HOUSE: New Mexico #3

How to keep your front-loading washer moisture-free!

How to keep your front-loading washer moisture-free - doorsixteen.com

If you have a front-loading washing machine, you know what it’s like to discover that you’ve closed the door too soon after finishing a cycle, having thought it was completely dry. You’ve done your duty and kept the seals clean and dry, you’ve diligently cleaned out the filter regularly, and now your washer is STINKY. The moisture remains! It’s so unfair. Fortunately, I am here to show you how to rid your front-loading washing machine of moisture (and smell) with a super-simple trick.

(Side note: I feel like an imposter writing this post, because it’s the kind of thing you’d see in every other issue of Real Simple or connected to a Pinterest-ready graphic labeled with lettering that’s supposed to look like it was hand-lettered with a brush but is obviously a font. Even the title of the post sounds like someone else wrote it. If you never look at me the same way again, I completely understand. But man, my heart is IN THIS.)

I had a front-loader in New York, but because it was in the basement next to Leatherface, I was able to leave the door open whenever it wasn’t in use. Now, though, our washer and dryer are stacked in a closet in our living space, and leaving the door open for 24-48 hours (which is truly how long it takes to dry completely, even in New Mexico’s bone-dry climate) is a pain—especially since an open washer door impedes our access to the backyard.

How to keep your front-loading washer moisture-free - doorsixteen.com

After a year or so of feeling annoyed by having a stinky washer (and having to mitigate the stinky with more tub-cleaning treatments than should really be necessary), it crossed my mind that I should start saving all of the silica packets that come in vitamins and stuff, and maybe I could put a little dish of them in the washing machine when it’s not in use.

Then I started wondering whether it’s possible to buy those loose silica or another desiccant in bulk, and then I remembered DampRid. DampRid!

In New York, the Land of Humidity, putting a container of DampRid (which is really just calcium chloride in a strainer with a receptacle for the water that gets pulled out of the air) in a closet is a normal, common way to avoid winding up with musty clothes or moldy papers, but since moving to New Mexico, Land of Parched Air, I’d completely forgotten it exists.

While I initially envisioned just setting a container of DampRid at the bottom of the washer, I discovered they also make a bag version with a hanger at the top designed to hang from a clothing rod. Hmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm? For about 15 minutes I thought I might be able to come up with a way to hang the bag from the gasket somehow, and then it hit me. MAGNETS.

I ordered up a couple of heavy-duty rare earth magnets and a pack of DampRid hanging bags, and felt like a goddamn genius while I waited for them to arrive. New Mexico just brings this brilliance out in people, apparently.

How to keep your front-loading washer moisture-free - doorsixteen.com

Magnetic hook on the back of the drum, DampRid bag on the hook. Washer drawer shut. YOW! But would it work???

How to keep your front-loading washer moisture-free - doorsixteen.com

How to keep your front-loading washer moisture-free - doorsixteen.com

Friends, IT WORKS. It works!!! It works so well. It is absolutely BANANAS how much moisture it absorbs from a washer that’s already “dry.” I still leave the washer door open overnight after doing laundry (I typically only do laundry once a week), but the next morning I shut the door and forget about it. And the door stays shut. It’s not stinky AT ALL when I open it up a week later!

How to keep your front-loading washer moisture-free - doorsixteen.com

When the washer is in use, I just move the bag and the magnet to the side of the washer. It could not be easier. (And yes, one time I did forget to take it out before I did a load of laundry, but incredibly, the DampRid bag was still intact and only slightly depleted afterward! I rewashed the load and got on with my life. No harm done!)

One DampRid bag seems to last about three months, but that’ll of course depend on how often you do laundry and what the humidity levels are like where you live. At any rate, it WORKS, and if front-loader washer dampness and stink is something that has plagued you, this is a pretty nice solution.

The only thing I’ll do differently next time is make sure I’m buying fragrance-free DampRid. I was in such a rush of excitement when I ordered it the first time that I didn’t even consider that it would have a scent. What they call “fresh scent” reminds me of bathroom air freshener—better than mildew stink, but definitely not ideal. Also, I haven’t been able to find these hanging bags in local stores, so it does seem like something I’ll have to continue ordering online.

ALSO, it’s possible that there’s a solution someone smarter than me could come up with using reusable/refillable materials like glass and metal that could be combined with bulk calcium chloride (thus eliminating the need for the disposable plastic components), but I’m just not the person who’s going to figure that out.

I’ll keep cleaning my washing machine’s seals regularly, keeping the link trap clear, and running a monthly cleaning cycle with an Affresh tablet monthly, but I’m pretty happy that mid-week mildew stink is no longer an issue for my washing machine.

