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Washing Machine Smells Worse After Cleaning: Causes and Solutions

“I just cleaned my washer and the washing machine smells worse after cleaning! Why does this happen, and what can I do to get rid of the smell?” If your washing machine smells worse after cleaning, a few different problems may be the culprit.

Unfortunately, washing machines are home to all sorts of smelly bacteria. The good news is that we’ve put together some easy-to-follow advice on cleaning your washing machine properly. We’re looking at some of the leading causes of foul-smelling washing machines and the` solutions that will help you keep your washer smelling fresh.


Why Does My Washer Smell Worse After Cleaning?

If your washing machine smells worse after cleaning, it’s usually not just because you missed a spot. Most often, the dirt and grime loosen up, and soap only cleans out some of it. However, there are a lot of residues left behind after you clean your washing machine.

If you want to avoid nasty smells in the future, then it’s important to know what causes them and how to get rid of them quickly. 


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What are the causes of a bad-smelling washing machine?

Sometimes odors from detergent can build up when a washer isn’t used for extended periods of time. Here are some of the most common causes of bad odors in your washing machine.


Soap buildup on or around your washer’s dispenser.

If soap scum builds up around your washing machine, it can cause mold and mildew to grow inside. Over time, these scents can become noticeable through an odor that transfers onto clothes.

To prevent soap buildup around your washer’s dispenser, always be sure to rinse out any leftover soap before closing its lid after each use. Also, you can clean out any residue in hard-to-reach places with a cotton swab dipped in white vinegar.


Dirty air filter

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A dirty air filter can cause odors to build up around your washing machine’s vent. Check its condition periodically by removing it from its housing and cleaning it with warm soapy water before putting it back into place.


Mold or mildew buildup in your washer’s drain hose.


If you notice a musty smell coming from your washer, inspect its drain hose for mold or mildew growth.

Mold and mildew are common issues in laundry rooms because they thrive on moisture. As a result, they can spread quickly if left untreated.


What smells can a washing machine have?

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If your washing machine smells bad, it can be frustrating. These machines are meant to help keep your clothes clean, not to stink up your home with odors from their funk-filled drum. But what are the most common causes of odors? Here’s a look at common washing machine bad smells.



A major culprit for foul smells is a skunk, but sometimes it can be mold growing in your washing machine. To test if a skunk has gotten into your clothes, toss an item in with something that will mask any scent (i.e., baking soda or vinegar).

If you notice a funky smell on that item after it’s come out of your washing machine, you probably have some skunk odor. To fix this, set aside one load of clothes only to wash with vinegar or baking soda to eliminate lingering odor. You may also want to make sure there aren’t any dead animals around because they can cause odor problems as well.

Related: House Smells Like Skunk? Here’s what to do next.



If you have a musty smell coming from your washing machine, then mildew may be to blame. Musty smells can be caused by dampness in an area of your home that isn’t properly vented.

If you suspect mildew, then empty your washer’s water tank immediately. Then, clean your stinky washing machine inside and out with warm water and dish soap while it’s empty to prevent mold growth in between wash cycles.

If you don’t remove mildew quickly, it will continue to grow on clothing during washes, leaving a stale odor on garments repeatedly exposed to moisture.


Sewage/ Rotten Eggs

When many people experience a rank smell coming from their washing machine, they assume it’s time to buy a new one. However, it is more likely that any odors are caused by sewer gas getting stuck in or around your washing machine, giving it that the washing machine smells of rotten eggs.

While you might think that sewage is an unlikely cause of your washing machine’s odor problem, there are many instances when sewage can get trapped inside of your pipes and cause serious problems with smell as well as damage to your appliance.

Sewage usually enters a home through septic tanks or sewer lines. In some cases, if those systems have been damaged, they could be leaking into other areas of your home, including your basement and laundry room. 

Related: Septic Smells in the House: What to do next

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Burning Rubber

Most of these types of odors come from rubber gaskets and seals in your washing machine. Over time, the rubber starts to break down, turning into a sticky substance.

