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How To Eliminate Mildew or Moldy Smell From A Whirlpool Duet Washer


If your just-washed clothes are coming out smelling like a week old gym socks, it’s time to clean your washer. This holds especially true if you have pets, infants and toddlers because they generate tons of hair, poopy and pee’d towels, diaper clothes and clothing.

I normally do not like using harsh chemicals when I am cleaning around the house. However, there are certain situations where baking soda and vinegar simply cannot do a proper job. So when I started using Affresh, I was pleasantly surprised to see it work very effectively. I do, however, run an extra cycle afterwards to ensure that all chemicals are removed before doing my laundry. Affresh recommends using a tablet every month but I tend to do it every other month.

Before diving into using Affresh, I would first do the following:

Dogs and Cats

If you have a dog that sheds a lot, you probably have seen dog hair tumbleweeds rolling around between cleanings. Due to static charge, dog hair (and cat hair) just about clings to everything, including your clothes and towels (especially towels) and when they are separated in a washer, most of them end up in a drain pump filter.

This kind of gunk not only creates unpleasant odor after few weeks, it also impedes water from draining, causing your washer to run longer than necessary.

Grab a used toothbrush (I collect them for these kinds of situations) and some baking soda and bleach and clean it thoroughly. You might also want to put this cleaning task on a monthly basis.

For step-by-step instructions on disassembling and cleaning your Whirlpool washing machine drain cap assembly, click here

Small children

Another culprit to a smelly washer is a small space between the washer’s spinning drum and the rubber boot (it seals the door to prevent water leaks).

Problem is that this rubber boot flexes quite a bit and have a tendency of trapping small clothing articles like socks and underwear (very poor design on Whirlpool’s part).

So if you don’t check this space on a regular basis, small pieces of clothing can sit there for days on end, eventually stinking up the entire machine (especially on warm days).

To prevent this from happening, the best way I found was to enclose small socks and underwear in a mesh bag like this one. It also helps to check this crevice before each loading.

By the way, the mesh laundry bag can also be used to wash sweaters to prevent stretching and tearing!

Is your washing machine level and plumb?

Another cause is that if your machine is not level (true horizontal) or plumb (true vertical), your machine may collect some residual water inside the rubber boot area.

To prevent that from happening, it’s easy to level/plumb your machine if use a magnetic torpedo like this one.

You also want to visually inspect the entire area inside every couple of weeks. More often than not, I found some lint clusters with mildew growth (Fig.5 below), especially if the washer hasn’t been used for a period of time.



To take care of this, I usually:

  1. Take some some Clorox wipes and thoroughly wipe the inside/outside of the boot area
  2. Wipe down the rubber boot itself
  3. After waiting 10 minutes, wet some paper towel sheets in warm water and wipe down all plastic/rubber areas

Final Words

According to Bloomberg news, there was a class action litigation against Whirlpool due to “smelly” design of its front-load washers.

I haven’t read the legal papers to determine its merits, I think it takes just a bit of effort to follow the guidelines I mentioned above to keep the washer from smelling.

By the way, if you found this article to be helpful, would you please do me a favor and sign up of my free my newsletter? The signup form is located on the upper right corner of the page.

Thanks for reading!


Amy Murphy

Friday 15th of October 2021


Thank you for a glimmer of hope. I don't have a Whirlpool Duet - I have a Whirlpool WFW9640XW00. Sorry, but I'm not very mechanical, and I know very little about machines of any kind. Anyway, my washer has just ruined at least 7 shirts, and several other clothing items. The higher the amount of synthetics the fabric contains, the worse the smell. Cotton does not "hold" the very strong mold smell, but wow, the tee shirts with polyester will have to be thrown away. :( Can you help? Do you know if my washer has the same setup as the Duet? How can I clean it? Any help is appreciated, as I am just about ready to go out and purchase a new top loader. Can't afford to ruin any more clothes.

Thanks, Amy


Friday 15th of October 2021

Hi Amy,

Sorry to hear about your clothes. Not surprised to hear about synthetic clothing being more smelly as they tend to trap more bacteria (you can read more about it here:

Regarding your model, I did a quick lookup and found that your setup is almost 100% identical to my model so you should be able to follow it pretty much verbatim.

THE MOST IMPORTANT part is to remove that filter cap and clean it thoroughly. You will find it riddled with all kinds of smelly junk.

After cleaning, reinstall everything then add two tabs of AFFRESH HE WASHER CLEANER and turn on the CLEAN MACHINE cycle; if you don't have this cycle, just put it on HEAVY DUTY cycle with hot water. Make sure to adjust the spin to low to medium setting.

To ensure clean smelling clothes, make sure to clean the filter trap at least once every 2 or 3 months (more frequent if you have pets or have long hair).

It's not that hard as long as you give yourself a plenty of time and have all the tools on hand.

Good luck!


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Sunday 17th of December 2017

I have a whirlpool duet steam front load washer - 2 years 5 months old. My washer has been smelling even after using afresh every other month ... anyway j checked the areas you mentioned and found TONS of mold!!!!!! It is on the ring and inside it (the area you said socks can get lost). There weren’t any socks, but with the amount of mold there I think I have to buy a new washer.


Monday 18th of December 2017

@ Amber-

Your washer is pretty new so unless there is something major, I would try to clean it first.

Get some dish washing gloves and get couple of Clorox or Lysol wipes (like these) and gently wipe all the way around, including the inner side. It will not come clean all at once. Change wipes frequently and take your time. Last thing you want to do is hurry and damage the rubber boot (you have to pretty much take apart the entire washer to replace it and the replacement part is over $100).

Because you have a steam feature, I would also make sure to leave your washer door open when not in use to air it out.

Good luck!


Guillermo Arostegui

Tuesday 30th of August 2016

My Whirlpool washer is 11 years old. It still works great, but I noticed that it was starting to get stinky and leaving my clothes smelly. I tried the vinegar and baking soda routine that is talked about a lot on different forums. Didn't work. Found this site and am deeply indebted to you. I followed the instructions and removed the clean out trap. What a shock!!! It was BLACK with mold and contained items that had been lost for years. Glasses, coins, pens, soapstone (my son is a welder), and items I could not identify. I cleaned out the receptacle with Clorox cleaner as far as I could reach. The black rubber boot that comes out from under the drum was filled with black mold. I inserted cloths soaked with Clorox cleaner as far up as I could. Scrubbed everything else with all the cleaners I had, including straight bleach, Purple Simple Clean, and Simple Green. Finally got all the mold out. Ran two cycles with Clorox Cleaner straight into the drum. About a quarts worth both times. Ran without anything but hot water for three more cycles. Finally, no more smell coming out of my washer!! Washed a load of bath towels. Smelled clean!! (If I could post pictures of the black mold, it would disgust you, as it did me.)

Although I have had this washer for 11 years, I had no idea it had a trap and was unaware that it had to be cleaned out on occasion. I was so disgusted with the smells coming out of my washer, I was seriously thinking about buying another washer.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! For posting this site and sharing this information!!


Tuesday 30th of August 2016


It is absolutely a pleasure to hear stories like yours. Thank you for sharing. You made my day!


Monday 11th of February 2013

Whatever genuinely inspired u to create “How To Eliminate Mildew or Moldy Smell From A Whirlpool Duet Washer”? Ireally appreciated it! Thanks for your effort -Archie


Monday 11th of February 2013

Hi Archie-

Thanks for your comment! I am all for DIY projects to save some $$$!