Washing machine smells: overuse of liquid detergent often to blame

Washing machine smells cramping your clean laundry style? Here's what might be causing your washing machine to smell – and what to do about it

washing machine smells
(Image credit: Indesit)

Washing machine smells: are you stuck in a vicious cycle (excuse the pun) where no matter how much you're washing your clothes, they still smell musty? Or perhaps you keep getting whiffs from the machine when it's empty? 

There are several reasons why your washing machine smells funny, but before you start worrying about more serious issues such as drains and blocked pipes, we recommend you make two simple changes: try using less detergent, and clean your washing machine by putting on a boil wash with a bit of vinegar in the drum once a week. 

These days, the majority of us are using liquid detergents instead of washing powder, and low temperatures rather than hot wash cycles. The combination of liquid-only detergent and low water temperature is the perfect breeding ground for what many people are reporting as 'grey sludge' (read: semi-degraded detergent buildup) in their washing machines. This is why a hot maintenance wash weekly is a must; if it's been a while since you did one, you'll likely have buildup in the rubber door seal, and you will need to clear that out manually with a paper towel. 

Next, consider whether mould growing in your washing machine could be the culprit. Mould spores proliferate in dark and damp places – think your detergent tray and the door seal. If this is the case, soak your detergent tray in hot soapy water and remove any residue with an old toothbrush. And make sure you always leave the washing machine door open when not in use. 

Still detecting a bad smell? You could be dealing with blocked pipes or drains – it's best to call a professional plumber.