Much like your dishwasher, you likely don’t think of cleaning your washing machine very often. Unfortunately, this appliance may hold onto tons of bacteria that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your clothes. The List spoke with Michael Rubino, mold expert, president of All American Restoration and author of The Mold Medic: An Expert’s Guide on Mold Removal about how to best take care of your washing machine and keep the space clean.

Rubino explains that most washing machines contain mold that can cause a breathing hazard and even leach into your clothes. “You may be thinking to yourself, it’s just unsightly mold. The reality is that it’s much more than that and can also transfer mold to your ‘clean’ clothes.”

As for how it can affect your health, he says, “Mold mainly enters our body through breathing it in due to a contamination going on indoors, however, it can also enter the body through our skin, making it important to keep our clothes clean and free of mold.”

Furthermore, “mold on our clothes could enter our breathing zone, passing through our respiratory tract and entering our bloodstream,” Rubino adds. “The EPA states that any particle smaller than 10 micrometers poses grave health risks due to the particles being so small that they pass through our respiratory self defense mechanisms. Mold is between 2 and 4 micrometers.”

Unfortunately, your washing machine may be a magnet for these potentially hazardous particles.

Make sure to check the front of your washing machine for mold

“When you look at a front loader, one thing that is often not thought about is how the water stays inside the machine and doesn’t pour out the front door,” he explains. “The answer lies in the rubber gasket sealing the front door, preventing water from pouring out onto the floor every time the machine runs. It’s extremely effective at keeping water inside; unfortunately, it also keeps stagnant water inside after each load, leading to mold growth.”

Luckily, there are a few ways to keep this area mold free. “To prevent this, I strongly recommend that you wipe down that rubber gasket in between cycles to remove any trapped moisture and leave the door ajar so that the washing machine can properly air dry,” Rubino says. “Mold needs moisture to grow and when moisture becomes trapped for 24-48 hours, it has the potential to begin to do so. Making sure the machine has the opportunity to dry, including the gasket, is the best way to ensure that your machine stays mold-free.”

To cleanse this space if you notice mold, grab a disinfectant spray and a microfiber towel, Rubino recommends. Spray away and wipe down your machine to remove the mold, then let the space dry. To avoid the health consequences that can come with mold exposure, check this area of the appliance and keep it as dry as possible.

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