We rely on our washing machine probably more than any other household appliance. But even though we use it constantly to keep our clothes clean, we often don’t pay enough attention to actually keeping it clean. Ironic or not, neglecting your washing machine can cause mold to build up over time, which may lead to other more serious problems.
In 2020, a survey from Consumer Reports found that 17 percent of those who own a front-loading washer had mold or mildew in their machines compared to three percent of people who had a top-loading version. The former are more prone to mildew buildup because the washer’s drum position often prevents moisture from fully evaporating between cycles.
If mold gets on your clothes from the washer, then it’ll cause white or black spots to start appearing on the fabric and it’ll have a very strong, “earthy” odor as the experts at Mold Busters describe it. They also warn that you may experience a fever, sneezing, and/or coughing coming in contact with clothes that are ridden with mildew. Over time, mold exposure might also cause issues like fatigue. So, it’s not great for your clothes and certainly not great for your health.
Instead of spending hundreds on a new machine, you can breathe a sigh of relief with these simple tricks to avoid mold and mildew from ruining your washing machine and clothes. Even if you own a different type of washer, you should still use these tips in order to keep it in great shape.
Take Your Clothes Out Immediately
It’s easy to forget to take out a load of laundry as soon as the washing cycle ends. You might be busy with other household tasks or it might not have a loud beeping sound to signal that it’s finished (trust me we’ve all been there!). But letting your clothes sit in the machine for hours or even overnight can allow mold to start to grow in the moist, enclosed environment. Also, it can leave a musty odor on your clothes and in the machine.
An easy way to avoid this is by setting a timer on your phone to remind you that the washing cycle is done and to move your clothes to your dryer. Or you might be lucky enough to own a WiFi-enabled smart washer, which will send alerts to any device once your clothes are done. Either way, it’s important to take your laundry out as soon as it’s done to make sure that everything stays fresh.
Keep the Door Clean
Your washing machine’s door can be another source of mildew growth. Cleaning that part of your washer is super necessary because the rubber seal (also known as the gasket) around the machine’s threshold can store excess water and detergent residue.
Luckily, the experts at PuroClean have a simple DIY mildew cleaner made with hydrogen peroxide (the holy grail of household cleaners) to fix this issue. To make it at home, pour two cups of water, 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide, and 1/4 cup lemon juice into a spray bottle and shake to mix everything together. Spritz the solution over every part of the door and use a cloth to wipe it down thoroughly.
They suggest doing this at least once a week to keep that part of the machine as clean and sanitized as possible. Also, it adds a nice lemony scent that’s hard not to love!
Let Your Machine “Breathe”
When you take clothes out of your washing machine, your first instinct is probably going to be to shut the door. But leaving it open will allow for any additional water droplets inside of the machine to dry, rather than letting the moisture stay and create a space for bacteria to form.
Plus, it makes laundry day a little easier when you can just throw your clothes into the machine rather than having to set the clothing basket down before opening the door. Doing this simple step might also be a good visual reminder to keep the inside in tip-top shape. If you don’t want to keep the washing machine door open all the time, a few hours should to the trick.
Remembering these things as you’re doing weekly loads of laundry can help your machine stay in great condition until you’re ready to upgrade it. And you can avoid the headache of trying to figure out why mold is making its way into your washing process.
This article originally appeared on on our sister site, First for Women.