Have you ever opened your washing machine, ready to start a load of laundry, only to be hit with a foul smell? Smelly washing machines are more common than you might think. The unpleasant odors often stem from a buildup of mildew, detergent residue, dirt, and minerals inside the machine.
To restore a fresh and clean scent to your washing machine, it’s crucial to understand how to deodorize it. After all, a stinky machine is the last thing you want when trying to wash your clothes. Luckily, cleaning a smelly washer is simpler than you might imagine.
What Causes a Washing Machine to Smell?
Our washing machines endure a lot of use. Soap scum, hair, dirt, and body oils can easily accumulate in the gaskets, seals, and dispensers. Over time, these substances build up and give rise to unpleasant odors.
Both top-loading and front-loading washers can develop these unpleasant smells, but front loaders are more prone to it. This is mainly due to the rubber gasket on the machine’s door, which, while preventing leaks, can also collect moisture and lead to mold and mildew growth.
Front-loading washers are designed to be high-efficiency appliances, using less water than top-loading ones. However, this can result in more significant dirt and scum buildup, particularly if regular detergent is used instead of a high-efficiency (HE) type. In such cases, dirt and debris can cling to the detergent, creating a gunky, smelly residue.
Front Load vs Top Load: Choosing the Right Cleaning Method
When tackling a smelly washer, the first step is to identify whether you have a top-load or front-load machine. While front-loaders excel in cleaning quality and efficiency, they are more prone to developing unpleasant odors and mildew if not properly maintained.
Front-load washing machines are susceptible to soap scum buildup and mold development due to their design. These machines use less water, filling only the bottom half of the tub, and tumble clothes through the water. The reduced water volume, combined with the use of regular detergent instead of high-efficiency (HE) detergent, can lead to soap scum and a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Front loaders have rubber door gaskets that prevent leaks, but these can trap dirt, soap scum, and odors. So, how do you clean a smelly front-loading washing machine?
How to Clean a Smelly Front-Loader
- Gather ingredients: You don’t need special cleaners. Grab baking soda and white vinegar from your pantry.
- Empty the washer: Ensure there are no clothes left inside.
- Mix baking soda and water: Combine ¼ cup of baking soda with ¼ cup of water. Put this mixed solution in the detergent dispenser.
- Add vinegar: Put 2 cups of vinegar in the drum.
- Run a complete cycle: Set the machine to its highest heat setting and run a full wash cycle without clothes. Optionally, pause the washer after filling and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes for a more intense clean.
- Wipe down the drum: After the cycle, wipe the drum with a damp rag to remove any remaining vinegar smell.
Top-loading washers can also develop odors, but the cleaning process is similar with a few adjustments:
How to Clean a Smelly Top-Loader
- Gather ingredients: Baking soda and white vinegar work for top-loaders too.
- Empty the washer: Remove any clothes left inside.
- Mix baking soda and water: Combine ¼ cup of baking soda with ¼ cup of water. Pour it in the detergent dispenser or pour directly in the drum.
- Add vinegar: Put 4 cups of vinegar in the drum.
- Run a complete cycle: Set the machine to its highest heat setting and run a full wash cycle without clothes.
- Wipe down the drum: After the cycle, wipe the drum with a damp rag to eliminate any remaining vinegar smell.
How to Clean a Smelly Washing Machine Drain
If your laundry room has a musty odor, the washing machine drain might be clogged. Here’s how to clean it:
- Add vinegar: Pour two cups of vinegar into the detergent dispenser.
- Run a wash cycle: Run a normal wash cycle without clothes.
- Flush with hot water: Pour hot or boiling water down the drain trap.
- Prevent evaporation: Add 4 ounces of mineral oil to the drain.
How Often to Clean Your Washing Machine
Experts recommend cleaning your washer every two weeks, but your usage frequency should guide your cleaning routine. If you use it infrequently, a monthly cleaning may suffice. For daily use, consider a weekly cleaning.
To keep your washer smelling fresh:
- Wipe down the inside after each load.
- Leave the door open to air-dry.
- Clean the detergent dispenser regularly.
- Wipe down the outside to prevent dust and dirt buildup.
Don’t stop at cleaning; make these practices a habit to maintain a fresh-smelling washer.