Get rid of washing machine smells

 This article looks at how to get rid of mouldy, musty or bad smells from washing machines, and points to the causes so as to protect from the problem in the first place or prevent re-occurrence.

There are various products available online and in supermarkets claiming to freshen up washing machines and get rid of bad odours. My personal experience with these products (which are also aimed at dishwashers) is that they do a good job of freshening up a relatively clean washer or dishwasher but are not so good at curing a genuinely smelly one. If your appliance is seriously smelly, especially if coated in black mould or greasy gunge, then it can be very difficult or even impossible to cure but there are some things worth trying..

Carry out one or more maintenance washes

Hot wash

90° or 95°

Not many people use hot washes any more, and this is partly to blame for the bad smells because hot water helps to kill bacteria and cut down grease. (Causes of grease, slime and black mould inside washing machine). One of the first things to try is to put the washing machine on a boil wash cycle (90° or 95°) with detergent inside – but no laundry. You may need to try this more than once.

 Also, you could try to clean the washing machine inside using soda crystals which dissolve grease. I recommend putting half a packet inside the drum and washing on a boil wash (or follow instructions on the packet). Using this method every month or so, or using ordinary detergent if no soda crystals are available can help prevent smells from your washing machine. If your washing machine is badly affected by grease and slime, it may be very difficult to remove it.

This is particularly important if you mostly use low temperature washes and (or) liquid detergent, and other washing machine detergent which doesn’t contain bleaching agents such as colour friendly detergent. If you do, then buy some detergent that does, and use it for your maintenance washes. This will help kill off bacteria and prevent black mould and grease. Tip: Look for something like, "bleaching agents" in the ingredients.

Don’t put chemical cleaning bleach in the washing machine, there are certain types of bleach (eg. oxygen bleach) that are appropriate for laundry.

Get rid of washing machine odours using vinegar

White Vinegar White distilled vinegar has an array of uses. Try putting half a cup of white (distilled) vinegar inside an empty machine and put it on a boil wash. Note that because the first bit of water goes into the sump hose and is sealed off, I recommend that you wait until the washing machine has been filling for about 15 seconds before pouring the vinegar into the soap drawer where water is running in to let it wash down into the machine. I've had reports back from people that this does actually work.

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(This is a completely revised and updated article first published in 2002 on my other site Washerhelp )

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Comments

  1. Apparently “Affresh” is said to be the best washing machine cleaner on the market. What do you think? Affresh also make tablets for cleaning the internals of the dishwasher.

  2. Afresh is one of the products I meant when I said I’d found they were good at freshening up a relatively clean washer or dishwasher but not so good at curing a genuinely smelly one. Have you found it any good for particularly dirty smelly appliances?

  3. I use affresh and it does keep the washing machine clean. I have recently used their dishwasher cleaner and you can see the difference inside the dishwasher after using the stuff. :)

    I don’t know how well affresh cleans washing machines and dishwashers which are already smelly because they have not been cleaned monthly, but the instructions do say that more than one use is required in particularly dirty appliances. From what I’ve read about affresh, it’s meant to be better than bleach and it sends all of the dirty gunk down the drain. Anyway, I’m sure people call out an engineer when their washing machine or dishwasher is always smelling bad.

  4. I’ve also found the cleaning products leave our dishwasher smelling and looking lovely (lemon) but our dishwasher is nice and clean anyway. I don’t think they can help much with a really bad smelly appliance although repeated uses may help. I’d be happy to promote any product that can genuinely cure a really smelly washing machine covered in grease slime and gunge inside.

  5. avatar Steve Parrett says:

    Drum Cleaning: Just purchased a Beko washing machine which recommends a ‘ cotton-90′ wash cycle for drum cleaning before proper washing. This cycle lasts for 150 min !! Is it really necessary to have it on for this length of time?

  6. That’s a ridiculous amount of time Steve. Washers should have a proper maintenance wash cycle by now. I would let the machine do the wash when using it for a maintenance wash to clean the washer and when it’s emptied the boiling water out and done one rinse I’d abort the program which has done its cleaning job. It’s not perfect solution but should save 20 minutes or more.

  7. avatar Steve Parrett says:

    Thanks for guidance. I did that by aborting the 90 degree wash after 30 min and changing programme to ‘spin/drain’ with no spin option, ie: draining water. Seems to be satisfactory.

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