Front-load washer woes and winter laundry calls for a time-out
January 24, 2015 12:00 AM
Using the correct amount of detergent will help control mold in front-loading washers.
Whirlpool Duet Steam Front Washer and Dryer with active spray. Maintaining high-efficiency washing appliances requires care for optimum performance.
By Rosa Colucci / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If you Google the phrase “how to remove mold and mildew from a front-load washing machine,” you will get more than 1 million results.
The new generation of sleek, high-efficiency machines beg us to make them the centerpiece of the laundry room, but most don’t realize that like most technology, proper usage and routine maintenance are required.
Matt Hillebrand, principal owner of Don’s Appliances, knows this well. His company’s service department takes a lot of calls from customers about this issue. Here is his answer:
“The customer is the main reason for the mold. Most use entirely too much detergent. Manufacturers recommend 1-2 tablespoons of detergent, and customers are using the maximum levels on the bottle tops or the box.”
Yes, you read that correctly, one or two TABLESPOONS per load.
“The washer uses very little water and so you must adjust and lower detergent to accommodate that. We (the industry) are trying to educate the consumer on the front end,” Mr. Hillebrand said.
He also pointed out that owners of high-efficiency washers should be using a detergent brand with the “HE” logo. When you use more than the recommended amount, the soap is not fully rinsed from the machine. Not only is the soap dispenser often clogged but also the rubber gasket in the front door becomes the perfect environment for dark, smelly mold. Too much fabric softener can also gunk up the dispenser, Mr. Hillebrand said.
And the smell may be only the beginning. The problem can ruin clothes and shorten the lifespan of your very expensive machine.
Several products are now sold to remove the residue and smell. But you can get the same results with products you probably already have on hand. Mr. Hillebrand says his service team walks customers through the cleanup this way:
1. Carefully remove the soap dispenser cups and clean off any gunk with hot water, let air dry and return to the unit.
2. Run bleach through the soap cup. He recommends a capful of bleach to start, depending how bad the odor is in the system. Run a hot water cycle with no clothes.
3. Wipe out the entire gasket with a Clorox wipe (use rubber gloves and dispose after). Some of the mold may not come off if it is a long-term problem.
4. If the smell is very bad, put Affresh or another cleaning product in the machine. Three tablets and a full cleaning cycle should do the trick.
“If there is still a problem, call your service guy,” he said.
After you have remedied the problem, it’s not a bad idea to use a microfiber towel to dry the gaskets and door after each load.
“If you leave the door open, you shouldn’t have to dry the gasket because most machines now have a drip gasket.” (Households with small children and pets should keep the door closed for safety.) After that, one tablet every few months should keep the unit smelling fresh.
Mr. Hillebrand also has some suggestions for dryers. They should be checked twice a year, and January is the perfect time.
“Dryer sheets don’t allow lint to be properly captured on the lint filters. Thus you can have excessive lint in the system and the vent pipe that leads to a fire,” he said.
The problem is worse in the winter because items such as blankets, sweaters and heavy clothes shed more lint. The National Fire Protection Association reports that in 2010, 16,800 reported home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines resulted in 51 deaths, 380 injuries and $236 million in direct property damage. Of those fires, 92 percent were caused by clothes dryers.
“If you have a plastic vent pipe attached to your dryer, you must replace it immediately,” he said.
Rigid, metal pipe is best, flex pipe is second and easier. “Also, if you see any damage on the pipe, replace it.”
Owners should clean the sleeve that connects to the dryer twice a year. “Lint backs up in that part of the unit and is often overlooked.”
Mr. Hillebrand notes that Miele vacuum cleaners have a flex tool attachment that is the perfect shape and size to remove lint.
Of course, before you perform any service on the dryer, unplug it. New pipe can be purchased at local home improvement stores, and if you are unsure about proper installation, check the Web for the owner’s manual. If you are still unsure, call a registered service provider. You can shadow them as they work and then handle it on your own in the future.
Rosa Colucci, 412-263-1634 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter, PgRosa_Colucci.
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