Washer SmellI just finished reading a Facebook thread on front loading washers and top loader washers. I am amazed, there were over 300 comments and I read every single one. If there is anything that women are passionate about, it’s laundry. If you don’t want to read all of the comments, the conversation leaned more to positive comment about top loaders and quite possibly how front loaders are the spawn of Satan (that’s a lie but many people hated them. Same thing right?). Many people also raved about how much they loved their front loaders. My simple conclusion is that those who hate front loaders with a passion may not be taking care of their machine correctly. I have a few tips to keep the washer clean and stink free.

  1. Use the recommended amount of soap or less
    Front loading washing machines require much less soap than top loaders, i.e. 1-2 tablespoon max. HE soap is usually concentrated and will not suds up. If you see suds in your front loader, you’re using too much laundry detergent. When you use too much soap, it begins to build up becoming the perfect food for bacteria, hence the smell. These bacteria can build up in the drum, seal, filter and the washer hoses. Once the buildup occurs in the washer hoses, it becomes much harder to remove the smell without replacing the hoses or cleaning them out.

    Tips to Clean the Washer

    I would not fill past the first line; that should be plenty for a large load and halfway to the line for a small load.

  2. Use Vinegar as Fabric Softener
    Alternatively you could cut out any type of softener altogether. I personally use vinegar as a fabric softener because it’s cheaper and it helps keep the stink away. Vinegar will help get rid of any soap residue remaining in the washer and  cut down on current build up. Regular fabric softeners contain a type of wax that coats your clothes making them feel soft and your towels less absorbent. Guess what, it also coats the inside of your washer aiding the soap build up and stink. The wax will also slowly coat the lint trap in your dryer making it a fire hazard; vinegar will not.
  3. Check the Filters and Hoses
    Even after deep cleaning your washing machine, the filters and hoses can still be a cause of the stink. The tablets that companies sell to clean your washer will not clean these other areas leaving you with a “clean” but stinky washer. Ideally, you’ll want to check and clean your filter every 6 months to a year. Shine a light on the hoses while checking the filter to check for mold growth. After cleaning the filter and hoses then following the previous two suggestions will help keep them stink free.
  4. Leave the Washer Door Open
    This is the most obvious one and the most important. Mold and bacteria thrive in dark, damp places. Leave the door and soap dispenser open to increase the airflow within the washer to dry it out. My suggestion is that if you cannot leave the washer door open because of pets or small children then get a top loader. Closing the washer door seals the washer and does not allow airflow, making it the perfect place for mold and bacteria.  I live in Texas, it gets fairly humid here, and my washer still dries out if I leave the door open all week long.

    Clean the Washer Smell

    If build up happens here, it will happen in the hoses.

My washer does not stink because I do each of these steps religiously. Is my front loading washer a little high maintenance? Not really, I do check the filter and hoses occasionally but that’s as high maintenance as they get. Using less detergent and switching to vinegar was easy and since I have made this switch, I only run a cleaning wash once or twice a year. If you don’t give mold and bacteria a chance to build up, then your washer won’t stink and you won’t have to clean it out. For me, taking these steps are the same amount of effort, if not less, to maintain a top loader.

Happy Cleaning!

What are your absolute musts to keep your washer stink free?


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87 Responses to Tips to Cure a Stinky Washer

  1. I never had a problem with washer smells until I got a front load one. Thank you for the tips. Pinning. Found your post on Alderberry Hill.

  2. Brooke says:

    I totally have this problem! Thanks for the great tips. I’ll give them a try. Have a great day!

  3. Dottie McLain says:

    Do you have any postings for getting rid of stinky wash cloths and dish cloths and dish towels? When they are dry and clean, no smell, but to wet them and use just 1-2 times, they dry and really stink.

    • Not yet. Try washing them with a scoop of borax or baking soda and a vinegar rinse. I would also make sure that you rinse them well after using them as well as letting them dry completely. If there’s food residue stuck in them while they dry then that promotes the mold growth/smell.
      Here’s a crazy idea, try zapping the cloth while wet for a minute after you use it. That should kill current bacteria for sure. It will be very hot afterwards so be careful. I have not actually tried this myself yet so be careful.

      • I put my sponges in the microwave almost every day after washing the dishes. I think it really helps keep the smell out and makes them last longer so I would think it would work the same for rags.

        • Funny thing, I tried that last night and it didn’t work too well. However, the rag I tried it on already stunk really bad and had been dry for a few days. I have noticed that if I rinse the rag out well after each use, it prolongs the smell. Although putting it in the microwave should kill any germs or bacteria.

        • Tammy says:

          Something that has helped me at home is to rinse the dish cloth out right after doing the dishes and then keeping a small container of dishwater and a small cap of bleach and sticking it in there.

    • Wendy says:

      Al you have to do is wash them in hot water with no soap or anything. The smell your smelling is old soap that was not rinsed out of the towels. You can add a quarter cup of vinegar if you want to but it is not necessary. If you do this every once in a while your towels will never smell. You will see when you put them in the water that as it agitates or moves around the soap will come out of your towels. I never realized how much soap actually stuck in your towels. This works wonders!

    • marsha rupp says:

      I had the same problem with stinky dish cloths, towels etc when wet. I could never figure it out. Then one day my hot water heater died and had to be replaced. I haven’t had stinky towels etc since.

  4. Pam says:

    What about a top loading washer? I am suppose to wash a cycle to clean my machine with only a Clorox run, but I notice that it still stinks and my clothes come out with an odor, especially my towels, when you dry them and use one to dry off with after you take a bath, the towel has that same order the machine does when it gets damp from drying off. I have a maytag top he loader. I don’t know where the filter would be. any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Yes, you can do a Clorox run and wipe down your machine after. For your towels, I’d suggest adding some baking soda to your wash and the vinegar rinse, it might take a couple of washes to get rid of the smell completely but I think this will get rid of the smell.

  5. Joe says:

    Every time I wash my dark clothes, they come out with grey streaks of something on them. If I machine dry them, it’s gone. If I hang them outside, it’s there. Any ideas??????

    • Hmm, I would definitely deep clean your machine to make sure it’s not from any suds residue or from mold build up. I would also check the water hoses to make sure there is no build up coming from there. I hope this helps!

    • Tammy says:

      The grey streaks you’re talking about could just be residue from fabric softener. Make sure you aren’t overloading your machine. Next time you see the streak, be sure to smell it and then you will know if it’s from the softener or not.

  6. k says:

    Once you have the smell, how do you get rid if it?

  7. Shannon Payne says:

    Having a front loader makes me want to go back to a top-load machine! I’ve tried the vinegar and while that works in most cases, there are still odors that accumulate and find their way onto our clothes. Now I’m going for a deep clean and checking of the hoses – wish me luck!

  8. Becky says:

    ;You didn’t say how much vinegar to use.

  9. Heidi says:

    Thanks Angela! We can all use these tips 🙂

  10. Raquel says:

    I so need this right now! Stopping by and pinning from the PPP!

  11. Connie says:

    Angela, where is the filter on a front loading washer?

  12. dawnmadsen says:

    THANK YOU, I’ve tried running vinegar and baking soda through mine to get rid of the smell, but didn’t even think about the filter or hose, will be having the hubs pull it out tonight so I can take a look 🙂

    Stopping by from Whatever Goes Wednesday, Dawn

  13. Thanks for these great tips! My washer hasn’t started to smell quite yet but I know a lot of people complain about that with a front loader so I am waiting.
    Thanks for sharing at the Pinworthy Projects Party.

  14. susan1859 says:

    I have an LG front-loader & absolutely love it. There was a little learning curve after years of using a top loader, but your tips were spot-on. I always leave my door open after & wipe the rubber door gasket & the inside of the window to remove excess moisture. I empty the little hose occasionally, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference either way. I also have a Tub Clean cycle- just fill the bleach dispenser & run. It’s amazing how shiny the drum is after! I’ve never had any bad smell with my washer. Also, I use those Japanese washer balls (in lieu of detergent) on a lot of my loads with a little OxyClean and a touch of borax as a booster so my washer doesn’t get exposed to as much detergent as many may.

