Smelly Odor In Your Washing Machine

If there is a smelly odor in your washing machine, it’s coming from mildew, fungus and mold. If you have a new HE front loading washer, you will eventually have a tendency to have a stale or foul order come from your machine. Older top loading machines often have the same problem. Once the washer has a build up of mold, it’s nearly impossible to have fresh smelling clothes… especially towels and rags

The gals who have front-loading HE machines love them because they can do a batch of laundry in no time at all and… they claim, their clothes are cleaner. However, some gals complain their towels eventually begin to have a moldy smell, which does not revel itself until they dry off after a shower and the towel becomes damp.

The density of the fabric is what makes the difference. The more dense and heavy the fabric, the more it holds mold spores. Personally, I’ve found my micro-fiber rags are the worst. Even though the rags are thin… they are very densely woven.

Regular clothing doesn’t seem to have the same problem… at least not in the beginning. However, if the problem is not nipped in the bud, in time, all of your clothing will have a bit of a moldy smell.

There are several reasons why this problem occurs in the new HE machines.

1. Water gets trapped between the washer drum and intricate parts of the washer. Some models are more predisposed to this problem than others. The seal around front-loading washers can be very tight and water gets trapped under the seal and can’t dry out.

2. A build up of fabric softeners and detergent under the seal and other parts of the washer become a breeding ground for mold and fungus… which leads to smelling clothing.


1. Remove clothes from the washer as soon as the cycle is over. Leaving wet clothes in the washer over night or for long periods of time can begin to create mold spores.

2. Reduce the amount of detergent you’re using. Several sources say you can use ½ of the HE detergent suggested on the container and still have clean clothes. Use a dry detergent rather than a liquid. Liquid detergent has properties that cause build up.

3. Avoid fabric softeners. I know, you want wonderful smelling clothes… but fabric softeners are the biggest culprit for builds up. Use dryer sheets… but wash your dyer filter often.

4. Leave the door ajar after doing a batch of wash. This will allow the interior of the washer a chance to dry out. On a top-loading washer, this is especially important.


1. Pull back the seal to examine whether you have a built up of detergent, softener and mold. Remove build up with a solutions of water and bleach.

2. Run a 1/2 cup of Cascade Complete through a hot water cycle…no clothes of course. (Top loading machines only)

3. There are products that you can purchase on line which are effective in helping over come this odor problem. claims their product is for front-loading machines. seems to be recommended the most. These products will run you about $20.00 and will provide around 20 cleanings.

4. After you’ve cleaned your washer… add a couple of teaspoons of soda to your wash and it will keep your clothes and towels smelling fresh. Borax is also wonderful… because it whitens as well as gives your clothes a fresh aroma.

5. If your smelly washer problem persists, call the manufacturer’s hotline or service department. I wouldn’t go though the store where you purchased the washing machine. I really don’t think salesmen know how to remedy the problem anymore than you do. If you feel apprehensive about using any product, always call the manufacturer of the product first.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. On the Q.T. In my research, the Whirlpool, the Bosh, and the LG… in that order… had the most consumer complaints in the smelly washer area. Kenmore had the least.

P.S.S. If you have any suggestions or homemade remedies that work for smelly washing machines and towels… give us a comment. We welcome all of your ideas.

10 thoughts on “Smelly Odor In Your Washing Machine

  1. Nana/ Thank you for spreading the word on the problem and solutions.
    After cleaning your washer with Smellywasher Cleaner (extreme cases may take more than one and even several cleanings) if a load of towels/clothing is soaked for 2 hours then rewashed with detergent to remove the dead fungus spores it will remove mildew odor.
    There are 24 treatments in one order and it’s guaranteed to work or you will receive your payment (including S&H) back.

    Nana is right. If you use a fraction of the amount of detergent advised to use the odor causing fungus is MUCH less prevalent.
    This is especially important if with soft water and especially important if using liquid detergent.

  2. Kathy, thanks for giving us such insightful information. This is so valuable to those of us who are looking for answers to day to day issues. Who knew that something created for cleaning could have it’s own cleanliness issues? Good job on a great blog. Deb

  3. I haven’t had that problem with my HE washer but I was disappointed in how my whites came out. My sister told me to use the HE Tide in the white bottle because it doesn’t have the bluing that gives the whites a gray cast. I also add a scoop of Oxy Magic to the Tide and stir it around in the dispenser. I can’t believe the difference it has made in my whites.

  4. “2. Run a 1/2 cup of Cascade Complete through a hot water cycle…no clothes of course. (Top loading machines only)”

    I’ve been recommending this remedy for all machines for quite some time, but I think it would be perfectly acceptable to use Cascade in front load washers as well. The bottom line is the enzymes in the detergent will help to break down any accumulated mold in the wash basket.

  5. I have a frontloader now about two years old and failed to do the monthly cleaning they recommend. We started having such an overwhelming smell of mold, we started tearing out walls to see where the water leak was. Never found it. We figured out it was the washer. Now we are running a cleaning cycle everyday with bleach to get it under control. We did have a sock under the gasket and never knew it! Oddly enough, this smell started about two months after I began using homemade detergent. and a vinegar rinse. I’m wondering if that is a possible cause and could harbor mold growth, since it’s organic. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  6. I live in the netherlands, and we mostly use frontloading washingmachines overhere. I have one that makes 1600 turns and can take 7 kilo’s of clothes. (we are with six, so we have a washingload each day). Now I wash on 90 degrees celsius (the hottest stand) ones a month to clean out the inside of the machine. This was the advice when I bought it. I sometimes use soda but mostly nothing. I never use a lot of washing soap and never the softner. And I never have any problems at all!

  7. I have also got a front loading machine that I bought in Switzerland in the early 90’s. It has never had the moldy smell problem because I think that the ability to wash at 90 celsius gives it a good cleaning out. These machines are great because they have a built in heating coil and can really get your whites clean. The only downside to them is that the drum is considerably smaller than a North American machine. I bought a LG front loading machine last year and within weeks had a terrible smell on my laundry especially the towels. It was just by luck that I discovered your website which discussed the problems and now we do a cleaning cycle once in awhile and have fresh smelling laundry again. Thanks for the great tip!

  8. I can’t believe the hoops owners of current front loaders have to jump through just to keep expensive but inferior machines free of mold. It is not the owner’s fault but a faulty design. Remember the LG commerical where the woman dumps her old washer into a lake? Well, the new commercial ought to show an LG washer being dumped into the lake.
    I have used a front loader for the past ten years and never had a problem. It’s the way these frontloaders are designed these days: cheap outer drums that are no longer stainless steel; no longer strong internal heaters that heat the wash water to a decent temperature. Instead the consumers are blamed for not maintaining a shoddy piece of merchandise.
    Send these inferior pieces back to the manufacturer.
    From a satisfied customer who uses a high-quality washer!

  9. Very helpful information you have here. To add that up, if your washer smells moldy and funny after some time, you should consider opening up the washer drum to check the inside of the washer for signs of detergent residues collection. After that, maintain a smell-free washer by running an empty hot water cycle, adding a cup of white vinegar and one cup of baking soda. Make sure you leave the drum door open all the time to allow air to circulate in the washer drum.

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