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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 that can make a washing machine smelly. Odors from a build up of bacteria, mold, slime, mildew, stagnant water or soap scum accumulating inside the machine where you can’t see are all a problem.

Performing a regular monthly service wash and a thorough cleaning will help keep your washing machine smelling like new. This will also increase the life of your machine.

As with most things, prevention is definitely the best way to go. Waiting to clean your washing machine until after it smells bad can sometime be too late. When cleaning the machine always use a good quality limescale and detergent remover. Simply empty the contents in to the washing machine drum, add 2 large older towels, select the hottest wash cycle on the machine and start the wash. 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, oils, detergents, and hair can get trapped inside various areas of the washer. Without regular cleanings your washing machine can start to smell like rotten eggs. Combine that rotten mix with your laundry room’s added humidity and general lack of air flow and you end up with the perfect environment for bacterial growth.

Sometimes even the hardest working appliances need a little maintenance to keep them working like they should. What’s the best way to remove washing machine odor? With regular cleanings and occasional treatments. We’ll detail exactly what that entails ahead.

Tips On Cleaning a Smelly Washing Machine’s Components

How to Clean the Front Loader Washing Machine Gasket

Soak a towel with a cleaning solution and scrub the gasket. Peroxide or white vinegar both work great. Make sure to get in between all the folds and behind the gasket. When your all done scrubbing completely dry everything. Make sure not to leave any moisture behind the gasket or in between the folds. These areas are hard to drain without some help.

You could also try stuffing the folds of the gasket with some paper towels soaked in peroxide or some other cleaning solution like white vinegar. Let it to soak for a few hours before wiping it all down. Try scrubbing stubborn areas with a soft brush. Just make sure not to scrub too hard or with hard bristles which could damage the rubber. Again, make sure everything is totally dry once your done cleaning.

Help prevent future mold growth by using a towel to dry around the door seal gasket after each wash. Moisture is where bacteria grows so keep everything dry.

Cleaning a Top Loading Washer’s Tub Rim

Use the same methods detailed above to clean a top loader’s rim gasket.

How to Clean the Washing Machine Filter

Cleaning the washer drum and other components usually takes care of the stinky smell, but if you want your washing machine running it’s best, you should clean the filter too. Before cleaning the washing machine read through the instruction manual. There may be some useful information particular to your machine.

  1. The filter door is generally 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 door can be one of the worst causes of bad odors. Don’t worry, it’s easy to clean and a quick fix. If you’ve got a bad smell coming from your washing machine then this should be the first place you look. Swipe around the fold with a dry rag and you may find some build up. 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 growth inside 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 white vinegar. With a sponge or soft cloth clean the entire seal.
  • Run a hot wash with a cup of vinegar in the detergent drawer.
  • Dry the seal and drum completely after cleaning.

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 the entire washing machine, not just the door seal. Cleaning a washing machine is actually pretty easy. You just need a pack of soda crystals and some white vinegar.

  1. Put half a bag of soda crystals in the detergent tray.
  2. Run a hot wash on your machine while the drum is empty.
  3. Put a cup of vinegar in the detergent tray and run another hot wash cycle.

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

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

Should I Clean The Detergent Tray?

Most front load washing machines have a removable detergent tray. If you’re trying to prevent or remove washing machine odor then it’s worth cleaning the entire machine. The detergent tray is another place mold, mildew and bacteria can potentially grow. Popping the tray 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.

Make sure the tray is dry before putting it back in.

Smelly Washing Machine Front Loader

We took a look at the performance of front load vs top load washing machines which we’ll detail in another post. What we found out was front loaders are better in just about every way when compared with old fashioned top load washers. That came as no surprise since front load washers are a newer technology designed to be more efficient, gentler on clothes and do a better job of cleaning all with a lot less water. Bottom Line, they’re just a better, more advanced washing machine in pretty much every way. Except one, they can start to stink.

It’s the high efficiency design that can cause front loaders 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 instead of the entire drum. 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.

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 or too much, the smaller amount of water can’t fully rinse the soap away. The drum ends up coated with a thin layer of soap scum, debris, oils and dirt from your clothing. Add in the damp heat of your washer and this scum becomes a 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 And Softener Dispensers And Scrub Them Individually

When water gets into any of the dispenser trays it can get left behind between cycles. Standing water is a breeding ground for mold and mildew which can lead to bad odors. Use an old toothbrush to clean inside the small cracks and crevices. Try a pipe cleaner to dig out buildup lodged inside the pipes of the dispensers.

Try a simple vinegar and water or vinegar and baking powder solution. That should be more than enough to get things clean. Once your all done dry everything thoroughly before putting the dispensers back.

4 Simple Steps To Remove Washing Machine Odor

Follow these 4 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 Drum

Bleach is a great cleaner for killing the mold and bacteria growing inside a washing machine. And it’s perfectly safe if used as directed. Bleach will remove bacteria, mildew, soap scum, and pretty much anything else causing a washing machine to smell bad.

