Why Does My Washing Machine Smell?

by Team HomeServe
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Have you ever been knocked over by a foul washing machine smell when you opened the door to load your laundry? When your washer smells bad, it could be caused by a breeding ground of harmful mildew, mold and bacteria that wind up all over your family’s clothes.

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Common Causes of Washing Machine Smells

Your washing machine can collect debris over time, making it a breeding ground for foul-smelling microorganisms. Here are some of the reasons your washing machine doesn’t smell fresh any longer:

Soap Scum

The soap that you use to clean your clothes can form a film over the internal surfaces of the machine. Over time, this soap scum can attract bacteria and mold growth.

Body Oils and Grime

You throw dirty clothes into the wash to get rid of all the sweat, body oils and dirt that causes it to smell. After some time, your washing machine can smell just like the clothing that it’s supposed to be cleaning.


The humid environment that exists inside of your washing machine invites mold and bacteria. The bad washing machine smell you’re detecting could be the accumulation of mold and mildew. If this is the case, you need to kill the infestation to get back that fresh scent.

How Do I De-Stink My Washer?

The first thing you should do is determine the cause of the smell. There are plenty of components that can harbor bacteria and mold. Check to see if you have a leaky hose that’s causing water to collect on the floor or wall behind your machine. You may need to replace the hose to keep your washing machine fresh after you de-stink it.

Using bleach is a great way to kill microorganisms, so you can run a wash cycle without any clothes and add 4 cups (about 1 liter) of it to a top-loading machine or 2 cups (1/2 liter) to a front-loader. Bleach can interact with other cleaners and produce toxic gas, so make sure you proceed with caution and don’t allow it to come in contact with other substances. Set the cycle to the highest temperature setting, and once the tub fills, stop the wash cycle and let the water and bleach sit for about half an hour.

Once you resume the wash cycle, the rinse cycle should remove the bleach from all of the interior surfaces. You can run the rinse cycle a second time to be certain. Using the same amount of vinegar in the same manner afterward helps remove soap scum and any leftover mold, mildew and bacteria. This should eliminate any rotten-egg odors you smelled before.

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How Do You Deep-Clean a Washing Machine?

Sometimes, a deeper cleaning might be required to eliminate the foul washing machine smell. You should consider moving your machine from its location so that you can clean behind it and make sure that all of the connections are good. Check the drain too. If the drain is clogged, it could be the source of all the nasty mold and bacteria that are causing you grief.

Once you clean the washing machine drain, it’s time to clean all of the small components inside of the machine. Take apart the soap, bleach and softener dispensers. These are the surfaces where soap scum, water grime and mold can build up, so give them a good scrubbing with a brush and washing machine cleaner. If you’re having trouble getting into the crevices, you can use pipe cleaners or cotton swabs to reach those tough spots.

After you scrub these parts, pay attention to the seal on the door and any other tight spaces. Once you’ve cleaned all the surfaces, move the washing machine back into place and follow the instructions above for cleaning the tub.

How to Keep Your Washing Machine Smelling Fresh

If you don’t want that nasty smell to return, try to perform routine cleaning on your washing machine. Clean the drain regularly, check the hoses so there aren’t any leaks and add vinegar to the tub once a month for a cycle. Running your machine at a higher temperature and using the right detergent can also help.