How to Clean a Washing Machine

Some experts recommend occasionally running the washing machine with just a cup of bleach and no clothes to keep it clean and mildew-free.

Problems with High-efficiency Washers

Although they've gained popularity over the past decade, high-efficiency washing machines certainly haven't been immune to consumer complaints. For years, owners of the machines have griped about noise, smells, mold and mildew problems, and even that clothes don't come out clean.

Among the complaints leveled against high-efficiency washers, the most common is that mold and mildew thrive around the rubber gasket on the door of front-loading machines. According to Consumer Reports, the problem has been so widespread that class-action lawsuits have targeted LG and Whirpool in recent years. Most washers have a small amount of water left in the tub after the wash cycle is finished, but it's more likely to evaporate with top-loaders.

One way to help prevent mold from developing is to keep the door of front-loading washers open so that excess water can evaporate. Another is to make sure to remove clothes promptly after the wash cycle is finished. Above all: Read the owner's manual, and be sure to use the proper detergent for your machine, says MSNBC's Herb Weisbaum.

Next on the list of customer complaints is noise. The spin cycles on high-efficiency machines are much faster and longer than traditional washers, and, depending on the make and model, the vibrations can be loud. There's no sure fix to the noise problem, but purchasing a thick mat to put under the machine can help absorb some vibrations.

Newer high-efficiency washing machines also tend to have many customized settings, but with the addition more high-tech features, there are more parts that can malfunction. Although some parts of the machine -- like the motor and the tub -- are often covered by long-term warranty, electrical components sometimes are not, and repairs are usually expensive.