Take care when using bleach to avoid spilling, contact with skin and eyes or breathing in fumes. DO NOT MIX BLEACH WITH ANYTHING as dangerous gases can form. Bleach is harsher than more natural cleansers like vinegar so always use it with care.

Set the washer to the highest possible temperature setting. The amount of bleach you should use depends on your appliance. As a general rule add four cups bleach to a top loading machine or two cups to a front loader, then start a cycle. Once the cycle ends do one more rinse cycle with just water to remove all traces of bleach.

Use bleach sparingly. A little goes a long way. Read the directions and make sure you adhere to all the warnings.

2. Use Vinegar After The Bleach

Vinegar is an excellent deodorizer that also removes hard water buildup and kills bacteria and mold.

Set your washer on its hottest setting. Add four cups of plain white vinegar to a top load machine or two cups to a front loader. Don’t use anything but the vinegar in this cycle. As with the bleach, run a cycle with fresh water only to remove all traces of vinegar from the machine.

3. Use Soap And Water

Use a soap that smells nice as some of the scent will be left inside the machine after your done. This rinse is great at making sure everything you used prior will be completely out of the machine before you start washing clothes again. Try a soap that has a deodorizer included.

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 and water. There’s no need to do an additional rinse cycle after this one.

4. Dry Inside Your Washing Machine

Dry the entire drum and gasket door seal. Leave the door open and let everything air out. Fresh air is a great way to keep the inside of your machine fresh and dry but it won’t do much for the moisture trapped between the folds of your gasket. These areas you’ll have to dry by hand.

How To Prevent A Smelly Front Loader Washing Machine

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

If your washer is smelling great and you want to keep it that way, do the following?

1. Use a high efficiency detergent

If you own a front loader or high efficiency machine you should always use detergents made for the type of washer you have. Normal detergents produce more suds than your washing machine can handle. Because front loaders and HE washers use less water they use a specially formulated detergent. Using the wrong detergent will leave soap scum inside your machine because the water to detergent ratio will be way off.

If you’re accustomed to top loading machines you’ll be shocked at how little HE detergent is recommended per load with a front loader. Read the directions carefully and don’t use more than you should.

Liquid fabric softener is also a bad idea with front loading washing machines. Read the directions and use only products as recommended.

2. Keep the washing machine drum dry

Once you’re using the right soap in the right amounts, it’s time to dry the inside of the washing machine after each wash. Make sure the drum doesn’t stay damp for too long. Always remove your laundry right after the cycle ends and leave the door open for a while to air things out. Fresh air is a great way to keep the inside of your washing machine fresh and dry.

3. Clean the door gasket

Even with the correct detergent and keeping the drum dry there’s no guarantee your gasket won’t start to smell. The rubber seal around the door is a common problem area because cleaners don’t penetrate into the folds and water can easily hide in tough to dry spots. Regularly clean inside the gasket by wiping it down with a cleaning solution made of one part white vinegar and one part warm soapy water. Make sure to get behind all the folds. The idea is to clean parts of the gasket where regular cleanings can’t get too. Once your all done dry everything with a soft cloth or paper towel.

Finally, be sure to dispose of any lint that accumulates in your trap filter. Once a week should be more than enough.

Do Store Bought Washing Machine Cleaners Work?

For a washing machine to do its job effectively it needs regular care and attention. This is especially true for front loading and high efficiency machines. By design, they use a lot less water which can result in trouble spots where smelly mold and mildew grow. Newer models get better and better with each redesign but the problem is still more prevalent than with old fashioned top loading machines.

Store bought cleaners work great depending on the type and brand you use. However, keep in mind that using a good cleaning solution won’t stop bad smells from developing in the future. Cleaners are a one time fix not a long term solution.

You have to follow all the steps on a regular basis. Clean the machine and keep it clean. Keep it dry and air it out. And make sure not to ignore the gasket seal. 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 things out and then dry the gasket.

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

Keep The Washing Machine Level

A washing machine has to be kept level if you want it to work properly. If you don’t, your machine won’t wash or drain properly and you’ll have stagnant water inside the machine. There are a lot of tubes and inner parts you can’t see where water can sit.

When a washing machine sits level it works like it should be draining water after every use.

Standing water is always a problem when it comes to mold growth, especially if that water is in a warm, damp, dark area.

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 load washing machine versus a front loader is that with a top loader, you can pause and start the cycle whenever you want. Because of this you can add in more ingredients as you go. With a front loader, once you start the cycle that’s it. Whatever cleaning solution your using has to be fully poured into the washer before you start.

Another difference has to do with the internal parts. Each type of washing machine has different parts to clean. For example, with a top load washer, you should clean the agitator in the middle of the drum. A front load washer requires cleaning the fabric softener and detergent dispenser. Front loaders also have a gasket that seals the door tight which should be kept clean and dry to prevent mold growth.

