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How to Clean a Washing Machine that Smells Like Rotten Eggs

That smell isn’t just unpleasant; it’s a sign that your machine needs some attention. Here’s how to find the smell, treat it, and prevent it from ever coming back.

What Causes a Washing Machine to Smell Bad?

Understanding the root cause of the smell is the first step to fixing it. You need to learn how to properly care for a washing machine to prevent this from happening again.

We can teach you.

A rotten egg smell is bad. It should never get this far.

  • The Short Answer: It’s overdue for cleaning.
  • The Long Answer: It’s due to bacterial growth, mold, mildew, or a buildup of detergent and fabric softener residue. This can happen when moisture gets trapped in the machine, providing a perfect breeding ground for these unwanted smells. We’ll walk you through how to find it, clean it, and prevent it below.

Different Parts of a Washing Machine that Cause Bad Smells

Several parts of your washing machine can harbor bacteria and mold. Here are the usual suspects:

  • Drum: The main part where clothes are washed.
    • The drum is the large, cylindrical component inside the washing machine where you place your clothes. It spins during the wash and rinse cycles. You can see the inside of the drum but can’t see the outside of the drum.
  • Door Seal (Front Loaders): The rubber gasket around the door can trap water and detergent residue.
    • The door seal is a thick, rubber gasket around the opening of front-loading washing machines. It creates a watertight seal when the door is closed.
  • Detergent Drawer: Residue and water can sit here, creating mold and bacteria.
    • The detergent drawer is a small, pull-out compartment usually located at the top front of the machine. It holds and dispenses detergent, fabric softener, and bleach during the wash cycle
  • Filter and Drain Pump: These components can trap debris and lint, leading to unpleasant smells
    • The filter and drain pump are typically located at the bottom front of the machine, behind a small access panel. The filter catches lint and debris from the wash water, while the drain pump removes the water from the drum after the wash and rinse cycles.

How to Clean a Washing Machine’s Drum and Door Seal

The drum needs to get cleaned. Remember – there are two sides of the drum – the inside part that you can see and the outside part that you can’t see. Because the outside of the drum is out of reach, it is often ignored. We’ll teach you how to clean both.

And, we’ll teach you how to clean the door seal too. That is important – yet often overlooked.


For Front Loaders:

  1. Clean the Drum: To clean the inside of the drum, run an empty cycle with hot water and 2 cups of white vinegar. This helps to kill bacteria and dissolve residues. Follow up with another cycle using 1 cup of baking soda to neutralize odors. The outside of the drum can only be accessed if you take your washing machine apart. This is recommended annually. Once opened, scrub with the same mixture.
  2. Clean the Door Seal: Wipe the gasket with a cloth soaked in a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. Pay special attention to any folds where mold and mildew can hide. This will be a tight squeeze but the gaskets are meant to be cleaned under. If at first difficult, that is normal. It’s like flossing your teeth. It will become more normal and less painful over time.

For Top Loaders:

  1. Clean the Drum: To clean the inside of the drum, fill the washer with hot water, then add 2 cups of white vinegar and let it sit for an hour. Run a complete wash cycle. After that, run another cycle with 1 cup of baking soda. The outside of the drum can only be accessed if you take your washing machine apart. This is recommended annually. Once opened, scrub with the same mixture. Top loaders do not have a door seal – so there is nothing more to clean here.

Cleaning the Detergent Drawer and Dispenser

The detergent drawer is a small, pull-out compartment typically found at the top front of the washing machine. In front-loading machines, it is often positioned directly above the drum, while in top-loading machines, it can be integrated into the lid or located in a similar top-front position. The primary function of the detergent drawer is to hold and dispense detergent, fabric softener, and bleach during the wash cycle.

Common variations of detergent drawers include single-compartment and multi-compartment designs. Single-compartment drawers are straightforward and may only hold detergent, while multi-compartment drawers have separate sections for detergent, fabric softener, and bleach, allowing for precise dispensing at different stages of the wash cycle. Some advanced models even have pre-measured dosing systems to optimize detergent use and improve washing efficiency.

The detergent drawer is designed to release these cleaning agents at the appropriate times during the wash cycle, promoting thorough mixing with water and distribution throughout the drum. This process helps to clean clothes effectively and condition fabrics as intended. However, without regular cleaning, residue from these agents can build up, leading to mold growth and unpleasant odors.

