How to Clean Dingy Whites in a Front Load Washing Machine

Libby asked: I have a front loading washing machine and cannot get my whites white. When replaced with new whites, within 2-3 washings, they are just as grey and dingy. I only use HE detergents and have tried different brands, hot water and adding bleach, all to no avail. Help!

With the trend toward front loading washers comes an unfortunate truth:  clothes need water to come clean, and lots of it. Front load washers use a relatively small amount of water and as such, it has become apparent that dingy whites are a side effect of these types of machines. Moreover, a return of grayed fabrics to their former bright white glory isn’t likely to happen. There are, however, a few steps you can take to keep whites looking their best.

  • Don’t mix colors. Only wash whites with other whites.
  • Don’t overload the machine. The fewer items in the load, the more likely they are to get clean.
  • Use the hottest possible water suitable for your load.
  • Consider pre-soaking whites in OxiClean or a similar oxygenated detergent.



  1. I have found the new OxiClean liquid added with my detergent has kept my whites white. I used to use Tide, but it does not work, nor does it take out the stains.

  2. What detergent do you use? Do you have any odor problems with your front loader? I usually buy liquid Kirkland He detergent. I did not know there was an OxiClean liquid? I need to restock, so thanks.

  3. To my white load, I always add ammonia and sometimes peroxide. I never use bleach any longer. Also, too much detergent doesn’t always rinse out completely. With detergent, less is best.

  4. My front loader is smelling moldy. I regularly use Tide front load washer cleaner, I leave the door open when I’m not washing, and I was shocked when I washed behind the rubber at the door!
    Any suggestions?

  5. Some front load washers have the option of “extra water” and/or “extra rinse.” Both can be helpful.

  6. Whites need to be washed separate; try adding a laundry booster like baking soda (I buy big bag at Costco) or borax — these are both washing items used decades ago, but they help and always be sure to use the extra rinse cycle.

  7. I had lingering odor problems with my front loader. Run some of the new cleaning solutions through it, then leave the door open when not in use. Fortunately, mine are out of sight, so that’s not a big issue for me. Only thing that worked, though. After only five years, the bearings are going, and I’ll have to get another soon. My next washer will NOT be a front loader!

  8. Paul of Michigan says:

    We’ve been fortunate using Consumer Reports’ recommendations. Among them, do not use too much detergent. The OxiClean is beneficial for a presoak. Recently, Spray ‘n Wash was recommend as the best strain remover. To prevent the odor from the machine itself, leave the door open so it can air and dry out. That has worked. If the odor gets really bad, there is a product that is made for that called “Affresh.” When they’ve rated detergents, there have been some very good and some not good at all. So which one you use will make a difference. We’ve had very little problem with whites and have used front loaders for almost twenty years. Hard water will cause some of that problem as well.

  9. I add TSP to the wash water and also to the dishwasher. A teaspoon full seems to work OK. But try it yourself. The situation is this: THE “GREEN” IDIOTS have had all the phosphates removed from non-commercial soaps and detergents. So I put TSP back in! You can get both liquid and powder from a hardware store. I’m using liquid now. The big companies have been bullied by the JERK government to do this and if you look on their packages, they are “bragging” phosphate-free. JERKS. Commercial detergents not affected, so if you can get a laundry or dishwasher soap from a restaurant/cleaning supply house. DO IT!! It’s the democrats who want to CONTROL (RULE) us and want us to live in caves and eat weeds while they drive SUVs and feast on filet Mignon. We’re in California. Going to Nevada to get incandescent light bulbs before they are banned there. The scheme is this: The CFLs, which have dangerous mercury in them and can expose you when broken, are supposed to cut energy use so that the government can get more electric power to the supplying electric grid is my thought. There is simply not enough electrical power available to recharge more than about 5% of all possible electric vehicles. More CONTROL by the B**** and Hollywood freako liberals.

  10. Re: front-loader machine moldy odor ( in Deb’s July 2 comment):
    A little late with this, but ‘better late than never’!! I have never smelled anything unusual in my front-loader – I suspect it is because I always use regular Clorox for bath towels, washcloths, and underwear (underwear washed separately from bath items), and maybe the Clorox kills anything that is in the washer that would cause an odor, such as mold. I have read about tests where they find e. coli in washing machines and I started using the Clorox on the items that e.coli may be on. Also, I noticed a good while ago that some of the specialty Clorox recommend you use the regular Clorox for disinfecting, so I do not buy anything other than the regular now.