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58 Comments

  • Reply SG December 7, 2020 at 6:36 am

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!

    Our front loader is in a hallway that leads to our bathroom and back door – making it pretty narrow. I’ve been using a chopstick to prop the door open (after a few knee bashings, I did cut it down a bit shorter to be less intrusive in the hallway but still keep the door cracked enough to get airflow)…it’s not ideal in an already narrow hallway.

    You just saved my partners knees, and certainly prevented a LOT of frustration in our house.

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm

      Fingers crossed!!

    • Kristin December 7, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      This really made my day (and I live in NYC and don’t even have a washer dryer in my apartment…). SO SMART.

  • Reply Jess December 7, 2020 at 8:13 am

    I LOVE that feeling of being a GD genius! thanks for this, I don’t have a front-loader (though I see it on the horizon), but I do have a musty bathroom that I haven’t figured out how to get an exhaust fan into (old wiring) – Air Rid looks like it could be a decent stopgap solution!

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm

      If your bathroom is on the smaller side, it’ll work well! I’ve done that in windowless apartment bathrooms. DampRid makes containers that can sit on the floor, too—probably more effective than a hanging bag for your purposes.

    • Jennifer O December 8, 2020 at 5:59 pm

      We run a fan outside of the bathroom facing into the bathroom after every shower.

  • Reply Adam December 7, 2020 at 9:12 am

    I remember taking down drop ceiling tiles in the Leatherface basement!! Fun times!!

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 9:12 am

      SO MANY TILES. I try not to think about what we probably inhaled that day.

    • Adam December 7, 2020 at 9:28 am

      That’s probably a good idea!

  • Reply Maggie Santolla December 7, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Oh wow, I have a permanently stinky washer too that is in a closet upstairs, and no matter how many cleaning cycles, filter washings, and sealant scrubs I do, I cannot fully get rid of the smell. I have actually considered moving it downstairs to the basement, but this is a much cheaper and easier solution. I will have to try this!

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 1:10 pm

      Let me know if it works for you, Maggie! Give it a good cleaning before you put the bag in for the first time.

    • Maggie December 8, 2020 at 8:28 am

      I will. I actually didn’t even know these Affresh tablets were a thing (I just use vinegar) so I’m getting some of those too. PROUD to state I did know about the filter though, ha ha ha!

  • Reply Nicole December 7, 2020 at 10:12 am

    So genius!! I don’t know if I can get that here in Canada, but I will keep an eye out for it.
    Another tip is to wipe the inside rubber seal at front by the door, it collects a lot of water, soap build up and gunk in general. I learned this from a nerdy cleaning account I watch on Instagram. They also often remind me to empty the filter at the bottom, one time I hadn’t emptied it in over a year. It was the most dank smell ever. Anyway thank you for this! So creative!

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 1:09 pm

      Yeah, I wipe out the gasket at the end of every laundry day, and I empty/clean the filter monthly, but there’s still moisture lingering inside the machine in areas that just aren’t accessible. This is the only solution I could come up with!

    • Donna December 7, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      Pls share the IG account you speak of. I’m so curious.

    • Clare December 8, 2020 at 2:11 am

      Today I learned my washer has a filter?! I have never cleaned this. I must investigate! Please share that IG account, heaven knows what else I’ve been neglecting.

    • Brenda December 9, 2020 at 11:18 pm

      Nicole – I have an old top loader so it’s not a problem for me but I did a search for DampRid in Canada … you can get it on amazon.ca … $27 for 3 bags … under $40 for a year’s worth. You might be able to find it elseswhere but with covid maybe amazon is a good place to start … I hope I don’t find out I have a filter to clean because it’s been 20 years KNOCK ON WOOD and EVERYTHING ELSE

    • Wendy December 31, 2020 at 10:26 am

      I pull out the detergent drawer at the end of a wash day. I remove all the small containers in the drawer and dry them and then turn over the drawer on a towel. I dry out the inside of the area where the drawer slides into carefully with a dish towel – the same one I use for the gasket. When we exchange homes I have found a lot of mold on the bottom of detergent drawers or inside where it inserts. This all sounds like a hassle but it only takes a few seconds.

    • Anna Dorfman December 31, 2020 at 10:28 am

      I do that too, Wendy! It’s especially easy in the summer when I can just put all of the removable components out in the sun to dry.

  • Reply Cathy December 7, 2020 at 11:15 am

    Ahh, this is so clever! No joke, this is exactly the kind of insight that has kept me following for years and years. Well, that and your impeccable aesthetic taste ^_^

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 1:09 pm

      I feel like this is the first good idea I’ve ever had, Cathy, but thank you!

  • Reply Jules December 7, 2020 at 11:25 am

    You’re a wizard, Anna.

