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How to Clean a Smelly Washing Machine

“Why does my washing machine smell?” is a question you might occasionally find yourself asking, especially in the damp monsoon season. Over time, the lovely smell of fresh clothes may start to disappear if the washing machine itself doesn’t smell that fresh any more: Fortunately, however, this is an easy thing to fix! This article explains why your washing machine smells bad – and provides handy cleaning tips designed to bring the wonderful fragrance of clean laundry back to your machine.

Why does my washing machine smell?

If your washing machine smells, it’s most likely due to a build-up of bacteria, which can fester in various places where there’s residual detergent, mould, or lint (which is an accumulation of cloth fibres). Lint and detergent will naturally accumulate with use, and mould thrives in humid environments – making cleaning your washing machine a particularly good idea if you want to avoid undesirable smells.

What to do if your washing machine smells

So, how do you clean a smelly washing machine? The following steps, explaining how to remove bad smells from washing machine parts, should help. Before you attempt to deal with a smelly washing machine, however, be sure to unplug the machine first for safety. When using powerful cleaning products like bleach, it’s important to spray them in a well-ventilated area, wear gloves, and to always read the product label first.

  1. Scrub out the Detergent Drawer 

    In front loading washing machines, the detergent drawer can often get dirty. Remove the soap detergent drawer to clean it out thoroughly. You’ll need to follow the instructions on your washing machine manual to do this properly, but many drawers pop out easily without any unscrewing.

    Check the drawer cavity for mould, and scrub it out using a household kitchen bleach spray and an old toothbrush. Next, scrub the entire drawer inside and out, rinse it, and dry every part before putting the drawer back into the cavity. It’s a good idea to clean this part of your machine every few months to prevent any mould or detergent residue from building up.

  2. Clean the Lint Filter

    Checking the lint filter is another way to remove bad smell from washing machine parts. Damp lint is a breeding ground for mould, so you should ideally remove any lint from your filter on a weekly basis. Before you open the filter compartment, put a towel on the ground below to catch any trapped water. Pick out any lint from the filter, and then clean the filter in your sink.

  3. Clean the Rubber Door Seal

    If you have a front-loading washing machine, another place to check is the rubber door seal, also known as the door gasket. Water collects at the bottom of the seal, and mould can start to grow there. Use a sponge or cloth to wipe off any mould lurking along the door seal.

  4. Run an Empty Wash with Vinegar

    This is the best answer if you want to know how to clean a smelly washing machine drum. Re-plug your washing machine to a power source, and pour in 3 cups of distilled white vinegar. Run a hot water cycle without any clothes in the drum. Don’t worry – this won’t cause your machine to smell like vinegar! This will be sure to flush out any bacteria or mould. If you don’t have any white vinegar, you can just use hot water.

  5. Regular Maintenance Washes

    Finally, to keep your washing machine smelling fresh, run a few maintenance washes each year – this is an essential aspect of basic washing machine care. Again, it’s just a hot water wash with no clothes. Some washing machines, such as this Electrolux model or this model from Godrej have a handy self-cleaning option – check your machine manual to find out how to take advantage of this feature. Not that difficult, is it? By following these easy tips, your laundry will always come out smelling fresh.

Tips for Cleaning Washing Machines from Our Matic Mums

Our Matic Mums have great ideas for cleaning smelly washing machines.

Here are some of their best tips:

Nidhi Gupta: "Leave the door open till your washing machine is completely dry."

Dipali Singh: "Use a half cup of vinegar with four mugs of water on your machine without cloths for ten minutes. It will be clean inside. Clean your machine with a soft cloth after a complete wash."

Hansa Parmar: "After using it, always dry it completely and if it smells then vinegar is the best option."

Did these tips help you? Do you have any tips of your own on how to clean a smelly washing machine?