Most people fill their washing machine with soap, hot water, bleach, and other cleaning solutions at least once a week. So how do the washing machines develop odors and what can we do to keep our machines smelling fresh?
Cause of Washing Machine Odors
Mold, mildew, and bacteria grow in the moist, warm, dark environment provided by the washer. These feast on the soap scum (soap residue combined with skin and body oils from clothing), dirt, food particles, and hair that get trapped inside the machine’s gasket, seals, dispensers, and on the walls, agitators, and impellers. Eventually the soap scum and other organic materials build up, increasing the bacterial and fungal count that produces an unpleasant odor. Using too much laundry soap also adds to this build-up because then washers can’t completely rinse and remove all the soap.
Be sure to check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s specific cleaning instructions and recommended cleaning agents.
Removing Odors from Front-Loader Machines
- Unplug the washer (for safety).
- Remove the dispenser drawer with the soap, bleach, and fabric softener compartments, and soak it and any removable parts in a sink with hot soapy water for 15 minutes.
- Mix a solution of 50/50 vinegar and hot water. You can also use a bleach mixture of 1 cup warm water to 1 tablespoon of bleach. Don’t mix bleach and vinegar together.
- Wash the soaked parts with a soft cloth, then rinse. Dip Q-tips or an old toothbrush into the vinegar or bleach mixture and scrub the corners and crevices, as well as inside the drawer opening. Rinse well, and dry before returning the dispenser drawer.
- If the drawer isn’t removable, clean it in the pulled-out position. Warm 1 cup of vinegar in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. Pour this heated vinegar into the dispenser compartments, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then wipe with a soft cloth and clean any residue with a toothbrush or Q-tips. Rinse well, and dry completely before pushing the drawer back in.
- Next, wipe around the rubber door seal with a wet cloth. Peel back its layer, and using a Q-tip or toothbrush with your solution, remove accumulated hair, debris and built-up gunk. If you see mold or mildew, use a brush or rag with the vinegar or bleach to wipe it away and kill any traces. If mold still remains, soak a towel with your bleach or vinegar mixture, place it inside the gasket, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then scrub again gently with a toothbrush.
- With a clean, damp cloth, wipe the gasket a second time to remove any residual vinegar, bleach, and grime. Lastly, wipe down the rubber gasket with a clean dry cloth to remove any remaining moisture.
Removing Odors from Top-Loader Machines
- Unplug the washer.
- Soak removable soap, bleach, and fabric softener dispensers in hot, soapy water for 15 minutes. This includes drawers, drawer inserts, well inserts, and agitator dispenser cups and housing.
- Mix either a solution of 50/50 vinegar and hot water, or 1 cup warm water to 1 tablespoon of bleach.
- Use a soft cloth to wash the soaked parts, then rinse. Scrub any remaining residue in the dispenser parts using Q-tips or an old toothbrush with the vinegar or bleach mixture. Pay attention to the corners.
- Rinse well, dry the parts, and return the drawer. For agitator cups, clean the inside of the agitator with a toothbrush and the solution, then rinse and dry with a soft cloth before reassembling.
- If the dispensers aren’t removable, use the heated vinegar method mentioned under front-loaders.
- For top-loaders with agitators, use a soft brush and the vinegar or bleach solution to scrub it. Also scrub hard-to-reach areas under the lid and around the rim of the tub.
- You may have to remove the agitator to remove dirt and built-up debris on its bottom, or on the tub underneath it, if odors are wafting from this area. See your owner’s manual for removal instructions. Soak the agitator in hot soapy water and give it and the tub bottom beneath it a thorough scrubbing with a brush and your solution.
- Some top-loaders have impellers instead of agitators. Clean them using the same methods as with an agitator.
Sanitizing and Removing Mold, Mildew, and Bacteria
- Bleach is one of the best solutions for killing mold and mildew. Be sure not to mix it with other cleaning products. Set your washer to the highest possible temperature setting. Add 4 cups of bleach directly into a top-loader drum, and 2 cups directly into a front-loader drum, then start a cycle.
- After the tub has filled, stop the wash cycle after the agitator, impeller, or rotating drum has splashed the water and bleach mixture around. How you stop the machine will vary by brand and model.
- Let the hot water and bleach sit for 30 minutes, then resume the cycle. 4. Run the rinse cycle one more time to remove any traces of bleach.
- Many new machines have a sanitizer setting. Add a cup of bleach directly into the drum and run an empty cycle on this setting.
Deodorizing Remaining Smells
- Vinegar deodorizes and helps remove built-up hard water deposits. It also kills any remaining bacteria, mold, and mildew after the bleach cycle. Add 4 cups of vinegar directly into the top-loader, and 2 cups into the front-loader.
- Set your washer to the hottest temperature setting and let the tub fill. Stop the wash cycle once the vinegar and water has splashed around the drum.
- Start the washer back up after 30 minutes and let it finish the cycle.
- If you have a sanitizing feature, add 1 cup of vinegar to the drum and run that setting.
Maintaining a Fresh-Smelling Washing Machine
- Keep the washing machine door open after a load to allow the remaining moisture to evaporate.
- Front loaders — wipe down the rubber door seal and its inside layer with a dry cloth and remove any hair or debris from it when you’ve finished your loads.
- Use the right kind of detergent for your machine.
- Don’t use more detergent than you need.
- Wipe out the dispenser drawer and compartments every 2 weeks with a vinegar or bleach solution.
- Run the bleach or vinegar deodorizer cycle every month to sanitize the tub.
You can count on C&W Appliance Service to provide the very best in repair and maintenance to it and all your major appliances. Call us at (855) 358-1496 or submit our online service request form for prompt service.