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Is Your Front-Load Washer Hiding A Dirty Secret?

(CBS) -- You might think it would be the cleanest item in the house: the washing machine.

But if you have a so-called front loader, you could have a breeding ground for something you don't want, CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez reports.

How could something you put soap and water in practically every day get dirty? A seal the prevents water from coming out the washer is the culprit, explains Tal Pendo, owner of JP Service Company.

And with the door closed, the seal traps moisture which promotes mold.  Pendo gets a lot of calls on this.

"Well, the worst I've seen is where this gray seal basically doesn't look gray anymore," he says.

Front loaders are popular because of their water and energy efficiency. But thousands of consumers say they've had this mold problem.

"You could say it was a clothes soiler instead of a clothes washer," says Michael Vogler.

He put his Frigidaire front loader in the backyard when mold got on his clothes. He joined a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturer. Such suits are pending against Electrolux, Frigidaire, Kenmore, LG, Bosch and Whirlpool.

Whirlpool says the company received a winning verdict in a class action last October. That "validated what our consumers already know -- that these are high-quality washers with great performance," the company says.

Chicago attorney Ed Wallace represents people suing Electrolux and Frigidaire.

"They sold these machines knowing that they had a problem, and when consumers contacted the company, they were blamed," he says.

Says Pendo: "Most manufacturers' instructions will tell you that the door needs to remain open."

And some suggest special cleaning cycles periodically. If you already have mold buildup, you can try cleaning it with a bleach solution.  If the mold won't budge, you'll need a new seal.

Cassie Kirby got one after a repairman showed her the mold.

"I've been washing my clothes every day for months in mold," Kirby says.

She wasted no time getting the repair. But plenty of other consumers say this is a problem the companies should fix.

"And we're going to keep fighting this until the companies step up and do the right thing," Wallace says.

Since so many people never fully read that owner's manual, here are a couple more tips:  Use only high-efficiency detergent and dryer sheets instead of liquid softener; and wipe your washer dry after each and every cycle.

Statements from all of the appliance makers facing lawsuits are below:


"Electrolux takes the safety of its products very seriously. If a consumer believes that their product is not working as expected, we urge them to call our consumer services group to discuss whether service is necessary.

Consumer Tips
• To help prevent odors, mildew or mold, consumers should leave the door open for a few hours after use to allow it to dry or if more convenient, when the washer is not in use.
• Additionally, consumers can refresh or clean the inside of the washer by running the Clean Washer cycle. Some models have an automated reminder mode or consumers may prefer to manually select the cycle.
• Remove items from the washer as soon as the cycle ends. Excess wrinkling, color transfer, and odors may develop in items left in the washer.
• Dry around the washer door opening, flexible gasket, and door glass.
• When extremely soiled items have been washed, a dirty residue may remain on the drum. Remove this by wiping the drum with a nonabrasive household cleanser. Rinse thoroughly with water.
• Periodically, wipe dry the folds in the bottom of the flexible gasket to remove lint and other debris."

Eloise Hale
Electrolux North America


In light of periodic news reports raising questions about "mold" in front-load washing machines, LG Electronics USA reiterates the importance of proper use and maintenance.

Laundry odors can occur for a variety of reasons, and the number of mold reports represents a very small percentage of units installed in consumers' homes. This is not a new issue as claims have been made against all major manufacturers over the years.

For all front-load laundry purchasers, LG emphasizes proper use and routine maintenance. LG recommends using the correct amount of High-Efficiency (HE) detergent for front-load washers. A washer cleaning solution developed for front-loaders may also be used periodically. Additional maintenance suggestions and consumer tips, including information on LG's "tub clean" cycle, can be found in the user's manual.

LG has also developed a variety of features on its front-load washers to help consumers better care for their washers and clothes, including:

• An exclusive magnetic door ventilation feature to ensure the wash tub stays fresh in-between loads. LG has designed a clever magnet that props the door open ever so slightly to allow fresh air to circulate in the wash tub without getting in the way.
• A redesigned antimicrobial door gasket with drain holes to help the gasket dry more quickly to keep mold and mildew away.
• A high-powered "Tub Clean" cycle that removes detergent residue to keep odors and mildew away; it is recommended that consumers run this cycle every month to help keep the washer clean and fresh.

Customer satisfaction with LG front-load laundry products is extremely high, and LG consistently receives accolades from independent testing organizations on our washers and dryers.

As an industry leader and technology innovator in front-load laundry, we appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight on this industry issue.

Clara Chang
Sr. Manager
Public Relations & Communications
LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc.


As a matter of company policy, Bosch does not comment on pending litigation.

Regarding your question on the general issue, below is some information you may find helpful:

All front-load washers have a leak-proof seal around the door which can capture condensation after a wash is finished. If not maintained properly a buildup of bio-film, caused by residue from the detergent, fabric softeners, oils and soil from clothing, can mix with the condensation causing odor inside the machine. To reduce the possibility of residue buildup proper maintenance is recommended.

In rare cases, where proper maintenance is neglected, there is the possibility of bio-film residue buildup. Even rarer are cases of mold caused by improper maintenance. Bosch recommends proper maintenance to prevent the possibility of bio-film residue buildup or mold. This includes:
• Use the correct amount of H.E. detergent and fabric softener recommended by the manufacturer
• Cleaning the gasket for any residual moisture
• Leaving the door ajar when not in use or after unloading the wet cloths to allow the tub to dry
• Never leave damp items in the washer
• Periodically running a hot water cycle to cleanse the tub



Kenmore (Sears)

"Sears and Whirlpool, who manufactured the washing machines at issue and is defending Sears in the lawsuit, reject any claims that Kenmore front-loading washing machines are defective. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of our members are pleased with their Kenmore front-loading washing machines. To control odor, mold, and mildew in their washing machines, our members always should follow the instructions in the use and care guide for their washing machine. For more information on the topic, please see the statement provided by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers."

Larry Costello
PR Director - Hardlines
Sears Holdings



"In October last year Whirlpool Corporation received a winning verdict in a class action involving a wide range of our front-loading washing machines. The verdict clearly validated what our consumers already know - that these are high-quality washers with great performance, great energy and water savings and clear instructions for proper use. The jury saw through the class-action lawyers' attempts to enrich themselves on the backs of consumers who have never had a complaint about their front-load washing machines. More than 96 percent of people who own these products are happy with their front-loading washing machines, and we have people on call to answer any consumer questions that may arise. The class action lawyers are the only ones who stand to benefit from these lawsuits."

1. Leave the door open after use IF you do not have small children or pets.
2. Run a bleach cycle to wash out the machine periodically.
3. Clean your machine with store-brought products specifically designed for washing machine clean cycles.
4. Do not use liquid fabric softener. Use dryer sheets instead.
5. Put your machine on pedestals.
6. Wipe the water out of your machine after each use.

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