Front-loading washers are tops at cleaning clothes and saving energy, but they can be magnets for mold—and its slimy stench—as water collects around the rubber door gasket. Just ask the 200,000 Ohio consumers whose action against Whirlpool was bounced back to an appeals court after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it didn't meet the requirements of a class action suit. Whirlpool claimed the class action was inappropriate because the mold problem affected fewer than three percent of its washers. Fortunately, as our testers discovered at Consumer Reports, there are ways to solve a moldy washer problem without going to court.
The Ohio case is just one of nine against Whirlpool involving front-loading washers that emit unpleasant odors. At least seven other manufacturers and sellers are involved in similar suits involving millions of consumers. The good news is that some front-loading washers have features that help prevent mold, including a separate cycle specifically for washing the inside of the machine and a fan-dry setting that can aerate a still-wet load until you transfer it to the dryer.
And there are ways to stop or prevent mold in a front-loader washer without these features. "Even if you don't have a dedicated cleaning setting on your washer, you can run a hot-water wash alone or with some chlorine bleach to get the same effect," says Emilio Gonzales, the engineer who directs Consumer Reports' washing machine testing. Here's what else you can do:
- Wipe the door gasket and glass dry once you're done.
- Clean the detergent dispenser and any attachments once or twice a month.
- Run a dehumidifier if your laundry room is damp.
- Keep the washer door ajar between loads to allow air to circulate. If you have small children, keep the laundry-room door locked.
- If none of this works, call the manufacturer for service and save all mold-related paperwork, even after the warranty expires.
Issues with mold are one reason some homeowners prefer top-loading washers, which don't need the rubber gasket. Our top top-loader, the Samsung WA422PRHD[WR], $800, aced the washing performance test, handled large loads with aplomb and has a 75 minute cycle. It is one of nine CR Best Buys among our recommended top-loaders, which range in price from $700 to $950. Samsung also holds the top spot in our tests of front-loaders. The Samsung WF457ARGS[GR], $1,550, excelled on almost every task and it was very good on noise. The cycle is 100 minutes. The five front-loaders that earned CR Best Buys include four from LG and one from Electrolux and range in price from $720 to $900. Of course, if you want to spend more, there are many more models in our list of top washing machine picks.