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Linens smell like mold. Please help!

scottie mom
February 9, 2019

Hello laundry people, I've mentioned this before in the Miele W1/T1 thread, and keep hoping it will resolve, but I need your help. Since I got my new Miele machines (about two+ months ago,) I've had problems with sheets that smell like mildew--badly. It's not all the sheets. In fact, it seems confined to certain ones, especially those made of linen or linen blend. I don't think they're coming out of the dryer like that--I'd notice it. But then when I go to check sheets before putting onto a bed, I keep finding this problem. And it's only sheets--not towels or bathmats or anything else.

At first, I thought I must not be getting them dry enough before folding (seems like the most obvious cause.) So I've been diligent about letting them dry on a rack with plenty of air circulating (ceiling fan + forced air heat.) The climate is very dry here in winter. There's not a speck of mold in the bathroom/ laundry area (which is newly gutted and rebuilt--nothing to do with moisture issues though.)

So what do you recommend? What am I missing? I haven't used chlorine bleach since I abandoned my old top loader in the basement. I've been using the Miele Twindos detergents, and I'm definitely not afraid of running hot loads. The dryer doesn't smell at all of mold. There is no visible mold on any of the sheets. Most are brightly colored, so I'm not too keen to bleach them. One is a beautiful ivory colored linen-cotton blend. It's too cold to hang things out in the sun now, but that's what I normally do in the warmer months, especially with the linen sheets, which are heavy and especially prone to wrinkling in the dryer. And it's worth noting that I never, ever had this problem before I switched to the Miele. I hope it's just something that I'm doing wrong.

Today, I considered taking them down to the top loader, but I thought I should ask for advice before giving in to that impulse! I'm open to any ideas and welcome your help! Thank you in advance.

Comments (37)

  • Susie .
    Is it new detergent? Try using borax with a load. Sometimes I have this issue with towels, but borax usually cures it for me.
    scottie mom thanked Susie .
  • scottie mom

    I've only used the Twindos. It was giving me a lot of suds, even after I brought the dose down to 18ml. I had the machines leveled, which seemed to help a bit. I have borax, but I'm embarrassed to say I don't even know how to add a powder to the machine! I'll try looking it up.

  • luna123456

    Try not using twindos. Maybe it’s just the way the fragrance in the twindos detergent winds up smelling with those particular sheets. Try regular tide or whatever you used to use for detergent before you got the Miele. If it’s just these sheets and only with items made of actual linen (flax) then it’s probably just the fragrance from either the detergent, Dyer sheets or the fragrance flacon (if you use either of the last two).

    scottie mom thanked luna123456
  • scottie mom

    OK. I did try the LeBlanc Linen Wash and liked it very much. That's the only non-Miele detergent I've used in these machines. It's happened to cotton sheets too. Now I'm becoming a little OCD about it. Cleaning ladies made the beds the other day, and she used one of the offending sheets. I was just going to put all the linen ones away until summer, but I keep finding linen ones that smell bad :-(

  • jtc

    I add borax directly into the washer with the clothes.

  • ci_lantro

    Maybe the detergent dosage is too high for just sheets? Try a load with reduced detergent and then run them thru another really hot wash with no detergent?

    Then try another load by running them thru a cycle with hot water and no detergent and then wash them using a powder detergent. All Free & Clear powder would be my first choice.

    Since this problem started with new machines & new detergent, it almost has to be the detergent, doesn't it? Presuming you haven't bought all new sheets since you got the new washer.

    The only other possible variable is if you had a vented dryer before getting the Miele set? Supposing that a vented dryer using a continual supply of fresh air would exhaust most lingering scents out the vent?? My understanding is that a heat pump dryer keeps reheating the same air that is in the dryer so any scents or odors are going to pretty much stay with whatever is being dried.

    To test the dryer hypothesis, you could wash a load as you normally do and take them to the laundromat to dry in a venting machine.

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  • scottie mom

    I like the way you think @ci_lantro! I have enough pieces here to give the comparison a go, and the old vented dryer is in the basement. I'll give that a try, along with reducing the detergent in the Miele for sheets.

    The sheets are not new, and I can't really think of anything that they have in common, other than a lingering odor :-/

    Do you put powder detergent straight into the drum? I can't believe I've never done that. Thanks so much! I'll report back.

