How to Clean a Stinky Washing Machine: Comprehensive Guide

On laundry day, a smelly washing machine can make chores unpleasant. This guide will explore how to clean a stinky washing machine, highlighting the importance of regular cleaning to maintain a fresh and efficient appliance.

How To Clean A Stinky Washing Machine
How To Clean A Stinky Washing Machine

Signs of a Stinky Washing Machine

A smelly washing machine is a common issue that can arise due to various reasons. If you notice unpleasant odors coming from your machine, some signs may indicate a problem.

Musty or Moldy Odor:

A musty or moldy smell is one of the most common signs of a smelly washing machine. This can occur when moisture and detergent residue accumulate in the drum and other parts of the machine.

Foul Odor on Clean Clothes:

If your clothes smell bad after washing, the washing machine might have a problem.

Visible Mold or Mildew:

Look for mold or mildew in the machine. Check around the rubber parts, detergent dispenser, and seals for any visible signs. Mold growth is a common cause of unpleasant odors.

Dirty or Discolored Drum:

A dirty or discolored drum can signify accumulated grime and mold. Inspect the drum for any visible stains or discoloration.

Residue in Detergent Dispenser:

Mold and bacteria may find a home in the detergent dispenser. If you notice residue or discoloration in the dispenser, it may contribute to unpleasant odors.

Standing Water:

Check for standing water in the drum or around the rubber gasket. Excess water can lead to mold growth, contributing to smell.

Clogged Drain or Filter:

A clogged drain or filter can cause water to stagnate and lead to foul odors. Regularly clean the drain pump filter and ensure proper drainage.

Using Too Much Detergent:

Using excessive detergent can leave behind residue in the machine. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the appropriate amount of detergent to use.

Infrequent Cleaning:

If you haven’t cleaned your machine recently, it might start to smell bad. Clean a smelly washer regularly by running a cycle or wiping down the drum and seals to stop this.

Closed Door Between Washes:

Leaving the machine door closed when not in use can trap moisture and create an environment conducive to mold growth. To let the drum dry in between washes, keep the door open.

If you notice any of these signs, addressing the issue promptly is essential. Clean and take care of your washing machine regularly to stop it from smelling. Look at the user manual for cleaning steps and advice from the maker.

Causes of Washing Machine Smell

A washing machine can develop unpleasant odors over time due to various reasons. Here are some common causes of washing machine smells:

  • Residual Detergent and Fabric Softener:

Using a lot of detergent or fabric softener can leave things in the machine and make mold and bacteria grow.

  • Moisture:

If you keep the washing machine door closed when not in use, water can gather, making a wet place where mold can grow.

  • Low-Temperature Washes:

Washing clothes with cold water might not kill bacteria and mold, allowing them to grow in the machine.

  • Dirty Drum or Tub:

Accumulation of dirt, lint, and soap scum on the inner surfaces of the drum or tub can lead to unpleasant smells.

  • Clogged Drain:

A clogged drain can trap water, leading to stagnant water in the machine and causing foul odors.

  • Rubber Gasket and Seals:

The rubber gasket and seals around the door can trap moisture and detergent, creating a spot for mildew to grow.

  • Front-Loading Machines:

Front-loading machines can smell more because they have tight seals that let moisture build up quickly.

  • Infrequent Cleaning:

Not cleaning the machine enough, including the detergent drawer and lint filter, can make sour aromas.

  • Hard Water:

Hard water deposits can accumulate in the machine, leading to mineral buildup and unpleasant odors.

  • Using Too Much Fabric Softener:

Using too much fabric softener can make a sticky mess in the machine. This can attract dirt and cause nasty smells.

Stop washing machine smells by doing regular maintenance. Clean the machine, use the right amount of detergent, leave the door open for air, and sometimes run hot water. Also, check and clean the drain pump and ensure good ventilation to avoid sour aromas.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Clean a Stinky Washing Machine

Cleaning your washing machine is essential to ensure it functions properly and your laundry stays fresh. Follow these step-by-step instructions to clean your washing machine:

Materials Needed:

  • White vinegar

  • Baking soda

  • Microfiber cloth or sponge

  • Old toothbrush

  • Distilled white vinegar

  • Lemon juice (optional)

  • Clean, dry cloth

Step 1: Empty the Washing Machine

  • Ensure the washing machine is empty. Remove any clothes, laundry, or items from the drum.

Step 2: Clean the Detergent Drawer and Tray

  • Remove the detergent drawer: Most machines have a removable detergent drawer. Take it out and clean it thoroughly. Use an old toothbrush or a small brush to scrub away any residues.

  • Soak in vinegar: If there are tough stains, soak the detergent drawer in a mix of white vinegar and water. Then, rinse it well.

Step 3: Clean the Drum

  • Run a Hot Water Cycle: Set the washing machine to its hottest water setting and run an empty cycle. Add two cups of white vinegar or baking soda to the drum. This will help disinfect and clean the interior.

  • Wipe Down the Drum: After the wash, use a microfiber cloth or sponge to wipe the inside of the drum. Get rid of any residue or mold you can see.

Step 4: Clean the Rubber Gasket and Seals

  • Inspect the rubber gasket: Front-loading machines have rubber gaskets around the door. Check for mold or mildew and wipe it with vinegar and water.

  • Scrub if necessary: For stubborn mold, use an old toothbrush soaked in a vinegar-water solution to scrub the gasket and seals.

