Cleaning out our washer and switching to powder is the short story of what worked for us. We've heard from a number of people with a similar issue and thought we'd share more details on what we did to remedy our stinky washer.
When we moved into our new house, in Tacoma, a couple years ago, we were super excited that it came with an HE front loader washing machine. That is until the machine started smelling and the clothes along with it. At first, clothes couldn't be forgotten over night, then it seemed they smelled as soon as the wash cycle was done. We read something about leaving the washer door open between washes, so we did, but it didn't help much. We were even regularly cleaning out the rubber seal area that gets moldy and gunky and tried running the tub cleaning setting with non chlorine bleach AND chlorine bleach, but nothing helped or if it did it was short lived.
Finally, with a bit more research, we found out that liquid soap often does not rinse completely and can mold in all the nooks and crannies of the washer. It seemed that it wasn't just in the front rubber seal that we could see and clean out, it was moldy in other places too? There are special products sold to "clean" front loader machines, but unsurprisingly you don't need to spend the money on them. We used about 1/2 cup of automatic dishwasher powder and ran it on the hottest setting. We used the Biokleen brand that we carry in our shop, but any dish powder should work the same. We also immediately switched to using laundry powder instead of liquid and we have had zero issues since. The washer smells fine and the clothes smell fine. We can even forget clothes overnight now and it's no big deal.
We have used a couple different laundry powders and they all seemed to work fine to keep the smelly mold and mildew issue from coming back, but we've been using Meliora powder for the last couple months and we like it so much that we are now carrying it in our shop. It uses super clean ingredients, it's concentrated and Meliora donates 1% of their sales to environmental efforts. But the real clincher was that they take back the large bulk plastic buckets we buy it in and reuse them.
Have you ever experienced mold and mildew in your washer? How did you take care of it? There is always more than one way to solve a problem, we'd love to know what you did.