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Appliances How-to-clean-a-smelly-washing-machine

Published on April 18th, 2014 | by Terry Spencer


How to clean a smelly front load washing machine

Front-load washing machines have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. They’re admired for their sleek design, water and energy efficiency, cleaning capabilities and easy operation.

But there’s one resounding flaw: They get smelly, if not regularly maintained.

That’s why we hear this question frequently: “I have a brand-new washing machine and my clothes are coming out smelling so bad. What’s wrong? How do I get rid of the smell?”

The most common cause of a smelly front load washer is mold.

Unfortunately, front loaders are more vulnerable to mold growth than top-load washing machines because of their design.

The space between the tub and the gasket (rubber seal) is a moisture-filled incubator for mold growth.

But it’s easy to prevent it.

Here are my tips on how to clean a smelly front-loading washing machine:

  • Cover your hands with rubber gloves.
  • In a bucket, a mix a gallon of warm water with half a cup of bleach.
  • Saturate the cleaning cloth with the cleaning solution.
  • Gently pull on the gasket and softly run the rub through the space between the gasket and the tub.
  • Use a toothbrush or other small bristle brush dipped in this cleaning solution to remove the mold.
  • Use a cotton swab (such as Q-tips® brand) to access hard-to-reach locations.
  • Keep the machine’s door open for eight to 10 hours for thorough drying.

How to keep your front-loading washing machine clean and smelling fresh:

Every time you use your washing machine:

  • After every cycle, use an absorbent cloth to wipe the tub and along the gasket to remove moisture. Yes, this must happen after every cycle.
  • Use only powder detergent designed for high-efficiency (HE) models. Liquid detergent, even formulas marked for HE models, is not recommended.
  • Don’t use more detergent than necessary, even if you’re washing a mud-caked football uniform. Extraneous detergent does more harm than good. Constant overuse of detergent will lead to deposit buildup in the machine and the dispenser. It will also cause premature wear on fabric.
  • Remove clothing as soon as the cycle is complete. Damp clothing left in the machine is a mildew paradise.
  • Keep the door slightly ajar when not in use for air circulation. Be careful with this in homes with small children or pets.


  • Use a washing machine cleaner tablet to remove residue in high-efficiency (HE). Our favorite is Affresh™ Washing Machine Cleaner, which works for all brands of washing machines:

Affresh 01060888

RepairClinic Item #1373065

  • Check the drain pump trap (most often located at the base behind the front panel of the machine and remove lint and any loose objects such as coins or buttons. Keeping the trap clean will help the water flow properly and prevent dangerous buildup in the machine.


It’s important to clean out your washing machine’s drain pump trap monthly.

Related information

Washing Machine Cleaner
Washing Machine Maintenance Tips
Washing Machine Repair Help
Nine tips for washing machine care
What to look for in new appliances

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About the Author

Terry Spencer is an in-house appliance and HVAC expert for He has 29 years of expertise in appliances and HVAC equipment repair. Prior to joining RepairClinic in 2011, Terry was a respected, well-known technician at one of metro Detroit’s top residential appliance and HVAC repair businesses. Enthusiastic about fixing things and helping people, Terry enjoys his position with RepairClinic. He has a leading role in the development of RepairClinic’s how-to repair videos and repair help content. He’s also frequently called on for technical advice and press information for journalists and bloggers. He regularly completes extensive manufacturer training for appliances, HVAC equipment and outdoor power equipment. Terry has a refrigeration license and holds multiple certifications for an array of products. As a child, Terry was known to take appliances apart simply to see how they worked. While growing up on a farm, he taught himself how to repair small engines. Terry enjoys creating content that reaches and helps so many people solve problems on their own. In collaboration with colleagues, he develops and leads frequent Customer Care staff training programs for appliances, HVAC equipment and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not at RepairClinic, Terry spends time with his wife and children. An avid outdoorsman, Terry also enjoys Michigan’s seasons. He and his family reside in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area.

2 Responses to How to clean a smelly front load washing machine

  1. PCRichards says:

    Rearrange the load of laundry and be sure that you are loading your washer correctly to avoid shifting. Check your manufacturer’s instruction book; inside you can see a recommended maximum or optimum load weight. Use that as a guide. When you fill your washer, be sure the clothes have space to move freely and are not packed too tightly.

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