Why Does My Washing Machine Smell Bad?

Clothes in a washer

One of the most frequent questions that customers ask Mr. Appliance® is, "Why does my washer stink?" Well, your washing machine likely smells bad because of mildew, mold, product buildup, a gas leak, or a plumbing issue.

Based on these troubleshooting steps, you can find out exactly why your washer smells bad.

Troubleshoot by Odor

Why Does My Washer Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

A rotten egg smell coming from a washer can be a sign that microorganisms have built up and released hydrogen sulfide gas. Deep cleaning is usually the solution to this problem. However, the eggy odor may be caused by two other potential problems: a natural gas leak or a sewer issue.

If you have a gas dryer, it may be a smelly appliance and not a washer. Turn off the gas supply valve to the dryer for now, open a window, and run a fan. Then check out the next section to confirm if you have sewer-related washer smells. If the sewer isn’t the culprit, you’ll want to call your gas company to rule out a gas leak.

Why Does My Washer Smell Like Sewer?

If your washing machine smells like a sewer—with a sulfur and/or human waste odor—it has one of two problems. Either 1) your machine is grimy and bacteria are releasing hydrogen sulfide gas, or 2) you have a plumbing issue causing sewer gas to enter the laundry room.

The latter problem is dangerous, as sewer gas is both flammable and damaging to your health, so open a window (if you haven’t already) and check for that problem first. Pull the smelly washing machine away from the wall, and pull the drainpipe out of the vertical standpipe.

Take a cautious sniff. If the odor is definitely coming from that location, you have one of these plumbing problems that’s allowing sewer gas into your home:

  • A failing or clogged washer P-trap
  • A clogged washer vent pipe
  • A clogged drain

Contact a reliable plumber right away to identify the issue and fix it. We heartily recommend Mr. Rooter® Plumbing, our fellow Neighborly® brand, as they’ve been plumbing experts for more than 50 years.

If the odor isn’t coming from the drainpipe, that’s very good! Move on to the information below, and you should be able to fix the foul washing machine odor yourself.

Why Does My Washer Smell Like Mildew or Mold?

If the problem isn’t the sewer or gas supply, that musty scent is caused by the growth of microorganisms on the drum or gaskets. Front-load and high-efficiency washing machines are especially prone to this problem.

That’s because heat, moisture, and detergent or fabric softener residue make washers an ideal home for mildew, mold, and bacteria. Without adequate airflow and appliance maintenance, this organic matter will result in a detectable odor in the laundry room.

Use the maintenance and cleaning tips below to fix this problem.

How to Remove Odor from a Washing Machine

Bring on the Heat

In an effort to save energy costs and protect delicate fabrics, you may be using the washer’s cold water setting for all your laundry. However, it's important to run your last load of the day in hot water to help remove any detergent or dirt residue.

Use the Right Laundry Products

Especially if you own a front-loading washing machine, it’s important to use the right detergent, fabric softener, and other products. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for laundry products, as some units require high-efficiency (HE) detergent. These products produce fewer suds, resulting in less film left behind at the end of each cycle.

Increase Circulation

Proper airflow is needed to dry the interior components of your washing machine. Promptly remove your laundry at the end of the wash cycle, and leave the door open afterward to allow moisture to dissipate. For added protection, install an exhaust fan or dehumidifier in your laundry room to speed up the drying process.

Clean Your Machine

To prevent and remove odor from your washer, clean it as a part of regular washing machine maintenance.

There are many products on the market that help make this chore a breeze, including these:

  • Baking soda. Dissolve a quarter-cup of baking soda in a quarter-cup of water and pour the solution into your machine's soap dispenser. Then use the optional vinegar tip below, or immediately run a hot cycle.
  • Vinegar. Add two cups of plain white vinegar to your empty washing machine, and run a hot cycle. The combination of baking soda and vinegar dissolves oils and other residues. But if you only have one or the other ingredient, it will still clean on its own.
  • Commercial washing machine cleaner. Peruse the laundry aisle at your favorite store, and look for a washing machine cleaner that can be added to your laundry. The additional height of the water and abrasive action from a load of clothing or towels will aid the cleaning process.
  • “Elbow grease.” The rubber seal around the door of the machine is a common site of mold and mildew. Use a clean, damp cloth and a mild detergent (or a mixture of vinegar and water) to clean the gasket. Then dry the gasket with a second clean cloth, and leave the door open to promote circulation.

Get Expert Appliance Service, When Needed

Does your washer or dryer need an inspection or repair? Enlist a Mr. Appliance professional to get the job done right. Just connect with your local team or schedule service online.

Share Article name