15 Genius Tips For Getting Rid Of Washing Machine Smells

Laundry Day happens to be the most popular chore day of the week. Right? That may be a slight exaggeration, but imagine opening the lid of your washer, and whew! There's an awful scent that you don't recognize. So how can you get rid of those stinky washing machine smells? Or worse yet, what would cause those odors in the first place?

You're in luck because we have some tips to share with you about ... well ... washing out your washer, especially if it needs a good, deep cleaning. Additionally, we'll share some maintenance hacks for a daily or weekly tidying-up that'll take just a few minutes, as noted by Better Homes & Gardens. For this task, you will need the following items: an old toothbrush, pipe cleaners, cotton swabs, washcloths, bleach, Borax, white vinegar, baking soda, some lemons, and your owner's manual in case you can't locate dispensers and other parts right away.

1. Remove and clean the dispensers

First, the dispensers need to be cleaned to prevent washing machine smells from recurring, as recommended on Downy's website. Start with spraying the outside of the detergent dispenser with white vinegar and wiping it down. Then, you'll dip the toothbrush into the vinegar and scrub the opening and crevices; plus use the pipe cleaner to clean the mildew out. From there, you'll follow the same process for the fabric softener dispenser.

In the front loading models, you'll pull the dispenser drawer out and remove the inserts. Then, you'll wash them in warm water.

2. Sanitize with bleach

As advised by Bob Vila, try running a hot water cycle mixed with bleach. For front loading machines you'll need to add 2 cups, and for the top loading type 4 cups will do the trick. Once the tub has filled up, you'll let the agitator run until the bleach is diluted. Then, you'll stop the cycle to let the bleach and water stand for 30 minutes. Afterward, you'll let the cycle finish, and then rinse afterward to clear out the bleach. Keep the lid open for an hour to allow for drying.

3. Deodorize with vinegar

Vinegar, a powerful cleaner, effectively gets rid of washing machine smells, as noted by Bob Vila. You'll start with setting your washer to the hottest temperature, then add 4 cups of plain white vinegar to your tub. If you have the front load type, then 2 cups will work. To avoid any unwanted chemical reactions (and additional bad smells), you'll need to stick with plain vinegar by itself and not mix it with bleach. Once the tub fills, you'll stop the cycle, wait for 30 minutes, and restart. Rinse. And voilà! No odor.

4. Scrub the gasket

For front loaders, cleaning the gasket eliminates washing machine smells, especially if mildew and bacteria have accumulated underneath. For this task, you'll wipe the outer part of the seal with white vinegar. Or as mentioned in Today's Homeowner, you can also use mildew cleaner.

Now, here's the fun part: You'll need to carefully pull the edge of the gasket and spray the inside with the mildew cleaner or white vinegar and wipe completely. If you clean this area once a week or at least every other week, you'll ward off the weird washing machine smells.

5. Replace the gasket

On the other hand, you might have to change out the gasket entirely, which involves referring to your owner's manual for removing and replacing this part, as outlined by SF Gate. Likewise, you'll unplug the appliance and lean it back against the wall to be able to access the door and gasket. Also, you'll need to remember three important tips: don't detach the control panel, disinfect the area once the gasket is removed, and use a wet/dry vacuum to clear out any lint in the inner and outer channels before lubricating and installing the new gasket.

6. Check and clear the standpipe

Per Hoover's blog, the standpipe could be the cause of lingering washing machine smells. As time passes, it can get blocked and eventually cause a back up in the drain. To clear this out, you'll need a drain cleaner that's strong enough to clear out grease, lint, or dirt. Basically, you'll follow the instructions on the container, but once this pipe is cleared, you'll have no more odors. However, if you still notice a smell and standing water, then you might have to use a pipe snake or call a professional plumber.