    • Malia December 7, 2020 at 3:22 pm

      Sometimes they sell home dessicant in plastic containers at Japanese grocery stores! You might also try Korean markets and Daiso, but I’m not as confident about those options (and apologies if you live far from any of these options like I do).

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 3:24 pm

      Oh, it’s actually easy to buy desiccant in bulk! I abandoned the idea when I discovered the DampRid bags, though, because they have the receptacle for water drainage. I’m not sure how I’d accomplish that with desiccant alone—I think I’d wind up going through it way too quickly.

  • Reply Smadar December 7, 2020 at 11:40 am

    THANK YOU. This will change our lives. No more stinky washer!!!!

  • Reply Chris Price December 7, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    HOLD UP. They have FILTERS? (insert nervous scared face for fear of what’s living in our 12 year old front loader).

    I can leave the door open on ours so it doesn’t smell really, but the moldy scounge on the seal will NOT go away not matter what I’ve tried so far.

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 1:06 pm

      OH NO! Chris! Yes, they have filters. *sob* Please, please go clean yours—like, now. And then put a repeating reminder in your phone to do it every month. If you don’t have your washer manual anymore, just google for instructions for your model. Here’s what cleaning the filter looks like on an LG machine like mine:
      https://youtu.be/5Ty3bVhR5iM

      Once you’ve done that, run a tub cleaning cycle (if you have that setting—otherwise a double wash with hot water) with an Affresh tablet. That’ll help a LOT. I assume you’ve tried cleaning the gasket with bleach?

    • Chris Price December 7, 2020 at 1:15 pm

      Yep, tried the bleach and hot water. Ours is LG too so I’ll give it a shot when I get home. After a cocktail, maybe.

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 1:16 pm

      Thoughts and prayers!!

  • Reply Donna December 7, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    I was today years old when I discovered my washer has a filter

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 1:45 pm

      Oh boy!! Sooooooo…did you drain/clean it yet? I’m excited for you, Donna!

    • Alice December 7, 2020 at 8:29 pm

      Same here, Donna. The smell was horrid. Thank you Anna for this post!!!

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      Oh gosh. Remember to do it again a month from now!!

    • Ryan December 18, 2020 at 2:24 pm

      I never gave thought to a washer filter until after troubleshooting a repair (turned out to be a failed door latch) and I discovered my older GE/Frigidaire front loader required you to prop up the washer to remove the bottom panel and access the very hard to remove and replace pump filter. I was sad to learn that all the newer washers have a handy door on the bottom front to easily access this. So, if you bought your washer 10 or more years ago it might not have a filter )or at least the manufacturer never thought you would want to access it) so fingers crossed i never end up with anything like a sock or giant ball of lint in mine.

  • Reply amy December 7, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    I’m glad you did mention disposable plastic, which was my first thought when I saw this. but when you said that it lasts three months? seems absolutely worth it. at least the bag uses less plastic than those little buckets. and you’re wasting less water / using fewer chemicals since you don’t have to wash the tub as often. pretty good tradeoff, I think!
    BTW: for musty closets and drawers, I make sachets out of coffee filters and baking soda. of course this would never work in a washing machine, but seems to be doing the trick for lighter jobs!

  • Reply Anna in Raleigh December 7, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    Thank you , Anna, for being a genius and, Chris and Donna, for being brave enough to admit you didn’t know about the filter. I am also bracing for a terrifying first-time filter cleanse tonight!

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 3:30 pm

      I’m really excited for all of this filter-cleaning that’s about to happen!! Please report back, hahaha.

  • Reply Aimee Graham December 7, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Genius! I wondering how long it will be before we see a Damp Rid commercial for this. 🙂

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 5:13 pm

      If DampRid wants to sponsor me, I am READY.

  • Reply Nicole Widder December 7, 2020 at 8:18 pm

    I have so many mixed emotions right now. I’m so thrilled to learn this handy technique – and plan to try it in our bathroom linen closet as well. The sheets smell a little musty and I think it’s a bit damp in there from the shower.
    But I’m so nervous because I’ve never heard of a filter either and we’ve had our machine since Feb. Looks like Stuart has a job on his hands tomorrow. Eeek!

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 8:19 pm

      I’m beginning to feel like I should’ve talked more about the whole filter thing in my post. Godspeed!!

  • Reply Robert Lee-West December 7, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    This puts me on the right track! I’ve been trying to find good solutions to this issue aside from leaving doors open. I work for a laundry service company and it is one of the biggest issues with front loaders. A customer and I tried this and unfortunately the commercial washers we use have non magnetic drums thank you for this helpful tip!

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 8:21 pm

      Robert, maybe you could devise a removable hook of some sort that could hang from a drainage hole inside?

