Bleach is "mouthwash" – Laundry tips

Here’s a recent national column I wrote – thought it was timely as we’re all considering spring cleaning!

High Efficiency Washer Tips from Dr. Laundry
Bleach is “mouthwash” for your dryer

I recently came across a great Business of Motherhood tip for fellow moms with the new high efficiency (HE) washers. We were in the market for a new washer/dryer anyway, so as I started shopping, I was drawn like a magnet to the front loader. It looks like a throwback to the 1950s, comes in all kind of funky colors, and has the latest technology. Plus, I thought “laundry watching” through the huge glass window might become sport in my house. (Alas, it never did…)

Also, the model came with lots of parenting perks. Kids equal laundry! Newborns seem to run through 6 outfits a day – burp, change, burp, change. When they’re young, wet beds mean you’re washing bulky comforters. As they grow up and have sleepovers, there are lots of sheets to wash. Enter spills, sports, and more, you’re just constantly doing laundry. I thought a larger capacity washer would reduce my time in the laundry room – larger loads, fewer loads, right? Plus, high efficiency washers use less water and less detergent; they’re more efficient; and isn’t that friendly in this economic environment?

But…enter a problem…the darling started to smell, really bad, like sour eggs or worse. Your kids’ odors don’t usually bother you – bad breath or stinky post-sports sweat, but your washer may not be held in such high regard when its smell goes south. I had ours serviced, and the technician recommended using bleach monthly to run through the washer with extra hot water, and that worked marvelously. I keep a post-it note near the washer and write the date every time I bleach, and our clothes definitely smell better.

I recent came across some tips from Clorox, bleach king of the universe, and thought they were fabulous guidelines for HE washer owners. Apparently, and this was fun news to me, Clorox has their own “Dr. Laundry.” And read on, because this doctor is about to make a house call – rather, laundry room call – via tips for you!

Harold Baker, Associate Research Fellow at the Clorox Company, aka “Dr. Laundry,” explained the reason for the foul odor, “After a few wash cycles, water that has not completely drained out of the machine can be left behind, creating a breeding ground for bad odors.”

Bleach, he says, is “like mouthwash for your HE washer.” Baker recommends running a load weekly with bleach to eliminate the bad odors. Dr. Laundry offered some additional tips:

Don’t over-pack the washer. Too much laundry means the detergent can’t get to all the stains/soils to remove them.

Always wash whites in HOT water. The hotter the water the better the dirt and odor removal.

Better cleaning happens in soft water, so if you have hard water, you might consider moving to a powdered detergent. This type of detergent contains ingredients called builders that make the water softer.

When cleaning a heavy soil load add a little extra detergent to make sure you’re in a good cleaning environment. It also helps prevent re-deposition of removed soil back onto the “cleaned” clothes.

You can see Dr. Laundry cleaning tips on video at the Dr. Laundry blog. The video specific to using bleach in HE machines is found at

Note: I recommend that you also check with the store or brand of your model for tips specific to running bleach through by itself. Happy…and clean washing!


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6 Comments to Bleach is "mouthwash" – Laundry tips

  1. by Amy Smith

    On April 25, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I got some email feedback on this post – Aviva G. shared this tip: “I have the solution! Just leave the door open after you do laundry so the mildew doesn’t build up. We had the same problem and I found this suggestion with our washer instructions. It solved the problem for us.” Thanks, Aviva!

  2. by sandra407

    On September 9, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  3. by Jennifer

    On October 12, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I also have an HE washer and with the same problem. While keeping the door open when not in use did help some it did not get ride of the smell all together. I did find in our local newspaper an ad to help this problem. It is called affresh washer cleaner. It states that it will remove odor causing residue in all washers. I am going to the store today and getting it. I will let you know of the outcome.

  4. by Amanda

    On December 27, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    My friend and I started a wash and fold laundry service from our homes. I have heard of odors from HE washers but found a simple solution. We learned that if you use white vinegar in the rinse cycle it helps. It acts as a natural fabric softner, saves money, and cleans the washer at the same time!

  5. by Amy Smith

    On January 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Thank you!!! Great idea — do you know how MUCH vinegar, and what type?

  6. by Amanda

    On January 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    We use White Vinegar (normally store brand-it’s cheaper) and you put about 3/4 cup either into the rinse cycle or right in the spot for fabric softner.

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