Simple Solutions for a Smelly Washer

By Lyle Weischwill | Jan. 31, 2024 6:18 am PST

Getting rid of washer smells image

Simple solutions are always good, especially when you’re getting rid of odors in your laundry room – which are almost always caused by a smelly washer. When you tire of wrinkling your nose at that rancid smell wafting out of your laundry space, use these simple solutions to eliminate the odor.

  • Use a washer cleaner such as Affresh to clean the inside of the washer.
  • Run an empty wash cycle with a cup of liquid chlorine bleach to eliminate odor.
  • Clean the drain pump large item filter in a front-load washer.
  • Clean the door boot of a front-load washer with a bleach and water solution.
  • Clean the detergent dispenser.
  • Use the right type and amount of laundry detergent.
  • Leave the lid or door open if possible to help prevent odors.

Read on for more details about how these simple strategies can help eliminate washer smells.

Using a Washing Machine Cleaner

Cleaning the inside of the washer with a tablet such as Affresh will help eliminate residue, mold and mildew that cause odors. This cleaner reaches deep down inside the pump, tub, spin basket, agitator or impeller, drain pump filter and hoses.

The main ingredients in Affresh washer tablets are sodium carbonate (washing soda) and sodium percarbonate (oxygen-based bleach). These septic-safe ingredients cut through grime, remove residues that cause odors, and rinse away as oxygen and water. Fragrance added to the Affresh tablet leaves a pleasant scent in your washer.

Use a washing machine cleaner monthly to help keep your washer smelling fresh.

Running an Empty Wash Cycle with Liquid Chlorine Bleach Added

Add 1 cup of liquid chlorine bleach to the washer tub and run a wash cycle with no clothes in the washer. The bleach will clean out the washer tub. Alternatively, you can add 1 cup of white vinegar to the detergent tray and 1/3 cup of baking soda to the drum of the washer and run a cycle using the hot water setting. After the cycle ends, run one more empty wash cycle with nothing added. The plain water will rinse all bleach or vinegar/baking soda out of the tub.

If your washing machine has a Clean Washer cycle, you can use that setting to clean and rinse the washer.

Repeat these steps every 2 months or whenever you detect the musty smell coming from your washing machine.

Image of clearing the washer drain pump filter

Cleaning the Front-Load Washer Drain Pump Filter

For LG, Samsung and Kenmore 795-Series front-load washers, the drain pump filter is behind an opening at the bottom left corner of the front panel. Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual. Be prepared to encounter a horrific stink when removing that drain pump filter if you haven’t pulled it out within the last year and your washer is smelling moldy.

For older Whirlpool and Kenmore HE2, HE3, HE4 and HE5 front-load washing machines, follow the steps in this video to clean the drain pump large item filter.

If you prefer to have a Sears Home Services Technician clean the washer drain pump filter for your, schedule Washer Clean & Maintain Service and we’ll send one of our experts to perform this unsavory task.

Cleaning the Door Boot on a Front-Load Washer

Follow these steps to clean the rubber door boot of a front-load washer:

  1. Mix a solution of 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of hot water.
  2. Don some rubber gloves and wipe the entire door boot with the bleach and water solution. Don’t miss wiping down the areas between the folds of the door boot.
  3. Let the bleach solution stay on the door boot for about 5 minutes then wipe the boot down with plain water to rinse off the bleach.
  4. Run a wash cycle with no clothes in the washer to rinse all bleach out of the inside of the washer.

Repeat this cleaning routine monthly or when you begin smelling odors as mold and mildew builds up again on the door boot.

Cleaning the Detergent Dispenser

Every few months, you’ll need to clean detergent residue out of the dispenser to help prevent odors.

If you have a front load washer, pull the dispenser drawer completely out of the washer and remove all of the inserts. Clean the entire drawer and all inserts under running water.

If you have a top-load washer with dispenser drawers, remove the drawers and clean them under running water. For a top load washer with dispensers around the top of the tub opening, remove inserts from the dispensers and wipe out detergent residue.

Using Laundry Detergent Wisely

Using too much detergent or the wrong type of laundry detergent can quickly cause odors to start coming from your washer.

If you have a high-efficiency washer, you’ll need to only use specially formulated HE detergent. Using normal detergent in your HE washer will cause excessive suds and residue that will quickly form mold, mildew and strong odors.

No matter what type of washer you have, you’ll always need to use the right amount of detergent. Overdosing the washer with detergent will cause excessive suds and residue that will form mold and mildew that will stink up the washer.

Follow the guidelines in your washer owner’s manual to use the right type and amount of laundry detergent.

For HE washers, you’ll typically only need about 1 tablespoon of detergent to clean most loads of laundry.

Leaving the Washer Door or Lid Open When Not In Use

Leaving the washer door or lid open when you’re not using the washer will allow air to circulate through the washer. The air ventilation will help prevent mildew, mold and odors from forming.

If you have young children that love to play hide & seek, it may not be plausible to follow this tip for a front-load washer. An open washer is a tempting place for young ones to climb into. You may consider upgrading to a new top-load washer or a front-load washer with a ventilation fan.

Image of Sears Home Services Technician maintaining a washer

Yearly Washer Maintenance Will Help Prevent a Smelly Washer

One final tip – have your washing machine professionally cleaned and maintained yearly to help prevent odors.

The technician will thoroughly clean the drain pump filter, door boot and other areas of your washer to help prevent odors. After the comprehensive washer check-up and cleaning, the technician will advise you on ways to help keep your washer in top shape and smelling fresh.

Take advantage of special pricing on our Kitchen & Laundry Cleaning and Maintenance Bundle to have all of your home appliances serviced in one convenient visit.

Keeping your appliances in top shape will help prevent unexpected breakdowns and they’ll last longer when professionally maintained every year.

Trust Sears Home Services to help you manage your home so it runs smoothly all year long.

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