How to Get Rid of the Smell From Washing Machines

Raise you hand if your washing machine has ever suffered from stinky washing machine syndrome! This is a very common condition {especially if you have a front loader} but with a few adjustments to your laundry routine, you can once again have clean, fresh smelling laundry!

How to get rid of that stinky smell from washing machines.
Four years ago, we purchased a new front loading washing machine.  All was wonderful for about the first 6 months but then I started to notice a not so pleasant smell every time I opened the door.  Over time, I also started to notice that my laundry was also not smelling so fresh….

How to get rid of that stinky odor in washing machines!

Even Connor was upset! :)

So I did a little research and discovered that, due to their design, front loaders don’t completely drain every time a load of laundry is done. The volume of suds produced by regular detergents can also act like sludge to water draining out of the tub and the fragrances will mix with the mildew-y water. The result? My nice stinky washing machine!

I am happy to report, however, that with a few adjustments, my washing machine is now stink-free and my laundry is once again clean and fresh!  Just follow these simple tips and you too can get rid of that stinky washing machine syndrome…

  • Change your laundry detergent.  The brand of laundry detergent that I use definitely seems to have one of the biggest impacts on how my washing machine smells.  Detergents with more fillers and added fragrances tend to be the worst culprits as they will leave more residue behind.  I use Norwex detergent – it is super concentrated with no fillers or perfumes and  I only use about 1 tsp of it per load {1-2 tbsps. are required for top loaders}.  If you have a HE machine, make sure that you are using detergent that is designed for a HE machine!  UPDATE:  I also like Nellie’s Laundry Detergent for our regular washing and use Caldrea laundry detergent for my towels just so there is a little light scent.
  • Avoid using too much detergent.  Just because you have an extra dirty load of laundry does not mean that you should add a lot of extra detergent.  If you are concerned about extra stains, pre-treat them or soak them in the sink prior to washing.  Adding more detergent can lead to more residue build-up and actually decrease your machine’s cleaning efficiency!  I often find that the recommended amounts of detergent are much higher than needed.  So play around with the amount of detergent you add to get the right amount for your machine.
  • Add some vinegar.  Vinegar is great for removing odors from both your clothes and your washing machine and will also help to soften your clothes.  Use this in place of fabric softener – it is cheaper, will not leave behind a residue, and does not have any added chemical ingredients.  Add 1/2 -1 full cup of vinegar per load – I promise your clothes will not smell of vinegar when they are removed! {NOTE: NEVER combine bleach and vinegar together}
  • Give the rubber gaskets a swipe.  After each load of laundry, get in the habit of checking the rubber gaskets for any small clothing items {my kids socks love to hang out there} and quickly wiping them down with a dry cloth to get rid of any excess water.
  • Leave the door open.  Leave your washing machine door slightly ajar to allow air to circulate and help to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
  • Remove wet clothes promptly.  Okay I know that this does not always happen, but try to do this as much as possible.
  • “Deep clean” your washing machine on a regular basis.  You can find a tutorial on this HERE.
So there you have it!  Hopefully these tips will help your washing machine out as much as they did mine!
Want to learn more about organizing your laundry room?  Join in on the Household OrganizationDiet!  You can find all of the posts pinned HERE.


    • Jenn says

      You can put it right in the machine to help get rid of odors and in the fabric softener dispenser to actually work as a fabric softener!

  1. Michelle McCallister says

    Hey Jen, just found your site. Love it! Have you used a product called Freshana Organic Solutions? Just wondering. Thinking of giving it a try. Thanks.

  2. STACEY says

    BEST WAY TO REMAIN STINK FREE (speaking of washers) is to use two small bungee cords ( hooked to each other) Attach one bungee to a magnetic towel rack on right side of washer and the other bungee hook to the washer latch, leaving the door ajar at whatever gap you need/prefer. This avoids mold/mildew accumulating and prevents anyone walking by from accidentally catching the latch on their pockets and/or painters loop (happened twice to my husband, before I wised up and came up with this solution…………………..

  3. Moira Chapman says

    Hi, I have been reading your tips today and wondered if you are talking about using normal vinegar (used in the UK on chips) or a special sort? Many thanks

  4. tori wilson says

    You said never mix bleach and vinegar. Just out of curosity because I’ve never heard not to mix them, what happens?

