Washing machines develop stinky smells if they are not properly used or maintained. The buildup of the residue that causes odor can get worse over time and needs to be taken care of before it goes too far and spreads to the laundry and even causes bad odor in other parts of the home.
Bleach or vinegar (never together as dangerous gases can form) are commonly used as deodorizers and will reduce the smell but does not remove the cause from the tub. Detergent and softener residue then collects on the base and the problem starts all over again.
Although many users leave the door open to reduce odor, the cause of the odor remains to reinfect the clothing during the next wash. To properly clean a clothes washer the cause of the odor should be removed. In short...if your washer smells with the door open or closed, it's time to clean it!
Luckily, for consumers, there are options available to get rid of this odor. To get rid of persistent or returning odor it's important to realize that the area of the worst buildup of residue is the area just above the normal waterline. Detergent, softeners, soil and grime all splash up and don't get rinsed out. Cleaning cycles do not reach this area so a washing machine cleaner that can be used with clothing should be considered. The added bulk of the laundry will raise the water level to include the splash area.
A little preventive maintenance can go a long way to prevent washer odor. Something as simple as using your hot cycle as the last cycle on wash day can help dissolve and flush out the residue.
A bad odor from your washer or laundry means that your washing machine has a bacteria, mold or mildew problem that can be transferred onto your clothing. The odor can even get so bad as to cause other areas of the home to smell as well.
Here are a few main causes of washing machine smell:
Overusing Washing Detergents
Using too much detergent or the wrong type of detergent causes suds. These suds, along with soiled water, leave residue on the inside of the outer, plastic tub and provides a food source for molds and bacteria to thrive in the nearly perfect growing environment of the clothes washer.
Creating too many suds by overusing washing detergents can also hinder the operation of your washing machine. Because suds contain chemicals and air, the surface tension of the water is changed and allows moisture into the spin bearing. There's nothing that will ruin these sealed bearings faster than moisture and they are very expensive to replace.
Using Fabric Softener
Fabric softener is dispensed in the rinse cycle of a washing machine and tends to build up a thin layer of film inside your clothes washer. It is also a food source for bacteria and mold to grow. Softeners also coat your towels with chemicals which makes them absorb odors and become less absorbent.
Fabric softener sheets or the chemical-free dryer balls are better options for softening laundry. Keep in mind dryer sheets can also be over-used. The chemicals in them will coat the dryer moisture sensor to affect dry times in automatic cycles. There are also opinions that fabric softener and dryer sheets contain carcinogens.
Using Mainly Cold Water
Using mainly cold water in your washing machine is fine but makes preventive maintenance more important. A hot wash or soak cycle as your last cycle on wash day can go a long way in preventing odor. It's a perfect opportunity to wash more soiled laundry! Consider an extra rinse if laundry is especially dirty or if the unit won't be used for some time.