How to Clean a Smelly Washing Machine

If your smelly washing machine has you wrinkling your nose, you’re not alone. Unpleasant odours are a common problem for modern washing machines. Why? It’s all to do with the way we wash our clothes.

Bacteria and mould love warm damp conditions, like, say, your washing machine just after you’ve used it. In the past, hot washes would flush out the majority of bacteria in your machine and the bleach in washing detergents would also help kill it. But modern detergents clean just as well in cooler 40° washes, so nowadays most people wash their clothes at lower temperatures.  

If you use a detergent suitable for coloured washes it won’t even contain the bleach which in the past helped kill bacteria. Instead powders and capsules for coloured washes use alternative cleaning agents to avoid your colours fading. The result? Your machine and even worse your clothes may start to smell musty or mouldy.

If you notice a bad smell coming from your washing machine drum, investigate further. You’ll no doubt find mould and soap scum built up behind the soap drawer and in the crevices of the rubber door seal. You may even be able to see mould, limescale or undissolved detergent inside the drum itself.  

Adding more washing powder or fabric conditioner to your washes to try and remove smells will sadly only make the situation worse. Unused, undissolved products just provide more space for mould and bacteria to breed. So what is the solution?

In short a good washing machine cleaner and a bit of scrubbing! We recommend eSpares Dishwasher & Washing Machine Cleaner  as it tackles both limescale (which will affect the efficiency of your machine in hard water areas) and soap scum build up (which is more of an issue in soft water areas). 

Once you have your cleaner use the below checklist to find and tackle all of the problem areas causing the bad odours.

  • First, take out the soap drawer and rinse it with hot water, scrubbing away any visible mould and detergent with a clean washing up brush. Leave the drawer to dry completely before replacing it.
  • Whilst the drawer is drying, dissolve a sachet of washing machine cleaner in a spray bottle of hot water and clean the area behind the soap drawer thoroughly, using the washing up brush  again to scrub hard to reach areas. Wipe dry.
  • Check the washing machine door seal and clean any mould or scum between the folds with more cleaner and a scourer.
  • Check the filter (which is accessible from the flap at the base of the machine in most front loading models). If necessary give it a thorough rinse in hot water and remove any hair grips, coins or other detritus that may have got caught.
  • Finally, pour the rest  of the cleaner solution into the washing machine drum and run a hot wash, at a temperature over 90°.

After the wash finishes your washing machine should have a factory-new sparkle and a lovely fresh fragrance. (Though for extra grimy machines you may need to run a second wash with the cleaner.)

To keep your machine cleaner for longer, leave the door and soap dispenser open after washes so they dry out, making it harder for bacteria and mould to grow. Try to empty the machine as soon as the cycle finishes too, so that your wet washing doesn’t prevent your machine from drying.

To kill any bacteria that has developed, it’s best to clean your washing machine regularly – about once a month is ideal. Luckily the eSpares cleaner has a six months supply!

Want more advice on cleaning and maintaining your household and garden appliances? Visit the eSpares Advice Centre for more free advice and for replacement parts to keep your appliances running like new.

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