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How To Remove Washing Machine Odor

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How To Remove Washing Machine Odor

Lately I’ve noticed whenever I open my washing machine door it smells really bad, like sewage or a rotten egg. What do I do? How do I get rid of a bad washing machine odor? What’s causing it? How to remove washing machine odor is a question we get asked all the time. Some people don’t even realize that a washing machines can sometimes start to smell bad. And if it happens they have no idea what to do about it. Who wants to wash clothes in a machine that stinks. That’s just gross. Clothes are supposed to come out smelling fresh and clean, not smelling worse then when they went in.

Are your clothes smelling like mildew even after a load of wash? Does no amount of washing get rid of the smell? Sounds like you have a case of a smelly washing machine. Not to worry, though. If you’re wondering “how can I clean my washing machine?”, help is here. It’s not usually that big a deal and is easily fixed. In the article ahead we’ll talk about what’s causing that foul washing machine smell and what you can do about it.

Why Does My Washing Machine Smell?

If your here asking How To Remove Washing Machine Odor then I’d say it’s safe to assume you’ve got a smelly washing machine. There are a bunch of causes for a smelly washing machine. Odors can be caused by a build up of bacteria, mold, slime, mildew, stagnant water or soap scum accumulating inside the machine where you can’t see. Odor can also be due to poor drainage from the washer which will cause dirty water to become stagnant inside the machine, allowing bacteria in the water to grow.

By performing a regular monthly service wash the build up of harmful materials, which is often the cause of a smelly washing machine, will be kept at bay. This will greatly increase the life of your machine and stop it from getting smelly. As with most thing, prevention the best way to go. Use a good quality limescale and detergent remover. Simply empty the contents of a sachet in to the washing machine drum, add 2 large older towels, select the hottest wash cycle on the machine and turn it on. Don’t select pre-wash or the machine will empty before the main wash starts. Doing this simple cleaning once a month will go a long way to keeping your washing machine smelling fresh.

How To Clean A Washing Machine

Odors coming from your washing machine are most commonly caused by a buildup of some or all following contaminants: mold, mildew, slime, stagnant water, soap scum and bacteria.

Over time, soap scum, dirt, body oil, and hair get trapped inside the washer’s seals, gaskets, and dispensers. An absence of regular cleaning is why your washing machine smells like sewage or rotten eggs, another common complaint. Combine that toxic mix with your laundry room’s added humidity and heat from the dryer, and you end up with the perfect environment for bacterial growth. The laundry room is really the best room in the house for bacteria to grow which is ironic since this is the room dedicated to keeping your clothes clean.

But sometimes even the hardest working appliances need a little attention to keep them working properly. How to remove washing machine odor? With regular cleanings and occasional treatments, that’s how. We’ll detail exactly what that entails ahead.

Tips On Cleaning a Smell Washing Machine’s Components

Cleaning the Front Loader Washing Machine Gasket

Soak a towel with cleaning solution and scrub the gasket. Make sure to get in between all the folds and behind the gasket. Once done dry the entire gasket.

You could also try packing the rubber folds and cavities of the gasket with paper towels soaked in hydrogen peroxide or some other cleaning solution like vinegar. Leave it to soak for a few hours before wiping everything down. You may need to use a soft brush to gently scrub it. Again, make sure everything really dry once complete.

Prevent mold by using a paper towel to dry around the rubber gasket / door seal after each wash. You could also add some vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to the towel as you wipe it down to really scare away the mold.

Cleaning a Top Loading Washer’s Tub Rim

Use a paper towel soaked in hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar to wipe around the opening of the machine. Try to get between the tub rim and top edges, and all the areas that the water can get to. Dry when complete.

Cleaning a Washing Machine Dispenser

Remove the dispensers from the machine. Fill your tub up with hot water and half a cup of vinegar or other cleaner and scrub. Don’t forget to also clean inside the area where the dispenser sits as this can become moldy too. If the dispenser can’t be removed, check your machine’s manual to see what you can do. If it can’t be removed, use a pipe cleaner or an old toothbrush to get into the crevices. Dry when complete.

How to Clean the Washing Machine Filter

Cleaning the washer drum and all of the components usually takes care of the stinky smell, but if you want to ensure that your washing machine is running efficiently, you should clean the filter too. Before cleaning the machine read over your instruction manual if you have one. There may be some useful info in there particular to your machine.