  11. What an interesting thread, particularly once it turned from someone whose whites didn’t get clean to some guy who thinks democrats want him to eat weeds!
    To that guy, I’ll say that I bought a box of TSP, but only used it in the rental unit I own to clean. Great stuff! It did an amazing job on the disgusting bathroom.

    Regarding laundry, I just use bleach on the white items every other washing without a problem. I don’t believe in OxiClean and have never tried Borax. I do leave the washer door open when not in use.

    You all must get your water tested! What comes from your well, or through the pipes of a city system, is most likely okay to drink (ugh), but leaves sediment on your clothes.

  12. I have a front loading washer. I use Tide and add Clorox bleach for my whites and wash them in hot water. This always used to work, but over the last few months my whites have big, brownish (very light in color) stains all over them, and white socks still look dirty (I have boys!). I may have hard water, but I am not sure. Help!

  13. I too had those streaks of brown on whites. With a white rag, I swiped the valley of the seal around the front opening of the machine. It was filthy. I have always left the door open after completing a wash, but that obviously did not help. Also, my whites were always washed with Clorox bleach. It required a bit of cleaning on the rubber seal, ending with a bleach rinse. No more brown streaks. Now I regularly wipe the seal out with a soap solution and a little bleach.

  14. I had the same problem with my whites until my daughter suggested I use Tide with Bleach Alternative.

  15. I have a big plastic bucket that I use in my sink before I wash whites that I want to be really white. I use half a cup of Amaze and then fill the tub with water. If there are spots, I spray them first, then soak. If its really dirty-looking, I soak the garment overnight. I always soak my husband’s white dry clean only shirts once in a while, as they usually get dingy from too much dry cleaning, and this procedure does whiten them.

  16. Jennifer says:

    I have learned a couple of techniques that help. Dinginess is caused by not removing all the detergent from the clothes. I have an LG front loader, so I don’t know if this would work with different brands. I run the tub clean cycle every three or four weeks, which helps…slightly. However, I still found it almost impossible to remove all the detergent from a wash load, even when I used a thimble of HE detergent and ran three to four extra rinse-and-spin cycles on each load. Then I discovered that all the water does not drain from the machine at the end of a cycle. One to two quarts remain after the final rinse, which the machine reuses during the next cycle, probably to cut down on the amount of water needed to wash, so the manufacturer can meet federal energy requirements. However, this leftover water is full of detergent and small particulates which go right into the next wash water, and the next, and so on. So, in order to start each cycle with fresh, clean water, at the end of each cycle I drain all the water from the machine through the drain line, which is a plugged rubber tube located at the bottom of the machine, and -then- run an extra rinse and spin cycle, if needed, or start the next wash cycle. This does seem to eliminate all the detergent, but it is a hassle! I also use permanent-press and delicate cycles exclusively, as both use more water than the cotton-towels or normal cycle. You can also try RIT White-Wash or RIT color remover. You have to use the stove top method if you have a front loader, but both of these do work. Most grocery stores carry it, and I have used it on dry-clean only white clothing, including blazers and suits, and it has removed makeup stains and dinginess that the dry cleaners could not get out.

  17. This question is for Gale (posted June 11/2012 at 6:53) about using Amaze for whites. Would you please let me know where you can buy it. I have tried all stores and still no luck. Please even give me the name of the company that makes it. I hope to hear from you soon. Carol

  18. I have had a front loader LG Washer for four years now. We have two black labs, and I wash their bedding at least every couple of months. I have never had my front loader stink, but since the day I got it I have always been diligent about leaving the front door open when not in use, as well as wiping the inside of the door, and cleaning and drying out the rubber lining inside after every single use. Take a second with a paper towel. Also I do a “tub clean”, as someone mentioned earlier, every few months, adding Clorox Bleach (especially after washing the dog stuff).

    I do find that my whites are very dingy. I’ve never been good with whites, I use the cold/warm and Normal cycle including Clorox Bleach, so I may take some of the previous suggestions and try to use hot water and maybe Oxi Clean or another supplement to see if it improves, as well as maybe using my pre-soak or other settings.

