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Handyman Show audio archive

Publication date: 06/09/2007

 Click here for a printer-friendly version

If your clothes are smelly when they come out of your washer, here's why (and how to fix it)

The government got into the toilet specification business and it took many years to get a significant number of good-flushing, low-flow toilets.

Should we expect anything less of them when they start messing around with washing machines?

The old fashioned, water-guzzling top-loading washing machines were not environmentally friendly. All they did was clean clothing.

The new, front loaders, use much less water and spin so fast the little water the clothing was able to absorb is almost completely eliminated before the load is moved to the dryer.

This is great. Save water and save energy drying the clothing.

Then come the problems. Front-loading washing machines tend to dance all over the floor. If they are on concrete they can be stabilized. If they are on wood joists, the floor tends to trampoline on them. Some of the new machines seem to have that one licked.

Front-loading washing machines require special detergents. Regular detergents are too sudsy.

In April 2005 Maytag settled a class action suit by 2,000,000 consumers alleging smelly washers. The problem doesn't seem to have gone away and doesn't seem to be confined to one manufacturer.

Men do not talk about laundry problems. That's why my ears perk up when I hear men complaining about how their new washing machines are making their clothing stink.

Lately I've been getting e-mails asking how to stop their new washing machines from making their clothing smell moldy.

My staff and I started doing Google searches and read pages of customer complaints from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain. Every major manufacturer was mentioned so it is obvious that it is a category, not a specific make or model problem.

There were also do-it-yourself fix recommendations like vinegar and baking soda but nothing seemed to work well.

One of my buddies, Mike Licht, came up with the answer. A little company called Smellywasher.com sells a product designed to take away the smell.

When I contacted Paul Flynn, the owner of Smellywasher.com, he explained the washing machine problem, "There is a problem with fillers and emulsifiers (chemicals that allow formation or cohesion of mixtures) that make up laundry detergents. They adhere to plastic and rubber parts. The fungus will cover the outside tub, the pump and pump chamber and its hoses. "

"Manufacturers of higher end washers have begun using antimicrobial plastic and sanitize cycles that raise the water level and wash with higher temperatures in almost futile efforts to rid washers of this fungus and the odor that it produces. There have even been trials with UV lights for disinfecting. "

An appliance repairman by trade, Flynn was getting smelly washer calls a couple of times a week. He racked his brain trying to come up with a solution and nothing seemed to work. Finally he remembered an old cleaning formula that he had been shown by an old navy chief.

In Flynn's Navy days he had used the formula to clean grills and other "impossible to clean" items. Flynn mixed up a batch and tried it on the next smelly washer he came across. It worked!

The result is Flynn's new Purewasher product. It is completely non-toxic and environmentally safe and works by disallowing the cohesion properties (loosening) between the fungus and the plastic.

All it takes is adding 1 tablespoon to your washer (either in the soap dispenser or in the tub), and filling it to the highest and hottest setting.

Add 3-5 gallons of hot water and allow the unit to agitate and then put it into a soak while you sleep.

In the morning, remove any fungus that may be floating in the washer. Otherwise, just drain, rinse and drain.

According to Flynn, results vary --- some washers come clean immediately while others may take a few more rinses or even another cleaning to get rid of the odor.

If you have the problem, Purewasher can be purchased on Flynn's Web site, www.smellywasher.com. The cost is $16 and the purchaser receives enough product for several cleanings, as well as removing the mold smell from any laundry that may have picked up the odor from the washer.

Note: This article was accurate at the date of publication. However, information contained in it may have changed. If you plan to use the information contained herein for any purpose, verification of its continued accuracy is your responsibility.

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