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Washing Machine Smells Bad: Causes and How to Fix it

A dirty washing machine is the number one cause of an unpleasant-smelling washing machine. Over time, soap scum and mineral deposits can collect inside your washer, creating an environment for mold and bacteria growth. Whatever the cause, here are some tips to help you get rid of that bad washer odor.


Why does your washing machine smell bad?

The reason your washing machine smells terrible can be due to a few factors. The main factors are soap scum build-up, clogged drain, or standing water.

Even if you use the best detergent for your clothes, sometimes traces of fabric softeners can stay behind in your washer and cause a bad smell.

Also, if you neglect to clean out your lint trap before running each load or you’re using the wrong kind of detergent, residue can cause a bad smell as well.


Where is the washer mildew smell coming from?

Before removing the bad odor, you need to know where the washing machine that smells like mildew coming from.

Are they coming from the washing machine itself or is it from somewhere else in the laundry room? If your machine hasn’t been used in a while, there could be stagnant water in the drainpipe. That could be the source of the smell.

However, if you only smell the foul odors when in the washing machine, then it could be that there is a part of your front-loading washing machine that has to be cleaned.

The smell inside your front-load washers could be from the build-up of laundry detergent or liquid fabric softener. This causes the water to stay in the dispenser and can cause odors.

The two largest places for a front load washing machine smells are usually the rubber gasket and the drum. We will walk you through cleaning these so that you can reduce mold growth and get rid of those bad washing machine smells.


Clean the Washer Gasket

Wipe down the washing machine gasket

The front-load washer’s rubber seal is a breeding ground for mildew and mold. It’s constantly wet, and if it’s not properly dried out after usage, it will start to grow mold. Before we begin, it’s important to know that the washer gasket may not be draining properly, which could be causing the excess moisture.

The washer gasket could have drain holes in it, and over time, they can get clogged with lint and other items resulting in a smelly washer. To remove the nasty smells, you will need to clean the rubber gasket, the rubber part that fits around the washer door. Here are the steps for cleaning the rubber seal of your front loading washing machines.

Wipe down the gasket

Remove and gunk and grime from the outside of the gasket seal (the parts that are visible).


Wipe down the door

Once you have wiped down the rubber door gasket, with the washer door open, use the wet cloth the wipe down the door to ensure that you have cleaned the door as well.

Cleaning the washing machine gasket

Remove any hair or lint that is blocking the drain holes in the gasket.

Your washer smells could be from water buildup to be due to sitting water in the seal; this can be a clog in the seal. Take a look and remove any blockages that you see, such as lint and hair.


Remove the rubber gasket

Gently remove the rubber gasket seal and wipe it down with some water and a little bit of bleach using a cloth or paper towel. Wipe down the inside of the door as well, where the gasket would normally sit.

This can be a place that gets a little moisture, but if it gets in there, it can get locked in, and mildew can grow. Wiping it down with some water and chlorine bleach (always be wearing your rubber gloves) is a good way to kill any bacteria that is growing.


Make sure the gasket is clean and dry

The next step is to make sure that the gasket and the door or completely dry before moving onto the net step. This part of the cleaning process can be sped up with a dry towel.


Reinstall the gasket

The gasket goes back on the same way you removed it. Usually, the gasket can fit in any place on the drum. But if you have a Samsung or other kind of washing machine that has gaps or holes in the seal, it will only fit one way.

Note: It’s a good idea, whether it’s a high-efficiency or a standard front load washer, to clean the gasket regularly. This will prevent build-up and keep your washing machine running cleanly. 


Clean the washing machine detergent dispenser

You could have mold and mildew and build-up in the machine’s container that holds the liquid detergent. Over time detergent residue will build up, and regular cleaning of the drawer is just a good cleaning practice for your washing machine.

Clean the washing machine detergent dispenser

Remove the detergent dispenser drawer.

The first step for cleaning the dispenser drawer is to remove it from the washing machine and clean it separately.


Soak the drawer in water

Once you have removed the washer machine detergent dispenser, soak it in water if possible. If not, get some warm water and wash it off in the shower, kitchen sink, or bathtub.


Use an old toothbrush to clean the drawer.

Once you clean the dispenser, use an old toothbrush to scrub any old residue that remains.


Clean the housing unit

Once the dispenser is cleaned, look in the housing container of the front loading washer and clean the inside of it to make sure you have a clean washing machine inside and out.


Rinse off and dry the dispenser

Once you have cleaned the housing unit and the dispenser, rinse the dispenser off with clean, warm water and dry it off with a towel before putting it back in the front loader.


Reinstall the machine’s detergent container

Gently slide in the soap dispenser the same way you removed it.


Cleaning the washer tub

If you have a mildew smell coming from your washer drum and you have cleaned the seal, you will need to run a cleaning cycle.

Cleaning the washer tub

Make a cleaning solution.

Combine a 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup of water mixed together. Pour the solution into the detergent and softener dispensers exactly how you would with a normal detergent cycle.

You may not need this much solution, but you can use this for cleaning other things, as we mention in our household cleaning checklist.


Add two to four cups of distilled white vinegar into the empty washer tub.

With the solution in the soap dispenser, pour in two cups to three cups of white vinegar.


Run the empty washer on a wash cycle

The next step is to run a full cleaning cycle (make sure to remove the last set of wet clothes) with the hottest water setting. This washing cycle will push the vinegar solution through the washer drum and should help clean it and remove and mildew that has been building up in the drum.


Wipe down the interior

Next, wipe down the washer’s interior to remove the vinegar smell.


Run a second rinse cycle

To make sure your clean clothes don’t smell like the vinegar solution, I always run a second rinse and spin cycle through to make sure there is no residual vinegar in the


Use as normal

Once the second rinse cycle completely ends, you should be good and can get back to using your high-efficiency washer again without the bad smells.


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