Maytag and Mold

My last post about my new Maytag Neptune washer and the class action suit against Maytag yielded a lot of comments. Like most folks on this thread, I can't say that Maytag has been really responsive to my requests for information. In a way, this is a classic marketing problem -- what do you do when you have a product that your customers are telling you is defective, but you either can't prove it internally or don't want to take the hit (image and monetary) of admitting it and fixing it. The general solution that most marketing classes offer is to admit that there's a problem, make the customers as happy as you can without going out of business, and move on. What's interesting is that Maytag doesn't seem to be taking that path. Maybe they can't find the problem themselves or don't have a good solution. But the absence of any information on their Web site about this seems weird.

In any event, I did some research into mold, wondering if there were a home remedy (or in my case, something I could do to avert mold growing in my new washer). I found that mold grows best between 50 and 100 degrees F. That it likes damp spaces. That it needs something to feed on. there are many things that kill mold: bleach, UV-C light, ozone, and others. I also found that it's just about impossible to avert mold in a washing machine because you're providing what it likes: warm water, an enclosed, dark space, food (in the detergent and the stuff that comes from your clothes when you wash). So I decided that I'd take the light bulb out of the door on the Neptune and leave it open all the time so that it can dry out. I also decided that the second I smelled mold growing, I'd run through a load of hot water with a lot of bleach in it. I also decided that both of these would probably be fruitless.

My next course of action will be to invite over some of the smartest folks I know who have a mechanical aptitude (Chris Anderson, Mike Zintel, Jason Zander, maybe a few others) and have an anti-mold party. We'd look at the design of the Neptune and see what we'd do differently and what we can do within the existing design to prevent the growth of mold. I'll consider it an engineering test.

Comments (7)
  1. Rob Caron says:

    Actually, leaving the door slightly ajar and periodically running an empty, super hot cycle with bleach and HE (high efficiency) detergent is what Sears recommends for a similar, front-loading washer from Whirlpool (which they sell under the Kenmore brand). Also, they strongly discourage using liquid detergents in favor of HE powder detergents.

  2. BillT says:

    [for future devices]

    Seems strange that they’re not already installing UV-C lights in there (somehow) and leaving them on through a brief sterilization cycle after each wash cycle.

    LEDs would be far easier to waterproof than light bulbs. Does anyone know if LEDs can produce UV-C? Quick search revealed many UV, but I’m not sure about UV-C?

    Q: What’s the difference?


    Also, at some cost in energy, a built-in hot air dryer could dry it out, thus preventing the moist environment.

    The increased cost is probably an issue.

  3. I thought about installing some kind of post-purchase dryer and using the door light as some kind of UV light. Maybe I’ll experiment to see what works.

  4. I’ve gotten some feedback from some coworkers and thought about this more. Mike Zintel suggested that UV light wouldn’t work because the environment is too moist, and that I should look at a dehumidifier (he ironically pointed me to a Maytag dehumidifier) and a fan. UV light kills by producing ozone, so I’m not sure he’s right, but the issue of moisture is a good one. Every washer has standing water inside — sometimes as little as a cup or two, sometimes a gallon. If you spin the drum on the Neptune, you can hear it. So job one needs to be determining how to prevent mold in or on the standing water.

  5. Dave says:

    The water noise you hear in the Neptune drum is NOT water–it is Calcium Cloride in the balance ring for balanced spin

  6. Yup — I found that out yesterday as well. It’s sealed in some kind of ring around the washer drum.

  7. Scott Mace says:

    My wife adds bleach to a load every now and then. That’s probably a big reason why our 1999 washer hasn’t had any mold problems — knock on wood.

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