Detergent/ Fabric Softener buildup in FL washing machine

gardenspudsJune 6, 2010

I've been reading post after post here in the laundry forum about powder versus liquid HE detergents, liquid fabric softener versus dryer sheets.

So many people mention how some products "gunk" up the machine and cause a film or buildup of product.

I'm wondering, how does one know if a product is building up in their machine, or "gunking" up the machine? Can one see it externally or is it an internal thing that people don't know about until they have a problem and a repair man comes out?

I have a Bosch Nexxt Premium, it's probably from 2005 or 2006 (was here when we moved in 2.5 yrs ago). I use mostly "natural" detergents- Seventh Generation HE liquid, although recently tried the powder. I've occasionally use Tide HE liquid in the machine. I do probably 4-6 loads a week, mostly on warm, a load or two on hot (125 degrees), and about monthly do a "sanitary" load- 155 degrees. I occasionally use dryer sheets, occasionally use liquid fabric softener. Rarely use bleach (maybe once every 2 months). Never use vinegar

I look in the stainless steel drum of the machine- it's clean, clean, clean. The plastic "paddles", where the water comes out into the drum, do not seem gunked up, and the detergent/fabric softener dispenser has no film or buildup of any kind.

Should I be worried? I did recently clean the drain pipe- where it goes into the "magic" hole it the wall- it was disgusting because it's never been cleaned since we moved in. Mostly there was a buildup of hair/fur and mold. As a note, there hasn't been a big mold problem in the machine. When I first started using it, had a little form in the gasket where some water sits, a little on the door. Since I now wipe it down with a towel after every load, and very occasionally use diluted bleach on those areas, haven't had any more mold issues. I also keep the door all the way open- the washer is in the garage, and there is plenty of room to do this. Every now and then I stick my whole head in the drum, and have never smelled any off odors.

Also, how does one know if dryer sheets are causing a build up in the dryer?



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I have used liquid fabric softener in EVERY machine I have ever owned. MANY Miele units, a Samsung, an Electrolux and an old Frigidaire front loader in our first house. I have NEVER had build up or mold of any kind. Granted, after EVERY load I leave the door open, and ALWAYS wipe the rubber door boot and rinse the soap tray & fabric softener dispenser with hot water, and then let the tray dry for a few days before I put the tray back in the machine. I NEVER close the washing machine door though, when not in use. I believe letting the machine have constant air is crucial in preventing mold and mildew.

For the dryer, I use the Bounce dryer bar (even though Miele told me NOT to use it). Miele said the wax can build up on the net material on the filter screen. But, a once a month scrubbing with some dish soap and a brush..and there is no problem. I NEVER use dryer sheets, and they CANNOT be used in a Miele. They get stuck on the air itake, and cause the machine to overheat and trip the system.

I have tried countless times to stop using liquid fabric softener...and I HATE my clothes, towels and sheets without it. Using liquid softener has NEVER affected the absorbency of my towels, and my clothes have never felt gummy, or had a build up of any kind. The next time you wash...the clothes get tumbled in soapy water, before fabric softener is added. So, it's not like softener on top of softener, on top of softener....

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 6:14PM
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@gardenspuds: You may want to run a "cleaning cycle" once every month. Run the longest cycle with the most water at the highest temperature with 3/4 cup of bleach. The other thing you might want to do is more frequent hot washes. When I say "hot" I mean 140F and higher. You should be washing your whites at that temperature anyway, and with the amount of laundry you're doing you undoubtedly have at least one white load per week. Washing at 120F isn't really "hot", it's more like "very warm" according to my Miele materials. Warm is 105F.

You don't want to get to the point where you see symptoms - then it's too late and a lot of work to get rid of the problem. The fact that you had mold on your door and in the drain pipe is of concern. Did you ever find any mold in the drain HOSE?

Be conservative in the use of fabric softener and detergent, wash one HOT (140F+) load per week, and run one cleaning cycle each month and you should be okay.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 8:28PM
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The "gunk" I find from my liquid fabric softener is in the dispenser, not in the drum. I wipe or rinse the dispenser out every few weeks. I cannot use fabric softener sheets since I am allergic to them.

Otherwise I am very happy with my Whirlpool Duet W/D. I also periodically use the cleaning cycle with Afresh, but once I am out I will probably just use chlorine bleach in the cycle since the Afresh emits an odor presumably "fresh" that makes me sneeze. These are 9 months old.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 11:58PM
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Based on some of the things people say around here, you'd think fabric softener was pure evil. I liken it to hair conditioner. A lot of people use hair conditioner after washing their hair. Why? So their hair feels softer, retains moisture, and is more manageable. Fabric softener does the same thing, but for fabrics.

What's wrong with "conditioning" our fabrics to make them softer, more manageable, and help them retain a little bit of moisture to make them feel better against our skin? There are plenty of natural vegetable-based fabric softeners that work very well. If used correctly, fabric softener won't cause build-up in your machine.

Seventh Generation has an excellent plant-based fabric softener that is easy on the environment and works very well. Even well rinsed laundry without any detergent build-up doesn't feel as comfy and cozy as softened laundry. That's my opinion anyway. I too find that fabric softener has no negative impact on towel absorbency, but then again I use very little.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 12:15AM
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I agree almost 100% with Sshrivastava!! Many of us (me included) use hair conditioner everyday! I seriously could not get a comb thru my thin, delciate and heavily processed hair, if I did not alternate with cream rinses, conditioners and gooey protein packs!! Some being animal fat based, some being plant based!

