What Causes Odor in my Washing Machine?
When washing your clothes, you obviously expect them to come out clean and smelling fresh. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. If your washer stinks this could be why.
Too Much Detergent
The most common cause is using too much detergent. Using too much soap can lead to more suds than the machine can rinse away. As your machine runs through its cycles, these extra suds and dirty water splash up the walls and a residue is left as the water drains from the tub. The grime that collects above the splash line isn’t rinsed during the rinse cycle or is it reached by cleaning or sanitizing cycles. Over years of use the residue can get quite thick. Leaving the door open does lessen odor by drying out the residue but makes it difficult to remove. Also, the residue is "reactivated" when water enters the tub.
- It's absolutely necessary to use "HE" detergent in high efficiency washers because it's low-sudsing
- Use whatever detergent you're comfortable with but no more than a tbsp unless washing soiled laundry
- If odor is persistent, powder detergents are less available but are much less prone to causing odor
Fabric softener is dispensed in the rinse cycle of your washing machine and tends to coat the inside of the plastic outer tub and the rubber gasket with a residue "biofilm" that can lead to bacteria and molds to grow in the moist, contained environment of your washer.
- Softener is dispensed by either centrifugal force, suction from running water or by gravity and is simply too thick to be properly dispensed
- Even diluted fabric softener will eventually cause an odor problem so we recommend switching to dryer sheets* or even dryer balls
- Overuse of either dryer sheets and fabric softener can lead to a buildup of residue on laundry and/or the moisture sensor in dryers resulting in long dry times.
*There are opinions that fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain carcinogens
Low water temperature
Many users like to use mainly cold water for washing. After all, we bought a high efficiency machine is to save energy - right? Using mainly cold water for washing is perfectly fine. However it makes preventive maintenance very important because hot water dissolves residue much better.
- Even if odor isn't yet a problem, we advise to use a hot water wash as your last cycle on wash day. It's a perfect time to soak more soiled laundry like underwear or dishrags
- If your washer isn't used very often or if you're leaving for a vacation you may want to run an extra rinse cycle to drain excess residue
- Check for proper hose installation to ensure you're getting hot water and cold water when desired
Slow draining can cause mold and bacteria in the drain tubes and filters of your washer. To ensure proper draining it's important to do preventive maintenance
- Before calling for repair, many front loading HE washers have a filter or trap that needs to be periodically cleaned to maintain proper drainage. Consult the owners manual or the internet for advice.
- Improper placement of the drain hose can cause draining problems. Proper installation is extremely important to avoid water damage
- Bra wires, screws, coins and even toys are common items that can get caught in the trap to cause problems. Cleaning pockets before washing can save an expensive repair .
Summary: Preventing Mold
Your sense of smell is the best indicator if a washing machine cleaner is needed. Peventive maintenance can save the hassle of a bad odor problem so it's best to keep up with it. Your washing habits make all the difference.
- Wipe out the folds of the door gasket after the last load
- A hot wash as your last cycle on wash day is great preventive maintenance
- Persistent or returning odor in your washer or laundry is a sign of remaining residue. Using a washing machine cleaner, like Smelly Washer, that can be used with laundry will clean the entire tub. The added bulk of the laundry will raise the water level to include the "splash area" just above the normal waterline where suds and soiled water build up to feed bacteria.
- Powder detergent is much less prone to causing odor. Powder can be used even in liquid dispensers as the water will flush it through the dispenser.