When you think of your washing machine, you probably envision clean, fresh-scented clothes. Unfortunately, your washing machine isn’t always the image of freshness you might imagine. You may find that your washing machine develops terrible sewage or rotten egg smell.
If your washing machine develops a bad smell, the most likely culprits are mildew and bacteria. These microorganisms grow within the rubber seal of your washer. To fix the issue, you’ll need to clean the area with some kind of sanitizing agent.
There are a variety of methods you can use to eliminate bacteria and mildew in the washing machine. The right choice will depend on what you have to hand in and the specifics of your washing machine. Let’s explore the options.
Methods of Cleaning a Washing Machine
Water and Vinegar
If you experience a foul smell from your washer, one of the easiest methods is to clean using a solution of water and vinegar. You may already have vinegar on hand, making this a quick way to solve the problem. It will require a bit of work though.
Step1: Mix your water and vinegar
To start, you’ll need to mix your water and vinegar together in equal parts. Bring this mixture, along with a rag or paper towels, down to the washer. If you’d like, you can also place this mixture in a spray bottle to make the task easier.
Step2: Pull Rubber Clip
Pull back the rubber lip from the inside of the washer. This is where the mildew and bacteria likely reside. Check to see if a rag, sock, or any other small item of fabric has gotten stuck between the lip.
Step3: Remove Stucked Items
When these items get stuck, they stay damp and become a breeding ground for microorganisms. If you find one, remove it with your hand or, if you can’t reach it, with a wire hanger.
Step4: Spray & Wipe
Spray or wipe your vinegar mixture throughout the interior of the lip. Be thorough, as any bacteria or mildew left can repopulate the cleaned area. Once this is done, proceed to do the same throughout the interior of the washing machine and on the door.
Once you’ve finished wiping everything down, run the machine on the hottest setting to flush out the vinegar and any dislodged debris. This will finish cleaning out your washer and prevent your clothes from smelling like vinegar.
Another option for eliminating bacteria and mildew is to use bleach. To do this, mix together water and bleach in a solution of equal parts. Once you have this, simply follow the steps outlined above, substituting the vinegar solution for your bleach solution.
Do not use both bleach and vinegar to clean your washing machine.
Bleach is highly reactive. When bleach mixes with vinegar, it results in chlorine gas. This is a highly dangerous chemical that can cause serious health issues.
Running the washing machine after wiping everything down is all the more important with bleach, as bleach can damage your clothing if left in the washer.
Other Causes of Rotten Egg Smell
While the inner lip is the most likely culprit for foul smells coming from your washing machine, it isn’t the only area that can produce these odors. If you’ve already cleaned the lip and the smell hasn’t gone away, here are a few other things you might check.
If you smell a sewage-like odor coming from your washer, it may be that your pipes are the issue. There are two areas that can contribute to the problem.
Your p-trap can cause a sewage smell when it gets backed up or harbors a lot of debris. The p-trap is the small, u-shaped piece that connects to the bottom of your standpipe.
Cleaning the p-trap is relatively simple. All you need to do is remove the p-trap and rinse or scrub the inside. Make sure you turn off the water supply to your washer prior to doing this.
The drain pipe can also harbor bacteria and mildew. The drain pipe is the tube that connects your washer to your standpipe. Your standpipe itself can also become clogged or filled with buildup.
If the problem is with your drain or standpipe, you’ll need to call a plumber. Cleaning these pipes requires special tools and a level of expertise. Attempting to clean them yourself might damage the pipes.
Finally, your washer’s vent pipe can become clogged. The vent pipe is the pipe that allows gasses to escape. When this pipe clogs, those gasses aren’t released properly, leading to the sewer-like smell you experience.
You may be able to clear out the vent pipe on your own. Vent pipes typically attach to the roof, so if you have access to the roof in a safe manner, you can look down the pipe for blockages.
If you find a blockage within reach, you can simply remove it yourself. Blockages deeper in the pipe will require an expert to remove them.
The Detergent Dispenser
You may think your detergent dispenser stays squeaky clean because of the soap you pour into it. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Laundry detergent doesn’t clean the washing machine itself.
Since the detergent dispenser tends to remain damp, it can be a breeding ground for the microorganisms that produce sewage smells. Luckily, cleaning it is an easy process.
To start, remove the drawer of the dispenser. Next, fill a sink or bucket with hot, soapy water and submerge the drawer. Let it soak for around an hour before proceeding.
Once the drawer has soaked, scrub it with a toothbrush or pipe cleaner. Clean out the cavity where the drawer sits with soapy water. If possible, scrub the pipes under the drawer as well.
Dry the drawer thoroughly with a towel or leave it to air dry. After it’s dried, spray it with a disinfectant, such as vinegar or bleach solution. Replace the drawer and you are finished.
How to Prevent Smells from Your Washer
The best way to prevent smells from your washer is to clean it regularly. Many people assume that the washer is self-cleaning because of all the detergent run through it. This isn’t the case.
The detergent cleans clothes, but it doesn’t clean the machine itself. If you want to keep the machine free from the microorganisms that cause rotten egg smells, you’ll want to clean it with either vinegar or bleach mixtures at least every few months.
Additionally, letting the washer stay open will allow the interior to dry, keeping bacteria and mildew from growing.
How do I get rid of a bad smell in my washing machine?
The answer depends on what part of the washer the smell comes from. If the smell comes from the interior, clean the lip and washing cavity with a mixture of water and vinegar. If the smell originates in the pipes, you may need to call a plumber to remove debris.
Is vinegar bad for washing machines?
While vinegar is great for eliminating bacteria and mildew, it can be harmful to the rubber parts of your washing machine. This doesn’t mean you should never use vinegar to clean your washer though. Just make sure not to use it over frequently, and run the washer after cleaning to flush out the vinegar once you’re finished.