How to clean a smelly washing machine

Anytime we take our laundry out of the washer, we expect it to have a delightful scent of detergents. On some occasions, instead of this scent, we are met by a musty odor that is quite disgusting.

While it is convenient to have a washing machine in your home, ensuring that it is free from foul smell can be an uphill task. The smell is often caused by a combination of dirt from the laundry and moisture. This combination creates an environment for bacteria to flourish.

The secret to a clean, fresh-smelling machine lies in regularly cleaning the parts, including those that you cannot reach easily. Let us see the steps you should take to eliminate the washing machine smells altogether.


You will need:

You can also use a washing machine cleaner like Affresh W10501250. Just make sure to follow any specific instructions provided for the best results.


To clean your washing machine and remove any lingering odors, follow these steps:

1. Run a hot wash

Empty the drum, add an antibacterial laundry sanitizer, and spin the machine at high temperatures to eliminate bacteria and mildew.

Ideally, you need to do this at least once every month, or as outlined in the instruction manual. Like most people, you are probably used to doing your laundry at 40 degrees or less to save on energy costs.

However, washing your clothes at low temperatures fails to rid the machine of mold and bacteria. That is why a service wash is necessary when cleaning your smelly washing machine.

2. Deodorize the washing machine

To deodorize a washing machine, you need 1-2 cups of vinegar for cleaning and four tablespoons of baking soda. Mix the baking soda with a quarter cup of water in a small bowl. Add this paste to the laundry compartment of your washing machine.

Put at least one cup of vinegar into the drum, then spin the machine at warm temperatures. This combination breaks up any residual scum, dirt, and mold in the drum. Repeat the same process for top loader washing machine smells.

3. Clean the detergent drawer

A washing machine detergent drawer
A washing machine detergent drawer, image via

The drawer is a small part that can easily trap laundry dirt. Remove it from the washing machine and use a soft brush and domestic cleaner to remove the dirt particles.

If you are not sure about how to remove the drawer, check the user manual for guidance.

Use a clean towel and dip it in soapy water or baking soda paste to remove any lingering debris in the drum. Slough off the walls and reach out to any dirt seated in the corners of the tub as well.

4. Wash the debris filter

Washing machine debris filter
A washing machine debris filter, image via

The debris filter shields the washing machine’s pump from solid dirt. It is always warm and humid, and this creates a conducive ground for mildew smells to infiltrate your clothes and the washing machine.

Empty the debris filter of any dirt and fluff that may have gathered inside it. Remove its cover and unplug it from the washing machine to allow any dirty water to drain off. Wipe around it with a piece of cloth before replacing the filter cover.

5. Wipe the Rubber seal

While cleaning your washing machine, you may easily forget about the space between the door and the drum.

The rubber seal prevents the spilling of water from the machine during the laundry process and it is also prone to mold and bacteria. If you allow these to build up, they can turn into mold, resulting in a smelly washing machine.

Use a damp cloth to wipe the seal gently. In case the mold has sunk deep into the rubber seal, removing it can be quite difficult. In this case, you will need to purchase a new door seal.

6. Drain the water

After cleaning all the parts, swirl some clean water inside the washer and allow any stagnant water to drain completely.

Once the process is finished, run another cycle, this time with hot water. This will disinfect the drum entirely and remove any lingering baking soda or vinegar.

When the water has drained off, dry the tub with a towel and leave the door open for a few minutes so that air can flow in the machine and completely remove the odor. Now your washing machine smells as good as new.

Repeat these steps each time your washer starts to smell, or once a month for maintenance purposes. Doing this ensures that your washing machine smells perfect all the time.

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