  19. What is tsp?

  20. My solution to all of the negatives I experienced with my front loader is to buy a new top loader! Thank you all for your testimonials. At least I know I am not alone.

  21. I too am having a frustrating time keeping new white linens white. My sons karate gi is also turning dingy. If I had known the trouble that the washers were when I replaced my top load washer last year, I would never have bought it! I absolutely hate it!

  22. TSP is trisodium phosphate. I use it to wipe down cabinets before painting. It is a cleaner and can be purchased at hardware stores like Lowes or possibly even Walmart.

  23. After each wash, put a kitchen towel into the rubber gasket/seal around the opening to wick out the excess water. This helps to eliminate odor and spots on white clothes. I still haven’t found a solution for dinghy whites.

  24. I just found out why my whites are getting dingy with my new LG front loader. The washer only adds hot water in short bursts, thus our new tank-less water heater does not get enough water pressure running through it to signal the unit to fire up. This is an outrageous problem that no one is talking about! You can use all kinds of different products but if your water isn’t hot, it isn’t going to work. Plain and simple. Jennifer is right about the leftover water too. I found a few cups leftover in mine.

  25. Tsp = tri-sodium-phosphate … We use it to strip all of the kitchen grease from enamel painted walls so we can repaint. Get it at a hardware store. Fabulous stuff.

  26. Regarding odors in front loading washers, I had that problem a few years ago. I read online that liquid detergents are made with animal fat. It was suggested that I switch to powder detergent and use it very sparingly. I have done that. The odor is gone and my clothes are clean. I have had an issue with my towels. They are loosing their softness. I started using fabric softener and now I have brown spots on the washer where you pour the liquid softener. Any advice would be appreciated.

  27. Jill,
    Remove the fabric softener tray, soak the tray in warm water and use dish soap or spray cleaner to wipe away the stains. If there are stains on the tray, it is likely that there are also stains inside the washer that could damage your clothes. Place your washer on the settings for the largest load and hottest water, allow the washer to fill slightly, pour in two cups of bleach and let the washer run. Run the washer again with plain water to remove any bleach residue. You can use two cups of vinegar instead of bleach to remove any odors.

    Source: – How to Clean a Washing Machine
    Source: Stains & Spots – Machine stains or speckled laundry, fresh out of the machine

  28. Regarding the four suggestions you made 27 comments ago…are you kidding me?! No experienced laundress would mix colors with whites.
    I bought a front loader designed for large loads.
    Whites and hot water? Kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it?
    As for pre-soaking, WHY do I have to buy products I NEVER needed with my top loader?
    Your suggestions are ridiculous; now, give me suggestions we can REALLY use.
    (To all, I apologize for being so upset, I’m just tired of NO HELP. HELP!)
    To those having trouble with a moldy smell: after I finish my laundry for the day, I remove the detergent dispenser and put it in the sink to drain. I cloth dry the cavity left by dispenser, wipe down the door and dry the underside of the rubber seal. Every 3 to 4 weeks, I also use 3/4 cup of bleach and the Clean Washer setting. I’ve had my machine for more that two years and so far haven’t had a problem with mold.

  29. Hi all,
    Well, I have an 11 kg HE washer, and here is how I get my washing done:
    First Load: wash my colored items first off, as my machine is a green machine, I always use the pre-wash, so I place a small amount of powder in the pre-wash and then the same amount in the main wash and set the machine to a cold wash; that way I don’t fade them. I add half the amount of fabric softener recommended.
    Second Load: is colored towels. Now, this I wash with white vinegar in the pre-wash and baking soda in the main wash and wash at 40 degrees. NO SOFTENER, as it ruins towels.
    White wash: pre-wash with 1/4 cup bleach (I dilute the bleach in a jug and add it when the washer has filled with pre-wash water and is tumbling the items so as to be sure it’s evenly distributed). I use half the recommended amount of detergent in the main wash and wash items at 60 degrees. NO SOFTENER, as it can set stains in if any have not been removed and I like my whites to feel crisp, not limp.

    I always wash the whites as my last load, as this has the bleach and no softener, which helps keep the washer clean and smell-free. When the last load has finished, I wipe white vinegar around the inside of the drum and the seals, and leave door open. Hope this helps some of you.

