I’ve been around home appliances for a very long time, and if there’s one complaint I hear more than others, it’s why does my washer smell so bad? To be more accurate, the smell issue wasn’t a big deal until the advent of residential front load washers. Top load washers smell, too, but not as bad as their front loading counterparts.

What Causes the Smell?

After washing clothes for a time, the buildup of dirt and soap that doesn’t make it to the drain starts to smell and gets to the point you can detect a foul odor emanating from the washer. If you can smell it here, you can smell it in your clothes, too. It’s an unpleasant smell and a terrific motivator to find a solution!

Before I explain how to end the smell once and for all, I’ll provide some help to prevent the smell from front-load washers. Most of the tips work for top load washers, too. Bear in mind stopping the smell requires a routine of simple steps designed to keep your washer clean and your clothes smelling their best.

An Ounce (literally) of Prevention

One trigger for a smelly washer is too much soap. Yes, you read that right. A tablespoon of soap equals one-half ounce. Never use over two tablespoons, and only for heavily soiled clothes. A standard load requires one or one and a half tablespoons of soap.

Modern washers use the HE (high efficiency) process. The HE process requires three elements working in harmony to produce clean clothes.

The three elements are:

  1. The right type and amount of soap (HE in every case!)
  2. The right amount of water (automatically set by the washer)
  3. High spin speed

Each element has its own requirements. HE soap is a type of soap, not a brand name. All soap manufacturers make HE soap and conventional soap for washers. Although they look the same and smell the same, they are not the same!

Here’s a tip to remember about the soap: If the bottle label of the soap states it’s OK to use for HE and conventional washers, it’s not true HE soap. The two are different and meant for different uses. Using non-HE soap in a modern washer creates suds and leads to over-soaping.  

You may notice a lack of suds in your HE washer. This tells you two things. First, you’re not over-soaping your wash, and you’re using HE soap. Non-sudsing soap is the hallmark of HE soap. Suds do nothing for cleaning clothes and show an over-soaping condition (HE soap will suds up somewhat if you use too much).

Too much soap in your washer creates a buildup on the outside wall of the basket and the inside wall of the tub (the tub holds the water). The soap mixes with dirt, eventually creating that dreaded smell.

The basket and tub are the two main areas to concentrate your efforts to eliminate the smell. Besides the tub, the grey colored boot on front load washers contributes to the smell and the mold and mildew make the area unsightly.

Let’s Get Rid of the Smell

Eliminating the smell can get tricky if you never cleaned your washer. Most modern washers include a clean cycle to help rid the washer of smell. However, not all washer cleaners do a good job, especially those made with baking soda as its main cleaner. It seems these are basic cleaners with added perfume.

You need to use a strong cleaner designed to remove built-up dirt, mildew, and mold. The only product I know of that’s capable is Washer Magic, made by Glisten from Summit Brands. This cleaner uses citric acid for its main cleaner, and it disinfects, too.

If, after one application you still notice the smell, perform an empty rinse/spin cycle to remove any lingering dirt. Do another application just like the first, and another empty rinse/spin cycle. You should notice an improvement after the second, or third application if needed. After the smell is gone, it’s a good idea to schedule a cleaning at least once a month to prevent the problem from coming back. Another technique involves the use of one cup of white vinegar in place of Washer Magic. However, vinegar is corrosive so I wouldn’t use it often.

What About the Smell from the Boot?

With a front load washer, the grey door boot gets musty smelling over time and if it’s bad enough, needs replacing. If the boot isn’t too far gone, try using Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner to help remove some of the buildup. It also disinfects and kills bacteria.

Try to keep the washer door open when you’re not using it to allow air to dry out crevices where bacteria loves to grow. When you’re done washing for the day, wipe down the boot inside and out with a rag dampened with Scrubbing Bubbles to disinfect it.  

I hope the tips provided here help in your quest to rid your washer from that disgusting smell! If you stick with it, you can end the smell forever, but you need to stay on a cleaning schedule. It’s a routine you’ll be glad to do so you can enjoy clean smelling clothes and fabrics, too.

Thanks for reading today, and check back to the blog regularly to read more tips and suggestions to help keep your appliances running their best. Have you read our post about the Top Five Preventative Measures for Home Appliances? You can check it out here. We love to hear from our readers, so if you like what you read, please feel free to leave a comment below!


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