Step 5: Clean the Dispensers

  • Remove detergent, fabric softener, and bleach dispensers. Use a mild detergent and warm water to clean them.  For a deeper clean, soak them in a vinegar solution.

Step 6: Clean the Filter

  • Locate and clean the washing machine filter. Remove it and run a rinse cycle under running water. Use an old toothbrush if needed to scrub away any debris.

Step 7: Run a Baking Soda Cycle

  • Fill the drum with half a cup of baking soda. Run a hot water cycle. Baking soda helps neutralize aromas and break down residue.

Step 8: Optional Lemon Juice Boost

  • Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the drum for a fresh citrus scent. Run a short hot water cycle. Additionally, lemon juice has inherent antibacterial qualities.

Step 9: Wipe Down the Exterior

  • Clean the exterior of the washing machine with a damp cloth and a mild detergent or dish soap. Keep an eye out for buttons, control panels, and other surfaces. Dry with a clean cloth.

Step 10: Ventilate the Machine

  • Leave the machine door or lid open between cycles to allow proper air circulation. This aids in stopping the spread of mold.

Step 11: Regular Maintenance

  • Implement a routine cleaning schedule. Repeat these steps every 1-2 months or as needed, especially if you notice recurring aromas.

Follow these steps to eliminate the stinky smell in your washing machine. Your machine will be clean and smelling fresh for your laundry.

Tips for Dealing with Stubborn Odors

Addressing stubborn odors in your washing machine requires extra care and specific strategies. Here are detailed tips to help you combat persistent smells effectively:

If stubborn odors persist in your washing machine:

  • Repeat cleaning cycles with baking soda or white vinegar.

  • Consider using a commercial cleaner designed for machines.

  • Check and clean the drain pump filter.

  • Sanitize with bleach if your machine is bleach-safe.

  • Inspect and clean hidden areas, like behind the rubber gasket.

  • Wash laundry at higher temperatures.

  • Use oxygenated bleach instead of chlorine bleach.

  • Leave the machine door open to ensure thorough drying.

  • Address hard water issues with a softener or descaler.

  • Regularly clean lint filters and ensure proper ventilation in the laundry area.

  • Consult the manufacturer for specific recommendations if odors persist

Benefits of a Clean Washing Machine

Keeping your washing machine clean is more than just making it smell good. It has many benefits, making your laundry more accessible and helping your machine last longer. Explore the numerous benefits associated with a well-maintained washing machine:

Improved Cleaning Performance:

A clean washing machine ensures optimal cleaning performance. Get rid of residue, mold, and mildew in your machine. This helps it clean your clothes better, leaving them fresh after each wash.

Extended Appliance Lifespan:

Regular cleaning contributes to the longevity of your machine. Stop mold buildup and lessen stress on the inside parts to make your appliance last longer. This saves you money by avoiding early replacements.

Odor-Free Laundry:

A clean washing machine translates to odor-free laundry. Fix the reasons for bad smells to enjoy naturally clean clothes. Fresh scent without any lingering odors.

Energy Efficiency:

An efficiently running machine is also an energy-efficient one. Keep your washing machine clean to ensure it works well, uses less energy, and helps the environment.

Prevention of Mold and Mildew:

Regular maintenance, including cleaning gaskets and seals, prevents the growth of mold and mildew. This proactive approach stops these issues before they start, ensuring a hygienic laundry environment.

Savings on Repairs:

A well-maintained washing machine is less likely to encounter breakdowns or malfunctions. Regular cleaning and preventive measures can save you from costly repairs, providing peace of mind and financial savings.

Preservation of Clothing Quality:

An immaculate machine protects your clothing. No residue and no smells mean your clothes are washed in a clean place, keeping them nice, colorful, and lasting a long time.

Efficient Detergent Use:

When your washing machine is residue-free, you can use detergent more efficiently. Following the recommended amounts ensures effective cleaning without wasting detergent or risking buildup.

Healthier Living Environment:

A clean washing machine contributes to a healthier living environment. Stop mold and eliminate smells to make a cleaner space where your family’s health comes first.

Enhanced User Experience:

Enjoy a seamless and pleasant laundry experience with a clean washing machine. Say bye to surprise smells, problems, or not-so-good cleaning, and enjoy a well-kept appliance.

Clean and care for your washing machine regularly to keep it working great and improve your laundry experience. A clean machine cleans better and saves money in the long run.


In conclusion, clean your washing machine regularly for significant benefits. Follow the guide and use preventive steps for fresh and efficient laundry for years. A clean machine removes odors and keeps things hygienic, making your living space healthier. Spend time on maintenance for enjoyable laundry and a longer-lasting washing machine.


How often should I clean my washing machine?

Regular cleaning is recommended at least once a month to prevent odors and maintain optimal performance.

Is it possible to clean my washing machine with bleach?

Instead of bleach, use white vinegar and baking soda to prevent harm to the machine.

Even after cleaning, why does my washing machine still smell?

Persistent odors may indicate hidden mold or mildew. Repeat the cleaning process and consider using specialized cleaning products.

Is it necessary to use high-efficiency (HE) detergent?

HE detergent is essential for modern washing machines, producing fewer suds and reducing residue buildup.

What should I do if the odor persists after following the guide?

If the smell stays, check your machine’s manual for cleaning steps or ask a professional for help.

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