Father and child smiling while loading laundry into a washing machine.
Essential Oils & Aromatherapy

Essential Oil Mold Remover: Rid Your Washing Machine of Mold and Mildew

Reviewed by Lisa Blohm, PhD, MSN, RN

Disclaimer: The following information has not been approved by the FDA. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for a visit with a medical care professional. Always speak to your doctor about any health concerns. 

Have you noticed a musty odor when you open the lid or door of your washing machine? Is it sometimes faintly present in the laundered clothing?

A few years ago I was battling this problem. After having no success eliminating it, I finally replaced the washing machine. A few weeks later I ran into an appliance repair man and I asked him about the musty odor. I was looking for suggestions for avoiding the same problem in my new washer.

I think appliance repair men know the “inside scoop” on all things related to appliances. His response to my questions provided startling information that caused me to implement big changes in how I approached laundry. Here are his main points:

  • Keep Washing Machine Lids and Doors Ajar:  The airless environment created when washing machine lids and doors are kept closed is the perfect breeding ground for mold.
  • Use Hot Water:  People rarely use hot water for washing anymore. Some things need to be washed in hot water to kill bacteria and pathogens. You do this not only to clean the laundry but also to keep the washing machine clean. Of course not all modern fabrics can be laundered on hot, just make sure to use hot when possible.
  • Sort Your Laundry:  Underwear, towels, bedding, and heavily soiled items should always be washed in HOT water and in separate loads from general clothing.
  • Clean Your Washer:  There are products available commercially that work to kill molds and break down biofilms. This was a concept that was completely new to me. After all I was using soap and hot water…

I found it easy to leave my lid open. I was careful about sorting laundry and then washing it in the appropriate temperature water. The thing I couldn’t bring myself to do was use the products found in stores to clean the inside of the washer. I had been using natural laundry detergents for years to avoid the chemicals present in most laundry products. I really didn’t want to introduce them back into my washing machine and the atmosphere of my home. I decided to investigate…

Essential Oil Washing Machine as Mold and Mildew Remover in The Healthy Place

 The Solution of Essential Oils The Healthy Place

anti-fungal essential oils in The Healthy Place

Maintenance Program of Essential Oils in The Healthy Place

Vacation Prevention for Essential Oils in The Healthy Place


Bacteria enter the washing machine through clothing, household linens, and water. We expect the clothing coming out of a washer to be both visually and hygienically clean, but changes in clothing materials, detergent ingredients, and lower washing temperatures have impacted the level of bacteria present in laundered clothing and inside the washing machine. The plastic components that are part of new machine construction also harbor more bacteria than older machines.

The bacteria that survive the laundry process build up biofilms, a slimy film of bacteria that adheres to a surface, for protection, making it more difficult to eradicate them.

These bacteria often, but not always, produce a musty odor that is present in laundered clothing and the inside of the washer.

The Solution

This is one of those problems that is easier to avoid than to eliminate. But if you are already having trouble with mold in your washing machine you will want to clean it thoroughly before starting the maintenance program.

I have found that even top-loading washers develop a slimy film on the top of the washer drum. You may have to shift the drum around a bit to thoroughly clean it. In front-loading washers, the gasket around the door is commonly infested with mold.

Preliminary Steps

  • Use a solution of 1 cup hot water, 2 cups vinegar, 1/4 cup borax and 20 drops of anti-fungal essential oils (listed below) to clean the gaskets and/or top of the drum of your washer. You should wear rubber gloves for this as the dilution of essential oils is very strong.
  • Run an empty, hot load with several cups of vinegar, 1 cup borax, and 20 drops of any anti-fungal essential oil (listed below). I know that some washers determine water level by the amount of laundry so this could be a problem for them BUT most of those washers also have a cycle for cleaning. If so, use that. It is important to use hot water.
  • You may have to repeat these steps several times to eliminate the mold.

Choose Anti-Fungal Oils

I have set up a rotation of four anti-fungal essential oils that I use in the wash cycle. My research indicated that I didn’t need to use a large amount of oils to eliminate biofilms and mold so I made a list and picked oils with scents that my family enjoyed.


  • Citronella
  • Orange
  • Eucalyptus (not safe for children under six)
  • Palmarosa
  • Geranium
  • Patchouli
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint (not safe for children under six)
  • Lemongrass
  • Tea Tree

This isn’t an exhaustive list. They are oils I was familiar with and had on hand.


My Maintenance Program 

These are the steps I follow for a super-sweet smelling washing machine!

  1. Choose at least four anti-fungal essential oils.
  2. Place the oils in a box alongside your laundry products.
  3. Add 10 drops of an anti-fungal essential oil in your regular wash cycle. I add it at the beginning with the detergent. I use more drops for extra dirty clothing, underwear, and towels.
  4. Rotate your oils on a weekly basis. Use the oil that is first in line for approximately one week then move it to the back, and slide the other oils forward. 
  5. Sort your laundry!
  6. Use hot water appropriately!
  7. If you notice a musty odor in the washer, or when removing wet clothing, follow the preliminary steps listed above.

Vacation Prevention

Run an empty hot load with 20 drops of anti-fungal essential oils, 1 cup borax, and several cups of vinegar. I always do this before leaving on a vacation. There is always some water remaining in the washer, it can cause mold growth when the washer is not used for an extended time.

**Please remember that it is important to keep the lid/door of your washer ajar!

NOTE:  Although your laundry room will smell fantastic when laundering, the scent of these essential oils does not remain after drying. If you want to scent your clothing, add a few drops of essential oils to a washcloth and place it in your dryer with the wet items.