Front load washing machine and high efficiency units use a lot less water than top loaders so make sure to vary your cleaning solution accordingly. Front loaders don’t need as much soap because they typically don’t use as much water as a top loader. Using the same amount of cleaner in a front loader as a top loader will result in soap scum buildup around the drum. This buildup will eventually start to smell.

More Tips

  • The best way to get rid of washing machine odor is prevention.
  • Using a home remedy like vinegar or bleach is a great way to keep your machine smelling fresh.
  • Using occasional natural treatments in addition to regular cleanings will help prevent odors.
  • A musty smell in or around your washing machine or on your clothes is a sign of mold or bacterial growth.
  • Keep the inside of your washing machine dry.
  • Keep the door open to air the inside of the washing machine out after each use.
  • Always keep the gasket seal clean and dry.

A Few More Methods For Cleaning A Smelly Washing Machine

Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

Mix a ½ cup of baking soda with 1 quart of vinegar. Set your water temperature to high heat and use a long wash cycle. Vinegar and baking soda are safe to use together. They’re both all natural and don’t have any harmful side effects when combined. Mixing them together creates a natural, effective method for removing limescale, bacteria, mold and mildew while also deodorizing.

Even though vinegar is an acid, it’s only a mild form and may not kill all the smelly stuff in your washer. If the vinegar and baking soda combo doesn’t do the trick try using some of stronger cleansers we’ve discussed throughout the article.

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

Check the labels and follow directions when using any type of detergent. Set the water temperature to what’s recommended (usually hot) and choose the largest load option. We recommend powdered enzyme detergents over liquid ones. Try a detergent that contains a range of wide range of enzymes such as Amylase, Protease, Lipase, or Mannanase. The more cleaning enzymes in the detergent the better chance you have of cleaning them all out with a single cycle.

Try adding a little powdered oxygen bleach to the detergent. It helps clean things the enzyme detergent may miss.

Take note that enzyme detergents are not safe to use on wool, silk or some other fine materials.

Using Citric Acid to Remove Buildup

Try mixing 1 cup of citric acid and ½ cup of baking soda. Choose a long wash cycle and set your water temperature to maximum heat. Citric acid is a mild acid that comes from citrus fruits so it’s totally safe. It’s considered a natural yet powerful way to remove limescale and soap scum buildup.

Citric acid is stronger than vinegar so it can work on machines with more buildup.

Adding baking soda to the mix is good for removing odors and doesn’t hurt the cleaning power of the acid.

How To Get Rid Of Washing Machine Odor With Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a great all around product for cleaning a smelly washing machine. It deals with things like limescale and mold, is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Try using one quart of hydrogen peroxide with water at maximum heat on a long wash cycle. Hydrogen Peroxide doesn’t leave behind fumes or residue which makes it a bit safer than cleaners such as bleach. It’s also safer for the environment because it breaks down into oxygen and water.

The only real downside to cleaning with hydrogen peroxide is that it takes a while to work. Let it soak in your machine for at least two to three hours. This is too long for most front load washing machines so run the cycle two or three times.

What’s Makes A Washing Machine Get So Smelly?

  • The gasket of your front loading machine doesn’t drain completely and can trap water. This is a common issue with front loading machines and it’s where they tend to grow mold. Wipe the gasket dry after each wash.
  • Mold grows in damp, dark places. Leave the washing machine door open when your done and let things dry out.
  • Don’t leave your wet clothes in the machine for too long.
  • Washing with low temperatures can be a problem in terms of bacteria build up in your machine. This is because the temperature doesn’t get hot enough to kill bacteria. Once in a while do a load with maximum heat.
  • Using too much detergent can cause buildup. Carefully measure out your dose according to the load size and your settings. This is especially true for front loaders. Use as much as needed but not too much.
  • For High Efficiency machines use a specialized High Efficiency detergent.
  • Using liquid detergents can cause a waxy buildup on the inside of your washing machine’s drum. Try using powdered detergents instead of liquid. This problem is even worse when you wash at lower temperatures.
  • If you’ve got hard water then you’ll have to deal with both limescale and soap scum build up.  This can happen of stuff like pipes and hoses. Try adding a water softening product to every wash.

What If Smelly Washing Machine Issues Linger?

If the smell in your washing machine is really bad and just won’t go away it most likely means the mold, mildew and bacteria causing the smell is bad too. The problem may not be completely fixed with just one cleaning. You may need multiple cleanings before you see some improvement. Try different cleaning products each time you do a new cleaning. Different cleaners work better or worse on different types of problems. If peroxide doesn’t fix the problem then maybe vinegar will. Try bleach or a store bought cleanser. Cleanings take some time and effort but they’re a lot cheaper than replacing the washing machine and the new one could have the same problem all over again. It’s good to learn how to keep them clean.

Remember: Prevent your machine from smelly built up limescale, soap scum, mold, mildew, and bacteria with regular cleanings and 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.

If you have any questions or comments e-mail us any time.

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