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3 Reasons Your Washing Machine Smells Repugnantly

by Gloria Louden
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The other day, I was loading up my laundry machine when I realized that there was a strange odor in the air. Naturally, I went right to my computer to find out why my washing machine smells so strange! If you have had similar issues with your unit, you’ll find the results of my search below — as well as the potential fixes for each of them!

3 Reasons Your Washing Machine Smells Funky

Before I tell you how you can fix all of your washing machine odor woes, let’s talk about a few things that might be causing them.

1. Soap Scum

One of the most common reasons your machine might smell odd is because it’s not managing to rinse all of the soap and softener off of the drum. Most front-loaders only use a minimum of water to saturate the clothes at the bottom of the drum. They use less water than top-loaders overall, but they’re usually unable to get rid of some soaps entirely.

The resulting slime or soap scum that coats the inside of the drum and the rubber door gasket is organic. Even though soap is usually made of chemical surfactants, softeners have animal byproducts in them. So they will deteriorate as organic matter does. The warm, wet environment creates the perfect breeding ground for all those odor-causing bacteria.

You may also notice the same kind of slimy residue inside the detergent dispenser drawer. If your machine isn’t emptying its contents properly, that could be an indicator that you’re using too much soap. Alternatively, you might want to think about transitioning to a high-efficiency detergent.

But if the inside of your machine is coated as well, you should give it a good scrub before changing your soap. And don’t forget to look under the gasket! If you don’t, there’s a chance you’ll have to deal with mold growth.

2. Mold and Mildew

If you keep postponing cleaning the machine thoroughly, mildew and mold accumulation will be inevitable. We’re all familiar with that musty odor, aren’t we?

As I have mentioned, we often see this problem when people forget to clean the door gasket and the animal fats in the softener start rotting. If you find some nasty gunk in there, you’ll want to focus your attention on the gasket and clean it thoroughly with alcohol or bleach. Before you get into it, make sure you wear gloves and other protective equipment you might need.

After you clean the gasket and the door itself, you can run the hottest setting on an empty machine. The heat itself should eliminate most of the bacteria inside your machine. And instead of your usual detergent, use bleach or a deodorizing cleaner. But we’ll talk about these solutions after I tell you about one last thing that could be the cause of the washing machine odor.

3. Drain Hose Positioning

Most modern washing machines have a drain hose that leads excess water away to the drain box inside the machine, then off to the sewer. If installed correctly, the drain hose goes right up to the p-trap, which fills with water to create a seal that prevents sewer gases from coming up the drain.

However, if the hose goes past the p-trap, the seal is basically useless. So the gases will come into the machine and contaminate your load. A similar principle is used to prevent the sewer smell from coming out of your toilet.

Besides, the odors could be related to another drainage issue. For example, if your drain hose isn’t working properly, it could be letting water accumulate inside the machine. Eventually, that puddle will develop an entire ecosystem, which will start stinking up your laundry after a while.

Eliminating Odors When Your Washing Machine Smells Nasty

So I’ve already explained some of the ways you could go about cleaning your washer. But now, let’s get into the details. Whether your washing machine smells musty or emits a more putrid odor, here’s how you can eliminate the issue. First, you’ll want to make sure that the drainage system is working properly.

Get Rid of Stagnant Water

To begin with, you’ll want to make sure that there’s no excess water in your washer. Usually, front-loaders have a small access door right under the main laundry door. You’ll need to pull it down with a screwdriver or a coin.

Once you do, you’ll see another piece of plastic — the drain spout. Flip that down to reveal the washer drain. Before you open it up, put down a towel and a shallow dish or a plate to catch the water. Then, slowly turn the plug counter-clockwise, allowing the water to escape.

If too much water is coming out, close the plug to empty the dish before continuing the slow drain. After the last of the water has escaped, remove the plug entirely and empty the contents of the filter attached to it. You may find small objects like screws, hairpins, and other miscellaneous items.

If you spot any brown spots while you’re there, you may want to have a professional check your machine for mold. Or, if the damage is minimal, just clean it up and put everything back the way it was. If you don’t take care of this, you’ll notice that your laundry is holding on to excess water after the final cycle. Additionally, your machine may have longer cycles and pauses and vibrate more.

Clear Out the Drain Hose

If your washing machine smells like sewers, you may have to clean the drain hose as well. It’ll be easy to locate — just find the part that connects your washer to the wall. The best way to clear out the drain would be to run your machine on the hottest setting.

If you’d like, you could also completely detach the drain hose from your machine and deal with it separately. You’ll have to figure out how to detach it — some of them can be pulled out, while others are screwed in. Once you get it off, just pour a pitcher of piping hot water directly inside or snake it, then reattach it. Or, if it’s too far gone, replace the part or call a repair service to look into it.

You could also try using a commercial drain cleaner — though you’ll have to find one that’s compatible with the kind of pipes you have. Using a surfactant that contains sulfuric acid may damage PVC pipes if you have them, not to mention the environment.

Wash the Inside of the Machine

As we have established, you can also clean the inside of the machine by running it while it’s empty. Use the highest heat section and put a mixture of baking soda and water in the detergent drawer. You could also pour vinegar or even bleach inside the drum before running the machine.

Moreover, if you suspect mold, you can also finish up by wiping or scrubbing the inside of the drum, and, more importantly, the door gasket. It should be easy enough to remove. Just slip it off and scrub it with warm water and a tiny bit of bleach before returning it to its place. That should eliminate any bacteria or mold that might have developed inside the machine.

Ditch the Odor Once and for All

So there you have it. If your washing machine smells musty or like you’ve left some old eggs in there, this guide should help you identify the problem and solve it, all in one go.

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