Your Front-Load Washer Has A Filter, And Here’s How To Clean It

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There are certainly pros to having a front-loading washing machine, but one big con is that they can get … well, a little stinky. And you certainly don’t want to throw your clothes into a smelly washer when you’re trying to get them clean and fresh-smelling.

Ever wonder what causes your washer to smell bad? Several factors could be at play.

Front-load washing machines don’t use as much water as others, which is a definite plus. But that also makes it difficult for the machine to wash away every bit of the products you use to wash your clothes.

And if you use a lot of product to get your clothes clean (too much detergent, fabric softener, etc.), this can build up over time and turn into sludge sitting in your machine’s water pump filter. This is the type of sludge mold and bacteria love to call home, hence the smell.

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Another possible explanation for the odor is that lint can build up in your washer’s water pump filter. Yes, your washer also has a lint trap and it needs to be cleaned out just like the one in your dryer. If you don’t have the first clue about cleaning your washer’s filter, you’re certainly not alone. And don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Unplug your washing machine.
  2. Find your washer’s access panel—for most front-load washers, this should be on the lower front corner of your machine.
  3. Lay a towel under a baking sheet (with a lip) or shallow bowl on the ground in front of the washer to protect your floors from any nasty stuff that might come out.
  4. Using a flathead screwdriver, pry off the access panel. Open the little door on the inside, and voila! There’s your water pump filter.
  5. Turn the filter’s handle counterclockwise until water begins draining onto your baking sheet and you’re able to pull the filter out (you may have to empty your drain hose before this step).
  6. Use soap, water, and a toothbrush or paper towel to clean the filter, paying special attention to the rubber gasket. Replace it if you spot any damage.
  7. Soak the filter in hot water for 10 minutes.
  8. Screw the water filter back into your machine by turning the handle clockwise, then close its little door and replace the access panel.

If you need a visual aid, @brunchwithbabs shows how it’s done on TikTok.

Manually cleaning out the gasket that runs around your washer’s drum on a regular basis will also help stave off any stench.

To give it an extra-deep clean, pour two cups of bleach into the detergent tray (which you also might want to remove and wash) and run a hot cycle, followed by one or two hot rinse-only cycles. Then put two cups of white vinegar into the detergent tray or drum and run a cleaning cycle or another hot cycle. Finally, run one last rinse-only cycle to ensure your machine is thoroughly cleaned out.

It’s not a fun job, but it’s satisfying to open that washer and have it smell like clean laundry instead of mildew.

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