Tips to Cure a Stinky Washer

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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49 thoughts on “Tips to Cure a Stinky Washer

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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??????

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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

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  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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