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Mold and odor issues for some front-loading washing machines spur class actions

Consumer Reports News: December 10, 2009 01:05 PM

 
Some front-loaders have a mold issue.

Front-loading washing machines are typically more efficient than top-loading models and most in our continuously updated ratings of these washers (available to subscribers) do at least a very good job at washing, making these appliances more popular among U.S. consumers. But as many owners of front-loaders have reported to us in letters and comments to our washing-machine forums, mold buildup and malodorous clothes are a concern. Read " The Clothes Are Clean . . . But What's That Smell?" for some background.

And respondents to the Annual Product Reliability Survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center have also weighed in. The survey found that 8 percent of front-loader repairs or serious problems were attributed to mold or mildew. LG and Maytag front-loaders have been slightly more susceptible to this problem than most brands covered in the survey.

Front-loaders are especially prone to mold buildup since the rubber gasket on their doors can collect water in its folds. (Top-loaders need no gasket since their lids face down.) What's more, the horizontal drums on front-loaders also tend to drain less readily than the vertical ones on top-loaders.

The problems spurred a multistate class action against Whirlpool, one of the largest makers of front-load washers, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio; there's also a similar class action against LG Electronics USA in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

In a ruling related to the Whirlpool class action, U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin granted only a few of Whirlpool's motions against most of the 21 counts. Motions granted involved, for instance, the failure of Whirlpool technicians to fix the mold problems as opposed to Whirlpool's having refused to service the washers.

If you have a front-loading washer, here are some ways you can try to prevent mold and/or odors:
• After a load is complete, dry the door gasket (especially the folds) and the glass. Leave the washer door open unless you have small children or another reason not to close it.
• Clean the detergent dispenser and any attachments monthly. Any part that traps moisture can breed mold.
• Run a dehumidifier if your laundry room is damp.

If you see mold buildup in a front-loading washer or start smelling it in clothes just taken from the washer, notify the manufacturer and arrange for service. Save all paperwork related to the purchase and service of your machine and keep a log of contact with the manufacturer, the retailer, and the service company.



Essential information: If you're in the market for new laundry appliances, learn about the $300 million State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program, aka cash for clunkers for appliances. And find the best laundry detergent.

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