My washing machine smells when it drains [Causes and recommended fix]

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A reader wrote to us with this question:

“My washing machine smells when it drains and I’m nearly running mad. Do you have any ideas on what could be causing the odor? Also, how can I fix it?”

Thank you.

So we wrote this article to help this reader and anyone else who might be worried that they might soon have to shell out on a new washing machine..

Keep reading…

My washing machine smells when it drains – Can you help?

Has a godawful moldy stench taken over your washing machine and it gives off a pretty horrid stink when draining?

Well, don’t fret-  your washer is probably in need of a good cleaning to refresh it (just like dishwashing machines, washing machines typically  need to be cleaned every once in a while).

Read on to find out why else your washer is almost killing you with a rotten eggs-like smell when it drains and what to do to get rid of the nasty odor.

My washing machine smells when it drains [Potential reasons and recommended fixes]


Could it be the filter?

If your washer smells terrible when draining, the culprit is often the built in filter..

You see, many washers have a built-in filter that you can clean.

And if you take a look at your manual, the manufacturer likely recommends that you unclog and clean the filter once a month (this is the recommended frequency for the most part) to prevent the odor issue. 

So what you need to do is verify if your washing machine has one and try to access it then clean it well.

In some front load washers, you can access the filter through the small panel (near the floor) in the front.

Either way, your owner’s manual should have clear step-by-step instructions on how to get to the filter and the appropriate cleaning procedure..


Could it be that you have not run a clean cycle on your washing machine for a long time?

There is another possible cause of the terrible smell: Failing to run a clean cycle on your washer for some time.

Now, you need to run a clean cycle with Affresh in some washing machines.

In fact, most new washing machines actually come with a dedicated setting for this (You can get Affresh washer cleaner at any store or from Amazon here).

If your machine has this setting (it’s called self-clean in some models), your manual has the right steps- Simply follow them and see if you will eliminate the odor problem.

Quick Tip: If you’ve done this previously with another product to no avail, please try Affresh- it’s quite powerful and works in many cases.

As an alternative, you could also try to run an empty wash(with only super-hot water) if your unit does not have the setting.

If the awful smell still does not go away, running an empty load-with hot water+ bleach(Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach can be good)- could do the trick.

Question: How much bleach should you put in?

Well, it will depend on the size of your drum but it’s regularly not more than a cup!

Keep in mind that you might need to be doing this once or twice a month.


Consider running a bleach-only cycle

If your washer has a compartment to add bleach to clothes, you could add bleach in there to clean the machine. 

You simply fill the compartment (with bleach), then run your washer. 

Importantly, run the washer for a second time after the cycle but only with water to rinse out any remaining bleach residue.

Quick Tip: Don’t worry if running a bleach-only cycle once does not work- occasionally it takes a few bleach-only cycles to do away with the stink.


My washing machine smells when it drains [Other potential fixes]

Try white vinegar

White vinegar is a great disinfectant and it might destroy any buildup of bacteria (and detergents) that could be causing the disgusting smell.

So you can as well try to run a washing cycle again with hot water only and vinegar (in place of bleach).

When it’s done, you want to leave the washer open until dry. 

Quick Tip: White vinegar is really a fantastic deodorant + natural cleaner so you can make it a habit to add about a 1/2 cup to every laundry load you do. This may not only keep the smell away but also ensure your laundry comes out smelling squeaky clean.


Replace the drain hose

It could be the dreadful smell coming from your washer is due to bacteria (or other appalling stuff) getting embedded inside the drain hose.

The first step is obviously trying to drain it all out then cleaning it.

Oh, and check that the drain hose is installed properly to avoid water being left at some spots in the hose/machine.

But if the depressing odor keeps coming back, a new drain hose(They only cost a couple bucks) might be the best solution.


Check your washer’s rubber boot /gasket

There’s a rubber boot (seal) that usually sits on washer’s drum (in front of drum).

Now, this inner gasket notoriously develops mold and mildew since it’s always exposed to water so also check it and try to clean it with bleach or vinegar.

Here is a helpful guide.

Something else: Going forward, be sure to be leaving the entire door open when your washer is not in use. It goes a long way to prevent mold and mildew growth because your washer will be drying out completely after each complete cycle.


Also, can you try using a different detergent?

There is also a chance that the issue could be occurring because you have been using the wrong detergent..

Yeah, some brands of liquid detergents tend to cause stinky residuals in there, leading to the issue so change to a powdered detergent and see how it goes.


Final suggestion

There is one more possibility in the event of a sewage smell: sewer gases could be going back up via the drain.

To be clear, sewage gases backflow is a real likelihood if the standpipe assembly is improperly installed/maintained so check.

Caution: Do not try to mix bleach and vinegar when it comes to cleaning your washer as a way of eliminating the smell-That would end up making chlorine gas that can kill you particularly if the room is not adequately ventilated!


How to remove odor from washing machine easily


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