  • luna123456

    What does the odor smell like? Is it sort of foam/chemical smell? We had this too for a while when the dryer was new. It’s coming from the plinth filter which is made of foam. After about 100 hours this goes away. Pull the plinth filter out and gently sniff. I bet that is what your smelling.

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  • scottie mom

    @luna123456 Negative, but thanks. Plinth filter smells clean, like nothing. And thanks for reminding me to give it a little rinse ;-) Seems like it's a good idea to do that more often than required!

    As for the odor, it's really unpleasant. Like, if you left a bunch of wet towels somewhere for a long time. And I swear, it's rare even for cleaning rags in this house get like that. It's sour-rotten-mildewy, and it's only certain sheets. Where the laundry used to be in this house, it was incredibly inconvenient to get to, so I think this is what it smelled like when a load had been forgotten in the washer and left for a few days. Could very well be these are sheets that suffered from that and never got properly clean. Or they may be ruined. It didn't happen much, and I'd always wash them in super hot with some OxyClean and then dry to a crisp in the gas dryer or under the sun.

    I've got the worst one (a duvet cover) running in hot in the TL with Oxyclean now. I'll finish it in the gas dryer while I wash the other smelly sheets upstairs in the Miele. If it returns, I may just have to part with them. They're all really nice sheets, but it can't be healthy, and it's kind of making me crazy!

    Thanks for your ideas.

  • luna123456

    My wife said if it were her she would use rlr and soak in the bathtub. Said it will strip out anything in there that would be causing funk. So another idea.

  • scottie mom

    RLR? Say "thanks" to your wife ;-)

  • luna123456

    She said to fill the tub full, put items in along with rlr And let soak for 12 hours. She reiterated that it needs to soak for 12 hours. rlr looks like a round pod that has wash booster in it. She said she used it to strip cloth diapers of mineral and scuzz buildup. It is concentrated washing soda and other proprietary ingredients. she has done cloth diapers on 11 kids so far so I would trust what she says.

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  • scottie mom

    That is impressive! I've found the stuff and will give it a go if the current experiment doesn't yield a good result. Thanks so much!

  • linus2003

    To youse other power detergents there is a drawer on the upper left side of the miele washer. Pull it out and it has 3 compartments. The front one is for fabricsoftners and the left main wash and right prewash.

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  • mamapinky0

    Agree it's possibly the detergent. Try something else. Another thought...this started after you got Mieles...perhaps the other washer and or detergent wasn't removing all the body oils from the linen than the Miele was pulling the oils hiding deep in the fibers out....just a thought. But try a new detergent with a looong hot wash, maybe even a couple. Add some ammonia to the wash cycle...DO NOT USE CHLORINE BLEACH with any ammonia. If it's a matter of oils hiding out the ammonia along with detergent and hot water ought to solve the problem.

    Shame if you have to get rid of linen...hope this doesn't happen.

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  • mamapinky0

    Isn't irl rlr or whatever to clean hard non-porous? I thought that stuff was extremely caustic? Maybe I'm thinking of something different. But until researching and talking to Miele I wouldn't use it in your washer or your textiles.

    scottie mom thanked mamapinky0
  • rococogurl

    I bought some linen towels from an ebay seller in France and they literally stank of mildew. Must have been in a stone house basement or something. I was able to remove the odor completely by washing on Sanitize cycle with Persil perls. This had to be done twice. The key is the hottest water possible. What's the hottest cycle on your machine and what's the water temp?

    Removing odors from textiles if very challenging I have found. You haven't said the brand of the sheets/duvet in question. That also may be a factor.

    I don't care for the Miele detergents.

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  • scottie mom

    That’s very helpful, Rococo. Thank you! They’re all Yves Delorme. I think the problem is limited to the linen and some of the older cotton. Those are all percale. The wrinkling was bothering me, so I might have been pulling them from the dryer too early and folding before they were fully dry? Certainly none of them smelled weird when I folded them up.

    I wouldn’t even call it musty basement smell. It’s more sour.

    And I wonder about the soap levels. I’ve had a lot of suds, which I thought might be leftover from the top loader. I ran the “Clean Machine” program last night. Should that water be sudsy? I think that temp is 170F, btw.