To clean the detergent drawer:

  1. Remove the Drawer: If possible, take the detergent drawer out completely. However, in most machines, you are unable to remove it. In the case that you can’t remove it, prepare the area by laying down a towel.
  2. Soak and Scrub: Spray hot water mixed with a bit of vinegar for about 30 minutes. This is typically done with a spray bottle. Use an old toothbrush to scrub away any remaining residue. You will make a bit of a mess – hence the towel recommendation earlier. 
  3. Clean the Cavity: Don’t forget to clean the cavity where the drawer sits. Use a cloth dipped in vinegar and water. Leave the drum open while not in use.

Maintaining the Filter and Drain Pump

The filter in a washing machine is usually located at the bottom front, behind a small access panel. In some models, especially top loaders, it might be located inside the drum or near the agitator. Common variations include lint filters and coin traps, which catch debris such as lint, small clothing items, and coins. The filter is designed to trap these particles, preventing them from entering the drain pump and causing blockages or damage. Regular cleaning of the filter is crucial to maintain proper water flow and prevent odors from trapped debris.

The drain pump is typically found near the bottom of the washing machine, close to the filter. It is often accessed by removing the back or bottom panel of the machine. The drain pump comes in various types, including electric pumps and belt-driven pumps. Its primary function is to remove water from the drum at the end of the wash and rinse cycles, pumping it out through the drain hose and into your home’s plumbing system. This process helps to keep the machine ready for the next load and prevent water from sitting in the drum, which can lead to mold and mildew growth. Regular maintenance and checking for blockages can help keep the drain pump functioning efficiently.

According to Lees Plumbing, regularly checking your drain pump is something you can do to avoid costly machine repairs.

A clogged filter or drain pump can also cause odors.

  1. Locate the Filter: Check your user manual to find where the filter is located. It’s usually at the bottom front of the machine.
  2. Remove and Clean: Carefully remove the filter and clean it under running water. Use a soft brush to remove any debris.
  3. Check the Drain Pump: Look for any trapped debris in the drain pump area and remove it.

Using Proper Detergents and Cleaning Agents

The type of detergent you use can make a big difference. Choosing the proper detergent is crucial for maintaining your washing machine’s performance and longevity. Using low-efficiency detergents in a high-efficiency (HE) machine can produce excessive suds, leading to residue buildup, which can clog the drum, hoses, and pump. Low-efficiency detergents are not formulated to clean efficiently with the lower water levels used by HE machines, resulting in poor cleaning results and potential mechanical issues. To avoid these problems, always use HE detergents in HE machines to ensure optimal cleaning and machine care.

  • HE Detergents: If you have a high-efficiency washer, always use HE detergents. They are designed to produce fewer suds and prevent residue buildup.
  • Avoid Overusing Detergent: Using too much detergent can lead to residue buildup. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for detergent amounts.

Preventative Measures and Routine Maintenance Tips

Regular maintenance can prevent bad smells from returning.

  1. Leave the Door Open: After each wash, leave the door open to allow the drum to dry out. If you are not already doing this, it will feel weird at first. That feeling will pass. Dry machines work better. Let you washing machine breathe! You will thank us later! Ps – This means you should leave the soap tray open too.
  2. Wipe Down After Use: Wipe the door seal and inside of the drum after every wash. If you make a habit of this, it will get easier as the seal expands.
  3. Monthly Cleaning: Run a monthly cleaning cycle with vinegar and baking soda to keep the drum fresh. Annually, you should be cleaning the outer drum.
  4. Use Affresh or Similar Products: Consider using commercial washing machine cleaners like Affresh to maintain cleanliness. It doesn’t replace the need for preventative cleaning and maintenance. However, it will make that preventative cleaning and maintenance much, much easier.

Want to know how to clean a washing machine? Regular maintenance is key. Follow these two Youtubers who post washing machine repair and cleaning content. They’re some of our favorites: Ben’s Appliances and Junk and Derrick with Two R’s Appliance Repair

Try cleaning your washing machine every once in a while. If nothing else, do it so that you never reach the point where you need to Google search “Why does my washing machine smell like rotten eggs” ever again…

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How to Clean a Washing Machine that Smells Like Rotten Eggs