  1. The filter door is usually located at the front and bottom of the washer if you have a front loader or inside the fabric softener dispenser if you have a top loader.
  2. For a front loader, open the access door with a small screwdriver. For a top loader, unscrew the fabric softener dispenser located on top of the agitator (which sits in the middle of the washing machine). Reach inside to remove the filter.
  3. For a front loader, place a towel underneath the door to protect the floor and a shallow dish on top of the towel to catch the water. It’s normal to catch approximately a quart of water. Unscrew the filter cap slowly and allow the water to drain into the dish.
  4. When you remove the filter completely, you may find various objects that need to be dislodged, such as hair, coins, keys, or lint.
  5. Once the objects are removed, run the filter under water and use soap and a toothbrush if necessary to remove any debris. If the filter is extremely clogged or dirty, you can soak it in a tub of warm water before scrubbing it with soap.

Check The Seal

The seal around your washing machine can be one of the worst causes of bad smells in a washing machine. Which is actually not such a bad thing because it’s easy to check and a quick fix. If you have a bad smelling washing machine this should be the first place you look. Swipe around the fold with a dry rag and you may find soap scum and grime. Make sure to swipe with a dry rag or paper towel first and not a wet one, at this point your just looking for signs of growth. If you find evidence of mold or mildew growing in part of the seal then we can take the necessary steps to clean it out. There are a few ways you can deal with mold and mildew:

  • Mix baking soda or flower with warm soapy water until it forms a paste. Apply this to the effected areas and let it sit for about 15 minutes, then scrub it away.
  • Make a solution of warm soapy water and vinegar. With a sponge or soft clothe clean the entire seal.
  • Run a hot wash with a cup of vinegar in the detergent drawer. This will clean not only the seal but the entire drum.

Even if you don’t find mold or mildew growth when you check the seal, you should do the vinegar wash once in a while anyway. Periodic cleanings will help keep your washing machine smelling fresh. When asked How To Remove Washing Machine Odor people think of cleaning almost every part of the machine except the rubber seal. And that’s a huge problem area. Don’t neglect it. Make sure to clean all around and behind it. It’s a weird part to clean where mold just loves to hide.

How To Clean The Inside Of A Smelly Washing Machine?

You’ll want to clean all of your washing machine, not just the door seal. Cleaning a washing machine is actually very easy. You just need a pack of soda crystals and some white vinegar.

  1. Put half the bag of soda crystals in the detergent drawer.
  2. Run a hot wash on your machine while the drum is empty.
  3. Put a cup of vinegar in the detergent drawer and do the same thing again.

If you’ve been asking yourself How To Remove Washing Machine Odor, this simple process is a great answer. But this tip isn’t just for people with smelly washing machines. Most washing machine manufacturers recommend that you repeat the soda crystal boil wash regularly to keep the inside of your machine squeaky clean. This simple cleaning will also get rid of the product build up that can cause problems down the road.

Remember prevention and regular cleaning are very important. Don’t wait until your washing machine smells like sewage or rotten eggs before you start cleaning it.

Should I Clean The Detergent Drawer?

Most front loading washing machines have a removable detergent drawer. If you’re wondering how to remove washing machine odor then it’s worth cleaning the entire machine. The detergent drawer is another place mold, mildew and bacteria can potentially grow. Popping the drawer out is simple on most machines (check the instruction manual if you’re not sure how) and give it a good cleaning. Soap and water are generally enough but we use the vinegar solution here too just be on the safe side.

Smelly Washing Machine Front Loader

We took an in depth look at the relative performance of front and top load washing machines which we’ll detail in another post. What we found out was front loaders are superior in virtually every way when compared with old fashioned top loaded washers. That came as no surprise since front loaders are designed not only to be more efficient but also to be gentler on clothes while cleaning them better. They’re just a better, more advanced washing machine. However because of this new design, they can start to stink.

It’s that efficiency part that can cause some front load washers to be smelly. You see, high efficiency front loaders use a lot less water than top load washers do. Since they fill just the bottom of the wash drum with water. The drum rotates on it’s side which causes your clothes to tumble around. This sloshing around washes clothes better and eliminates a lot of the water that top loaders need to clean clothes properly.

Everything works fine assuming you use high efficiency detergents with every wash and always put in the exact right amount. But when you use the wrong kinds of soap and softeners or too much, the smaller amount of water can’t fully rinse the soap away. The drum ends up coated with a very thin layer of soap scum, which is peppered with debris, oils and dirt from your clothing. In the damp heat of your washer, this scum is great place for mildew, bacteria, and mold to grow.

