How to cure a smelly washing machine

Smelly washing machines, causes and cures

smelly washing machine can prove to be a source of great frustration. Symptomatic of bacterial, mold, grease, lint, and food deposits, these unpleasant odors are often transferred to your clothes. This completely undermines the whole purpose of washing clothes. One of the worst outcomes, however, is when black marks or streaks appear on freshly washed clothes. This occurs when these deposits within the washing machine drum have not been removed for an extended period.

Long term deposits caused by grease, dirt, or lint are transferred to clothes in the washing machine tub and are responsible for causing an unpleasant odor. This situation is easily resolved by running a service wash program at high temperature with a detergent that includes bleach.


The Underlying Causes of a Smelly Washing Machine

Most people tend to wash their clothes by selecting a water temperature between 30 - 40 degrees centigrade (86 -104 Fahrenheit) or below. The simple fact is that washing clothes at these temperatures allows you to make considerable savings on your monthly energy bills.  However, these low temperatures also have the side effect of turning your washing machine drum into a fertile environment for bacteria and fungus to flourish. Smelly Washing Machine

One particular aspect of significance here is the construction materials used in modern washing machine drums. Over the past few years, the industry has seen a shift from materials such as enamel and stainless steel to plastic.  Plastic is definitely cheaper from the manufacturing standpoint and it is a fairly durable material capable of withstanding great stress. However, owing to certain quirks of construction these plastic tubs are not as smooth as their enamel or steel counterparts. There are ample cracks and recesses which are perfect breeding spots for bacterial and mold infestations that are ultimately responsible for causing an unpleasant, musty odor. Another drawback with plastic is the fact that it tends to absorb these odors, which can then prove to be difficult to remove.

Another cause for bad odors in a washing machine could be a blockage that originates from the standpipe. If this is indeed the case, you can try and solve this issue through the use of a drain cleaner/unblocker. You are free to choose any commercial drain cleaner or if you prefer a more natural option, there are many do it yourself drain cleaners that you can make at home.

The consumer preference for running low temperature washing programs is often made worse with the use of liquid detergents. A drawback here is the lack of any chlorine based bleaching agent in these products, which can act as an effective deterrent against odor causing germ and bacteria build ups. While they are gentle on colors, the fact is that most liquid detergents do not contain any component that aids in sanitization. Most people also seem to have difficulty in measuring out the proper amounts of these detergents to use per wash. Overuse is a common problem and can often lead to the formation of a solid mass of excess detergent residue within the machine drum. Apart from aiding the development of mold, this residue can also cause corrosion in the drum shafts that are generally constructed from aluminum. The best way to deal with this problem is to run a maintenance wash at high heat using a proper powder based detergent. 

Washing Machine Backfilling is another fairly common issue that can cause a bad smell in washing machine. This is, however, an installation problem and will require the intervention of a qualified plumber. A common symptom here is that the washer tends to fill up with waste/dirty water from your sink while it is left unattended. Waste water from the sink may contain all sorts of food particles and grease residues. This often results in large bacterial build ups, clogged pumps, and can cause permanent damage to the rubber seal lining the door. 

The incorrect use of fabric softeners during the rinse cycle is another cause for machine odors. Quite often, they leave behind a semi-solid residue within the machine drum or under the agitator. Such deposits can be difficult to clean and will inevitably attract mildew and mold. If allowed to grow, these deposits will cause an unpleasant smell. In order to overcome this problem, you might consider switching to fabric softener sheets.

Some helpful hints on how to cure a smelly washing machine

If you were wondering how to cure a smelly washing machine, the following notes can help you find the right solutions to your problem.

Always ensure that you are using a detergent that is appropriate to your appliance. For example, high-efficiency washing machines require you to use specialized detergents. Typically, these machines use high concentration detergents that are less fragrant and generate fewer suds as compared to a regular detergent.  Using a normal detergent with this category of machine can result in the formation of a soapy scum. This type of residue is normally associated with infestations of mildew, which can cause an unpleasant odor. As far as possible, stick to the detergents that are recommended for use with your particular washing machine

The Service Wash or maintenance wash is a specialized self cleaning program that is available on most modern washing machines. It is highly recommended that you check your appliance’s instruction manual to find the exact settings of the drum cleaning program that is applicable to your particular make and model of washer. The standard service wash involves spinning the machine without any clothes at a greater than normal temperature, usually at 60 – 90 degree centigrade (140 – 194 Fahrenheit). Running a wash at this temperature allows your machine to dissipate bacteria build ups and destroy mold. The service wash program should ideally be run at least once a month for the best results. Always use a detergent powder that has some form of bleach while running the maintenance wash. (Avoid liquid detergent.)

The alternative to a powder based detergent is white vinegar. You can try running a high temperature maintenance wash with 3 cups of white vinegar in order to eliminate any odors and prevent bacterial build ups. The acid content of the vinegar is also extremely effective in dissolving soap scum residue and grease deposits.

Alternatively, you may choose to add a cup of baking soda to your machine while running a hot wash cycle. You can follow this up by adding a cup of vinegar during the rinse cycle. This delivers an effective anti-bacterial and deodorizing effect to your machine.

You may also combine baking soda with vinegar to create an effective sanitizing mix for your machine. Dissolve 1 cup of baking soda into 2 cups of distilled white vinegar. Run the hottest wash program available on your machine and slowly introduce this mix. This helps destroy bacteria and loosens any sold residue that may have accumulated within the machine drum. After the wash cycle is over drain away the water and wipe thoroughly with a clean cloth. You may follow up with a rinse cycle using cool clean water. (You may use lemon juice instead of white vinegar, if you so desire.)

Cleaning Your Washing Machine Manually

If you are constantly plagued by the effects of a smelly washing machine there may be no other option but to clean it manually.

Before you start cleaning however, make sure that your washing machine has been switched off and been unplugged from any electrical socket.

One of the primary areas of concern while cleaning a washing machine is the rubber seal that traverses the door cavity. Usually, bacterial build ups and mold infestations tend to be concentrated around this area. To ensure the best cleaning it is always advisable to scrub the seal. In fact, this should be done on a regular basis to prevent mold from settling here. A critical point is the fact that this seal is constructed from a permeable rubber. If mould is allow to settle here for a long duration of time it can be impossible to remove, leaving you with no other choice but to replace the rubber seal. You can prepare a cleaning fluid for the seal by adding three quarters of a cup or 177 ml liquid bleach

Disclaimer: The information provided has been prepared as a guide only and the steps taken are likely to vary for different appliance models. We strongly recommend using a qualified engineer to undertake major repairs and fault finding.


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