Mum’s free hack to avoid ‘mould and musty odours’ in washing machines

Washing machines: Expert says to clean with dishwasher tablet

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Mould spores aren’t always easy to spot in a washing machine but they are hard to ignore when your clean laundry comes out smelling damp and musty. Though it may not seem serious, leaving the black spots to spread can wreak havoc on the appliance itself too, by breaking the seal and causing water leaks. Fortunately, there are a few easy fixes for unpleasant fungus growth in your washing machine, one of which is as simple as leaving the door open.

How to stop mould on a washing machine seal

A user who goes by the name mommybear1 on the popular online forum, Mumsnet, explained that the key to avoiding black mould in the rubber seal around the door frame is to “always keep the door open” on the washing machine when it is not in use.

She noted that this is particularly important after running a cycle when water, dirt and bacteria collect in the gaps around the rubber. The simple tip was popular with other mums too, with several of them commenting on the effectiveness of airing the appliance.

One person who goes by the name Cynderella wrote: “Definitely leave the door open. If you don’t use your machine most days, dry the seal too.”

Another added: “I leave the door open and do a 60 wash once a week (towels) and a tub clean (95 degrees I think) maybe every 2-3 months. That seems to have been enough without any extra wiping.”

According to an expert at, doing something as simple as leaving the door open is even more effective on newer, energy-efficient appliances as they are more prone to mould growth.

They explained that, unlike older appliances, modern washing machines tend to get completely sealed when the door is closed, causing moisture to become trapped within the drum area and seals which “enhances mould formation”.

Laundry habits also have an impact on the level of mould found in washing machines, particularly in recent years since the use of bleach-based products has become less popular.

The appliance expert said: “The possibility of organic residues and biofilms accumulating has increased, which heightens the occurrence of mildew, mould, and musty odours.”

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They added: “Whenever possible, leave the machine door ajar to enhance the flow of air within your appliance. This creates a drier environment that is not so conducive to the growth of mildew.”

Changing the way you use your appliance can also control mould growth elsewhere, and it’s all down to the temperature and type of cycle you choose.

The Mumsnet user mommybear1 shared that she “only uses powder and soda crystals” rather than liquid detergent, and she makes an effort to put them in the drum rather than the drawer.

She added that she also does “at least one” hot wash per week for white towels, sheets and shirts. According to the forum poster, combining this with a drum clean cycle once a month had helped to “discourage” mould in her own appliance.

How to clean a washing machine seal

While it is helpful to know how to stop mould growth from reoccurring in your appliance, prevention should always start by removing any existing spores.

To do this, an expert at Safeguard recommended using a bleach-based cleaner to banish even the smallest specs of dirt and soap scum from the airtight seal.

Wearing gloves, spray a small amount of a bleach-based mould cleaner onto a microfiber cloth and thoroughly wipe the seal of your empty and dry machine.

The expert noted that you should take extra care to “get into the folds” before gently turning the seal for a final inspection.

When the visible spores have gone, rinse with a clean cloth soaked in warm water and leave the appliance door open for it to dry.

The Safeguard expert added: “The rubber seal of your washing machine is particularly vulnerable. If left untreated, black mould can eat away at the rubber seal and deteriorate. Over time, this may cause your washing machine to leak. 

“As a general rule, a quick wipe with a microfibre cloth after use keeps your washing machine seal in good condition. Use a biocidal cleaner once every 6 months to prevent mould growth and always keep the door open after use until the seal and inside of the washing machine is dry.”

For general maintenance, pour 200g of baking soda into an empty machine drum and run it on a long cycle above 60. This is a cheap and effective remedy that will gently “buff away” grit, grime and mould, without introducing more chemicals into the machine. 

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