When I had my last Miele W & D set installed, I spoke a lot with the Miele tech about what products I use. He of course liked that I mainly use Persil, but said my German Ariel Powder was equally as good. He said the machines have been HEAVILY tested with both powder and liquid detergents, and BOTH are 100% fine (although some cycles require liquid detergent...comforters, express, denim...).

In regards to liquid fabric softener, he said not only is it fine, Miele actually recommends it!! Liquid Fabric softener, as Sshrivastava said, makes our clothes softer, more manageable and really does help the fibers lay better, and reduces wear and tear on our clothes.

The Miele tech said, that as long as you rinse the fabric softener dispenser and siphon valve with HOT water when done with the machine...there is NO worry about buildup in the drum, lines, seals or hoses. He said, that just does NOT happen. Build up, mold, mildew due to fabric softener occurs when people do not keep the soap tray clean and do not leave the main door to the washer open to breathe and dry out!!!

In regards to "natural" plant based detergents and softeners...Miele DOES NOT recommended them at all. The tech said the "natural" products, especially being plant based actually do gum up the machines. When using warmer temps, especially Extra White and Sanitize...the plant based detergents and softeners change on the molecular level, and become somewhat sticky! Miele says no to plant based products, and especially NO to dryer sheets (plant based or conventional).

Miele recommends Persil Powder or Persil Liquid (gel), Miele Care Collection, Tide he Powder, Tide he Liquid, and many other German detergents.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 10:03AM
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Not to wax sociological but I wonder if routine use of fabric softener and dryer sheets is a generational thing, something you pick up or one of those handed-down habits. Any of three, probably. I don't use fabric softener for gym clothes, towels, table linens or synthetics. But when an all-cotton load of shirts comes out, it's like mom's baking cookies.

Figure it's a preventative game. If you see build-up, it's likely worse in smaller, hidden areas. As folks already explained, a hot n' cleansing cycle once a month and let air circulate for as long as possible after a wash.

It does make me wonder if residue builds-up on clothing too. Eeps.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 4:14PM
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I decided to write an e-mail to Bosch. I received a reply that stated the most important thing is to use HE detergent in my machine, he said Seventh Generation is okay. Liquid or powder HE detergent is okay. Fabric softener is okay. Vinegar is okay, although he stated not necessary.

His other recommendation is what sshrivastava wrote- to run a hot temp bleach cycle every month or two. He specifically said to add the bleach to the detergent dispenser and run the hottest cotton cycle- which on my machine is "Temp boost" which is 150 degrees.

I had asked about Affresh, he said it is fine, didn't indicate if I need to do it.

Again, the biggest things the tech at Bosch recommended to keep the machine in shape was to use HE detergent and to do a hot bleach cycle every couple of months.

We "inherited" these machines 2 1/2 yrs ago when we moved into this house. They are probably 5 years old. Haven't been serviced. Run fine. I have always used HE detergent, Seventh Generation or Tide liquid, although recently started using the SG powder, which I'm really liking. Occasionally I use SG fabric softener- at half the amount recommended. I also started using vinegar after seeing some of you on here use it and am liking it.

The only missing step is the bleach/hot temp cycles, I haven't been doing many of those. Will start doing those.

Thanks for the replies!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 4:33PM
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I no longer use liquid fabric softener or fabric sheets. I use a homemade soap powder that contains baking soda and I use vinegar in the rinse water, then a washcloth with some of my home made fabric softener tossed in the dryer. Check out the site for many recipe's on homemade fabric softeners and washing powders and liquids. No, I am not affiliated with the Tipnut site. Just happy I came across it and like to recommend it to others.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 12:08AM
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I tried the homemade fabric softener recipe with water, vinegar, and baking soda. It didn't work for me. In fact, the ingredients formed a precipitate in the container which tipnut says to "shake up" before putting into the rinse cycle. A precipitate is something that does not dissolve, so I don't understand how putting something that doesn't dissolve into the final rinse is going to make anything soft. I also wonder how much of that precipitate is going to stick to various parts of my washer.

There's nothing wrong with using commercial products as long as you use them intelligently and with conservation in mind. There are plenty of natural options as well. The number 1 tip to keep in mind is to never put any detergents or fabric softeners into the machine that do not dissolve.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 1:06PM
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Use whatever you prefer. As long as you do regular maintenance cleanings on the machine you'll be fine.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 12:17AM
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The recipe I use from Tipnut has hair conditioner in it. I find vinegar in the rinse and baking soda in the washing powder gives all the softener I need. I just add the fabric softener on a cloth in the dryer for some mild fragrance.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 6:28PM
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Baking soda in the wash boosts cleaning power and also softens laundry. I use it when washing different types of laundry, and I especially like to use it when washing towels, as that gets them soft and fluffy without any need for fabric softener which reduces their absorbency.

Because I bake a lot, so use baking soda frequently in the kitchen, I buy baking soda in bulk at a warehouse store. This is especially inexpensive.

I also like to use vinegar in the final rinse. I typically use 1/2 cup of each.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 7:19PM
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