The best front-loading washing machines in Consumer Reports' tests typically score about 10 points higher than the best high-efficiency top-loaders. But despite their impressive scores for performance and energy-efficiency, over the years consumers have complained that they can develop mold and a nasty odor. Manufacturers have taken note and have addressed the problem with such innovations as improved door gaskets, high-temperature cycles, and more. 

In fact, reported problems with front-loader mold have been eliminated almost entirely, according to Dick Conrad, a senior product director at Whirlpool. He credits consumers learning more about how to best maintain these machines and improvements in washer design and features.

Mold and odors can become a problem when water collects in the rubber gasket on the opening of a front-loading washing machine. Emilio Gonzalez, the engineer who directs Consumer Reports’ washing machine tests, says it’s important to follow the tips in your washing machine owner's manual. Here’s what else to do:

Preventing Front-Loader Mold

  • Keep the washing machine door ajar between loads. This allows the interior of the machine to dry out better. If you have young kids at home, lock the door to the laundry room.
  • Run a hot water wash every so often to clean the washing machine tub. Don’t add laundry, but consider adding 1 cup of chlorine bleach. Some front-loaders now have a tub-cleaning cycle that's supposed to prevent odors and mildew by removing detergent residue. 

The pros at LG and Whirlpool say that it’s important to use the proper amount of HE detergent. This prevents excessive suds and reduces film residue inside the machine, which could help cut down on front-loader mold. Whirlpool also suggests removing wet laundry from the washing machine as soon as the cycle is complete.

Find the Best Front-Loader for Your Budget

You’ll see dozens of front-loaders in our washing machine Ratings, from the high-scoring Samsung WF56H9110CW, $1,450, down to the bottom-rated Frigidaire FFFW5100PW, $720. In between there are many under $1,000 to choose from, including the $750 Maytag Maxima MHW5100DW.

When you scan the washing machine reviews for front- or top-loaders, use the filter to narrow your choices by price and brand as well as by test results and features. And be sure to check out our exclusive brand reliability information to find out what more than 115,000 people have to say about washing machine brands.

Email questions to me at kjaneway@consumer.org.