Smelly washing machine? How to clean in minutes

Is your washing machine smelly? It's time to clean it – that smell won't go away on its own

Smelly washing machine... Clean a washing machine: folded laundry
(Image credit: Getty/Poh Kim Yeoh / EyeEm)

Is your washing machine smelly? This weekend's the time to clean it. Yup, the appliance that does the cleaning does need cleaning too. The cause of the smell? It's probably the beginning of a bacteria, mould or mildew build up – after all, your washing machine is mostly damp inside if it's used regularly. 

These methods below are fail-safe in terms of cleaning, but always read your washing machine’s manual for instructions on how to clean it – or not to clean it – it's really not worth invalidating your warranty if the manufacturer discourages certain methods. 

Use these quick tips to give yours a clean today. Use our guide to how to clean a washing machine for more tips.

1. Clean your washing machine's drum with vinegar

Cleaning your washing machine once a month is a wise move. It will help keep your whites whiter and ensure a sweet-smelling pile of laundry. 

Now: Set your machine on its hottest cycle (or a minimum of 60ºC) and pour 230ml of white vinegar directly into to the drum. The vinegar is the perfect solution to help to purify your machine – it's an excellent, natural way to kill bacteria, and the smell will disappear during the rinse cycle. Soda crystals are another natural solution you can try – and can be combined with vinegar to make a tough cleaner.

Later: Keep a bottle of white vinegar handy near your washing machine – perhaps alongside your washing powder. That way, you'll easily remember to keep up the cleaning routine.

2. Clean a washing machine drum with baking soda

Using bicarbonate of soda is one of our very favourite cleaning hacks. It'll tackle washing machines with ease, but you can use it to clean everything from fridges to carpets, too, so having some handy is useful.

Now: Add two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda into the detergent drawer, this will be acting as the soap. The soda and vinegar work together to naturally break through dirt and remove mould while cleansing and refreshing your washing machine. Start the hot cycle. 

Later: Once a month run an empty hot wash to eliminate any build-up and smells, adding the bicarbonate of soda or vinegar as an extra precaution. 

3. Clean a washing machine with bleach

If you're a fan of cleaning with bleach, you won't baulk at using it to clean a washing machine. It is, obviously, very effective at cleaning dirt and mould from both the drum and detergent drawer of the washing machine, and also the exterior.  

Now: Add half a cup of bleach directly into your washing machine's drum, and half into your detergent drawer. Run an empty hot wash. If you can pause your wash once the machine has filled with water, do so for a good hour. Then start the cycle again. Run an extra rinse cycle to ensure all the bleach has been removed. Once it's finished, wipe down the inside of the door and dry out the seals. 

Later: Next time you put on a wash, ensure it's a white one that might benefit rather than be damaged by any bleach residue left in the washing machine.

4. Clean your washing machine's detergent drawer

This little fella is haven for bacteria... and therefore smells, but it tends to get overlooked. Theu key is to pull it out of its cavity every now and then and give it a good clean. It's likely that right at the back or wherever the water doesn't run that mould will have built up. Use a mould spray (our favourite is below) and take an old toothbrush to it to clean it up. Dry it thoroughly with an e-cloth (best buys below) before replacing it.

Best mould sprays
Need to budge some tough mould and mildew? Our best mould sprays are a good place to start...

5. Leave the washing machine to dry

Cleaning a washing machine doesn't just involve cleaning – allowing it to dry properly is a must to prevent mould build-up in the first place. 

Now: Let the cycle come to a natural finish and open the door letting the inside of the drum air-dry. If any bad smells or excess grime are lingering repeat the process again.

Later: In between washes leave the door open, or at least until the interior and drum has dried out. This reduces the chance of mould and bacteria growing inside. 

More cleaning know how:

2. Clean a washing machine with vinegar