What’s growing in your front-loading washing machine?

Owners of front-loading washing machines might encounter mold growing in their machines. (Photos: CBS Austin)

An appliance that's in millions of homes across the country could be a magnet for mold and mildew.

“It kind of smells like a turtle pond,” says Julie Kim, who owns a front-loading washing machine.

The problem is all too familiar for people who own the appliance. “It's really annoying,” Kim says.

“When you have a perception of doing laundry you think of Snuggles and good, baking-soda smells and things like that, so when it starts smelling mildew-y it's almost like you're going in reverse,” Kim says.

Along the rubber gasket that seals the door shut, many front-loading washing machine owners find an unsightly growth. If you pull the rubber back, you’ll find a dried, black build-up that looks like mold.

“What we're doing is we're taking a sample,” explains James Kaster, Cen Tex environmental inspector. Caster tested the residue in our washing machine for toxic mold.

“We swabbed this one. We sent it to the lab and it came back negative,” Kaster says.

However, if you close the washer door right after using it and leave it there for days, you might find yourself in a different situation.

“You have a greater chance of mold growing inside there,” he says.

A cheap and effective solution is bleach. Every three to six months, pour a quarter to a half gallon of bleach directly into the machine-- not the bleach slot.

Put the washer on hot and run one cycle.

“Anytime you have water sitting around it's going to grow mold. That's just the way it works,” says Kaster.

Whether or not what's growing in your washer is making you sick depends on your allergies.

“Certain people can be allergic to different kinds of mold. Any kind of mold that grows in there could be toxic to any particular person,” Kaster adds.

While mold wasn't found in our washing machine, Kaster says bacteria is likely. Simply leaving the door cracked open will help things dry out-- keeping unwanted sights, smells and toxins outs of your washing machine.

In 2016, more than six million people joined a class action suit after they found mold in their front-loading washing machines. They received up to $50 or a rebate for discount off a new appliance.

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