Phew Stinky

Cleaning Your Smelly Washing Machine

Is your washing machine smelly? Is it not running as well as it should? Read through our cleaning tips before you get rid of your old appliance, you might save yourself some money.

But what is causing the smell?

These days, due to the advancement of laundry detergent, we're washing our clothes at ever cooler temperatures. As a result, gunk and limescale can build up in certain areas of our appliance, which can harbor smelly mold and bacteria.


There are many products on the market to 'flush' your washing machine with. Somtimes these can be quite expensive, so here are 2 cheaper alternatives:

Caustic Soda
Very cheap, at around &pond;1 per bottle, you can buy 500g of caustic soda crystals from many high street discount stores (at the time of writing, Asda was selling 1kg of soda crsystals for 69p, bargain!). Caustic soda will remove pretty much all of the gunge from a washing machine. Always wear thick rubber gloves when handling caustic soda, making sure you don't get any in your eyes on or bare skin. Always read the label. Empty the contents of the caustic soda bottle into the drum. Don't pour it into the detergent tray, as this may clog up and be difficult to remove. Don't put anything else in the machine during this cycle. Put the machine on an economy half load hot wash and let the cycle complete. Once the machine has drained, put some detergent in as normal and run a short regular economy half load wash to ensure all the caustic soda has been rinsed, again with the machine empty.

White Vinegar
If you live in a hard water area, and think your machine smell may be caused by limescale. You can run a normal hot wash with about 500ml, or a couple of cups of white vinegar in the drum (again, with nothing else in the machine). Once the cycle is complete, you can run an additional rinse, all done.

Important note: Don't mix caustic soda and white vinegar together, thinking you'll be able to do a double whammy machine clean, it won't work. Caustic soda is alkaline and vinegar is acidic. If you mix them together, they will completely cancel one another out.

Basic cleaning

Clean the rubber seal of the washing machine door with a good anti-bacterial detergent and a soft scouring pad. When cleaning the seal, make sure you get right around the dip between the 2 main halves of the seal, as this is where bacteria can fester.

Smelly Gunk can build up at the back and underside of the detergent drawer, which is removable on most washing machines. Have a look at yours, you may see a clip on either side, which when pressed together, allow the drawer to slide out completely. Give the drawer a good scrub in the sink. If the drawer is covered in limescale, place it in a bucket, just covering it in a mixture of white vinegar a and water. Don't use brown vinegar, as some brands may contain stain. If the limescale hasn't started to dissolve after a couple of hours, try adding more vinegar. If you don't like the vinegar smell, maybe leave the bucket in the garden while the drawer soaks. Give the empty detergent drawer slot a good scrub with detergent while the drawer is out.

Most washing machines have a filter, which can also gunk up, producing smells. Make sure the washing machine is completely empty before opening the filter door. Place a couple of old towels on the floor in front of the filter door. Once the filter is out, give it a good scrub in the sink.

Here is a great video from Kenneth Watt, on how to clean your filter: