Why Your Front-Loading Washing Machine Stinks — and How to Clear Up the Smell

by Michael Franco
inside of a washing machine drum

Ahhh. There’s nothing like the smell of clean, freshly laundered clothing. But when a whiff of something stinky emanates from your front-loading washing machine each time you open the door, it can make you seriously wonder about the cleanliness of your clothing.

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So why does a machine that’s supposed to be cleaning smell so terrible? Here’s the why and advice on how to fix it.

Why Does My Washing Machine Smell?

The most common reasons for a front-loading washer to smell are mold and mildew. Newer, front-loading washing machines are made to clean efficiently, which means they use less water. This is great, but it also means you need to use detergents made for high-efficiency washing machines. This is because if too much detergent is used, the smaller amount of water the devices use won’t be enough to rid your clothes or the machine of the excess soap. This can result in soap scum build-up in the machine, which can be a breeding ground for stinky mildew or mold.

And let’s be honest. You're washing your clothes because they are dirty and smelly. Sometimes, excess dirt from clothing doesn’t get rinsed away. This, along with body oil and hair, can also be left behind, causing an unwelcome smell.

Washing machines are naturally damp environments. Front-loaders also have rubber gaskets around the door to prevent leaks. The soap residue and leftover dirt can get trapped around and under this rubber. Which again may lead to mold and mildew.

Bonus tip: Remove wet clothing from the washer as soon as the load has ended. Leaving damp clothing in the washer too long can make your clothes start to smell, but even worse, that moist environment encourages mildew to take hold.

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Cleaning a Smelly Washing Machine

Getting rid of that funky washing machine smell can easily be done with products you already have in your home.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Sponge
  • Small brush, such as an old toothbrush

Cleaning the Machine:

Step 1: Prepare the Cleaning Solution

Combine one-quarter cup baking soda and one-quarter cup water and pour it into the machine’s detergent container.

Step 2: Add Vinegar

Pour two cups of white vinegar directly into your washing machine.

Step 3: Wash

Run a high-heat washing cycle.

Step 4: Prepare a Second Cleaning Solution

Mix one part water and one part vinegar in a small bucket or large bowl.

Step 5: Clean the Machine’s Interior

When the washing cycle is done, use the vinegar solution and the sponge to tackle any mold or mildew spots in the machine, around the door and especially under the rubber gasket.

Step 6: Clean the Detergent Tray

Remove the detergent tray and give it a clean. Use the vinegar solution to sponge it down, and use the brush to get into any small corners to thoroughly remove any mildew.

Step 7: Check the Drain

Pour boiling water down the drain to dissolve anything blocking it. You can also purchase commercial unclogging products if a blocked drain seems to be the cause of your smell.

Step 8: Clean Your Filter

Remove the filter, empty it of debris and wipe it with soapy water. Let it dry and replace it.

Step 9: Dry

Leave the machine door open to allow the machine to air out and dry thoroughly.

Some front-loading washing machines have a cleaning cycle. This can be called different things by different manufacturers. Check your owner’s manual to see if your device has a cleaning cycle and how to run it. If there are recommended intervals to do a cleaning cycle, follow them.

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Keeping It Fresh

Now that your front-loading washing machine smells fresh and clean, let's keep it that way. Always choose high-efficiency laundry detergents or one recommended by your machine’s manufacturer. Fabric softeners should also not be used in front-loading machines. Remember to use the recommended amount of high-efficiency laundry detergent. These detergents are manufactured to work well with the amount of water a front-loading machine uses.

Leave the door open after doing a load to allow the inner drum to dry. If your laundry room is humid, consider running a fan to encourage airflow or perhaps a dehumidifier. Stay on top of mildew growth by regularly wiping out your machine and especially the rubber gasket, with a mix of one part white vinegar and one part water. Don’t forget to clean the filter and check the drain. You should do a preventative mildew clean every two to three months.

If you’ve been keeping up with your cleaning regime and don’t see any mold or mildew building up, there may be another issue with your front-loading washing machine. Call a professional who can thoroughly check all the appliance parts, identify where the smell is coming from (or what may be causing it) and make recommendations on how to finally get rid of the stink.

Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. Systems, equipment, issues and circumstances vary. Follow the manufacturer's safety precautions. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of the Blog is subject to the

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The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of eLocal Editorial Content is subject to the

Website Terms and Conditions.

The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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