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5 tips to clean a smelly washing machine

Say goodbye to that mildew smell and hello to a clean washing machine and fragrant clothes.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

inside of a front loader washing machine
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Does your washing machine smell a bit suspicious? Have you started noticing a mildew smell in your machine and on your clothes?

Of all the washing machine smells mouldy and damp is probably one of the worst. But don’t despair – read on to find out how to get rid of mildew smell in a washing machine and restore your machine and clothes to their former, fragrant glory.

Run an empty wash on a hot setting to clean a smelly washing machine and get rid of mildew smells. Make sure you’re using the right amount of detergent when doing laundry, as too much can cause build-ups and contribute to damp and musty aromas.

My washing machine smells like mildew – what can I do?

Washing machines are one of the hardest working appliances in your household. Dealing with stained and dirty laundry on a frequent basis can lead to a washing machine that smells mouldy and an unpleasant mildew smell on your clothes.

So, how do you remove smells from a washing machine? Here are 5 tips on how to get rid of mildew smells in a washing machine and leave it clean, fresh and ready to use.

Run an empty cycle on the hottest setting

Run your washing machine empty on the hot wash setting to thoroughly flush out dirt and mildew. Add a cup of white distilled vinegar to the drum for a more thorough clean and to naturally eliminate odours. Running a quick rinse cycle afterwards – also at a high temperature – will ensure the drum is vinegar and detergent-free, ready for your next load of laundry.

Clean your washing machine’s seals and interior

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If you’re going to clean a smelly washing machine, remember to check around the rubber seals and inside the drum. Use a cloth with hot soapy water or a spritz of mildew cleaner, and be sure to wipe underneath the seals too. Brace yourself for slime, gunk and maybe even that sock you’ve been searching for since last year!

Wipe dry with a clean cloth, run an empty cycle to rinse the drum clean and leave to air dry.

Clean out the detergent drawer

If cleaning the drum didn’t make much difference and you’re still left wondering how to remove smell from your washing machine, try cleaning the detergent drawer. Use hot water and a damp cloth to remove any sticky detergent residue, and use an old toothbrush for any hard-to-reach areas.

Remember to check the instructions on your detergent – you may be using too much, which contributes to build-up and unpleasant smells.

Unclog the filter

A highly effective way to remove smell from washing machine is to clean the filter. If your washing machine isn’t draining properly, it can start to smell. Blocked filters can cause all sorts of other problems too, so if your machine has suddenly become noisy, takes longer to complete cycles or the washing is coming out soaking wet, it may be time to inspect the filter.

Turn off the machine, disconnect the power and turn off the water supply, then find the filter and remove any foreign objects such as coins and buttons. Wipe off any grime, then reconnect the water and power. Use a bucket or old towels to collect any water. Remember to always check the user manual for instructions specific to your machine.

Hand wash clothes instead

If you’re struggling to remove smell from washing machine and you’ve got laundry to do in the meantime, try hand washing your clothes, particularly any woollens or delicates. Use a trusted hand washing powder such as Sunlight to hand wash clothes quickly and leave them clean and fragrant.

So there you have it – a clean washing machine and fresh clothes in five simple steps.

Plus, try this method to remove mould and mildew on surfaces in your home:

  • Clean the detergent drawer regularly.

  • Clean around and under the rubber seals.

  • Clean the filter, making sure to turn off the power and disconnect the water.

  • Hand wash clothes using suitable laundry detergent in the meantime.

Originally published