Why Does My Laundry Room Smell? Here’s How to Fix It

By Lyle Weischwill | Aug. 16, 2023 1:49 pm PST

What Causes Laundry Room Odors?

A well-maintained home is a sanctuary of comfort and hygiene, where every corner reflects an inviting atmosphere. However, even the most pristine households occasionally encounter unpleasant mold, mildew and sewage smells that seem to emanate from the most unexpected places. One such source of mystery and frustration is the laundry room—a space dedicated to cleanliness that paradoxically can become a breeding ground for unwanted odors. The persistence of these odors doesn’t only disrupt the tranquility of your living space; it can also signal underlying issues that require attention.

You can reclaim the freshness and cleanliness your home deserves by understanding the origin of these odors and implementing proactive measures to banish the noxious scents from your laundry room. Whether you’re a meticulous homemaker or a busy professional, these tips will empower you to tackle laundry room odors with confidence.

4 Reasons Why There’s a Stinky Smell in the Laundry Room

The presence of unwelcome odors within the confines of your laundry room can be both perplexing and frustrating. Numerous factors can contribute unpleasant laundry room smells, ranging from inadequate ventilation and damp conditions to piles of dirty clothes left unattended and neglected appliances in need of a thorough cleaning. Understanding the reasons behind these odors is crucial to effectively addressing and eliminating them.

Your washer or dryer needs to be cleaned

When you stride past your laundry room catch a whiff of mold, it’s likely time to check your washer. Front-load washers are notorious for building up mold and mildew in the rubber door boot, tub and drain pump. That obnoxious odor you smell is likely coming from one of those three places, or a combination thereof—if not all three.

Get closer to the washer and see if you detect the moldy odor coming from the washer. If your washer’s door is shut, open it and see if the odor gets worse. If it does, then the musty smell in your laundry room is definitely coming from your washer.

You often won’t need to worry about laundry room odor when you have a top-load washer, but a buildup of soap scum around the lid opening or fabric softener in the dispenser can cause a bad smell over time. If you do have a top-load washer and you’re smelling mold, you’ll likely need to have a Sears Service Technician check for any washing machine issues as the cause of the odor.

A foul odor around the dryer could be caused by excessive lint buildup in the dryer or clogs in the dryer vent. This not only causes the unpleasant smell; it’s a fire hazard. If you’re cleaning the lint filter before each use, it’s possible the dryer isn’t vented correctly or that there’s a blockage in the vent through the house. Have a Sears Technician take a look at the dryer to determine if there’s a problem and to perform dryer maintenance.

Leaky pipes

Leaks from the washer water fittings or drain hose might go undetected as the water collects on the floor under and behind the washer. Overtime the spill will mix with bacteria to create a noxious stink. A service technician should take a look at the washer if you find evidence of a leak under or behind it.

Leaking water or drain pipes behind the laundry room wall can also create a bad odor. If you suspect a leaking pipe, you’ll need to have a plumber take a look.

Clogged vent pipes

Your home’s drain pipes require a vent pipe that prevents sewer gases from entering the home. If the vent pipe for your washer’s drain becomes clogged, it could cause the gases from the sewer lines to back into the laundry room. If you notice the sewage smell coming from the walls around the vent pipe, it’s best to contact a plumber.

Clogged drain lines

Sewage or rotten egg smells might also be caused by a buildup of hair, lint, debris and soap scum clogging the drain line. You can try removing the washer drain hose from the drain pipe in the wall, and then running a drain snake through the pipe to clean any blockages. At the bottom of the drain pipe is a p-trap. The p-trap always has a little bit of water in it to prevent sewage smells emitting from the sewer lines from entering your home. If the p-trap becomes dry, it will cause a sewer smell. Pour about a gallon of water through the drain pipe if you suspect the p-trap is dry.

How to Eliminate Washer Odor

The first step in deciding how to eliminate washer odor is to figure out whether you want to do it yourself or have a professional clean and perform maintenance on your washer.

DIY Front-Load Washer Cleaning Tips

When you decide to clean and eliminate odor in the washer on your own, we recommend that you follow these steps to clean your washer, eliminate musty smells and prevent moldy odors from returning.

1. Clean the rubber door boot. Don some rubber gloves and wipe the entire door boot (also called the bellows) with a solution of 1 cup liquid bleach to 1 gallon of hot water. Don’t miss wiping down the areas between the folds of the door boot. 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.

2. Next, clean the drain pump large item 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.

3. After reassembling the drain pump, 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 a front load 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. Instead of using liquid chlorine bleach, you can use a washer cleaner such as Affresh washing machine cleaner or Washer Magic cleaner.

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

DIFM–Have a Sears Technician Clean and Maintain Your Washing Machine

When you want someone to clean your washer (DIFM—do it for me), schedule a Sears Tech to perform a Clean & Maintain service on your machine. In addition to performing the above steps, the Sears Technician will inspect your washer for proper functioning, wear and tear, excess noise, water leaks, and clean internal components.

It’s a good idea to have a Sears Technician clean and maintain your washer yearly even if you perform the periodic cleanings described above yourself.

Having a technician clean and maintain your washer annually will help prevent costly breakdowns and your washing machine will last longer when it’s properly maintained.

How to Prevent Front-Load Washer Odor

In addition to performing the washer cleaning routine described above and having a Sears Tech perform annual maintenance and cleaning, follow these tips to help prevent that musty, moldy odor from invading your wash room.

  • Leave the washer door open if possible. If you have small children that like to play hide-and-seek, then you may need to skip this tip. Otherwise, leaving the washer door open will ventilate the tub and internal washer components to help prevent mold and mildew from developing.
  • Always use the right amount of HE detergent in your washing machine. High efficiency front-load washers use less water to you’ll need to use HE (high efficiency) detergent to help prevent detergent deposits that can help mold and mildew grow inside the washing machine. Besides using the right type of detergent, you’ll also need to use the right amount. For most loads, you’ll only need to add about a tablespoon of detergent. You’ll never need to use more than ¼ cup of HE detergent to clean laundry in your HE front-load washing machine.
  • Remove clothes promptly after the cycle ends. Don’t leave a wet load inside the washer for hours (or overnight). Wet clothes remaining in the washer for a long time will help smelly mold and mildew begin to form.
  • Wipe water and residue off the door boot after you finish using your washer for the day. This will help keep mold and mildew from forming on the door boot.

Following these tips will help keep your laundry room smelling fresh and clean. Remember to take action fast to eliminate stinky odors as soon as you detect any unpleasant smells coming from your laundry room.

Sears Home Services Has Washer Maintenance Solutions for You

Let Sears Home Services help you keep your washer in tip-top shape. Routine annual maintenance not only reduces the chance for unpleasant odors to develop in the machine, it also lessons the chance of a washer breakdown while increasing its efficiency. And if you bundle washer maintenance with dryer maintenance, you can save even more. Schedule a laundry appliance clean and maintain appointment with one of our experts today.

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