    After that I ran the sheets with just borax. Now running at 140f with LeBlanc Linen wash. Water heater is 140-ish, if that’s what you mean. And I think the hottest wash for the W1 is 170. Thank you!!

    ps. I never have used softener, if anyone is wondering.

  • rococogurl

    Re the sheets you had stated "especially those made of linen or linen blend."

    If the sheets are percale they do not contain linen. They are most likely cotton which does hold odors -- have you checked the tags to be sure? The tags should give the fiber content.

    140F is not hot enough to remove odors, not even in the Miele. It's great for general washing of sheets and most clothing.

    Thing with switching from a top to front loader is that the first few loads of everything needs to be done without any soap. If that wasn't done, you added soap and got suds, the culprit is likely residual soap, especially if it was a full load of sheets at a time.

    First I would run a machine maintenance cycle to clear it out. Check to be sure there is no suds at the end. If there is (but you haven't got an oversudsing error message) run the cleaning cycle twice.

    Does your Miele have a option to raise the rinse level? It should (my 3038 did). If so, then I would enable that (or call technical service and have them walk you through that). That way you know you are getting an optimal rinse.

    My 3038 went up to 165F on Sanitize. If your W1 goes to 170F then that's the temperature to use to remove odor. If there is a way to enable a hotter wash (again, tech services can tell you) then use that. I have used Le Blanc for all my sheets for a long time and it's great for conditioning. But odor removal involves water hot enough to kill the moldy stuff that's causing the odor and I can't see Le B effective at that.

    If the sheets are colored, or printed, they likely contain a small percentage of a poly fiber -- up to 5% is permissible -- though this info is never disclosed.

    No idea. But odor removal is the most difficult to accomplish. I've only done it with Persil. I've never used Borax. Some complain about the liquid Persil fragrance but I don't mind it. Le Blanc doesn't smell great either. But Persil and the hottest water is the best bet for doing the job.

    You might also find some aspects of this link helpful: Miele Washer Cheat Sheet

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  • scottie mom

    I have some linen sheets (100% linen,) one that is a blend (60/40) I believe. The rest are cotton percale. All Yves Delorme.

    Thing with switching from a top to front loader is that the first few loads of everything needs to be done without any soap. If that wasn't done, you added soap and got suds, the culprit is likely residual soap, especially if it was a full load of sheets at a time.

    Thank you! That has been my concern since the beginning. I should have asked you directly, as I've learned so much from reading your posts (and your brilliant cheat sheet, which is tucked into the little drawer between my two machines.) In fact, Miele should probably thank you (among others) for providing information that is not only useful, but persuasive enough to get me to buy these machines (which I love, in spite of these hiccups...I recognize there is a learning curve and I do want to learn!)

    Does your Miele have a option to raise the rinse level?

    I have the "Water Plus" feature set. Some of the other helpful people here led me to that. Is it enough?

    I have Persil but haven't even used it, since I've got tons of Miele to use up. That said, I'm at the end of my intro cartridges, so I'll try the Persil for a while. Helpful to hear you don't like the Miele detergent.

    I like the LeBlanc scent (it's one they sell at Yves Delorme shops, I believe. Maybe different than their standard scent.) The thing is, it has a very chemical-smelling odor on top. Almost like a solvent. It does seem to fade though. I'd read where you and others had recommended it for sheets when I was struggling with the wrinkles.

    First I would run a machine maintenance cycle to clear it out. Check to be sure there is no suds at the end. If there is (but you haven't got an oversudsing error message) run the cleaning cycle twice.

    Is that different than the Clean Machine cycle? I did run that last night but I wasn't here to see if there were suds at the end. I'd say I see suds almost every time I take wet laundry out, even if I do an extra rinse. Is that normal? I've never gotten an error message about suds.

    Even with the Cheat Sheet and a lot of research, it takes a while to figure this stuff out! It's made more complicated by the fact that some programs have different names on the app. It's easier to control certain things with the app, so I do use it. But there is some inconsistent language.

    Oh! This just in: I added a second rinse after washing the sheets. Just opened the machine and saw suds. Am running them through a Sanitize 170F and I turned off the Twindos. Let's see what happens next. Well, the ones in there are the most recent of my linen acquisitions, so they could use some roughing up, I suppose ;-)

    The only other thing that comes to mind is that the Twindos is overdispensing. Someone had a really good idea a few weeks ago that I haven't tried yet: buy a couple of towels and wash with the Twindos off to see if there are suds. Then wash again with the Twindos so see what the suds look like. I just haven't bought new towels yet.