7. Wipe the drum (tub) in between loads

Periodically, you'll also wipe the drum or tub with a soft cloth or sponge and white vinegar or a bleach and water solution. After ensuring that the inside is dry, you'll spray the sides and the bottom (or the back in the case of a front loader) with the cleaner and start wiping away. If you still have some residue or mildew on the walls of the drum or tub, try using a hard-bristled, nylon brush to scrub as recommended by the Molly Maid company. This method serves as easy an weekly maintenance.

8. Dry the drum or tub on a consistent basis

An additional daily hack is to let your washer dry after your final load. If you're lucky, your washer already comes with an amazing "tub dry" cycle like that referred to in the Toshiba AW-B110GM owner's manual where you'll select the Tub Dry function. However, if your washer is an older model or doesn't have this handy function, then you'll leave the door open, thus allowing the inside to dry naturally, or you can strategically place a fan nearby.

9. Run a cycle with baking soda

You can also eliminate washing machine smells by running a cycle with baking soda which removes any detergent residue; that's why it's a great prep before sanitizing or serves well as a bi-weekly cleanse. You'll add 2 cups of baking soda, as recommended by Clean My Space, to the hottest water setting or the "Clean Tub" cycle. Then, run a long cycle with hot water, and if needed, an extra rinse cycle afterward. Once the cycles are finished, you'll leave the door open or wipe with a dry towel.

10. Periodically run a cleaning cycle

Per Architectural Digest's recommendation, you should run your "Clean Tub" cycle on a monthly basis while using bleach or vinegar — but no detergent. Likewise, you can use a cleaner that's specifically designed for washing the washer, like Afresh. Another helpful hint is to get a clean towel and soak it in a paste made from baking soda and vinegar. Then, run it through the "Clean Tub" cycle to get rid of the washing machine smells.

11. Check the vent

If the washing machine smells like a sewer, you'll need to check the vent pipe on your roof. Remember that if you're not comfortable with heights, then you should call a plumber, as noted in SF Gate. Furthermore, you might encounter sewer fumes if there is a clog which are dangerous. With that being said, if you're still able to check the vent, you'll look for leaves, dirt, or debris and carefully remove them. However, if you still notice a rancid odor emitting from your washer, then you'll definitely need to call a plumber.

12. Clean the lint filter

Another detail that gets forgotten is the lint filter which accumulates dirt and mold. Fortunately, the process is simple as outlined by Appliance Care's blog. First you remove your lint filter according to your manual, then you'll soak it in hot, soapy water for a few minutes and afterward scrub it with a soft toothbrush. After rinsing, let it dry before placing it back in your washing machine. In case you have a lint filter that's not removable, you'll just scrub it with a toothbrush or cloth and hot water until you remove all lint and detergent.

13. Add a citric acid to the tub or drum

White vinegar makes a great cleaning solvent, but if you're looking for something more acidic and less odorous, try lemon juice. You'll follow the same process as if you were deodorizing with vinegar, except you'll add 5 to 10 tablespoons of plain lemon juice to the water, according to the instructions that are found on My Cleaning Solutions. Also, you'll wait for two hours at the halfway point instead of one to allow for extensive descaling, which is important if you happen to have hard water.

14. Try a Borax combo

If you want to try a solution that has a high alkaline level and obliterates bacteria, soap residue, and mildew, you can incorporate Borax. In fact, Tips Bulletin gives suggestions for mixing 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of bleach, while another includes Oxyclean. The same instructions apply where you run the cycle, and then stop halfway to allow it to sit. As mentioned, you'll let the cycle finish and run another rinse to clear out the mixture. 

15. Don't leave wet clothes in washing machine

A final tip as mentioned by Martha Stewart is to quickly unload your washing machine. While leaving clothes in the washer overnight once in a while doesn't hurt, you shouldn't make it a habit either since it leads to odors. So the less often you leave wet laundry sitting, the better off your appliance and your clothing will be.

As you can see, a consistent routine will get rid of your washing machine smells and keep your laundry smelling fresh. By applying these tips, you'll be happy with the (odorless) results.