    • Thanks! I really believe that the biggest cause of the washer stink is the commercial detergent build up. I think it’s awesome that you use the laundry balls and they work, both getting your clothes clean and not making your washer stink. And I have to admit, I rarely wipe down the door gasket because for me, leaving the door open is enough.

  15. I don’t have a front loading washer, but I do have a new model top loader. When I had a cleaning business I did laundry for a lot of people with front loaders. One woman in particular said that she found using baking soda as a fabric softener took away the smell. Great post!

    • Thanks! I use baking soda in my laundry if it’s extra stinky and it removes the odor really well. I think it also helps keep the stink away. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  16. Leah says:

    Great tips!! I definitely have this problem and I was really never sure what to do about it. Thank you! 😉

  17. Kelley says:

    Darn front loaders! I need to stay on top of it, it gets gross!

  18. Great tips! Pinning this, and thanks so much for sharing it at my link party!

  19. Meegan Makes says:

    Thanks for the tips and linking up to Tickled Pink Times Two! Pinned.

  20. Thanks so much, Angela! I have the same problems with my front loader and although I do some of these things already, the rest will be a big help. I love the tip about vinegar in place of softener!

    It’s funny, I had only front loaders in Ireland for 17 years and never had problems with mildew and stink. I’d have to leave clothes in there for DAYS to make anything stinky 🙂 However, I wouldn’t want to go back to top loaders for anything, love my LG.

    I am going to add your link to my blog…Counter Intuition

  21. Oh goody! I’ve been needing this tutorial!!

  22. Wilhelmina Cstaneda says:

    Will my clothes smell like vinegar if I use them as conditioner? How much of it should I use? My washer’s capacity loads up to 6.5 kg.

  23. Lori says:

    My machine also has a drain plug on the bottom that should be emptied regularly and then a filter to clean regularly. This really helps reduce the smell and the filter does get slimy. I have the water from the plug dump into a 8×8 inch pan and make sure I drain it until it is empty. Also wiping out the rubber ring on the door helps periodically. If it gets really bad, running a cleaning load with a little bleach is helpful.

  24. Katra Rose says:

    you are talking about white vinegar – right

  25. Steve says:

    What sort of vinegar do you mean. Is it white vinegar? Does that not leave a vinegar smell on your clothes? How much vinegar would you recommend?

    • Angela says:

      Regular white vinegar. I promise that there is no vinegar smell on the clothes. 🙂 I use the same amount of vinegar as I would regular fabric softener.

  26. Nikki says:

    Hi my problem is an eggy smell when my machine empties which eminates from the over flow holes in my sink as the waste pipe for my machine is obviously connected to my sink u bend so will your viniger softener help that please?

    I had the pipe off about 5 weeks ago and flushed it out plus I cleaned the filter too, the smell went but now it is back. I have never kept the draw open but I do leave the door open. Please advise thank you x

  27. dave says:

    Normal malt vinegar? Don’t your clothes then smell of vinegar???

  28. Lisa Macaulay says:

    I always leave the door open and once a month i use the washing machine cleaner stuff (as i live on my own) not realising it doesnt clean the waste pipe. My old machine packed in couple of weeks back and when i was disconnecting it for new 1 to be plumbed in OMG the stench was horrific!!! I have been wondering since then how to clean the pipe without actually taking it off, So glad i saw this 🙂

  29. Irene says:

    Thanks Angela will try the vinegar and baking soda out.

  30. Sharon says:

    You are absolutely correct with your tips. I do those things every time I wash a load. But in addition, I put vinegar in the laundry booster cup instead of, say, Clorox 2, and I add a scoop of baking soda to every load. We have 3 dogs who live in the house with us, 2 of them are Chihuahuas that also sleep with us, so I have to work hard to keep things smelling good. Also, I leave the washer door open while drying my clothes, but when finished, I close it until next wash day. I’ve never had a smell and I wash nasty doggie blankets and rugs in there all the time. I do use the “sanitize” feature on my bedding and the pups’ bedding. Never a problem.