This is made even worse by the rubber door gasket front end loaders use to keep water from leaking out. Dirt, soap, and moisture can get trapped under the gasket, creating yet another breeding ground for nasty odors.

Remove The Soap, Bleach, And Softener Dispensers And Scrub Them Individually

When water gets splashed into any of these parts, it’s often left behind as standing water between cycles. And standing water is a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Use an old toothbrush to get inside the cracks and crevices, and a pipe cleaner to dig out buildup lodged inside the pipes of the dispensers. If you have a front load model, don’t forget to clean the seal, and use a Q-tip to remove accumulated gunk around the gasket. On top load models, pay special attention to the cracks and crevices around the doors where dirt can build up. When you’re done scrubbing the parts, it’s time to move on to the tub.

4 Simple Steps To Remove Washing Machine Odor

Follow these 3 simple steps after you’ve scrubbed your washing machine completely for a clean, fresh smelling washer.

1. Use Chlorine Bleach To Sanitize A Washing Machine Tub

Bleach is a fantastic cleaner to kill the mold and bacteria growing in our machines. And it’s perfectly safe if used as directed. Available since the early 1900’s, it’s used to sanitize and remove odor, bacteria, mildew, soap scum, etc. Pretty much anything causing a smelly washing machine can be killed with bleach.

Care should be taken when using bleach to avoid spilling, contact with skin or breathing fumes. DO NOT MIX BLEACH WITH ANYTHING as dangerous gases can form to cause illness or even death.Bleach is a lot harsher than more natural cleansers like vinegar, which we recommend you try first before resorting to bleach.

Set the washer to the highest possible temperature setting. The amount of bleach you should use depends on your appliance: Add four cups bleach to a top loading machine or two cups to a front loader, then start a cycle. Let the tub fill, and stop the wash cycle once the agitator has mixed in the bleach. Allow the bleach water to sit for 30 minutes, and then resume the cycle. One more run of the rinse cycle should remove all traces of bleach.

If you decide to resort to bleach, use it sparingly. A little goes a long way. Dilute bleach with water and read the directions. Make sure to adhere to all the warnings.

2. Use Vinegar After The Bleach

Vinegar is not only an excellent deodorizer, but it’s acidic quality removes hard water buildup as well as any leftover bacteria.

To begin, set your washer on its hottest setting. Add four cups of plain white vinegar (not balsamic or apple cider) to a top load machine or two cups to a front load model. Don’t use laundry detergent or anything else in this cycle. For this cleaning the vinegar should be used alone. As with the bleach: allow the tub to fill, then stop the wash cycle once the agitator has mixed the vinegar and water. After 30 minutes, turn the washer back on and allow the cycle to resume until complete.

3. Use Soap

The final step is to repeat what you did in step 1 and 2 only this time with soap. Pick a soap that smells really good because some of that scent will still be there when you open the washer door.

To begin, set your washer on its hottest setting. Add soap as directed just like you would if doing a full wash. Don’t use anything in this cycle except soap. As with the bleach and vinegar cleanings: allow the tub to fill, then stop the wash cycle once the agitator has mixed the vinegar and water. After 30 minutes, turn the washer back on and allow the cycle to resume until complete.

4. Dry

Dry the entire drum and gasket seal. Leave the door open and let everything air out.

How To Prevent A Smelly Washing Machine Front Loader

If you want fresh smelling clothes, you need a clean washing machine.

If your washer is brand new or recently cleaned and smelling great, and you want to keep it that way, how do you do it?

1. Use a high efficiency (HE) detergent and follow the dosing instructions

If you own a front loader, you should always use detergents made for high efficiency machines. Normal detergents produce more suds than your front loader can handle. Because front loaders use less water . If you’re accustomed to old detergents you’ll be shocked at how little HE detergent is recommended per load. Read the directions carefully and don’t use more than you should. The limited amount of water sometimes isn’t enough to rinse all the soap away which could lead to problems.

Liquid fabric softener is also off limits for front loading washing machines. Read the directions and use only products as recommended.

2. Keep the drum dry

Once you’ve made sure that your using the right soap in the correct amounts, it’s time to dry the inside of the washing machine. Make sure the drum doesn’t stay damp for long periods of time after a wash cycle. Always remove your laundry promptly after the cycle ends, and be sure to leave the door open when it’s not in use so residual moisture can escape.

You can also consider investing in a dehumidifier. Remember: You don’t want bacteria or mold to grow, and nothing breeds bad smelly mold quite like moist, stagnant heat.

