TODAY   |  July 19, 2013

Rossen Reports: Are popular washing machines growing mold?

After multiple models of front-loading washing machines were found to grow mold where it can’t be seen, causing clothes to smell and bacteria to grow, lawsuits are now saying at least one company knew about the problem for years. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports.

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>>> rossen reports is your washing machine growing hidden mold. jeff rossen is here with this one.

>> a lot of people about to do laundry this morning are watching this. we're talking about some of the most popular models from the most popular companies. front loading washington machines that grow mold where you can't see it causing your clothes to stink and bacteria to grow. now accusations that at least one of the companies knew about the problem for years but sold the machines anyway.

>> get the washington and drier.

>> the commercials looked great.

>> can handle up to 16 pairs of jeans.

>> it was new technology. less water. less detergent.

>> you thought i'm getting a great deal here.

>> i did.

>> in 2005 , this midwestern mom maggie o'brien brought it. a brand new whirlpool front loading washington machine . price tag $1,000 but months later her clothes started to wreak.

>> it smelt like a sock in an old gym bag .

>> gross.

>> nas ty.

>> experts say it was mold growing inside.

>> this is a machine supposed to be washing your clothes.

>> $1,000 machine supposed to be washing my clothes.

>> in fact, there were many complaints built into the late 2000 . from whirlpool , kenmore, bosch and lg.

>> you end up with a funky smell.

>> customers are suing the companies calling it fraud.

>> how many people does this effect?

>> millions.

>> jonathan is the lawyer suing whirlpool over it's popular duet models told from 2001 to 2008 . many still in home.

>> why does it happen in front loaders versus top loaders.

>> in top loaders moisture comes out of the machine . but these breed mold.

>> whirlpool new about the defect for years. this 2004 internal memo shows the company identified the problem and was trying to fix it. the company's lead engineer saying while mold can exist in any washer, their front load machines are the ideal environment for molds. we are fooling ourselves if we think we can eliminate mold. but the lawsuit says whirlpool kept selling the machines anyway.

>> boy, that really makes me angry.

>> whirlpool even markets a product to fix it called afresh. tablets that clean the machine but consumers have to pay for it.

>> it's outrageous where a company sells a defective product and then sells you a fix for the product.

>> customers are the ones causing the mold by dismusing the machine or not maintaining it and only a small percentage of people have a problem. whirlpool telling us the lawsuits are completely without merritt. but maggie says she has been hung out to dry because whirlpool never gave her a refund. she had to buy a new washing machine , a top loader this time.

>> you want that money back.

>> i do and everyone else to get their money back.

>> here's the good news, all the companies made design changes that experts say eliminate the mold issue in the newer machine . so is your washing machine affected? we have a full list on you can look up my model number.

>> your machine is producing smelly clothes, what is there to do about it?

>> if you don't want to buy a new machine , the company says there's things you can do to minimize the mold so here is the take away for you. leave the door propped open when you're not using it so air is getting in but be careful if you have small kids. it's dangerous if they climb in. also run a bleach cycle that cleans the machine and wipe down the entire machine right inside the door and inside the laundry bin after every use. no guarantee that will fix the problem but the companies say that will help if you don't want to go spend another ton of money.

>> but what a pain. who wants to wipe out the machine every time. jeff rossen , thank you so much. still ahead, is it the end