Stinky Washer – That Can be Fixed!

The clothes washing machine, with its moist, dark interior and its accumulations of soap and grime, is the perfect place for molds and mildews to thrive.  This is especially true in damp basements and during humid weather.  Front load washers promote even more fungal growth than top loaders, as the front loader is more tightly sealed and does not dry out as quickly.  While the molds that thrive in washers are generally not dangerous to your health, they do give off a bad odor.

Molds and mildews grow on dirt from clothes, fabric softener, and detergent.  Avoiding buildup of these substances is a basic step you can take to prevent unpleasant smell.

Like many people, you may often wash your clothing with cold water to save energy and protect delicate clothing.  But detergents work poorly in cold water.  A lot of dirt will not be trapped by the detergent and will be left in the appliance.  Even if you do want to use cold water for most loads, you should still use hot water occasionally.  Make sure that hot water and cold water supply hoses are not switched; it is surprising how often this happens.

Limit the use of all types of fabric softeners.  Especially avoid liquid fabric softeners, which consist of a fatty substance often derived from animal fats.  This product makes slimy, greasy mold form in your dispenser.  Fabric sheets and dryer balls are better options for most dryers.  Check your owner’s manual to see what types of softeners your particular dryer can use.

The primary source of nourishment for mold and mildew is excess detergent.  Using more soap does not always lead to better results.  In fact, you should use the smallest amount necessary to clean the clothes.  To see if you are using too much, just run the machine for a few minutes with hot water and no clothes inside.  If suds form, then you are overusing detergent.  If you have soft water it is even more important to hold back on detergent.  Also, it is crucial to use soap that is marked with the “he” logo, standing for “high efficiency,” if your washer is a high efficiency model.

Look for this logo on detergents used in high efficiency washers.

Along with reducing the materials that mold and mildew feeds on, you can be proactive in fighting the fungus itself.  First of all, take clothes out of the hamper and wash them straightaway before mold can establish itself.  Likewise, remove clothes from the washer promptly.  Leaving your washer door open is a sure way to dry out your appliance, but be careful that no children or pets get trapped inside.  Choose your bleach wisely.  Although oxygenated bleach cleans clothing well, chlorinated bleach does more to discourage mold and mildew growth.  Ultimately, sometimes the bad smell is the result of some problem with your appliance.  For example, your tub or drain hose may be obstructed.  For profession assistance from certified repair technicians, contact us at our website,

Many things can be done to prevent your washing machine from smelling musty.  Even still, mold and mildew will likely establish itself in your appliance from time to time.  How to solve this problem depends on what type of washer you have.  For a front loader, you can use a commercial clothes washing machine cleaner.  At our parts store at Dave Smith Appliance Services, we sell Affresh brand washer cleaner.  Just run your washer with no clothing, hot water, and three Affresh tablets in the drum to remove severe mildew odors.  Then run it with one tablet monthly as a preventative.

For top loaders, there is an even better special procedure that you can use.  Fill your empty washer with hot water.  Make sure it has a temperature of 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  When your washer is full and begins agitating, stop it, and manually add two additional gallons of hot water to get the water level above the scum layer.  (Do not add more than two gallons, or else you might overflow the tub.)  Put in two cups of good quality powdered dishwasher detergent.  Start it up again and let it agitate for five minutes, then stop it and let it soak for an hour or two.  Next, set your washer back to the very beginning and let it run the complete wash and rinse cycle.  Now repeat this entire process again except substitute chlorine bleach for the detergent and reduce the soak time to just ten minutes.  This process will take a while but is very effective!

Appreciating what contributes to the growth of mold and mildew in clothes washing machines will let you make more informed decisions when doing laundry.  If your appliance does begin to smell like mold and mildew, do not simply wait for the odor to go away as it probably won’t.  You can and should eliminate the bad smell immediately before it worsens.  There is no reason to endure musty odors from your washer when you know how to clean it and make your home smell more inviting.