3. Clean the gasket

Even with the correct detergent and effort to keep things dry, there’s no guarantee your gasket won’t build up some moldy spots. The rubber seal around the door is especially problematic, so you should regularly remove any debris you see trapped in the gasket and wipe it down with a cleaning solution made of one part white vinegar and one part warm soapy water.

Finally, be sure to dispose of any lint that may accumulate in your machine’s trap filter. Once a week should do the trick.

Are Store Bought Washing Machine Cleaners Any Good?

Cleaning an appliance that’s designed for cleaning might sound a little strange but it’s an important thing to do on a regular basis. For a washing machine to do its job effectively and efficiently, it needs regular care and attention on your part. After all, who would want to clean their clothes in a smelly machine filled with mold, mildew and bacteria. You actually have to put those clothes on after they come out of the wash.

That’s especially true for front loading washers. By design they use a lot less water which creates trouble spots that can lead to smelly mold and mildew growth. Manufacturers have made some improvements to front loading washers to address the problem, but the problems hasn’t yet been solved.

Store bought cleaners work fine. About the same as using a home made bleach or vinegar solution. However using a cleaning solution once in a while won’t stop the mold from coming back agin in a month or so.

You have to follow all the steps. Clean the machine and keep it clean. Keep it dry and air things out. And make sure the gasket is addressed. Even if you use a great cleaner, the gasket can still have issues where the cleaner won’t reach. You’ll have to go in with a wet rag, clean it all out and then dry the gasket.

Regular cleanings and care will keep that smelly washing machine smelling fresh and clean like it should be.

Keep The Washing Machine Level

For a washing machine to work properly you have to keep it level. If you don’t then it won’t wash or drain properly and you’ll have water sitting in weird places inside the machine. There are a lot of tubes and inner parts you can’t see or clean where water can sit. Not to mention inside the drum where water is designed to drain from. By not sitting level, water can rest in areas, and at weird angles, where the natural functions of the machine won’t be able to drain. Standing water is always a problem when it comes to mold growth, especially if that water is in a warm, damp, dark area. Exactly like a washing machine drum.

Strange how a machine designed to clean clothes is also the best place in your home for growing smelly mold. One simple way to help prevent that is by making sure your machine runs the way it’s supposed to.

What’s the Difference Between Cleaning a Top Load Washer vs a Front-Load Washer

The main difference between cleaning a top loader versus a front loader is that with a top loader, you can pause and start the cycle whenever you want. This allows you the chance to add ingredients as you go. With a front loader, once you run the cycle, it has to run its entire course, so whatever solution your using has to be fully poured into the washer before you start.

Another difference is with cleaning the parts. Each type of washing machine has different parts to clean. For example, with a top-load washer, you must clean the agitator in the middle. A front-load washer requires cleaning the fabric softener and detergent dispenser, and the gasket or rubber door seals.

Also front load washer use a lot less water than top loaders do so you’ll have to vary your cleaning solution accordingly. Front loaders don’t like solutions with too much soap because they typically don’t have enough water to rinse it wall away, which results in soap scum getting left behind inside the drum.

More Tips

  • The area of heaviest buildup is almost always just above the normal waterline where suds and soiled water splash up and don’t get rinsed out. Intermittent odor in towels and laundry is caused when a full load reaches this area. Cleaning cycles often don’t reach this high because of how little water front load washers us so make sure to clean these high spot yourself.
  • The secret to getting rid of persistent odor is to clean the washer regularly.
  • Using a smelly washing machine home remedy like vinegar or bleach is a great solution. Using these treatments in addition to regular cleanings will help prevent mold and mildew growth.
  • Leaving the door or lid slightly open when not in use stops mold from occurring in the machine.
  • A musty or mildew smell in or around your washer, or on your clothes, is indicative of mold growing in your washing machine.
  • Keep the inside of the machine dry.
  • Air the drum out after use.
  • Keep the gasket seal clean and dry.

A Few More Methods For Cleaning A Smelly Washing Machine

Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

Mix ½ cup of baking soda and 1 quart (1 liter) of vinegar, and set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF) on a long cycle. Vinegar and baking soda are safe to use together because they’re all natural and don’t have any harmful side effects when combined. They’re also very effective at removing limescale, deodorizing, killing bacteria, mold and mildew. Even though vinegar is an acetic acid, it is only a mild form of acid and may not kill all of the mold in your washer. If you have an extremely dirty washing machine, use the stronger ingredients recommended below after you’ve tried the vinegar solution.

