While doing your daily chores, you put the dirty laundry in the washing machine, pouring a ton of detergent and fabric softeners. However, when the cycle is over, a strange, unpleasant smell seems to come out from your machine and it just won’t go away. Before you start browsing through appliance shop catalogues, try to remember the last time you actually gave your washer a good clean. If no such memories come to mind, then maybe it is time for a nice, thorough cleaning.

In this article you’ll find information on how to clean your washing machine correctly, so that nasty stench disappears.

Table of Contents:

Type of appliance:


How do I know that my washer is dirty?

Besides the obvious reasons, like the visible dirt, there are many other factors which indicate that your washing machine is in need of a deep clean. Here is what to look out for:

  • Nasty odour – the built up of bacteria takes part in the development of mould, which is the main culprit for the unpleasant smell in your washing machine.
  • Slimy, dark-coloured residue – It’s formed mostly from the plastic parts of tide pods, soap scum residue, and parts of washing detergents like softeners. You can find those leftovers around the door seal, the detergent drawer, and inside the drum itself. It’s important to prevent such build-up as it will not only affect your machine but your clothes as well.
  • Dark spots on the laundry – when the appliance is mucky, the clothes will no longer leave the machine spotless and smelling nice, but exactly the opposite – covered with stains.

    If you live in an area with hard water, there is also a big possibility that you have a lot of limescale build-up. Limescale can cause various breakdowns in your washing machine which will lead to unnecessary repairs and call out charges.

How to clean your washing machine with vinegar and baking soda

Most families in the UK rely on front-loading washers because this appliance requires less water and energy than top-loaders. However, they also tend to develop mould and nasty smells, due to their many compartments. Usually, there is a manual that explains how to clean your washing machine drum properly and remove those nasty smells without causing damages.

Keep in mind that many manufacturers advise against using descaling products and cleansers. If you ignore this you might invalidate your warranty.

Now, let’s move on to how to clean a smelly washing machine with the help of vinegar and baking soda:

How to clean a front loading washing machine

  1. Make a cleaning solution from 2 tablespoons of baking soda and ¼ cup of filtered water.
  2. Take a measuring cup and fill it with 2 parts of white vinegar.
  3. Pour the vinegar into the washing machine drum and the soda solution inside the detergent drawer.
  4. Set the washer on normal load, at the hottest water setting you have.
  5. Rinse with fresh water.

How to clean a top loading washing machine

  1. Fill the apliance with water.
  2. Pour half a cup of soda bicarbonate and 2 cups of white vinegar in the drum.
  3. Start the machine on a normal wash cycle. The soda and the vinegar will disintegrate all the built-up residue in the drum and hoses.
  4. Rinse with cold water and wipe up the insides with a microfibre cloth.

How to clean a washing machine rubber seal

The rubber gasket is the perfect place for mould and mildew to develop from leftover detergents. To enjoy a clean laundry, you have to clean your washing machine door seal frequently. This will keep mould and dirt at bay. Here is how it’s done:

Use a slightly damp cloth to wipe up the gasket. For extra protection, dip the cloth in a diluted vinegar solution. Take your time cleaning, especially if there is already a bit of built-up residue. This will not only take care of the seal, but also make sure that you won’t pick up any dirt with the laundry when you’re taking it out of the machine.

How to clean a washing machine drawer

The tight space and lack of light are the perfect conditions for bacteria to develop, so make sure to include the washing machine drawer in your cleaning to-do checklist.

Luckily, the tray can be easily removed and cleaned outside of the washer. If you have a lot of dirt built up, use a toothbrush to clean all the corners of your detergent drawer, and remove the encrusted washing powder. For a cleaning detergent, you can use a paste of baking soda and water or just regular dish soap.

Another option is to place the entire drawer in your dishwasher and clean it there. While you are waiting for the tray, you can clean the drawer cavity with a damp microfibre cloth or a regular towel.

How to clean your washing machine filter

The filter ensures that lint, stray tissues, and bigger pieces of dirt are not sucked in along with the water, clogging the flow. It’s also the perfect place for a germ party and you should keep an eye on it and clean it frequently.

One of the things you need to do regularly is empty the filter at least once every two weeks. If you are not sure where it’s located, check your machine’s manual.

And when it’s time to clean it, here is what you should do:

  1. Locate the emergency drain tube and remove it.
  2. Place a bowl on the floor right below it.
  3. Remove the plug and let the water drain off completely.
  4. Put a new plug and replace the bowl of water with a dry towel.
  5. Unscrew the filter cover. There still might be some debris left in the cavity, so check carefully.
  6. Wipe the insides and all the other filter components thoroughly with a damp, microfibre cloth.
  7. Replace the cover as well and check twice to ensure that you have put all the parts back correctly.

