If Your Washer Smells Like Mildew, Try These Cleaning Tricks

It’s laundry day and you notice a foul smell as you approach the washer. Cleaning clothes in a smelly washer tub seems counterintuitive. Without a doubt, when your washer smells like mildew, you need a gameplan.

Although you may feel like you need a new washer, don’t despair! We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves to freshen up that smelly washer tub and get your clothes nice and clean.

Cleaning Hacks for When Your Washer Smells Like Mildew

Let’s go through why your washer smells like mildew, how to clean and freshen the washer, and how to prevent this from happening in the future.

Why Does My Washer Smell Bad?

When a washer begins to smell like mildew, there are a few potential sources to the problem. Generally, your washer is taking in all the laundry’s dirt, grease, and grime, and most of it gets drained away.

Over time and after countless loads of laundry, there is a degree of soap scum and detergent residue that builds up and invites bacteria, mold, and mildew to make their home in your washer.

The warmth of the laundry room and appliance itself is an ideal environment for that bacteria to grow. Eventually, the smell alerts you to its presence.

How to Clean a Washer that Smells Like Mildew

Thankfully, when your washer smells bad, it’s pretty easy to clean it. You probably have exactly what you need right in your pantry. White vinegar, which can be purchased by the gallon, and essential oils make a great remedy when your washer smells like mildew.

Top-Load Washers:
Clean the Washer Tub 
For a top-loader, the smell is usually coming from directly inside the tub area. Here’s what to do:

  1. Empty the wash tub.
  2. Set water temperature to the hottest setting.
  3. Pour 2 cups white vinegar into the hot water.
  4. If possible, add 3-10 drops of Tea Tree Oil (aka Melaleuca oil) into the water- this helps freshen and is a natural anti-bacterial oil.
  5. Run the empty washer through a complete cycle.
  6. Use a vinegar-dampened rag or sponge to wipe away any visible remaining residue.
  7. Repeat process monthly.
clean washing machine with vinegar
Image: One Good Thing


Front-Load Washers:
Clean the Door Boot 

When your front-load washer smells like mildew, the most likely culprit is the door boot rather than the washer tub itself. The door boot is the big rubber seal that wraps around the front of the tub. Grime and residue tend to get trapped inside and on the interior of the boot. This leads to bacterial growth and that tell-tale smell of mold. Follow these steps to clean the door boot:

  1. Mix white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray the entire boot, being sure to get the vinegar solution into the crevices of the seal.
  3. Let sit 15 minutes.
  4. Using a vinegar-dampened rag, wipe rubber gasket clean, getting under and around the seal as much as possible. (*You can add a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to the rag for its anti-bacterial properties, but don’t add to a plastic spray bottle.)
  5. Repeat cleaning of the rubber gasket.
washer mold and midew
Image: The PuroClean Blog


Clean Dispenser and Wash Tub

After you’ve cleaned the rubber gasket well, follow these final simple steps:

  1. Using the same vinegar solution as the door boot, clean the detergent dispenser well.
  2. Using an empty washer, set wash cycle to the hottest setting.
  3. Add 1 cup vinegar, bleach, or baking soda, or commercial wash cleaner to the wash tub. (Choose ONE ingredient, not all of them!)
  4. Run the washer through a complete cycle.
  5. Repeat if necessary.

Our appliance experts also recommend Affresh Washer Tabs to keep your machine fresh and clean.

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