To prevent odors like these, it’s important to keep rubber parts clean and replace them periodically. If you have an older model washer with parts made of natural rubber or latex (instead of synthetic materials), consider replacing those parts with newer ones made from synthetic materials.

Synthetic rubber won’t break down as quickly over time, so it won’t produce nearly as much odor-causing residue when it does start breaking down. Find out more about what to do in our Washing Machine Smells Like Burning Rubber: Causes and Solutions article.

Related: Burning Plastic Smell in the House: Causes and Solutions

Why does my washing machine smell even after cleaning it?

If you’ve recently cleaned your washing machine, it might be one of two reasons your washing machine still smells bad. First, as you clean all that debris out of your drum and drain line, grime can become trapped in those little crevices.

The second possibility is that when you removed some of the stinky water inside your washer, some of that odor remained in those places. This means that if you want to get rid of bad smells from your washing machine, you’ll need to use a bit more elbow grease.

Here are a few tips for cleaning out a smelly washing machine.


How do I get rid of a bad smell in my washing machine?

If it’s a lingering smell that appears to be emanating from inside your washer itself, you will have to do a deep clean. You may have just cleaned your washing machine, but as we talked about above, that may have just loosened up dirt, grime, and mildew that is still lingering around.


How to Clean The Washing Machine to Get Rid of the Odors

Here’s how to do a deep cleaning to remove odors from your washing machine:


Materials Needed

  • Bleach
  • White Vinegar
  • Old toothbrush
  • Sponge
  • Baking Soda


1. Pre-scrub

Start by unplugging your washing machine, taking off all of its removable parts, and soaking them in warm, soapy water. If you can remove your drain hose, clean it with a bottle brush as well.

Then give everything a good scrubbing with soap, but don’t use anything abrasive that could scratch any plastic or metal parts. Rinse thoroughly when you’re done to get rid of any soap residue, then dry completely before putting your washer back together.


2. Clean the Washing Machine Drum

Open your washing machine door and take out your washing machine drum. Clean it with an antibacterial soap and water solution or baking soda.

Make sure to clean under the rubber seal and inside parts of the washer hidden by the drum.

The drum contains two types of filters designed to catch dirt, hair, lint, and other debris. Unfortunately, over time these filters get clogged with residue and trapped odors. This can make your washer smell bad even after you cleaned it.

Wipe down any residue that has built up on the inside of your washer to remove any smell-causing bacteria. If you have a top-loading machine, use a cloth to wipe down any parts of your washer’s inner tub where debris can build up over time.


3. Bleach Cycle

Bleach is a great way to kill mold and mildew. Pour in 4 cups of bleach and start your wash cycle at the highest temperature.

Once the tub fills, pause it and let it sit for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, let the cycle finish and run another rinse cycle to get all the bleach out.


4. Wash With Vinegar and Baking Soda

Now we’re going to remove odors from the washing machine with vinegar and baking soda. Vinegar works as a deodorizer, while baking soda absorbs any lingering dirt and grime.

Using vinegar or bleach might not be enough, because these products tend to leave behind an unpleasant smell after they’ve worked their magic on your laundry machine. Baking soda doesn’t have this side effect, though it might take multiple wash cycles to see a significant improvement in odor.

  1. Put 1⁄4 cup of baking soda and 1/4 cup of water into the detergent drawer.
  2. Add 2 cups of vinegar (make sure it’s white vinegar and not any other kind) to the drum.
  3. Turn on a hot cycle for at least 30 minutes and pause it when it’s full like you did with the bleach.
  4. Wipe down your drum again to get out excess vinegar.


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Other related washing machine smells:

Washing Machine Smells Like Burning Rubber: Causes and Solutions

Washing Machine Smells Like Rotten Eggs: Causes and Solutions

Washing Machine Smells Like Mildew? Here’s How to Clean It

Washing Machine Smells like Sewage: Causes and Solutions

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