    • Becca S December 7, 2020 at 10:35 pm

      Robert, after reading this I was thinking that maybe a suction cup with a hook would work on the inside of the door too, so I tried it. Viola! If I put it in the back with the magnet, the husband will wash it every time, guaranteed.

    • Anna Dorfman December 7, 2020 at 10:51 pm

      That’s a GREAT idea, Becca!!

  • Reply Naomi Burgess December 7, 2020 at 11:08 pm

    I just cleaned the filter after having no idea what that part was for 6 years. Not too bad and I found a long lost penny. Thank you Anna for this very super helpful post.

  • Reply Emily December 8, 2020 at 5:47 am

    The bags seem perfectly suited to this application (which I need to try), but for those mentioning other ideas: I’ve found bulk bags of DampRid granules at Lowe’s! I can now refill the little buckets in my garage. It is astounding how much water they produce.

  • Reply Lauren December 8, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Very clever idea! I have seen large bags of silica dessicant available online, that you can refresh by baking on low heat in an oven (designed for shipping containers and such like). That might mean less plastic waste? But I’m not sure if they come with a hook so may not be quite as handy as this.

    • Anna Dorfman December 8, 2020 at 8:56 pm

      Yeah, getting bulk desiccant is the easy part—it’s figuring out how to make some kind of system with drainage and collection that would work inside of washing machine that’s the hard part. 😉

  • Reply Carolyn December 8, 2020 at 10:18 pm

    Great tip! Really love this idea. To put another option on the radar, for anyone who may be close to needing to replace their washer, there are new front loading models now with an automatic venting function: it’s like a shower fan that turns on and off by itself to eliminate moisture buildup. I have two small kids and we’re washing clothes all the time; this feature is truly a life saver. No musty smell, ever!!! Ours is a GE model, and it works great. It’s the first new washer I’ve ever had, and I was more excited than buying my first car (it was used) 🙂

    • Anna Dorfman December 8, 2020 at 10:19 pm

      WOW, really?? My washer is only a year old so I’m not replacing it anytime in the foreseeable future, but this is great news. I can’t believe it took so long!!

  • Reply Maria December 11, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I love this long thread about smelly washers, ha! It’s so relaxing to talk household these days. I am delighted! Happy weekend!

  • Reply Anuschka December 14, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Genius – I don’t have the problem cause the washing machine is in the cellar and the door can stay open. BUUUT – I thought this could also be helpful in the car or elswhere.

  • Reply Chrissann December 17, 2020 at 9:31 am

    Hi! 1. this is a stellar idea, definitely giving this a go. 2. whats your experience having a stack washer dryer in your living space? we’re currently renovating and are bringing the washer dryer up from our creepy basement and putting it off the kitchen. I bought stackable washer dryers, but our contractor says is disruptively loud stacked. I’d love to have the extra space for our vaccuum, etc. What do you think? if you could do side by side, would you? thanks in advance! 🙂

    • Anna Dorfman December 17, 2020 at 9:39 am

      Hi, Chrissan! My personal preference for a washer and dryer is to have them in the basement, but since this house doesn’t HAVE a basement, that’s not an option. I don’t really understand the current trend toward putting them on the main floors of a house—but I don’t have kids, and it’s rare that I do laundry more than two small loads once a week (and I don’t have any physical disabilities or limitations), so I don’t necessarily have the same needs as others might. That said, since they HAVE to be in our living space, I greatly prefer them being stacked. Efficient use of space is paramount for me. The other side of the closet houses the water heater. I can’t see any reason why side-by-side would be preferable—again, of course, unless there are physical disabilities to be considered. I haven’t noticed any difference in noise having them stacked. They just sound like a washer and dryer! The wool dryer balls I use make more noise than the machines do. 😉

  • Reply Inside The Wall January 6, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    Great idea Anna. must try also.

  • Reply Kelly May 25, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    I happened upon an article that states using calcium chloride around metal is a no no and can rust your machine. I had tried this idea with one of the containers of damp rid and it did draw up moisture although the smells didn’t go away. It’s a pity there’s not an easy way to remove the door seal to clean behind it as a suspect there’s still gunk residue behind it. Anyway, the other day I accidentally washed the whole damp rid container in my machine.. which led me to research and not good!! The packaging even states no to metal.

    • Anna Dorfman June 1, 2021 at 9:40 pm

      The DampRid would need to be in contact with the metal in order for it to cause corrosion. Having it inside of the plastic bag is a non-issue.

      Also, it won’t get rid of existing odor—all it does is absorb moisture. If you already have an odor problem, trying running a cleaning cycle with the Affresh tablets I linked to in the post.

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