Why do I only use each oil for only one week? Because using the same oil long-term may gradually cause you to develop a sensitivity to it and any other oils with similar compounds. This reaction is termed “sensitization”. and typically occurs in oils that are used consistently with little or no breaks, particularly those that are used internally and/or undiluted.

Another reason I practice this rotation method is that mold, fungus, and bacteria can develop resistance. I’ve read that the complexity of essential oils reduces the likelihood of this happening, but it takes no extra effort to implement this practice and I think if offers a deeper layer of protection.

In the News

Most people I’ve talked to think this is an isolated problem. It isn’t! There are six washing machine manufacturers that have had lawsuits for problems with mold in their front-loading washers. Mold is especially prevalent in front-loading washing machines, but not specific to them. This problem is also common in top-loading washers, just less publicized.

I have never had my washer tested for mold or biofilms, so I can’t say with 100% certainty that they are not present in my machine. BUT since I implemented my solution to this problem I have never had a musty odor lingering on clothing or the in the washer. I also have a sensitivity to mold that causes physical symptoms. The lack of these symptoms also leads me to believe that I have conquered the problem.

Need Essential Oils?

Our retail stores carry an extensive variety of essential oils and aromatherapy supplies. Stop in and check them out! As always, our Wellness Consultants are available to answer any questions you may have regarding our products and advice on which supplements may address your specific health concerns. It is our goal to help you “Find Your Healthy Place”!

*Disclaimer: All information and recommendations given on this site, in email correspondence, newsletters or other materials provided by The Healthy Place is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice nor be viewed as a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before modifying, stopping, or starting the use of any medications, health programs, diets, and/or supplements, as well as regarding any health concerns you may have. Our statements and information have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As with any health-related program, product, or service, your risks and results may vary. We expressly disclaim responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the information provided to you here.”

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13 comments on “Essential Oil Mold Remover: Rid Your Washing Machine of Mold and Mildew

  1. Kristin Raiswell on

    This may be a dumb question, but when you run the ‘empty’ loads to clean with just borax and vinegar, do you put everything in the washer itself or some in the soap dispenser? I’m assuming just into the main drum of the front loader but I wanted to make sure. I’ve been cleaning mold out of my and my parents’ washing machine all day so these tips are super helpful! Thanks and happy holidays!

    • Kate Davison on

      Hi Kristin,

      We just put it all in the washer drum. I don’t know if it would matter though.

      If you are dealing with a large mold problem it is a good idea to wear a mask (N95 Approved mask) for protection. Mold can have seriously detrimental affects to your health.

      I this method works for you!

  2. Vala on

    Hi Kate

    Thank you for some very helpful tips! I don’t understand where the musty smell in my new washing machine is coming from. The water is very soft where I live, I use only mild washing powder and a 100% lavender essential oil in my washing but have recently started noticing this prevalent musty smell we all dislike so much.

    I have a question about the tip of rotating the essential oils I use. Why is that? I use the lavender almost every time, but switch it up with tea tree about 1-2 a month at most. Could that be contributing to my problem?

    Also, is there anything I could use instead of borax? I am not sure where to buy it (I don’t live in the US)…

    Best wishes,

    • Kate Davison on

      Hi Vala,

      I’m not sure if there is anything that would replace Borax. I guess I would try the vinegar and essential oils with the hot water cycle.

      There are two reasons you should rotate your essential oils:

      1) Why do I only use each oil for only one week? Because using the same oil long-term may gradually cause you to develop a sensitivity to it and any other oils with similar compounds. This reaction is termed “sensitization”. and typically occurs in oils that are used consistently with little or no breaks, particularly those that are used internally and/or undiluted.

      2) Another reason I practice this rotation method is because mold, fungus, and bacteria can develop resistance. I’ve read that the complexity of essential oils reduces the likelihood of this happening, but it takes no extra effort to implement this practice and I think if offers a deeper layer of protection.

      Some other tips I mention in the article is to leave the lid of your washer open (top loaders) or ajar (side loaders), sort your laundry and use the correct temperature for the type of load. Heavily soiled clothing, underwear, diapers, towels – these should all be washed separately and on hot. Also, make sure to clean your gasket if you have a side loader. You’d be amazed at the slimy film that develops under these gaskets!

      I have a top loader, and routinely use a dish brush and a small bucket filed with hot water, vinegar, and essential oils to scrub the plastic at the top of the drum. The water doesn’t reach these areas and it’s amazing how much dirt and small mold spots can be found in this area.

      Remember to wear a mask and ventilate the area if you have a large problem or if you have sensitivities to mold.

      I hope you are successful if getting rid of your musty smell. I know how unpleasant that can be!

  3. Dee on

    Another important thing for people to know is about the laundry hoses. We should be changing these periodically. They build up with slime too and it’s pretty nasty. If they are running slimy water into the machine or are slimed up and not properly draining water from the machine, you’d smell something for sure. Just the small amount of water that stays in the machine to keep it from drying out will get really yucky in no time if lots of bacteria are sitting there.
    Another thing to know is vinegar will break down your clothes much faster. Things can end up bleeding in the wash that have never lost their color since you purchased years ago. I’ve had a machine full of fuschia splattered clothing from a multi colored bandana I had for years. Luckily, most of the color came out of the clothes when I re-washed them immediately. I did have to throw a few things in the lawn mowing pile.


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