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Do I Need to Leave My Washing Machine Door Open?

a front loading washer with the door open to prevent mildew from forming
Andrey Popov/Shutterstock

If you’ve recently switched from a top-loading washing machine to a front-loading washing machine, here’s a new habit you might need to pick up: leaving the door ajar.

Do I Need to Leave My Top Loading Washer Open?

Top-loading washer lids don’t seal, so whatever small amount of liquid is still inside the drum chamber just evaporates between loads.

The humidity inside the chamber typically never gets high enough to create problems with mold and mildew. You can’t go wrong leaving the lid up, just to play it safe, but it’s not really a big deal.

This is why so many people who switch from a top-loading washer to a front-loading drum washer are caught off guard by the gross smells and mildew. They simply never had to deal with it before they purchased a front-loading machine.

Do I Need to Leave My High-Efficiency Washer Open?

You don’t have to leave the lid open on a top-loading machine because they don’t seal, but front-loading washers, however, do seal—a tight seal is a rather important design feature if you want the water in the horizontal drum and not all over the laundry room floor.

The downside of that design is if you close the door when you’re done with the load, you’re sealing in the moisture. That sealed-up environment is a perfect environment for mold and mildew to flourish (which isn’t so great for your health, and you’ll definitely end up with gnarly smelling clothing and towels).

In light of that, you won’t be surprised to know many people have had issues with mold and mildew in their washing machines. It’s such an issue, in fact, that over the last few years multiple class-action lawsuits have been lodged against a variety of appliance makers hinging on the argument that their machines are defective and prone to molding.

We’ll stay out of the debate over the engineering merits of various washing machine models. This simple fix works regardless of what kind of front-loading washing machine you have: Leave the door open.

That’s it. Although I’ve always left my front-loading machine wide open between uses (because my laundry room has adequate space to do so, and I have no reason not to), you really need to leave it cracked only a few inches to ensure the humid air can evacuate the machine.

Speaking of humidity, if your laundry room is in the basement and your basement is very humid, leaving the door open is only half a solution. The other half is drying out your basement with a good dehumidifier. That will solve both your smelly laundry problem and your smell basement problem at once!

Products to Keep Your Washer Dry and Fresh Smelling

Knowing why your washing machine smells is one thing and understanding the door needs to stay cracked to prevent it in the future is another thing, but you might be sitting there thinking it’ll be a hassle to keep the washing machine door open or wondering what to do about the seriously gnarly mildew smells in the machine. Those smells may well be what led you to this article in the first place.

How to Keep Your Washing Machine Door Open

If your machine is in a closet or communal area of your house and you want to keep it cracked without the door wide open and in the way, handy products like the popular Laundry Lasso or this simple snap-on-brace can help to keep the door ajar when you’re aren’t using the washer.

Laundry Lasso

This simple product keeps your washer door from closing.

Whether you just leave the door open or you use a little helper tool, the critical part is letting the air circulate to remove the warm damp conditions mildew thrives in.

Although the door is the most important part you can also pull the detergent drawer open slightly too. That adds a second pathway for moisture to leave and helps any residual water in the drawer system evaporate too.

How to Get the Mildew Smells Out of Your High-Efficiency Washer

There’s a good chance the manufacturer of your high-efficiency washer has specific instructions for defunking the washer and getting mildew, soap scum, and other undesirable smelly things out. Some machines even have a specific cleaning cycle you use for cleaning the washer itself and not clothing inside the washer.

While the instructions are often to use some amount of bleach in the machine (typically around half a cup) and run the cleansing cycle, many manufacturers outright recommend Affresh tablets in their documentation.

Affresh Washer Cleaning Tablets

These cleaning tablets clean every part of your washer including the drum, pump, valves, and hoses.

Either way, Affresh tablets are nothing short of miraculous when it comes to deep cleaning your washer and loosening up all the accumulated crud (mildew, soap scum, and all). You can use them on both high-efficiency washers and older top-loaders too. Just pop the tablet in the drum, run the cleaning cycle (or use the heavy-duty/hot water options), and all the gunk will get sent down the drain.

We’re usually pretty big about recommending cleaning routines that use just the basics like bleach, vinegar, and so on, but Affresh tablets are borderline magic in how well they work. (And with over 130k reviews and a 4.5-star rating on Amazon, it looks like just about everyone else agrees.)


Learning a new routine and adding in some cleaning tablets to the mix might seem like a little bit of a hassle. But in the end, you’ll have a dry drum and no more mildew coating the door seals or hoses—which means no more funky smelling towels or work clothes that smell like you left them in a gym bag.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »

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