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How to Clean a Front-Loading Washing Machine Naturally

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I love my front-loading washer. It has many eco-friendly advantages, such as being energy efficient and using less detergent. The downside is that it can develop a funky smell over time and leave my clean clothing smelling not-so-clean. However, this is avoidable if I clean the washer on a regular basis.

Why Does Your Washer Smell?

There are several reasons a front-loading washer can start to smell:

Adding too much soap or fabric softener. The leftover detergent does not wash away and becomes trapped in the machine and the pipes. This leads to a buildup of mold and mildew, making not only the washer but the entire laundry room smell.

Leaving wet clothes for too long. If you let washed clothing sit for hours before putting it into the dryer, it’s not the washer that’s starting to smell but your clothing.

Cold water. If you only wash with cold water, you aren’t killing the bacteria that builds up over time. Cold water saves money and energy, but it also leaves behind more residue.

Infrequent cleaning. The detergent dispensers and rubber door gasket are not being cleaned regularly, leading to mold and mildew.

How to Green Clean Your Front-Loading Washer

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The most important thing to remember about owning a front-loading washer is that it needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much time, and with the regular use of hot water and vinegar, your washer will have no smell.

• Use vinegar instead of fabric softener to keep your washer and drainage pipes clean. Vinegar is a cheap and natural cleaner and no, your clothes will not smell like vinegar. Simply add one-fourth to one-half cup per load. The vinegar helps to break down the detergent leaving no buildup of residue in the washer or on your clothing. It fights static cling, naturally!

• Use high efficiency (HE) detergent. More is not better when it comes to a front-loading washer, which uses less detergent. To avoid the buildup of detergent, use an approved HE detergent. There are several eco-friendly HE detergents on the market. If you make your own detergent, remember to use less than you would in a top-loading washer, or consider a front-loading washer that distributes detergent for you based on load size calculations.

• Wipe down the inside of the washer, the detergent dispenser and the rubber door gasket weekly with vinegar. I have a spray bottle handy with equal parts vinegar and water. I spray the rubber gasket inside of the washer drum and then wipe it dry.

• Run the washer every other week on the longest cycle available using hot water. Add a half-cup of baking soda to the washer to break down the dirt particles and a half-cup of vinegar to the fabric softener cycle to break down the buildup of soap and grime.

• Leave the door open between cycles. This helps to air dry the washing machine and avoid a buildup of moisture.

These small steps will keep your front-loading washer clean and fresh. The best part? No chemicals are necessary!

Sommer Poquette’s website Green and Clean Mom helps homeowners incorporate eco-friendly measures on everyday household chores, such as washing and drying clothes. If you are researching washers and dryers, including styles discussed by Sommer, you can visit Home Depot’s website here. Read all of Sommer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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