Washing Machine Smells

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Smells from a washing machine, mould, or failure to clean well, are normally due to a buildup of dirt, scum and limescale in parts of the machine that are out of view.

The problem is easily resolved, although sometimes it can take several washes to clear fully.


  • Use a washing powder at least some of the time rather than just liquid
  • Do a boiling hot wash once a month
  • Descale every 2 months with a citric acid boil wash.
  • Don't use soap intended for skin, or washing up liquid
  • Don't use magic no-detergent cleaning balls, or water only washes, these leave grease & muck behind
  • Leave the door ajar when not in use


Washes with different cleaners below should be alternated, as some tackle dirt & grease while some tackle limescale. The machine buildup is usually composed of both, each one preventing the other from being cleaned away. This is why several washes can sometimes be needed.

  • Boil wash with washing powder (not liquid) - removes dirt & soap scum
  • Bleach will kill bacteria and mould, but some machines are damaged by bleach, some aren't, check the instructions first. (Bleach makes some plastics brittle.) Don't hot wash with bleach.
  • Boil wash with washing soda - powerful grease remover
  • Remove the soap drawer, clean it and the space it sits in.
  • Boil wash with citric acid - removes scale. Once the water is boiling, switch the power off and leave overnight. Switch on in the morning to complete the cycle.
  • Boil washing with dishwasher detergent also removes muck and grease.

More options discussed.

Ultimate washing formula

The key to the most effective detergents is to use a mix of chemicals, each component with a different chemistry. Each has its own strengths, making the mix tackle the widest possible range of soiling.

After years of experimenting, this is the best mix I've yet found for cleaning clothes. It has succeeded where all others failed: Use the following together:

  • 1 teaspoon Ecover washing up liquid
  • 1 tablespoon biological washing powder
  • 1 teaspoon Ariel liquid.

More Information

  • Don't waste money on scale prevention products.
  • Don't use stronger acids than citric to descale.
  • Descaling also prevents blockage of the water level sensor tube. This blockage is probably the main cause of washing machine floods.

keywords: washing machine smell smells odour nasty whiffs stink clothes washing

See Also