How to clean the exterior of your washing machine

Now that you have finally finished cleaning all the interior bits and parts of your washing machine it’s time to take care of the exterior ones.

  1. Start by turning your appliance off.
  2. You can choose between a normal all-purpose cleaner, vinegar or lemon juice.
  3. If you go with white vinegar or lemon juice, pour a half a cup into a spray bottle.
  4. Apply the chosen cleaning solution starting from the areas with the most dirt accumulated.
  5. Let it stay for a couple of seconds and wipe it with a microfibre cloth or a sponge.
  6. Carefully rub the corners, knobs and around the buttons.
  7. Wipe again with a clean cloth.

But.. what if your machine still stinks?

So, you followed all the instructions from above and your washer still smells like the bottom of a lake. Don’t lose hope! You can still remove the bad smell from your washing machine and here is how:

Clean your appliance with bleach

If you need a quick way to remove every living thing inside the appliance, try using bleach:

For a top-loader

First fill the drum with hot water and pour a cup of bleach inside. Let it agitate the water for 10 minutes and after that discard everything. Rinse thoroughly with another water cycle to ensure that there is no bleach residue inside. Repeat the process if needed, so you don’t accidentally ruin your clothes the next time you wash them.

For a front-loader

Pour exactly two tablespoons of bleach directly into the drawer of the washing machine and run it on the hottest cycle. If your washer has developed mould problems, you might have to repeat the process at least two times. When you are satisfied with the results, rinse with clean cold water.

Sanitise it with essential oils

For this technique you will need clove oil. You can find this type of oil in most chemists and healthy food stores. No matter if you have a front or a top-loader, just pour 10 drops of clove oil directly into the drum and start the machine on the hottest setting. Make sure to open all doors and windows while the cycle is running. This step is important because the smell of clove oil is extremely potent.

How often to clean a washing machine?

If you live alone and you tend to use the washing machine two times a week at most, once every full moon should be more than enough to keep your appliance in top shape. If you have a family with kids and pets, you should clean it a bit more often. Greasy and heavily soiled clothing speeds up the dirt build-up process in your washer.

What if I live in an area with hard water?

Hard water can cause a lot of problems to your washing machine. It will quickly build up mountains of limescale, which can lead to corrosion of the heating elements. It also creates the perfect environment for bacteria to develop. Still, there is a way you can lower its negative impact on your washer – just try adding water softening tablets and use special hard water laundry detergents. For more tips on limescale removal, check out this post.

How to keep your appliance clean and well-functioning

If you want to have the best results with each laundry, you need to know how to keep your washing machine clean with these regular maintenance tips. Here is what you can do:

  • Follow the dosing instructions on your laundry detergent. Even if it sounds tempting, pouring more of the product will not make your clothes cleaner, but will surely damage them along with the washing machine.
  • Rinse your clothes from the excess dirt to prevent it from building up inside the drum.
  • Even if you don’t live in a hard water area, add a softener to the inflow pipe, or put tablets with each wash. This will decrease the amount of limescale build-up.
  • After each wash, leave the door open along with the detergent drawer. If you let them breathe regularly, there is a smaller chance for mould to develop.
  • Whatever you do to the washer, there will still be a bit of dirt build-up, but don’t worry. Run the washing machine with hot water on empty once a month to remove all the unwanted residue.
  • For vibrations caused by a washing machine, read our helpful post on the topic. It’ll explain why your appliance is rocking and what can you do to reduce the vibrations before reaching to a professional.

Regular domestic cleaning by Fantastic Services

Not everyone has the time to pay special attention to their washing machine with each house clean. For all of you busy bees out there, we have a regular domestic cleaning service. This is an hourly based service, with a frequency as per your choice and needs. If your washing machine needs some extra care, the cleaner will ensure that both its interior and exterior parts are always up to standard. So scratch off your washer from the “To-do” list and leave the hard job to us.

Get a cleaner to clean your washing machine or your entire house. Click on the button to learn more about our regular cleaning options.

Learn more


  • Maintenance is very important if you want to prolong your washers life.
  • For regular and thorough cleaning you don’t have to use special and expensive detergents. Vinegar and baking soda are perfect for both cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Be careful if you use bleach to sanitise the appliance.
  • If cleaning the washing machine doesn’t fit with your busy schedule, consider having a regular cleaner to do it instead. This will take not only the appliance maintenance out of your list, but many other weekly chores as well.


We hope you found this article on how to clean your washing machine and get rid of bad smells useful. Share with us your experience with this problem in the comment section and happy cleaning!

Header image source: Shutterstock / FotoDuets

  • Last update: June 19, 2019

Posted in Cleaning Guides

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