  30. Question for Andrew. On your towels or second load, do you put any detergent in? You mention vinegar and baking soda, but no detergent? Thanks for all the comments everyone! I have tried some of these and so I have heard about some, but now I have more to try. So wish I had bought a normal top loader washer!!!!! Next time, I’ll know better.

  31. Hi Carrie, no I use no detergent. Vinegar kills odors and acts as a disinfectant; baking soda is doing a cleaning action and removing odor as well. After all, my towels are not dirty, just need sanitizing. Once they are dried, they will have no smell at all as no scent is added. I store all towels in just one cupboard and use scented drawer liners and rotate towels. This way there is no loss of absorbency in my towels due to my not using fabric softener and by the time I use the ones I washed, they smell great from the drawer liner.
    Should also say: never mix the vinegar and baking powder together in same wash water, as it chemically reacts. Always wash in vinegar first, then wash in baking soda second.

  32. One of my happiest moments was swapping my front loader for a top loader. Joy! The musty smell and dingy whites were no longer a problem. I believe there is a class action lawsuit against almost all of the manufacturers of front loaders, since it is nearly impossible to keep mold from growing inside. Google that…

  33. I have had an LG front loader for about two years. I hate it. All my bras and panties that used to be light blue or pink or even white are now dingy grey. I got two new pink bras and a pair of pink panties less than two months ago; the only thing still pink is the metal adjustments on the straps. It’s the same for t-shirts in any light color. Everything looks worse than before it was washed. I am going to try the vinegar soak in the sink and see if that does anything. I started using the extra rinse nine months ago to no avail. Front loader now takes twice as long to wash a load, I am also adding color booster to the HE laundry soap(?) so it costs more for that and I am using more water!

  34. I wish I would have read this before I said yes to my HE washer last year. First, I have never believed that it cleaned better than my traditional washer. I now know this as being true. About a month ago, our whites started coming out gray. The first time it happened; I had to throw away 8 pairs of underwear. They came out so gray that I wouldn’t have been caught dead in them. I am still trying to figure out what is going on. Also, our clothes smell gross. Nice…huh? I’m now starting to suspect the Affresh machine cleaner tablets for the smell. I am going to try using vinegar and hot water to clean it from now on whenever the “clean” light comes on. Hopefully things will start to smell better like they used to before we purchased the HE. Still don’t know what to do about the graying. I miss my old traditional washer!!

  35. I used to have the same problem with my whites. Someone above mentioned the sediment form your tap water staying in your clothes. I got a water softener and reverse osmosis whole-house water filtration system (from Home Depot) and use OxiClean in a front-loading washer — no more problems! I have t-shirts, socks, and underpants that are five years old and are still bright white.

  36. So glad to see it is not just me having the problem with white socks and a front load machine. My old, old top load washer, repaired several times, never had this problem because I always used the extra large load water level and bleach in very hot water; would put the clothes in, start the machine, then stop the machine and let really dirty gardening clothes or white socks soak. The only thing I do like my front loader for is king size blankets, washed on sanitize setting; they fit better than in the top loader even though it was a very large machine. But I couldn’t agree with all of you more, the top loader that fills up with water all the way to the top cleans better.

  37. Just leave the door and the soap dispenser open and let it dry out after each use. I leave mine open all the time and there is absolutely no smell. I’ve told others this and they say it works for them too. One person’s washer opened into a hallway and they can’t leave it open.

  38. I’ve had a front loader since 2004. I’ve loved it. I know people complain of mold problems, but it’s rather dry in Colorado, and I always leave the door open 1-2″ after a load. Never had a problem. **I often use 1/4 to 1/2 C white vinegar in the rinse bin (I buy in the large, gallon jugs & keep them in laundry room, and also jumbo boxes of baking soda for the wash cycle). **Note: If you use vinegar instead of softener, your towels will absorb water off of your body better after you shower, will reduce body acne or facial acne on your kids, it keeps washer clean, disinfects, actually sets the dye of clothes and won’t fade clothes and the BONUS—IT ACTS AS A FABRIC SOFTENER!!!! If you really need the softener smell, buy the new little scent bottles with the tiny round pieces they say to add to the wash water, but put only 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. in the rinse tray INSTEAD of softener, and add vinegar before or after or they cancel each other out sitting in the tray together. There’s always a tiny bit of water lurking in the softener tray that it starts to dissolve the tiny scented pellets. Softener on sheets, towels, etc. causes acne and your kids continually get it on them sleeping on a pillowcase, drying their hands on a towel, body towels after showering, etc.
    ***You can test vinegar as a fabric softener—do a load of jeans with no softener & no vinegar, hang one pair on a hanger to air dry. Do another load with vinegar in the rinse water and hang one pair to dry…no stiff, crusty jeans!!!