    To be continued...thank you so much!

  • rococogurl

    No idea what Twindos is so cannot help with that. If that dispenses detergent I would forget it.

    Expect Clean Machine is the same as maintenance.

    Always found extra rinses to be helpful.

    Take a picture of the suds next time and post it?

    Reason we did cheat sheet is because of the learning curve. They seem to rename the cycles for marketing and for different countries but most are easy to tell. Some are equivalent to the 3038 settings; others not.

    With time and use it becomes clear.

    Don't know Yves Delorme sheets as I never bought them. However, they are a high end brand though these days, hate to say it, the only guarantee is use over time.

    With new sheets it takes about 20 washings to find out what the had is. By that time all the finishing stuff is washed out. This was especially true of my linen sheets (Linoto). I didn't love them at first but after a year they are very different. And I can tell the newer from the older set by feel LOL.

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  • scottie mom

    Oh linen sheets are the best! I inherited a set that was absolutely in the best condition at about 40 years old. Eventually, they gave in and I cut them up for cleaning rags (eep--it hurts just to type that out.) I've got a fair amount of Libeco linen too, but no sheets. And I've not tried the Linoto yet. Made the mistake of buying some so-called "Belgian Linen" sheets from RH once. Total frauds, IMO.

    I do have pictures of the suds. This is after one wash just borax, one wash just Leblanc (15ml) and a separate rinse cycle. All washes have the extra water feature. I'd say the suds are about that level whenever I take things out. Sometimes it annoys me enough that I run the extra rinse. Is that too much?

    I always thought I was pretty restrained with detergent in the TL machine. I wasn't terribly scientific about it. FWIW my water hardness is 26mg/L or 1.5 gr,

    I'll turn off the Twindos for now. It is a dispensing system, and I really do like it, to be honest. It's super helpful if someone else is running a wash--in theory. I don't have to worry that cleaning lady or guest or SO is going to overdose the detergent! But maybe trying it manually will help me figure things out. The machines came at Thanksgiving, so it's really only been a couple of months. Granted, I've washed just about everything I can think of! And I've been doing most washes at 140, whites at 160. Delicates 120. Does that sound about right?

    Thanks so very much!!

  • Jenny Island
    If it was me, I wouldn’t want to see any suds at the end of the cycle, so my M.O. is to run another full cycle with zero additives - no borax, no detergent, no nothin’. Run it till it’s clear. =) Rooting for you and totally feel your pain re: learning curve on new machines. I’ve stared at mine for many hours watching, learning, trouble-shooting. The dog and cat are very concerned!
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  • scottie mom

    Jenny that's awesome! I love it. My dogs keep look at me like "when are you going to be done looking at the laundry????"

    So, run another cycle with the sheets, you say? And did you see that I saw suds during the maintenance wash with nothing in the machine?

    Update: here we are, about 20 minutes from the end of a Sanitize wash with zero detergent. What do you think?

    These are going to be the cleanest sheets in the world by the time we're done with them :-)

    Thanks for your support. The cheerleading helps a lot!!

  • Jenny Island
    Yes, I know that look by the pup! Getting it right now - daggers! Ha! // Okay, yes, too many suds for my taste. I’d pull the load and let it rest while running another maintenance wash with nothing added (keep TwinDos off, etc.) I think rococogurl recommended running the clean/maintenance cycle a second time if you saw suds at the end of first cycle. I agree, and then once you get a clear maintenance cycle, do the sheets one (hopefully) last time (again with nothing added.) (Disclaimer, remember I don’t have a Miele, so don’t know the ins and outs of your machine...just my general experience.)
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  • mamapinky0

    I hesitate to make this recommendation, meaning I don't go around broadcasting it to everyone, ok, LOL I know this is the www.

    Get yourself some STPP ( Sodium Tripolyphosphate). It will strip detergent residue from your washer and textiles along with any possible soils. I recommend ordering from Amazon, Pro Supply Outlet which is the most reliable. IMO. There's plenty of folks in the laundry room including myself that use it. It's safe for your Miele and your textiles. If you have questions about it just ask.