  31. Shirl says:

    i use regular lemon aid in the was once a month. Pure packet in the powder container n put on speed wash n use the hottest water. It sure has made a difference n the appliance man said it would clean the build up out of the machine hoses n has stopped the stink as well.

  32. Wanda day says:

    but using vinager, how do cloths stay soft and smell good ?

    • Angela says:

      Vinegar relaxes the fibers in your clothing to make them soft and vinegar leaves the clothing scentless. If you want to add scent to your clothing, you can get a dryer ball and add scented oils to that.

  33. Diane l says:

    what about the older model top loaders what do you do with them mine smells like you left your clothers in there overnight and that never happens just musty or something

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like to me that your washer might need a deep cleaning. Fill your washer with the hottest water you can and add a quart of vinegar and let it sit for at least and hour. Let the washer finish the cycle and wipe away the visible grime and the top of the tub. Run a second wash with one cup of bleach. Run at least one hot load (like whites, with bleach) once a week.

  34. Sue Blankenship says:

    how much vinegar to replace softener?

  35. Deb says:

    I have a top load machine also and noticed the smell. I decided to do my whites for the last load. It is the load that add bleach and do a soak cycle. With doing the bleach load last i feel I have eliminated the odor by using the bleach to kill the bacteria and the odor. It’s worked so far!

    • Angela says:

      Yes, that is another great way to keep your washer smelling great and it is recommended to do at least one hot water load a week. 🙂

  36. louise says:

    What if I rinse my front loader with vinegar after doing laundry evrytime , would it keep the washer fresh smelling?

  37. Derris says:

    How ironic that I saw your link today. I just told my hubby yesterday that I am done. My washer (and now my clothes) stinks so bad I just didn’t even know what to do. I used a front-loader in Italy years and years ago and never had this problem. I did deep clean it about a month ago, but it never really helped. I already use vinegar, I’m going to have to try baking soda. But, there is baking soda in the homemade soap I’ve tried using. I guess I’ll try cleaning the pipes? I sure wish I had a sanitizing feature, or even a clean feature ! How else can I deep clean my front-loader? It is about 10 years old.

    • Angela says:

      I would take a look at the drain hose, sometimes mold and gross stuff builds up there and that’s where the smell comes from. You can try to clean the drain hose or replace it and that should help if it has build up.

  38. Sharon says:

    I just occurred to me that a lot of the stinking problem could be from washing clothes in cold water. I never use cold water, usually warm wash and cold rinse because I feel my clothes don’t get clean in cold water. That, along with the vinegar and baking soda could be why I have never had a problem with a smelly washer. Just a thought.

    • Angela says:

      I completely agree with you. While I do have my cold washes for colors, I always have hot and warm washes for thing that can handle it. The warm and hot water does help reduce the buildup.

  39. Barbara says:

    Washing dishrags and towels in hot water and a double rinse will keep them from smelling. I use the whitest white setting on my machine.

  40. Vicki says:

    I have dogs and cats, therefor a lot of pet hair. I noticed the smell and started checking. I found that water was collecting in the seal around the opening due to a build up of pet hair. I regularly take a cloth and clean inside the seal. Sometimes I have to partially remove it and clean behind it as well so it can properly drain.

    • Angela says:

      I have to do the same every once in a while with the pets in my home as well as check the actual drain beneath the washer drum.

  41. Pamela says:

    Great tips! Concerning putting vinegar in the wash; in researching some fabric dying methods, vinegar was said to eat/deteriorate fabric over time. I was using it in my wash, but not now. I just add about 1/4 cup of baking soda. As to the sour smell that gets in towels, just add a cup of hydrogen peroxide to the wash and the smell is gone. Thanks for the information.

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