    • says

      Bleach and vinegar, when combined, produce toxic chlorine gas which {worse case scenario!} can actually kill you. There’s no point risking your health for the sake of cleaning! ;)

  5. Jackie says

    Thank you for your tips!! Just cleaned the gasket (gross)! Looks alot better now! Now running the vinegar through the machine!

  6. Amye says

    I did all the steps today! I completed my first load without a yucky smell in forever! Lots of water still gathering in the gasket after a load – I wonder if I have too much gunky backup. Hopefully it will clear up now that I’ve cleaned everything! Thanks for the great tips!

  7. Kik says

    I’ve had my front loading machine for 10 years now. The smell is horrible even with bleaching the machine or running the additional product through made specifically for that problem and leaving the door wide open. You would think that if they can send a man to the moon, they could actually fix their DESIGN FLAW in 10 years time. Apparently they would rather sell more useless products than fix the problem.

      • Julie says

        I just did the 1st step to clean the gasket. I put the bleach/water soaked rags in the gasket and left there for 40 minutes. Then I scrubbed with a toothbrush. Still no luck……the mold/mildew won’t come off! A little bit came off but there is still a lot of visible mold. Any tips?

  8. Janet says

    Hi Jenn. I have a family that loves to leave their damp/wet shower towels all bunched up on the floor or if by some luck on the towel rack in a bunch. Of course after a couple of days they start to smell really musty and grosse. No amount of washing seems to get rid of the stench in the towels. Do you have any tips for getting rid of the musty smell so my towels smell fresh again.?

  9. ARBEE says

    Hi. Plain old bleach soaked rags do the nest job. Clean that gasket every time. Cant fix that black-molded gasket anymore? Order a new one. Take the spring retainer off, replace.

  10. Mo says

    I sometimes use baking soda in with the clothes to freshen everything up. I’m guessing I shouldn’t be mixing the soda with the vinegar ? :)

    • says

      The baking soda and vinegar actually counteract each other, so while it can look impressive when they are mixed and get all bubbly, it actually neutralizes their cleaning power. Vinegar alone actually works great to freshen stinky laundry smell. :)

  11. Jenn says

    You can also clean the drain in the front of the washer. I have a small door in the front. Open it and drain out remaining water with the small hose then twist out the plastic filter. It may be stinky and very ucky! Clean all the lint and gunk from it. It will help with the smell in your washer as well. I appreciate all the tips you have shared.

  12. Carri says

    when adding vinegar to a load, I’m still a little unclear on where to add it. You say directly to the load, won’t it just soak into whatever item touches it & not mix in the whole load to help with stinky towels, etc.?

    • says

      If you want it to soften your load {especially when doing towels} you can add it in the fabric softener part. If you are using it for smell, just add it where you would add your detergent right before washing. It will get mixed in with the water as everything gets agitated in the machine.

    • says

      Yes, I found a big difference with this too when I switched. I think the biggest problem with the liquid detergent is often just using too much though!

  13. Sharon mueller says

    i use Norwex laundry soap now for the past six months. Before that I used store bought. I use vinegar for my softener. My washer is over two years old and the one before was over 15 years old. Never have I had a stinky or moldy gasket washer. I do leave the door open. But could use advice on how to get grease from cooking or tomato stains out. The only solution so far that works is dawn dish soap and re wash it. Has anyone found a better way to catch the stain sooner.

  14. says

    Jenn, is it ok to use vinegar on delicate fabrics (blouses, nice dresses etc.) or just on towels? (in both the detergent tray and rinsing tray?) Sometimes I use Woollite for delicates – is it ok to mix vinegar with that? Thank you! Love your site!!

    • says

      I use it on clothes too (about 1/2 cup) but I don’t really have a lot of delicate fabrics that I wash. If you are using Woolite on a delicate wash cycle you might not want to use it due to its acidic content.

  15. Zenaida says

    For grease/oil stains I use tlacum powder and or corn starch. Use liberally on the grease stain, pat it in a bit. If it’s really bad then pat it in on both sides of the garment. I don’t wash it right away because it needs time to soak up the grease or oil. So I just fold it up and throw it in the hamper and then when it’s time to wash I just throw it in with the rest of the items and it always, always, works. The stain is gone. Learned this from my dad.


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