Why does my washing machine smell?

Sometimes our washing machines smell musty or damp, and sometimes they make our clothes smell bad too. Mold and Bacteria can cause unpleasant smells, even if the washing machine is brand new. In this article, we’re going to look at the possible reasons behind a smelly washing machine and give you tips to create your own laundry smell removers to eliminate odours and reclaim crisp, clean freshness.

Does your washing machine stink?

Freshly laundered clothes should smell fantastic, but what if your freshly cleaned laundry doesn’t smell fresh at all? What if your clothes come out of the washing machine smelling damp, mouldy, and musty? If your washing machine smells bad, you need to take quick action so you aren’t stuck with smelly clothes.

Unfortunately for front-load washer owners their machines are more prone to odour problems than top-loaders.

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to get rid of the smell in your washing machine (wherever you load your laundry).

The best way to remove the smell from your washing machine is to take these simple steps:

  1. The first step is to take out your washing as soon as the machine is done. This can be easier said than done if the wash finishes while you’re in the middle of cooking, bathing kids, writing an important email, or chatting to your mom on the phone. Many of us also get our laundry going when we have to be out for a while and the machine finishes before we get back. This is not a crisis if it happens occasionally but you should try to get into the habit of responding to the end chimes as soon as you hear them.
  2. The second step is to simply leave the washer door and detergent drawers open after a wash. The opportunity to dry (and dry properly) in fresh air eliminates the growth of bacteria and mould.
  3. The third step is to use the correct amount of detergent. Too much detergent can cause excessive sudsing and lead to a build-up of soap scum. If the scum is left too long it starts to grow mould and you’ll still have a mildew smell in your washing machine.

So far you haven’t had to go to any special trouble to stop your washing machine from smelling awful. Sometimes, however, the stink has set in and you need to take more serious action to freshen your washer.

Action plans for clean, stink-free laundry

Do a service wash, which is just a wash cycle with a cleaning agent and no clothes. Service washes should be done monthly to keep your machine mould, bacteria, and odour free.

Cleaning agents you can use include bleach, white vinegar, and baking soda.

There is a generic ‘recipe’ you can follow.

  • Roughly one cup of your chosen cleaning agent, which you put in the drum. (Add a cup of water to ¼ cup of baking soda to create a safe homemade remedy for your smelly washing machine.)
  • Roughly ½ a cup of bleach or vinegar, which you put in the detergent drawer.
  • Run a normal cycle with an empty drum and hot water.

You may need to repeat for particularly stubborn smells.

Sometimes your washer smells even after you’ve taken these steps.

If your clothes still smell after washing you need to look at the innards.

The rubber seal around the door could be host to a growing crop of mould. You can clean it with a white vinegar or diluted bleach solution. Use a clean cloth or sponge to wipe the seal and double-check to make sure you haven’t missed any spots.

Get into the habit of wiping the drum, inner door, and rubber seal with the cleaning solution after each wash. If that is a schlep, aim for a wipe-down at least once every two weeks.

The detergent drawers may hold onto their soap scum or slime even after you’ve run bleach or white vinegar through the system. In this case, get your cleaning solution and an old (clean) toothbrush. The toothbrush has a long reach and its soft bristles can remove soap scum or slime more effectively than you poking a sponge around.

Find and clean the drain pump. Let’s be honest, we’re more likely to remember to clean the lint catcher in top loaders than to check the drain pump in front loaders. This is unfortunate because sometimes it gets clogged and the water can’t drain properly. The bad odour from your washing machine comes from the stagnant water that remains. The manual will tell you where to find the drain pump and how to drain it and clean it properly. Make cleaning the drain pump part of your monthly cleaning routine.

If, after all of this, your washing machine is still making your clothes smell after washing, call a plumber. The problem could serious and you could make it far worse by meddling with different parts and components. You will also invalidate the warranty and your appliance insurance policy.