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  • scottie mom

    Oh thank you so much MamaP! And I meant to thank you for your thoughtful replies above :-)

    I was going to ask about stripping the laundry, so this is really helpful. Now that I've done a little more research, I think it's got to be detergent residue. I am STILL seeing some suds at the end of a second no-detergent Sanitize cycle!

    And I just found a nice white sheet, still it its package. So I'm going to put that in an Express wash with nothing, then try it with normal detergent to see what I should be looking for. It's a cold and dreary weekend here, so it's not the worst thing to be reading and playing with the Miele. I'll post my results and will look for the STPP on Amazon.

    Thank you!!!

  • dadoes

    Some detergents have surfactants that are "engineered" to hang-on to the fabric. Running a high-temp cycle (150°F) typically generates more sudsing than lower temperatures ... particularly when liquid detergents are involved.

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  • Jenny Island
    Ack! Suds hanging on?! I knew liquid could get more sudsy at hotter temps, but still! This laundry thing is getting more complicated by the minute...ignorance was bliss. ;-)
  • scottie mom

    I know, right? I was just thinking it's that window that's causing all my concern. When I didn't know, it didn't matter. Now I can't stop looking. That said, I'm glad to know about the "engineered" suds, Dadoes. Sheesh.

    The brand new sheet went through a blank wash with nary a sud, so the machine itself must be clean. Now running it through with detergent, and hope to see a suds-free final product!

  • dadoes

    Get some STPP and run those items with the odor problem through a full
    cycle with it (and no detergent) as Mama suggests to strip any
    substantial detergent residue.

    If the last rinse water after multiple rinses on a regular washing cycle doesn't feel slippery/soapy and there's still a bit of foam, I'd just let it go. I don't consider a bit of foam, a few bubbles remaining to be a serious problem.

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  • Cavimum

    scottie mom - yes, that is too much suds in the gasket at the end of a cycle, in your photo!. Too much detergent, either in dosing or residue in wash from previous washing machine. Been there, done that. If I see any suds in the second rinse in our Miele W4842, I have to start all over and get it out, by adding a couple dirty items for the soap to "grab on to" and that works every time. Saves me from rinsing & rinsing & rinsing for the next six hours.

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  • delray33483

    i get very few suds in my Miele W1 at the "normal" rates. My suggestion is to rinse all the old soap out of all your clothes, go back to the standard rates and wash the sheets again

    the suds that you see may be the old soap - which really isnt cleaning anything at this point. It is just making suds. By reducing the rates all you are doing is decreasing the cleaning ability of the washer

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  • Jenny Island
    Well, we’ve emerged from the Great Seattle Snow of 2019, and catching up from last weekend it looks like you’re on your way to solving the mystery, scottie mom. Yay! And, yes, it’s totally the window. It reminds me of the old Mervyn winter sales commercials with the woman peering through the doors. “Open, open, open.” dadoes, I really like “foam” as a descriptor...definitely makes a little left over seem harmless (and I subscribe to the same practice. Thanks for the reassurance!)
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  • Jerrod

    If you have 1.5 gpg of hardness in your water then you have very very soft water. This means you use much less detergent than even the instructions on any detergent suggest. I would use about 4mls of detergent and see what you get. That is about 1 teaspoon. For comparison my water hardness is 14 gpg(grains per gallons).

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  • scottie mom

    Oh thanks so much, everybody, for helping me through this little mystery! I neglected to report back on the brand new sheet that I washed as an experiment: with the Twindos at its regular setting (14ml for white, I think,) the gasket looked suds-free at the end. I've been adding a rinse using the app, and it does seem that everything is back to normal. Some things needed to go through hot/ Sanitize washes more than once, with an extra rinse.I haven't tried STPP yet, because I think it's OK without. We'll see.

    Jerrod, I'll try bumping it down if the problem persists. I never considered our water super soft--at least I don't hear people complaining about it here. It's just city water. I know it's on the lower end of "hard," whatever that means. Thanks for the tip. It must be challenging with 14 gpg!

    And Jenny, glad to hear you've survived the snow. I've got some friends out there who shared some amazing photos.

    Thanks again, and happy laundering :-)

  • Jenny Island
    Woo-hoo! Victory for your fresh sheets!
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