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How to clean a smelly washing machine?

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Key Points:

  1. WikiHow is a pretty good source for small DIY project. Those small fixes are not complex and can be reliably used whenever there are issues.

  2. WikiHow has many similar articles about cleaning a washing machine, but we have picked the best article available for your convenience.

We use washing machine quite often. Without proper cleaning, it could become smelly.

Here we quote the best way to clean a smelly washing machine provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Clean a Smelly Washing Machine. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

A clean washing machine should leave you with nice-smelling, pleasantly clean laundry. However, if your washing machine gets dirty, it can lead to foul or mildew-scented laundry over time. If your washing machine start to smell, you should clean the machine itself. But you should also run some baking soda and vinegar through the machine. With a little bit of care and maintenance, you can keep your washing machine smelling nice all year long.

Part 1: Deodorizing with Baking Soda and Vinegar

1. Make the cleaning solution. Mix together 1⁄4 c (59 mL) of water and 1⁄4 c (59 mL) of baking soda in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the washing machine’s detergent container where you normally put the laundry detergent.

  • Do not pour the mixture directly into the main cavity (the drum) of the washing machine.

2. Add vinegar. Purchase some distilled white vinegar to help clean the inside of the washing machine. Pour 2 c (470 mL) of the vinegar directly into the drum.

  • Make sure nothing else is in the machine when you pour the vinegar inside.

3. Run the machine on a regular cycle. Once you have added the baking soda solution and the vinegar, run the machine on a regular cycle. Use a full cycle setting, not just a spin cycle or a rinse cycle.

  • Run the machine on the warm/hot setting.

  • Again, make sure you don’t have any clothes or other laundry inside the machine while you run it. Otherwise, they will smell like vinegar when the cycle is done.

4. Wipe down the inside of the drum. Once you have finished running the machine with the vinegar and cleaning solution inside, wipe down the interior of the washing machine to help remove any remaining vinegar smell.

  • Use a sponge to scrub the inside of the machine. Be sure to get into all of the nooks and crannies or the interior.

Part 2: Cleaning the Exterior and Gasket

1. Unplug the washing machine. Before you begin cleaning the washing machine, make sure the machine is completely powered off. Just to be on the safe side, you may want to consider unplugging the machine from the electrical outlet.

  • Cleaning the machine while it is still on could create a dangerous situation for you or damage the machine.

2. Wipe down the outside surface. Accumulation of mold and mildew on the components of the washing machine is a major cause for unpleasant odor. Use a clean sponge or washrag to wipe down to exterior surface of the machine. Make a mixture of 1 c (240 mL) warm water and one tablespoon of bleach and dip the sponge in it. Be sure to wring out any excess water before you begin scrubbing.

  • You should wear rubber gloves any time you are handling bleach cleaning solution.

  • Try to get the bleach cleaner in all of the cracks and crannies of the washing machine. You can use a Q-tip dipped in the bleach/water solution to get into really hard-to-reach areas.

3. Clean the gasket and seal. Get rid of any dirt or grime from the washing machine gasket and the seal at the opening of the machine. Remove the gasket and use a damp cloth or paper towel to scrub away any residue. You can also add a tiny bit of bleach cleaning solution to warm water and use this to clean it.

  • A dirty seal is one of the biggest problems that leads to odor in washing machines. Cleaning this regularly can really help a lot.

Part 3: Preventing Unpleasant Odors

1. Wipe down the interior surfaces of the washing machine regularly. If you leave your washing machine untouched, it can start to get smelly over time. A good preventative measure is to wipe down the interior surfaces on a regular basis to avoid buildups of grime and residue.

  • Use a warm washcloth to wipe down the interior. Be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.

  • You can also use a bit of vinegar to help sanitize the inside of your washing machine.

2. Sterilize with bleach. Add 2 c (470 mL) of bleach to the detergent container on your washing machine. Run the empty laundry machine on a hot cycle, but stop the machine as soon as the water starts swishing around. You can usually stop the machine by pressing pause, pulling out the knob, or using another method indicated in the instruction manual.

  • Let the hot water and bleach sit in the washing machine for approximately 30 minutes.

  • Then finish running the load so the remaining traces of bleach are removed.

  • Make sure you rinse out the bleach thoroughly before using the washing machine again. If there is any remaining bleach, it could possibly stain your laundry or anything else it comes into contact with.

3. Use detergents made for high-efficiency machines. Laundry detergents that are made for use in high-efficiency washing machines are better at maintaining cleanliness because they produce fewer suds during the cleaning process than regular detergents. This means that some of the excess particles may not get rinsed out of your clothes or your washing machine.

  • Using the high-efficiency detergent on a daily basis will help keep your machine fresher longer, and will allow you to clean your washing machine less frequently.

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