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How To Clean A Smelly Washing Machine

If your washing machine is giving off bad smells, this article will provide some handy tips and advice to help you keep your washing machine and laundry smelling fresh.

Why does my washing machine smell?

Bad smells coming from your washer? Many factors can lead to a washing machine being plagued by foul odours; the main culprit being a build-up of detergent residue and mould growth that will become a breeding ground for bacteria and smells.

Many people are now using lower washing temperatures more frequently, which can allow bacteria to multiply and cause bad smells in your washer. On top of this, hard water areas can lead to an increase in limescale. This can be another common cause of a stinky washing machine, as the build-up will provide additional areas for bacteria to grow as well as clog up your machine and reduce its energy efficiency.

For a range of washing machine energy-saving tips and advice to help you save money and energy with your appliance, including cleaning guidance and more, you can check out our article right here.

Is smelly washing machine water harmful?

A dirty washing machine can lead to the build-up of limescale and bacteria in your machine, which is highly unsafe when washing your clothes, especially in a hard water area. Not only will it cause damage to your laundry and clothing, but an unclean washing machine will also gradually stop working properly due to limescale damaging the interior parts. This can result in your appliance breaking down, which is why it's important to make sure you're regularly taking the necessary steps to keep it clean.

How to clean a smelly washing machine

Let's take a look! For our tips and advice on how to clean your washing machine, either watch our video guide or read our steps and advice below.

What you will need:

Safety advice

Before you carry out any work on your appliances, make sure they are switched off and disconnected from the mains.

Cleaning with a quality washing machine cleaner and descaler

If your washing machine is giving off bad smells, we would recommend using a good quality washing machine cleaner and descaler to give it a thorough clean and get rid of any mould and bacteria. The eSpares washing machine and dishwasher cleaner works to kill bacteria, stop detergent residue from building up inside your machine and get rid of any strange smells. Regular use of this descaler, around once a month, will help prevent this bacteria from returning and will keep your washing machine smelling fresh.

The eSpares Washing Machine And Dishwasher Cleaner

How to use the descaler

The eSpares cleaner and descaler can be used to target and clean the important parts of your machine where dirt, bacteria and mould are likely to form. To use, first dissolve a sachet of the descaler in a spray bottle with warm water. This will allow you to spray and use the cleaner exactly where required.

Dissolve A Sachet Of The eSpares Descaler In A Spray Bottle With Warm Water

Cleaning the detergent drawer

As pictured below, the detergent drawer is home to a lot of mould build-up which can cause bad smells in your washing machine.

A Washing Machine Detergent Drawer Covered With Mould

To clean the drawer, remove it from its housing and place it into a bowl of hot water. Then give it a good scrub, removing the mould with a brush. The cleaner and descaler isn't necessary for this step.

Removing Mould From The Washing Machine Detergent Drawer With A Brush

Cleaning the drawer housing

Next, you'll need to give the detergent drawer housing a good clean too. If you take a look inside the detergent drawer housing, like in the image below, you may find a lot of mould and residue gathered here both at the top and at the bottom. This mould build-up can affect the spray jets in your washing machine and prevent them from working correctly. This is detrimental to your washer's performance, as the spray jets help to remove dirt and excess detergent in your laundry load.

Inspecting The Inside Of The Washing Machine Detergent Drawer With A Torch

To clean this, first get your spray bottle of warm water and descaler and give the inside of the housing a thorough spray.

Spraying A Bottle Of Warm Water And eSpares Descaler Inside The Washing Machine Detergent Drawer Housing

Then, using a long-handled brush, scrub away the inside of the housing to get rid of any excess mould and residue.

Using A Long Handled Brush To Scrub The Inside Of The Washing Machine Detergent Drawer Housing

Cleaning the door seal

If you pull back the folds of your washing machine's door seal (also known as the gasket), you will see that mould and residue can also gather here. Before trying to clean it, it's worth thoroughly inspecting the seal to check if it's particularly filthy, or if it has become ripped or damaged anywhere over time. If so, you will need to replace the door seal.

Inspecting The Washing Machine Door Seal For Mould And Damage With A Torch

If the seal is just dirty but still in working order, you can clean it by first spraying the cleaner directly into the folds.

Spraying The eSpares Washing Machine Cleaner Into The Folds Of The Washing Machine Door Seal

Then, once sprayed, you can clean inside the folds of the gasket by giving it a good scrub with a scourer. You may notice some stains that you won't be able to remove from a door seal, such as colour fading or black marks. Don't worry about this, as they are just sun discolouration and dead bacteria that won't affect your washing machine.

Cleaning The Inside Folds Of The Washing Machine Door Seal With A Scourer

Cleaning the drum

Finally, you can clean the washing machine's drum and interior. To do this, first slot the detergent drawer back into its housing.

Slotting The Washing Machine Detergent Drawer Back Into Its Housing

Then empty the remaining cleaner into the washing drum through the door and run a hot wash cycle. It's worth noting, however, that some washing machines have a 'tub clean' function. Be wary of using this, as this function will fill your washing machine with water then immediately drain it. This will also drain the descaler, rendering it useless.

Preventing future bacteria build-up

Once you've got your washing machine clean and sparkling, you should also make sure you take the necessary steps to prevent bacteria and mould from building up in future.

  • Empty your washing machine as soon as a cycle has finished to reduce bacteria and prevent it from multiplying.
  • Open the door and dispenser drawer after each cycle. This will allow air to circulate, helping your machine dry out more quickly and keeping bad odours at bay.
  • Check and clean the washing machine's filter. This includes removing any loose change, hairs, clips, fibre deposits and anything else that can clog up and cause more damage to your machine.

And that's all there is to cleaning your smelly washing machine and keeping it in great shape!

On top of all of the above steps, it's also a good idea to familiarise yourself with your washing machine's settings and programs. This will allow you to use your appliance as efficiently as possible, which will not only provide the best results but also help keep it in working order for longer.

While you're here, don't forget to also subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos on appliance care and maintenance, step-by-step repair guides and all other things eSpares.

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