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A man in yellow gloves cleans a dirty, moldy rubber seal on a washing machine. Mold, dirt, limescale in the washing machine. Periodic maintenance of household appliances.

Smelly Washing Machine? Here’s How To Fix It

by | Oct 15, 2023 | Cleaning Tips

Good morning! The sun is shining, and there’s not a single cloud in the sky.

But wait — something really smells bad and musty. Is it coming from the rubbish bin? No.

Dirty socks in the laundry basket? Nope.

Wait. It’s coming from the laundry room.

Yikes! Your washing machine smells absolutely rotten.

The unexpected stink from your once-trusty appliance can dampen any sunny morning.

It doesn’t have to stay that way, though!


What Causes a Smelly Washing Machine?

While washing machines are specifically designed to clean things, they can become one of the dirtiest appliances in your home.

Several factors can contribute to washing machine smells, but it’s often a combination of mildew, mould and accumulated gunk (or detergent).

This trio may be caused by the following:


Persistent moisture

woman pulling wet clothes from the washing machine

Washing machines naturally harbour moisture because they wash clothes.

Not letting your washing machine dry out properly in between uses can make it an ideal breeding ground for mould and mildew.

Also, remember to remove wet clothes immediately after each wash.


Trapped residue

Low-quality detergents or excessive use can leave behind residues that stick to the interior of your washer.

Over time, leftover laundry detergent accumulates and may trap dirt and other particles from the wash.


Blocked drains and filters

Small items, lint or other debris from clothes can get trapped in your washing machine’s drain or filter.

This can prevent proper drainage, thus allowing mould growth and mildew to thrive in your washer.

If they’re made of food or other organic matter, the other particles can decompose and produce offensive odours.


Cold washes

Frequently using the cold wash cycle or low-temperature setting prevents the elimination of microorganisms or organic matter in each wash.

So, mould and bacteria can proliferate and contribute to a smelly washing machine.


Dirty rubber door seal and detergent dispenser

If you often forget to clean your washing machine door and its rubber seal, chances are there’s already an ecosystem of mould living there.

This could also happen if you don’t clean the detergent dispenser regularly.


What You’ll Need to Remove Washing Machine Smells

vinegar, baking soda, gloves, and sponge

Gear up. It’s time to get rid of those nasty smells coming from your washer.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • White vinegar and baking soda
  • A clean cloth or sponge
  • An old toothbrush (for hard-to-reach spots)
  • Hot water
  • Mild dish detergent for cleaning the machine’s detergent container
  • Rubber gloves (optional)


How to Clean a Smelly Washing Machine: Front Loader

Front loader washing machines are notorious for hiding mould and mildew in their nooks and crannies.


Step 1: Initial rinse

Start by running a hot water cycle with two cups of white vinegar.

Choose the biggest load size to have a more thorough rinse.

White vinegar will loosen up and remove deposits, mildew and lingering odours.


Step 2: Clean the door seal and detergent dispenser

Dirty moldy washing machine sealing rubber and drum close up.

Mix equal parts water and white vinegar.

Use a clean cloth to wipe the washing machine door.

Then, use an old toothbrush to scrub the folds of the rubber door seal.

Remove the detergent dispenser and wash it with soap and water.


Step 3: Run another rinse cycle

If there’s any remaining vinegar smell, run another rinse cycle on the hottest setting.

Then, leave the washing machine door open to let the drum dry.


Step 4: Additional cleaning (as needed)

If the smell persists, sprinkle half a cup of baking soda into the drum and run another hot water cycle.

This will thoroughly clean your front loader washer because baking soda neutralises stubborn smells and tackles any remaining residue.


How to Clean A Stinky Washing Machine: Top Loader

While generally less prone to odours, a top load machine can still develop a funky smell.


Run a white vinegar cycle

Load the washing machine with hot water and add 1 litre of white vinegar.

Pause mid-cycle and let the solution sit for at least an hour.

Allowing the white vinegar to soak in the washer dissolves accumulated residues, bacteria and mould.


Deep clean your top loading washing machine

Make a cleaning solution with white vinegar and water.

Use this solution and a clean cloth to scrub around the washing machine door, underneath it, and the walls of the washer drum.


Do a second rinse

Run another cycle with hot water to remove loosened debris and leftover white vinegar.

This will leave you with a clean top loading washing machine, ready to take on another load of laundry.


How to Clean a Smelly Washing Machine Drain

Other than inside your washing machine, sometimes nasty smells waft up a neglected drain.


Step 1: Inspect

Gray washing machine drain hose

Disconnect the drain hose and check for obstructions or visible mould and mildew.

Identifying problem areas will guide your cleaning process.


Step 2: Flush

Run a hot water and white vinegar solution through the drain hose if possible.

You may use a funnel or just elevate the hose so the cleaning solution flows through it.


Step 3: Check again

After reattaching the hose, run a short rinse cycle and check for any changes in the draining process.

If smells persist, you may need to get your washing machine checked out and cleaned by a cleaning professional or serviced by the manufacturer.


Keep Your Washer Smelling Fresh

Your washing machine is an invaluable asset, a silent partner that refreshes your clothes and your life.

Taking time to give it some TLC will ensure its longevity and performance and, most importantly, eliminate those unexpected, unpleasant odours.

About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.


About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.