Why Your Washing Machine Smells And How To Clean It

The washing machine is a big trouble buster for all homes! This is because it makes the otherwise difficult task of cleaning clothes as something so simple that making a cup of tea would sound difficult.

Just imagine a day without the washing machine and washing the clothes manually.

All hell breaks loose! And this can very much be a reality if the washing machine starts smelling and one has to go near it with nose clamped. Not a very happening prospect!

Equally depressing will be the thought of having to wash your clothes with the bare hands till the washing machine is repaired. This is going to upset the entire schedule of the day and leave you irritated.

What are the Reasons for the Foul Smell in Washing Machines?

So the best way is to know those small reasons which can lead to such a saga. We can then look for a suitable solution for removing the smell and prevent it from coming up again.

There may be several reasons like:

  • Stagnant used water which causes bacteria build-up. This happens due to small blockages that come in the drainage system which can over a period of time result in the accumulation of water in the washing machine.
  • Damp and wet clothes placed in the drum for a long time. This may be due to a hectic work schedule or a suddenly planned weekend trip when there is no time to wash and dry the clothes.
  • A build-up of soap scum in the internal parts which starts giving an odor. This is again a blockage related issue when the froth or the scum refuses to drain out completely.
  • Detergent accumulation within the machine due to small blockages or slow drainage. This mostly happens within the detergent drawer when it is not properly and regularly cleaned.
  • Issues with the washing machine door rubber seal. This is quite common in front load washing machines. The water seeps into the rubber seal. This can result in bacterial build-up if the rubber seal if not allowed to dry or cleaned regularly.
  • The issue with the drainpipe which takes out the water. This is the connecting pipe to the machine which drains out the water. The drain pipe can choke over a period of time. In such a case the water may not be drained properly which leads to bacterial build-up and foul smell.
  • Apart from these parts, there may be issues with the engine parts and accessories of the washing machine itself, although the chances are very rare.

Also Read: 5 Common Washing Machine Problems and Their Easy Solutions

How to Prevent your Washing Machine from Smelling?

There are simple steps that can be taken to solve this problem and prevent any smell coming from the washing machine.

  • The smell of mould in the machine or in the clothes is a strong indication that the mould has started coming in the washing machine. If this smell or odour is coming from the front loader, then the best way is to use distilled white vinegar. Simply add 3 cups of vinegar and run a hot water cycle without any clothes. This will remove any bacteria or mould and the foul smell.
Clean with Vinegar
  • Run a ‘Drum Clean’ or ‘Auto Clean’ cycle. This means running the machines like any other wash but without any clothes in it. This is can be done once in a month or in a regular cycle. The other option would be to have a drum cleaning program. Both these will be mentioned on the machine manual and it can be clarified from the manufacturer as well. The drawback to this hot wash or drum cleaning is that it consumes more energy.
Run Drum Clean Cycle
  • One of the biggest causes is the rubber seal of the door where the bacteria and mould can fester without you ever noticing it until the smell actually starts irritating. It is better to give a mild scrub after every couple of washing sessions. This will prevent any accumulation of mould or bacteria. In an eventuality that the mould has festered deep in through the porous parts of the rubber, the scrub may not help. It is better to replace the seal without any delay.
Clean Washing Machine Door Rubber Seal
  • The other place where mould and bacteria accumulate is the detergent drawer. This is used every time for the washing session and there is slow wetness that comes on to it without it being very noticeable. The lint filter can also cause mould to fester. It is a must to clean both on a regular basis and keep them dry. The instruction manual can be used for the cleaning purpose.
Clean Detergent Drawer
  • After every session, the door lid should be kept open so that there is proper air circulation in the washing drum and it gets dried out completely. Keeping the door open also helps the rubber seal to dry. It is also important to keep the detergent drawer open for the same reasons i.e. proper air circulation.
Keep Washing Machine Door Open After Every Wash
  • The storage of water or foam in the machine may also be due to a blockage in the drainpipe. If this is the reason, then it should be drained out using a drain unblock solution powder. If the problem still persists, then it is better to call a professional to repair the same.


The steps mentioned here can prevent any foul smell from developing in your washing machine. These are simple steps that you can easily follow, even if you are facing this problem for the first time! However, a little caution beforehand will go a long way in ensuring that this problem of your washing machine smelling foul does not come back again.

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