How to Use a Front-load Washing Machine

Front-loading washers are constantly gaining in popularity as we focus more and more on energy and water conservation. Front loaders offer advantages over top-load washing machines such as ease of unloading and faster spin cycles that rid laundry of more water for faster drying.

Front-load washing machines do have some peculiar quirks. Without regular cleaning, front loaders are prone to developing musty and moldy smells as water trapped in the rubber door boot encourages mildew growth. Also, it’s easy to overdose a front-load washer with detergent or fabric softener–resulting in residue on clothes that can cause stains and skin irritation.

Follow these usage tips to easily get the best results from your front-load washer and avoid problems.

Don’t overload the washer

Although you’ll see ever-increasing capacity advertised for front-load washers, don’t be tempted to stuff too many garments into the washer at one time. Large capacity front-load washing machines can clean extraordinarily large loads in certain conditions. You can certainly wash plenty of lighter items such as shirts, blouses and underwear in a large capacity front-load washer. On the other hand, filling a front loader with too many heavy garments like jeans or towels can cause problems.

Using moderation and common sense are key to managing proper load size in a front-load washer. When washing towels, loosely load them until the stack inside the tub reaches almost to the top of the door opening. That tactic will leave room for the towels to tumble properly. When possible, mix jeans with like colors of lighter garments instead of trying to wash all your jeans at once. Mixing heavy items with lighter ones will also help the washer tumble, balance and spin the load more effectively.

Don’t be tempted to wash a heavy, king-size comforter in your front-load washing machine. Although the washer may be able to handle the load, you may begin wearing out spin basket seals and bearings faster if you wash heavy comforters too often. To avoid excessive washer wear, take king-size comforters and other unusually heavy items to the laundromat for washing.

Select the right wash cycle

Many of us use the Quick Wash cycle for just about every load because we like to get our laundry done quickly. That’s okay when you’re washing normal loads of laundry, although you may need to reduce the spin speed on the Quick Wash cycle when washing heavy items such as towels or jeans.

For some loads, you’ll need to select the right wash cycle–not the Quick Cycle. For example, if you’re washing bulky bedding items such as blankets, select the Bulky Cycle. A front-load washing machine uses extra water in the Bulky Cycle.

If you add bleach to the dispenser when washing whites or towels, you’ll likely need to choose the Normal/Cottons Cycle to dispense the bleach. On many models, bleach won’t dispenser in the Quick Wash, Permanent Press and Delicates cycles.

Check the owner’s manual for specific information about the cycles available on your front-load washer and use the cycle that best fits your needs for type of load that you’re washing.

Don’t overdose the front-load washer with HE laundry detergent and additives

Because a front-load washing machine uses little water, add only a small amount of laundry detergent and other additives to the dispenser. You’ll typically only need to add about 1 tablespoon of HE laundry detergent per cycle. You definitely need to use HE detergent in your washer. Although HE detergent creates less suds that regular detergent, it’s still easy to add too much. Adding too much HE detergent can cause excessive suds, residue on garments and musty smells in the washer. If you’re seeing any of these issues, you’ll likely need to cut back on detergent and additive use (even if you’re already using less).

Leave the washer door open if possible

If you don’t have small children who would be tempted to crawl inside the washer, then leave the washer door open between cycles so air can circulate through the rubber door boot and tub—keeping washer odors in check.

Remove clothes from the front-load washer as soon as the cycle finishes

It’s always best to remove the load from the washer as soon as the cycle ends. Leaving clothes inside a front-load washer can result in smelly garments. Unless you’re perfect in cleaning and maintaining your washer (which almost nobody is), your clothes will absorb a musty or moldy odor when left inside the washer for hours after the cycle finishes.

Clean your front-load washer regularly

Regular cleaning will help keep your front-load washing machine smelling fresh and working properly. Use a washing machine cleaner such as Affresh to clean the washer tub monthly. You may need to clean the washer more often if smells develop because you have to leave the washer door shut to protect young children.

Wiping down the rubber door boot with a bleach and water solution every month is also a good idea. Mold and mildew can develop quickly in the folds of the door boot. Bleach will kill mold and mildew and help prevent new growth between cleanings.

If your washer has a drain pump filter access door on the bottom left side of its front panel, clean the drain pump filter at least every 6 months. Items such as coins and paper clips can wind up in the drain pump filter. You may also find hair and lint in the filter. If you smell an awful odor when you pull out the drain pump large item filter, follow these steps to get rid of the smell:

  1. Clean the filter and its housing with a bleach and water solution.
  2. Run an empty Bulky wash cycle using hot water with a cup of chlorine bleach added.
  3. Run an empty cycle with no detergent or additives to rinse all bleach out of the washer.
  4. Cut back on the amount of detergent and additives that you’re using to prevent the awful smell from returning.
  5. Clean the drain pump large item filter more often and check for continued odor problems.

Schedule annual cleaning and maintenance by a professional

Having a service technician clean and maintain your washer yearly is the best defense against front-load washer odor as well as unexpected breakdowns. During front-load washing machine maintenance, the technician will perform these services:

  • Inspect door bellow and dispenser for damage, residue, mold and mildew buildup.
  • Clean and sanitize the door boot if necessary.
  • Check the fill cycle and water temperature for wash settings.
  • Check for excessive noise and vibration during the spin cycle
  • Test the control for correct operation.
  • Inspect the drive system for wear and adjust components if needed.
  • Check for proper spin and tumble speeds.
  • Inspect the door lock for proper alignment and check for correct door lock operation.
  • Inspect the electrical system for proper ground and secure connections.
  • Check the tub and hoses for leaks.
  • Check the drain pipe for problems.
  • Level the machine if needed.
  • Verify that the washer pedestal or dryer stacking kit is properly secured.
  • Run a test cycle using an Affresh washer cleaning tablet.
  • Advise you on regular cleaning and maintenance of your washer and discuss any problems found.

Keeping your front-load washer in top shape by having it maintained by a professional will help it last longer and work better. Maintaining and using your front-load washer efficiently will also help you keep your dryer working better and lasting longer. In fact, you can have the technician perform annual cleaning and maintenance on your dryer at the same time as you have the washer serviced. Bundling laundry appliance maintenance can save you money.