we were buying the best. We spent extra money," explains Hughins. Before long though they discovered mold and a nasty smell. "If I don't get the clothes in the dryer immediately, the smell comes out of nowhere," says Hughins.

Biosweep, an environmental testing company in Alabama, helped us with a scientific test on Hughins' washer and a rubber seal from another washer. The mold and bacteria analysis was to determine if there are colony forming units.

Biosweep's Roy Ponder was surprised to see so much mold behind the gasket in an area you can't clean without taking the washer apart. "Everybody reacts different to mold; everybody has their own level of endurance," explains Ponder.

The tests showed the samples were not viable. Ponder speculates past cleanings with bleach was enough to make sure there was no living mold colony. However he warned even the most tolerant people can become sensitized to mold and mildew over time.

You should always keep washers as dry as possible inside. Use a bleach solution for cleaning. Keep the machine door open when not in use. And if the laundry room is small, keep the room's door open as well. That allows the moisture to evaporate throughout the house and not be confined in the one room.

Every three to six months put a quarter gallon to half gallon of bleach in the machine drum, not the soap dispenser, and run a hot cycle. Baking soda works too.

Newer models are designed with vents and cleaning cycles to ward off the mold and smell issues. Also, experts say many people use way too much soap in these high efficiency machines. Be sure to stick to the recommended amount.

Consumer Reports has compiled a list of washing machines which fall under class action lawsuits for rebates or expenses:

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