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How to clean a smelly washing machine

By Adrian Porter

Musky smell coming from your washing machine? Watch our video for quick ways to cure the odour and keep things smelling fresh.

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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 won't 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.

The only down side to running a hot wash is that it will cost more. That's why when we test washing machines we measure how much energy and water it uses, so we can tell you how much it'll cost to run. 

We've found A+++ rated machines that cost more to run than  A+ models, so take a look at our washing machine reviews to help you find a great model that doesn't cost the earth.


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.

Professional washing machine repairs

If the problem is serious, you'll want professional attention. To find a reliable repairer, try Which? Trusted Traders to find a local trader who has been assessed and checked by Which? trading standards professionals. 

If you're considering buying a new washing machine instead of repairing your current one, see our list of the best washing machines than have topped our independent lab tests.

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