How to clean a smelly washing machine

How to clean a smelly washing machine

by Adrian Porter

Musky smell coming from your washing machine? This guide will show you how to get rid of that odour and keep your washer smelling fresh.

Is that a musky smell coming from the drum? Cure that machine now or it could get worse

Looking for reviews of great washing machines? Sign up today for a £1 trial and access all our expert reviews and Best Buys.

We use our washing machines to remove the grime and odours - so the last thing we want is for the washing machine itself to start smelling. But reports of a musty odour in the drum are becoming more common, so here's how to fix it.


Run a service wash

Here in the UK, most people wash their clothes at 40°C or less. This is a great way to save money on energy bills and is better for the environment, but there is a down side.

Washing at these temperatures will not completely rid your washing machine of mould and bacteria. Instead, you need to run a service wash to deal with this problem.

A service wash means spinning the machine without any clothes in at a high temperature. Ideally done once a month, most manufacturers now recommend you use a certain cycle to do this or provide a special drum-cleaning program. Your instruction manual should have this information. If not, call the manufacturer's customer service line and ask which program to use.


Turn off your machine

The next steps require you to perform some maintenance on the machine. So before starting, turn off your washing machine and then unplug it.


Clean the seal, drawer and filter

Mould and bacteria can fester in the rubber seal around the door hole. After washing have a look at the seal to see if it needs a scrub - doing this regularly can help prevent the build-up of mould and bacteria. If mould has had too long to fester, it may have sunk into the porous rubber of the seal and be impossible to remove. If this happens, you may want to replace the door seal.

Mould and bacteria also have a tendency to build up in the detergent drawer and lint filter. Watch our videos on cleaning the detergent drawer and strange noises in your washing machine for instructions on how to clean these areas.


Leave the door and drawer open

Leaving the machine's door ajar after washing allows air to circulate in the drum and helps prevent the growth of mould and bacteria. You should also leave your machine's detergent drawer partly open for the same reason.


Check the stand pipe

If bad smells continue, you may have a partial blockage in the standpipe. If you suspect this is the case, use a drain unblocker to try and clear the pipe.

Want to know which washing machine is best for you? Take a look at all of our washing machine reviews.

Professional washing machine repairs

If the problem is serious, you'll want professional attention. Which? Trusted Traders are tradesmen and tradeswomen that have been assessed and checked by Which? trading standards professionals. Alternatively, you can also find recommended, nearby washing machine repairers using Which? Local.

Reliable washing machines

Our Best Buy washing machines page reveals the washing machine brands that are less likely to let you down. We only recommend top-scoring washing machines as Best Buys if they get a rating of three stars or better in our annual washing machine reliability survey.