Whether top-load or front-load, new or used, every washing machine provides an ideal habitat for mold. The high moisture content in both the machine and the resulting atmosphere, the typical poorly-ventilated laundry room with its stale warm air, and the continual supply of decomposing organic material provided by soiled laundry all contribute to an environment conducive to mold growth and its accompanying mildew smell.
Don’t wait until you experience that distinct mold odor. Because of such steady, mold-welcoming conditions, it is important to be consistent in regular maintenance. Cleaning a machine that appears to clean itself during each use might seem a little superfluous, but even washing machines could use a good wash from time to time.
- White vinegar (or fresh lemon juice)
- A natural all-purpose mold killing solution
- A cleaning rag (or sponge)
- Q-Tips or unwanted toothbrush
How to Get Rid of Mold in Your Washer
Step 1: The Exterior
Use vinegar or the all-purpose mold killing solution (along with the rag or sponge) to wipe down the exterior of the machine. This will remove the more visible grime, such as dust and oily fingerprints. (Both organic sources provide floating mold spores with a tantalizing invitation to congregate and colonize.)
Step 2: The Top Lid or Front-Load Door and Rubber Door Seal
Make sure to clean the inside of the top lid (or front-load door), as well as wipe clean any nooks and crannies along the opening (this is where the toothbrush comes in handy). For front-load washers, the rubber door seal will need extra care in order to ensure the removal of mold and mildew. Gently pull back on the rubber stripping and use vinegar or the all-purpose mold killing solution (along with the toothbrush). Even if no mildew or scum is visible, Step 2 is necessary in the prevention of mold growth.
Step 3: The Bleach and Fabric Softener Dispensers
If possible, remove the bleach and fabric softener dispensers. Wash them in a sink and then dry them thoroughly. Before returning them to the machine dry, use the toothbrush and vinegar to scrub around the opening where they belong.
Step 4: The Interior or Tub
2 cups vinegar (or fresh lemon juice)
Pour the suggested amount of vinegar or lemon juice into the washer. Run the machine for a complete cycle on the longest, hottest setting. This will remove the mold odor and mildew smell, as well as stains and the build-up of detergents. Note: Hard water causes mineral deposits all throughout washing machines. The acid in the vinegar or lemon juice will help break up and remove them. (A thorough clean up of mold from the interior of the washer may involve several repeats of Step 4.)
Step 5: Clean Up of Mold Remover Tools
Only use rags, sponges, or used toothbrushes that won’t be missed afterward since everything, except the mold cleaning products and glass spray bottle, needs to be tossed in the trash. If, however, mold was not encountered during the exterior washing and the cleaning around the lid (or door), then these items do not need to be thrown away.
Why is vinegar useful in the removal of mold and mildew?
Vinegar is a mild acid that is capable of killing over 82% of mold species. It is also natural and won’t cause further harm to a mold-infested home or sufferer. Of all the mold cleaning products, vinegar is the most economical choice and what’s more, it is not only an effective mold killer, it is also an excellent preventative of new mold growth. This is why vinegar—for the purpose of the mold removal process—should never be diluted or washed off after the clean up of mold. In fact, after the removal of mold and mildew is complete, it would be ideal to apply another coat of vinegar to ensure an infestation does not return.
Helpful Tip: Keep undiluted vinegar in a glass spray bottle. This is will ensure its lasting potency and allow for easy use as a mold control spray. Also, do not mix borax—an ingredient within MoldBlogger’s DIY natural all-purpose mold removal spray—with vinegar. The two will cancel out each other’s potency.
Why is fresh lemon juice useful in the removal of mold and mildew?
Like vinegar, fresh lemon juice is a mildly acidic mold killer. It is not recommended as a mold removal spray in this case, however, because its purpose in the washing machine mold removal process is best suited for the interior of the machine (during a wash cycle), due to its ability to break down substances within the tub and pipes that encourage mold growth. It is also an effective deodorizer of the mildew smell.
Helpful Tip: To remove tough scum build-up within the bleach and fabric softener dispensers, mix lemon juice and salt and liberally apply (pour or spray) that mixture to the affected area. Let sit about 10 minutes before scrubbing with an old, used toothbrush.
Why is a natural all-purpose mold killing solution useful in the removal of mold and mildew?
Most commercial mold removal products and mold cleaning products are heavily-laden with chemicals that are oftentimes more hazardous than the mold they were designed to destroy. When it comes to cleaning mold, the less toxins the better, which is why we at MoldBlogger suggest trying our own DIY mold removal spray. The recipe includes borax, a mighty mold killer that is chemical-free, does not emit harmful gases, and is significantly safer than most commercial mold cleaning products.
Helpful Tip: The ingredients of the MoldBlogger DIY mold removal spray—borax and the optional essential oils—are not just effective in the mold removal process, they are also extremely potent mold preventatives, which means this natural all-purpose mold killing solution is also a mold control spray and should not be washed off with water or any other product.
How to Prevent Mold Growth and Mold Odor in the Future
Regular maintenance includes:
Leaving the top lid (or front-load door) open between loads to dry out the machine and prevent condensation and mildewing.
Using vinegar as a fabric softener instead of the commercial fabric softeners that leave gummy build-up. This will keep the machine clean, as well as prevent mold growth and mold odor. Note: As a plus, vinegar is incredibly gentle on fabrics and leaves clothing soft, durable, and odorless.
Inspecting washer hoses for wear and tear, as well as firm attachment. It may be necessary to replace the hoses every 3-4 years. Failing to do so could encourage the harboring of mold growth and also damage the washing machine. Water damage and mold is a prevailing issue in laundry rooms because of poor hose maintenance.
The majority of owners neglect to do regular maintenance on their washing machines. In addition, some owners only compound matters by leaving laundry in the machine hours, sometimes even a day or more, after a wash has completed. This results in a fusty mildew smell in both washer and clothing. To assuage the issue, most will rewash the clothing and leave the lid open between washes, thinking they’ve found the solution for not only what causes mildew on clothes but also for how to get rid of mold in their machine. However, what is often overlooked is the fact that mold grows quickly and can thrive off of laundry detergent due to its plant-based (and even animal or synthetic) components.
What is often overlooked is the fact that mold grows quickly and can thrive off of laundry detergent due to its plant-based (and even animal fat or synthetic) components. The best option is a DIY natural mold-killing laundry detergent with ingredients like borax or vinegar. Even still, while the detergent is generally blamed for the mildew smell, very little thought is given to the fact that a washing machine should adequately rinse the clothing and drain the soapy water. If the owner suspects a gummy build-up of wash water scum (dirt, soap, hair) is the possible culprit, then perhaps it would be best to dismantle the washer and check for blockage. If they’re feeling less than enthusiastic about taking apart their washer, they can invest in a peroxide-based drain cleaner, such as Clog Gone. Further still, if extreme measures of caution are taken, industrial hydrogen-peroxide can be used as a powerful mold killer and scum build-up remover, freeing not only the tub, but also the pipes and hoses of filth and debris.
Cleaning mold from a washing machine doesn’t have to be difficult or require the expensive help of a professional. Once this DIY mold removal process is complete, weekly maintenance techniques such as the ones listed above, alongside daily mold-preventative habits, will discourage new mold growth. Before long, mold odor and mildew smell will be a thing of the past.
For more information regarding mold, mold prevention, and mold solutions, please check out the rest of MoldBlogger.com.
About the Author: Amanda Demsky is the mother and personal chef of two boys, the domestic technician of a three-bedroom desert home, and occasionally, a freelance writer and editor. Feel free to follow her on Twitter fullquiver777.