We wash our clothes all the time, but sometimes when we go to do our laundry we’re assaulted by an awful smell, possibly of sewage. This can happen to both front-loader and top-loader washing machines, and it can be both worrying and unpleasant.
If this has happened to you, you probably want to know why your washing machine smells so bad, and how to get rid of it. But don’t worry, chances are that it’s a simple problem, with a simple fix. Then you can get back to a nice, fresh smelling laundry.
So, let’s look at some ways that you can both solve these bad smells when they appear, how to prevent this problem from happening again, and some frequently asked questions about how to maintain our washing machine.
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Why Does My Washing Machine Smell Like Rotten Eggs or Sewage?
Chances are that your washing machine just needs a good clean. It can be easy to neglect your washer, thinking that it’ll just clean itself as it cleans your clothes, but sadly that’s not the case.
It’s common for washing machines to become a hotbed for mold, which is what causes the unpleasant sulfur smell. Other things can build up in the washer as well, which you’ll need to watch out for.
Some laundry detergents and fabric softeners can get stuck in the washer, along with debris from your dirty clothes. These will start to smell musty after a while, and could rub off on your clothes as you wash them, sometimes making them dirtier than when you put them in.
However, there’s also the possibility that something is wrong with the plumbing of your washing machine, which also causes the smell of sewage to build up and fill your laundry room.
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Washing Machine Smells Like Natural Gas
It can be easy to confuse the smell of a washing machine that’s in need of cleaning with that of a gas leak. Natural gas is naturally odorless, so the smell of sulfur is added to it to make it more easily detectable when there’s a leak. Unfortunately, this is the same smell as a moldy washing machine.
If the smell is just around your washing machine, it’s more likely to be that the machine is what’s causing the smell. However, if you suspect that the smell is caused by a gas leak, call your gas company.
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Front Load Washing Machine Smells
Many of us now use a front-loading washing machine. These are considered more efficient as they use less water than the top load washing machines, as well as being easier to use and gentler on clothes. However, both washing machines are prone to a buildup of mold and bad smells.
Because of how front load washing machines work, only filling the bottom of the wash tub, there sometimes isn’t enough to rinse the laundry detergent away. This can happen especially if you’re using the wrong kind of detergent which produces a lot of suds. Instead, use a higher efficiency detergent and it might even be an idea to skip the softener.
The unrinsed suds end up coating the drum in dirty soap scum, which provides a home for all kinds of bacteria, mold, and mildew. While this can happen with any washing machine and using any detergent, it can be more of an issue when using a detergent with a lot of suds in a front loader.
Another thing with front load washing machines is that they use a rubber gasket around the door, which acts to seal in the water. This gasket is unfortunately a great place for dirt to get trapped, allowing yet more nasty smells to form.
In order to clean your front load washing machine, either use a specialized washing machine tub cleaner and follow the instructions on that packaging or use both baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda and vinegar are a home cleaner’s two best friends for gentle but effective cleaning.
About a ¼ cup of baking soda should go in the detergent drawer along with some water and check the drum for any debris before adding 2 cups of white vinegar to the drum. There shouldn’t be any clothes in the washer. If your washing machine has a special service cycle, use that. Otherwise run a normal cycle at a high heat.
Once the cycle is complete, scrub the inside of the drum and get rid of any spots of grime. Any mold should be dead. Finally, wipe the inside of the rubber gasket and make sure there’s no dirt trapped in there. Check your machine’s drain trap filter for lint. The washing machine should now be clean, and the bad smells gone.
Top Load Washing Machine Smells
While many of us now use front load washing machines, top load washing machines are still common enough. However, both washing machines are prone to an accumulation of bad smells.
The process for washing your top-loader is similar to any other washing machine. If you’re using a washing machine tub cleaner, follow those instructions. If not, set the washer to run on hot water with the largest load setting.
Add 3-4 cups of white vinegar to the water, then ½ a cup of baking soda. Allow the machine to run for a few minutes to mix in the vinegar and baking soda, then stop the washer and allow the water to sit for a few minutes.
Use this time to wipe down the outside of the washing machine if you like, as well as the dispensers. Then let the cycle run and the water to drain from the tub. Once the tub is empty, scrub the inside of the it, focusing the top of the washtub where the water doesn’t reach, and scum may gather.
Finally, check your machine’s drain trap filter.
If the Washing Machine Still Smells
If you’ve successfully cleaned the washing machine, and it still has that nasty sewage smell, then there might be an issue with the plumbing. The issue will either be with the drainpipe, or the vent pipe.
The drainpipe may be incorrectly installed or clogged. You will likely need to call a plumber to deal with this issue, as they have the tools and the training. A professional should also be able to deal with a clogged vent pipe, which would allow sewer gasses back into your home.
How to Keep the Washing Machine Smelling Great
Like many things, this comes down to regular maintenance. Your washing machine itself should be cleaned using a service wash once a month or so, which will stop bad smells in their tracks. If you have a rubber gasket, wipe this out at the same time.
The drain trap filter should be emptied once a week, to stop the debris from building up and potentially causing a blockage in your machine. Also, regularly wipe out the detergent drawers.
Check what detergent you use and whether it’s appropriate for your washing machine. If the washing machine is highly efficient, some detergents will cause a buildup of suds and soap scum.
Finally, part of why the mold builds up so easily is because your washer is a warm, humid environment, which is mold and bacteria friendly. To lessen this humidity, keep the door of your washing machine open for at least an hour after each wash.
If your laundry room is still humid, then you can run a fan to dry out the air or buy a dehumidifier.
Should I be using a washing machine tub cleaner to prevent washing machine smells after cleaning?
Most of the time, using baking soda and vinegar will work okay. However, sometimes it’s best to use a specialized washing machine tub cleaner to make sure that it’s as clean as possible.
You may be tempted to just wipe or scrub the inside of your washer without running a service wash, but this isn’t guaranteed to kill off any mold or bacteria. Also, running the service wash with either the tub cleaner or vinegar and baking soda will make sure that the parts of the washer you can’t access also get cleaned.
Does washing our dog’s bedding in the washing machine contaminate the unit for subsequent loads of laundry?
If you have a dog, you might be wondering how best to wash their bedding. The good news is that most dog’s bedding is machine washable, although you’ll have to check the label to make sure.
When washing the bedding, it’s best to put it in the wash alone, if you can. Once the wash is finished, check the washing machine for any hair or debris that have been left behind. This will prevent the subsequent load being washed along with all that debris.
If you do this, it should be fine to wash other laundry after your dog’s bedding. However, it might be an idea to wash your dog’s bedding just before your regular washing machine cleaning.