Case Study: Does my front load washing machine have mold?
Front load washer, mold and health impact on your family.
My name is Chuck Colby and I own and manage SOS Environmental LLC. I have been solving indoor environmental issues for almost 20 years; specializing in mold and water damage. This article will center two questions: 1) Does my front load washing machine have mold? 2) Is my front load washing machine causing health problems for my family.
The short answers are YES and maybe.
Chronic sinusitis has been linked by the Mayo clinic to mold (fungi) exposure. In fact, this study found that in 96% of examined patients diagnosed with allergic fungal sinusitis (“AFS”), mold (fungi) was present in their mucus tissue. Linking mold exposure to Chronic sinusitis . (Here is a link to that article).
In this article recently I visited a small home in the San Fernando Valley of a family whose children had been diagnosed with respiratory and chronic severe sinusitis. The mother of the home had taken her kids to 8 doctors and had tried several different medications for a prolonged period of time and nothing worked. Finally one doctor asked if the issues could be “environmental” potentially in her home. She called me and after a brief chat I went over to look at her home. Living in the home were herself and husband as well as two boys ages about 5 and 8. Both kids were typical boys of this age and very active and otherwise healthy aside from severe allergies and respiratory issues.
The symptoms of the boys presented were; chronic coughing, chronic sinusitis, allergic fungal sinusitis and rashes on their bodies. The diagnosis was confirmed by several different physicians who had administered several different courses of treatment all were of no avail. The family was literally chasing from doctor to doctor, medication to medication with no improvement.
The mother of the children was not only a very nice woman, but one of the most fastidious housekeepers I have ever seen in doing this for now almost 20 years. Her home was imacculate in every detail! No dust anywhere, no mess everything organized. Especially considering that she had two small boys and they seemed to have at least 5 friends there at the time! (She explained to me that this is a regular occurrence..) I was very impressed on how this full time mom was able to manage to keep her house so incredibly clean! Having raised two kids myself I was impressed to say the least. Yet, the kids were really sick.
The Mold inspection:
The inspection: I looked around her home for signs of water intrusion, both past and current. Evaluated the surfaces for moisture, water damage and mold. As in most homes, there is always some mold. In this case we found; 5 different locations with water damage and some degree of mold. There was some old water damage, a past leaking hot water heater, a small toilet overflow in the bathroom that was repaired. As well as other minor issues that I could identify. Each one of these may have to some degree have contributed to mold exposure, but nothing significant enough in my opinion and experience to be causing enough of an exposure concern such that her kids would logically have been presenting with the severe reactions that they were. This was not a medical opinion on my part but more of an observation based on my experience in these matters and having participated in well over 40,000 mold inspections in my career.
Does my front load washing machine have mold?
There was definitely something wrong. The kids are legitimately sick and not getting better. Several different medications and treatments from high powered steroids to heavy courses of antibiotics; yet nothing worked and the kids were getting worse. One thing I always ask is if when away from the house for a period of time, typically a week or more, do the kids feel better? The answer was not really. So with this information in mind, I could only conclude that while there were issues in the home, there maybe something else entirely. It just didn’t make sense to me that two normal seeming kids would both be having the reactions they were having with no improvement in their condition. So I looked in the washing machine.
This is what the gasket ring of the front load washer looked like!
This is what we found inside the washing machine!!!
While there were clearly multiple spots in the home that had visible mold growth to some minor degree, this in my opinion was far more profound. The washer was removed and the children’s clothes rewashed and they started improving right away. Now several weeks later the kids are doing great.. Symptoms have improved, they are off ALL medications and running around terrorizing their mom and dad as only young boys should. The rashes are gone; life has become more normal for these kids again. No more countless medications and doctors visits.
Despite what the manufacturers will tell you, all front load washers have this problem and it cannot be corrected. Once mold growth takes place in the rubber/plastic door gasket it cannot sufficiently be removed. Now several weeks later the kids are doing great.. Symptoms have improved and life is being restored to normal. Does my front load washing machine have mold? The answer is YES!
What can I do to keep my front load washing machine clean?
First off I recommend that you get rid of your front load washing machine. Period. If you still don’t want to do that, then here are some tips that can help. If your machine already is showing signs of growth, change the wash ring door gasket. This will cost you about 3-500 dollars depending on where you live and what parts and labor cost. If you do not have growth already (which you probably do but just cant see it) you can try the following steps:
- You can after each washing remove all lint and debris from the inside of the gasket using a “clorox” type wipe disposable cloth. completely wipe the entire inside of the ring including the lower interior portions of the ring. Be sure to peel back the ring as shown above and wipe on the INSIDE of that ring.
- in between washing clothes leave your door ajar
- after you have cleaned the inside of the ring, then wipe this down again with a dry cloth and try to get all of the moisture out of the ring.
There is a product called Concrobium which “claims” to prevent mold growth, but I personally don’t believe it. Further, as it is inside of the washer it would logically wash away over time.
I tried replacing the door gasket on my own front load $1,200 dollar washing machine. Didn’t solve the problem. It cost me $350 parts and labor and after a month or so, the growth was back. I even took the above precautions but it did not work. Although my gasket looked clean, it tested positive for mold and bacterial growth. So I tossed it out. Sorry front load washer fans.
There are current class action suits being brought against ever major manufacturer of these types of washing machines, but early signs are that the class certifications have been denied. I would not count on these suits going anywhere. That said, this is a real issue and it could be causing health concerns for your family the way it did for this one.
Hope this article helps you.