    As for moldy smell in your washer, (I’ve never wiped mine out and I think twice since 2004, I have wiped the door seals with no problem) BUT, about six moths ago, I smelled the washer getting nasty, which is not a problem I’d ever had and I suspected the SOCK MONSTER at work. Yup!! On a Front Loader, the water drains through the seal that meets the door. Pry it back with your fingers and I bet you find a tiny sock or something that got forced between the seal and the water drain holes down in that crevice. A fabric item in there will never get dry, only goes moldy & stinky! I removed it and wiped that crevice out; all fresh again!
    And yes, I always bleach my whites as my last load of the day IF I have whites to do. It just helps take out any bacteria before a washer sits. You gotta use hot water to wash whites to get them WHITE with or without bleach, but rinsing in cold is ok. You should use vinegar in the rinse water to neutralize the bleach so it doesn’t continue to be sooo hard on the fabric fibers or your skin, and always choose a second rinse cycle with bleached loads.
    FOR EXTRA WHITENING: You can also add a few drops of “Mrs. Stewart’s Blue for whitening” to the rinse water. Blue makes whites look white. Just a few drops—its almost a dye, but will make whites look white, and it’s meant for rinse cycle on white loads to take the grey out.
    Hard water and well water will keep clothes dirty. There are powdered additives for hard/well water, and if you have well water, you will get brown iron spots on your clothes. It’s awful. I have lived with both and now I will not live without a water softener in my house for all cleaning reasons (laundry, dishes, showers, sinks…the hard water build up is too hard to keep up on. A softener is like heaven!). Try a filter on your washer if you can find one, but use a water softening powder and baking soda in each load too.
    Laundry doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need some basic knowledge of what your water and chemicals are doing or not doing, and you need these secrets so you are armed!!
    Baking soda – Lifesaver, & can be used in place of detergent, removes odor, rinses clean away, boosts detergent action, etc. Many soaps and detergents just don’t rinse away—ever. They can act like waxy substances.
    Gallon of Distilled White Vinegar – removes odor, use in place of fabric softener, chemical neutralizer, kills bacteria, all natural & safe, no residual smell. Can add scented crystals to rinse if you need that smell without the harsh chemicals.
    Don’t be afraid to soak a load of whites or a load of pinks or brights in a warm water soak and BIZ. That stuff is crazy good once in awhile!!!!

  39. Well, I can see that I am not alone. Front-loading washing machines billed to “save water” are the worst!! I am not saving water as I pre-soak most loads in a sink full of water. I am certain that my electric bill has gone up because the cycle time has tripled with every load. I looked and looked for a top loader in my area and couldn’t find one. (Well, that’s not true; there was one very cheap model that had a DO NOT BUY warning from every site I checked.) As consumers, we should revolt!!

  40. Canada Mom says:

    Switched at Christmas from top load to front load. Been raising a family for over 25 years on sceptic and thankful we made the switch.
    I appreciate all your comments and will take many to heart in regards to cleaning, whites, and products.
    Happy Laundry New Year!

  41. I hate my expensive front loader. Wish I knew the drawbacks prior to my purchase.
    Don’t buy a front loader.

  42. I’ve been using a FL washer for 8 years and it is awful. I’m using proper soaps, temps and load sizes… I see water come out, but never see any in the tub… it’s barely enough to wet the clothes, even on the largest setting and a small amount of clothes…. the clothes just roll up into a soppy tangled ball and the soap doesn’t appear to even matter. Things come out gross. I get GREY whites and everything else I wash feels like it has a film on it, even after triple rinsing. I miss the top load and actual WATER to clean my laundry.

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