Last updated on January 18th, 2018
Causes of grease, slime and black mould inside washing machines
Washing machines now commonly suffer from a build up of a greasy slime and bacteria. A regular maintenance wash using the hottest wash cycle (or at least 60 °) is now essential for most people. Failure to do so usually results in washing machine smells and a shortened lifespan. There are several breakdowns and faults associated with this grease and slime. Laundry can also pick up dirty marks from it.
Various appliance cleaning products are available. They claim to freshen up washing machines and dishwashers leaving them free of bad odours. They do a good job of freshening up a relatively clean washer or dishwasher. I’ve not found them as effective at curing a genuinely smelly washing machine though. Especially if the problem has been allowed to get really bad. If your appliance is seriously smelly, and coated in black mould or greasy gunge, then it can be very difficult or even impossible to cure.
Washing machines can be seriously damaged by this gunge
Grease and slime has built up on the underside of this door seal. It smells. This level of slime will have infested the whole washing machine inside. The owner only used liquid detergents and low temperature washes. Examine the underside of your door seal for slime and grease. Pull it back where it fits up to the lip of the inner drum and look underneath. Is the door seal and lip of the main drum covered in grease and limescale? If so you have a problem that needs dealing with.
Best consumer news & advice Why subscribe to Which? ”
What causes washing machine smells?
Most people don’t use hot washes any more. Hot water (above 60°) helps to kill bacteria and cut down grease. If you mostly use low temperature washes, especially in combination with liquid detergent, then this maintenance wash is particularly important. Likewise if you mostly use washing machine detergent that doesn’t contain bleaching agents such as colour friendly detergent.
The best way to avoid a smelly washing machine is to use good quality powder detergent. Also regularly use the hot washes. It’s important to use the proper quantity of detergent. Not using enough may produce acceptable wash results but at a heavy price for the washing machine inside. Try to wash bedding and towels at 60 °. In theory if you do this you shouldn’t have a problem with smells, grease, bacteria or limescale. If you insist on using low temperature washes and liquid detergent you should do a hot maintenance wash once a week. Washing at 30 degrees
The smell is the least of your problems
This gunge also rots hoses & door seals. It blocks the pressure system causing overfilling or spin failure. It even eats away at the aluminium based drum spiders causing one or more of the drum’s arms to disintegrate. It’s usually fatal to the washing machine.
Almost everyone suffering the worst cases of this slimy grease uses 40° or 30° washes almost exclusively. If combined with poor quality detergents, not using the recommended quantities, or only using colour-friendly or liquid detergent it allows bacteria to thrive. Over time this can seriously rot a washing machine inside.
Do a regular maintenance wash
Some washing machines now have a special wash cycle to clean the washing machine. If not, use the methods described on this page.
How to get rid of washing machine smells
Badly affected washing machines caked in bacteria and gunge may be beyond help. There are things you can try though. One of the first things to try is to put the washing machine on a boil wash cycle (90° or 95°). Use detergent – but no laundry. You may need to try this several times with only a marginal difference after each cycle.
Soda crystals dissolve grease. So you might also want to try to clean the washing machine inside with them. Pour half a packet inside the soap drawer whilst it’s filling with water. Using this method every month or so can help prevent smells from your washing machine. Remember it will be difficult to remove grease and slime if your washing machine is badly affected.
Get rid of washing machine odours using vinegar
White distilled vinegar has an array of uses. I’ve had reports back from people saying that distilled white vinegar does actually work. Try putting half a cup of white (distilled) vinegar inside an empty washing machine on a boil wash cycle. The best way to do this is to wait until the washing machine has been filling for several seconds before pouring the vinegar into the soap drawer. Don’t place it inside the drum. If you do the vinegar may run straight into the sump hose and be wasted.
Products to get rid of appliance smells
Smells from the plumbing
Plumbing faults can also be responsible for washing machine or dishwasher smells. Check out this article for more details – smells caused by plumbing faults.
Find white goods appliance repairs
Try my list of various white goods appliance repairers