One of my readers, Reagan, sent in the following dilemma:
I bought front loading machines almost two years ago. I love how big they are and the fact they use less water. BUT……they don’t clean as well as my old fashioned machines. Is it just mine? I’ve not had any problems at all with them, except them not cleaning as well. I don’t notice it, but my husband claims that his thicker t-shirts smell. He says since I bought the front loaders, they have a stench. And they get stinkier as the day goes on. He’s gotten to where he won’t wear them!! He thinks it’s because they don’t get soaked and tossed around in a lot of water that they aren’t getting thoroughly cleaned. I’ve tried different detergents, fabric softeners, etc. I’ve even tried Tide with febreze!! Nothing works!
On a normal laundry load, I use Tide or All or my homemade detergent, and Downy.
Thanks so much to Reagan for sending me an email with her dilemma. And I believe it to be a common one.
My laundry experience tells me that it is probably not her machines at all (although I’m sure some Top-Loader Only Fans would disagree!). I believe the smelly t-shirt problem probably lies in a build-up on the fabric of detergent and sweat.
Here is how I would attempt to get the stench out of the smelly t-shirts:
1) Use only Tide (or other good quality commercial detergent) for a few wash cycles and put the homemade detergent on hold for awhile.
Don’t get me wrong – I totally believe that homemade laundry detergent has its place and if it didn’t void the warranty on my washer, I’d use it in a second. But homemade detergents are not the same as commercial detergents and they don’t necessarily work in the same ways as commercial detergents. To get rid of the stink, I’d use only Tide for a few washes of the t-shirts and see if there was any change in smell. Tide is on sale this week, so it would be worth a shot! (No, I have no affiliation with Tide.)
2) Wash the t-shirts on the heaviest, hottest cycle they can tolerate.
T-shirts are most often made of a heavy, sturdy cotton and that type of fabric can usually tolerate a heavy, hot wash cycle. If possible, wash on your machine’s ‘heavy duty’ cycle with the soil level setting on ‘high.’ By using these machine settings, the clothes receive a longer wash cycle and also a cycle that uses more agitation. Both of those things contribute to a cleaner load of clothes.
3) Don’t use any fabric softeners for a few washes. Instead, use white vinegar in the rinse cycle.
Fabric softeners are wonderful, smell-good additives. But they leave a slight film on your clothes. They are intentionally not designed to cleanly rinse from your clothes, which is how they stay so soft after drying. This film on clothes can trap dirt, oil, left-over detergent and of course harbor smells. So skip the fabric softeners for a few loads and use plain white vinegar in the rinse cycle instead. I promise your clothes will not come out smelling like vinegar! Vinegar offers a wonderfully clean rinse and is exceptionally cheap!
4) Dry the t-shirts outside in the sun if at all possible.
I’ve gone on and on about how the sun has fabulous bleaching capabilities for laundry. But it also really helps eliminate any lingering smells. Fresh air and sunshine are a great combination for laundry stench that you can’t seem to eliminate any other way. If you are unable to have a clothesline, I’ve posted a few drying racks as clothesline alternatives that might be helpful.
Do you have a burning laundry question? I’m answering quite a few from my readers this week. So shoot me an email, or leave your question in the comments!
I have a front-loading machine and notice this “smell” most often with my load of towels. I totally agree with white vinegar…I use it all the time, except I add it directly to the wash cycle (my rinse cycle dispenser is very small and I can never “catch” the machine at the beginning of the rinse cycle!). It is anti-bacterial so it kills any lingering “bad guys” that may be causing the stench. However, I do think there is a slight vinegar odor that is left on the laundry – but not enough to make me stop using it!
I also think that we front-loader lovers tend to go overboard and overload our machines because they are so roomy – which leaves the laundry less room to properly tumble…leading to laundry that appears clean but may still be dirty. My loads that do smell – are usually due to over-loading.
Bonnie – I couldn’t agree more! I should have included that in the original post: overloading your machine can certainly cause clothes not to be as clean. They don’t have as much room to tumble around and agitate…and that leads to clothes that are less clean. And this is true for a front loader OR a top loader. But you’re right – it is much easier to overload a front loader just because it appears so roomy.
Thanks so much for mentioning it!
I was having this same problem with my top loader, no agitator. I used vinegar with some improvement; but when I blew out my washer motor and had a technician out I found out the culprit. THere are apparently large water containers in the “newer” washers. These containers can get a mildew buildup in them. He cleaned mine out and reccomended a vinegar wash with hot water in an empty washer every now and then. It has been 3 years and no icky smell since. I vinegar wash on high about once a month.
I am not sure if this is the same with front loaders, but if the vinegar and sun dry don’t work, may want to try a vinegar wash or technician!
Christina, I’m not sure I would have pieced all of that together about the washer reservoir. I assumed there was some type of holding tank for the washer’s water, since it heats its own water (as opposed to using the home’s water heater to heat it).
But I would have never considered that it could build up with mildew. That makes it so much more important to run a ‘clean cycle’ through the washer at least once a month!
Thanks so much for the info!
We bought a front load washing machine and began noticing my towels came out of the dryer smelling nice and fresh but as soon as we used the towels they smelled mildewy. I always take precaution and not let my towels set in the washing machine for a long time after washing so I knew that wasn’t the problem. I did a little research and found that my Tide detergent may be the problem. I changed to Gain and after several washings my towels are cured!! I don’t know what the problem was with Tide but I am a changed girl and love my Gain detergent!
Now that is interesting! I wonder what the problem was with Tide? Both Tide and Gain are P&G products, so I can’t imagine they are hugely different in their make-up.
I’m thrilled for you that you figured out the culprit!
I am impressed with the good info you offer on your site.
Very inspiring… It makes me think that I can revamp my own laundry room, which is a wreck as you know. Thanks for all of your hard work.
Just sign me,