How to Remove Washing Machine Odor with Oxygen Bleach and Enzyme Detergent

For dosing info check the label and use as directed, especially for large loads. Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF) and choose the largest load option. Choose powdered enzyme detergents over liquid ones. Look for a detergent that contains a range of grease eating enzymes, such as Amylase, Protease, Lipase, or Mannanase (you may need to check the manufacturer’s website for the list of ingredients). You can also try adding a little powdered oxygen bleach to your usual detergent. Be aware that enzyme detergents are not safe to use on wool or silk.

Using Citric Acid to Remove Buildup

Mix 1 cup of citric acid and ½ cup of baking soda (optional). Choose a long wash cycle and set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Citric acid is a mild acid derived from citrus fruits and is a natural but powerful way to remove limescale, soap scum, and buildup. It’s a stronger acid than vinegar, so it works for machines with lots of buildup. Citric acid can also be used alongside baking soda to help remove odors.

How to Remove Washing Machine Odor with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide removes limescale, kills mold, and is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. You can simply use 1 liter (1 quart) of hydrogen peroxide with water at 90ºC (194ºF) on a long wash cycle. It’s safer than chlorine bleach because it doesn’t leave behind toxic fumes and residue. It’s also safe for the environment because it breaks down into oxygen and water. The downside to hydrogen peroxide is that it takes longer to work, so you’ll need to leave it soaking in your machine for at least two to three hours. This is too long for most front load washers so you’ll have to run the cycle two or three times.

Note: Hydrogen peroxide is sold as a 3% diluted liquid solution and is an excellent all-around cleaner. Anything stronger would be considered for commercial use. I’d stick with the store bought stuff since it’s much safer unless you know what your doing and have experience handling stronger solutions.

What’s Causing My Washing Machine to Get So Smelly and How Can I Prevent It?

  • The gasket of your front loading machine (the rubber around the door that forms the seal) traps a lot of water. This is a big problem with front loaders and where they tend to grow mold. Wipe the gasket dry after each wash.
  • Mold grows in damp places, so leave the washing machine door open when your done with a wash and let it dry out and don’t leave your wet clothes in there for too long.
  • Washing with low temperatures is a problem when it comes to the germs and bacteria that build up in your machine. Do at least one treatment a month at maximum heat to sanitize your machine.
  • Overuse of detergent can cause buildup, so carefully measure out your dose according to your load size and how soiled it is. This is especially true for front loaders.
  • For HE machines, reduce excess suds by using a specialized HE detergent.
  • Using liquid detergents and fabric softener can cause a sticky, waxy buildup on the inside of your washing machine’s drum. This problem is worse when you wash at low temperatures. Use powdered detergents instead of liquid and use half a cup of distilled white vinegar in place of fabric softener.
  • Those with hard water have to contend with both limescale and soap scum, which builds up on surfaces like pipes and hoses. Add a water softening product to each wash and follow detergent dosage instructions for hard water.

What If Smelly Washing Machine Problems Persist?

Unfortunately, if the smell is really bad that means that the mold, mildew and bacteria causing the smell is bad too. Don’t be surprised if the problem isn’t completely resolved the first time. You may need to continue to clean it multiple times before you see an improvement. Try different products each time you do a new cycle of cleaning. If peroxide doesn’t clean it all maybe vinegar will, or maybe bleach, or a store bought cleanser. Each product cleans in a slightly different way and with multiple uses should eventually get the job done.

Remember: The only way to prevent your machine from getting problems in the future from built up with limescale, soap scum, mold, mildew, and bacteria is to do regular maintenance cleans while keeping the machine dry when not in use.


If your washing machine smells like sewage or rotten eggs, then you’ve got a problem with some sort of mold, mildew, bacteria, soap scum, etc. etc. Whatever the cause, the solution is the same. Clean all the parts with a vinegar or bleach cleaning solution and then the drum. Once everything clean prevent smells from returning by keeping your machine clean and dry.

How To Remove Washing Machine Odor is not a simple question to answer. Even if you find and clean the problem area it could come back or turn up somewhere else. The entire machine has to be cleaned on a regular basis and kept dry. Air your machine out. Prevent mold growth before it happens because once you smell something i means the mold has grown pretty bad. You’ve probably been washing your clothes with mold and bacteria for weeks or even months.

There you have it. Some simple tips on how to get rid of washing machine smell and ways to prevent future odors. Clean it regularly and keep it dry. It’ll not only help to keep the machine working for longer, but it’ll help keep your clothes fresh too. After all, no one wants to do their laundry in a smelly washing machine.


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