FAQ: Why does my washing machine smell?

Doing the laundry can be unpleasant enough for some without an unpleasant smell coming from the washing machine!

If your washing machine has developed a funky odour, read on for information on how to get rid of it. We’ve also got some tips on how to prevent bad smells.

As a rule, if a washing machine or any of its parts have lingering moisture, debris or residue, this creates a perfect environment for bacteria and mould growth. And that’s where nasty smells come from.

Just like leaving food in your fridge for too long can let it develop an odour, so too can leaving residue or a blockage in the washing machine unattended.

Where washing machine smells can come from

A bad washing machine odour can originate from any one of its parts:

  • Sump Hose
  • Drum
  • Heating Elements
  • Detergent Dispenser Drawer
  • Door Seal
  • Filter

Before you notice a smell in the washing machine, you may at first think that it’s just your towels that are smelling a bit off. Made from thick cotton, towels are very absorbent so if something is amiss in the washing machine they will pick it up when they go through the wash. So as soon as you get a strange whiff from your towels – or even other cotton items - you should look to the washing machine for the source.

How washing machine smells develop

  • While washing at a low temperature is more energy-efficient, doing it regularly can result in an odour because low temperature water does not get rid of bacteria effectively
  • Similarly with using a water-efficient setting, if you add too much detergent, the lower water level does not wash all of it away, leaving the drum coated in soap scum
  • A blocked filter

How to get rid of a bad smell

  1. Start by wiping down the gasket (the rubber door seal) with hot soapy water, mould cleaner or a bleach solution
  2. You may find there are some hard spots that rubbing won’t clean –  try scrubbing these areas with an old toothbrush
  3. Remove the detergent dispenser drawer and give it a thorough rinse
  4. Run a very hot wash cycle with either 1 cup of bleach, 1 cup of baking soda and ½ cup of vinegar, or a cleaner specially designed for washing machines
  5. Mould spores need one thing to flourish: dampness. A well-ventilated laundry room will ensure moisture does not linger. By the same token, keep the washing machine door and detergent dispenser drawer open for a short while after each use to allow any water residue to dry out.
  6. Make sure you use the right detergent for your type of washing machine, always follow the instructions on the box and measure out the correct amount of powder/liquid; when you use too much detergent and/or fabric softener that’s when you get residue
  7. Always remove wet clothes immediately after a wash cycle has finished. This is where a delay end feature really comes in handy!
  8. Regularly clean out the pump filter and lint filter
  9. Clean the detergent dispenser drawer and the washing machine every few weeks 

How to prevent mould and bad smells in your washing machine

  1. Mould spores need one thing to flourish: dampness. A well-ventilated laundry room will ensure moisture does not linger. By the same token, keep the washing machine door and detergent dispenser drawer open for a short while after each use to allow any water residue to dry out.
  2. Make sure you use the right detergent for your type of washing machine, always follow the instructions on the box and measure out the correct amount of powder/liquid; when you use too much detergent and/or fabric softener that’s when you get residue
  3. Always remove wet clothes immediately after a wash cycle has finished. This is where a delay end feature really comes in handy!
  4. Regularly clean out the pump filter and lint filter
  5. Clean the detergent dispenser drawer and the washing machine every few weeks 
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