Have you ever caught a whiff of something foul coming from your washing machine? That unmistakable rotten egg smell is never a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, washing machines can be prone to developing unpleasant odors over time. The causes of these unpleasant washing machine smells are varied, but the good news is that with a few simple steps, you can banish that rotten egg odor for good.
In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of washing machine smells like rotten eggs. We’ll also provide practical, step-by-step instructions for diagnosing the source of the odor in your machine and ridding your washer of that embarrassing rotten egg smell once and for all. Read on to learn how to deeply clean your washing machine, unclog drains, inspect hoses, and run maintenance cycles that will have your laundry smelling fresh in no time. With a little diligent cleaning and maintenance, you can stop washing machine odors in their tracks.
What Causes Washing Machine Smells Like Rotten Eggs?
Before we dive into solutions, let’s look at some of the usual culprits behind rotten egg odors in washing machines:
Buildup of Residue, Bacteria, and Mold
The damp, warm environment of a washing machine is an ideal breeding ground for mold, mildew, and bacteria. These microscopic organisms feed on residues of dirt, soap, and detergents left behind in your washer . As they accumulate and grow, they can create a stench of rotting eggs. Front-loading machines are especially prone to buildup due to less air circulation and water drainage compared to top-loaders.
Clogged Drains and Standing Water
When drainage issues prevent the wastewater from properly emptying after wash cycles, stagnant water pools inside the machine. This standing water encourages mold growth and bacterial buildup that contributes to nasty odors . Clogged drain hoses or laundry room drains are often the cause.
Sewer Gas Backflow
Sometimes rotten egg smells come not from inside your washer, but from outside. If the air pressure in your home’s drainage pipes is improperly balanced, sewer gases containing hydrogen sulfide (which carries that signature rotten egg odor) can backflow into your washing machine .
Mineral Deposits and Rust
Hard water rich in minerals like sulfur and iron can leave deposits on the interior of washing machines. As these mineral residues sit in the damp machine, they can react with metal components, causing decay and rust. Rusting metal then interacts with moisture to create that dreaded rotten egg smell.
Now that we know where washing machine odors come from, let’s get down to business eradicating that rotten egg stench for good.
Step-by-Step Guide to Eliminating Washing Machine Odors
Follow these methods to thoroughly clean your washer, clear any clogs, and sanitize the interior. With consistent maintenance and prompt attention when smells arise, you can stop rotten egg odors at the source and keep your washing machine fresh.
1. Clean the Machine Drum and Gaskets
Over time, residue from dirt, soap, fabric softener, and detergent builds up on the inside surfaces of the washer drum and door gasket. This encourages mold and bacteria growth. Give these areas a deep clean:
- Mix a solution of either vinegar and water or bleach and water. About 1-2 cups of each should suffice.
- Using either a soft brush or microfiber cloth, scrub the interior of the drum to remove grime buildup.
- Carefully scrub the flexible door gasket as well. Get into creases thoroughly.
- Run an empty rinse cycle at a high temperature after cleaning to flush out any remaining solution.
2. Clean the Detergent Dispenser
The detergent dispenser drawer is another area prone to getting gunky over time. Remove the tray and give it a good deep cleaning periodically:
- Fill a sink or basin with hot water and dish soap. Allow the dispenser to soak for about 30 minutes.
- Scrub away visible residue with an old toothbrush or other small brush.
- Rinse very thoroughly since you don’t want leftover soap in this component.
3. Inspect and Clean Drain Hoses
As mentioned earlier, clogged drain hoses are a common source of rotten egg odor. Check hoses for obstructions:
- Locate the drain hose along the back of the machine. It drains into a standpipe or utility sink.
- Disconnect the hose and inspect it for debris, buildup, or kinks.
- Use a long, narrow bristle brush to clear out any visible gunk or clogs.
- Check the standpipe/sink pipes for clogs too and clear any you find.
4. Clean Out the Drain Pump Filter
Washing machines have filters along the drainage route to catch lint, coins, buttons and other debris that could clog pipes. Check and clean this often:
- Locate the access panel on the front lower part of the machine.
- Place a towel beneath it to catch water then open the panel.
- Remove the filter and rinse it out very well under hot water to remove all residues.
- If your filter has a screw-on back, remove and clean this part too.
- Reinstall the filter securely when finished.
5. Do a Hot Water Sanitizing Cycle
For front-loaders, do a hot water cycle at least once per month to sanitize the interior. Top-loaders should be sanitized every 3 months or so.
- Run a wash cycle on the hottest setting your machine allows. For top-loaders, choose the highest water level.
- Add bleach or other sanitizing agents to this cycle. Double-check care labels first to prevent damage.
- Leave the door propped open after finishing to allow interior drying.
6. Check Exterior Water Supply Hoses
Rotten egg odors could indicate a potential rubber hose issue rather than a washing machine problem. Inspect the supply hoses:
- Locate the two flexible hoses that connect to the hot and cold water supply lines.
- Check for cracking, bulges, kinks, or corrosion and replace damaged hoses.
- Make sure the fittings are tightly secured at both ends. Tighten if needed.
- Consider upgrading old rubber hoses to braided stainless steel hoses for durability.
Following these tips diligently can keep your washer fresh and prevent rotten egg stench from returning. Be sure to act promptly if smells return after cleaning to stay on top of the problem. With persistent maintenance and cleaning, your clothes will only take on the fresh scent of detergent.
When to Call a Professional for Washing Machine Odors
While most washing machine smells you can tackle on your own, there are some instances when it’s wise to call in a professional:
- If you have a top-loading machine more than 5 years old, a service pro may better access all components. They can diagnose issues you can’t see as a homeowner .
- Similarly, front-load machines older than 10 years may require specialized expertise and troubleshooting .
- If cleaning and inspection provides no improvement or odor persists, contact a technician. They have specialized tools to fully diagnose problems.
- If your machine develops new mechanical issues like leaks, strange noises, or smoke alongside the smell, discontinue use and call for service right away .
- For sewer gas smells, contact a plumber to inspect your home’s drainage system and valves. They can properly balance air pressure in pipes.
Though frustrating, most washing machine odors have simple solutions. With regular maintenance and prompt cleaning at the first whiff of a rotten egg smell, you can keep clothes fresh and your washer odor-free. But when in doubt, don’t hesitate to enlist pro help to get to the root of any stubborn washer woes.
Using Baking Soda and Vinegar to Clean a Smelly Washing Machine
Baking soda and vinegar are pantry staples that can work wonders for cleaning a washing machine and eliminating odors. Both act as natural cleaning and deodorizing agents. Here’s how to use them together for a simple, effective washing machine odor treatment:
Start by running an empty wash cycle on the hottest setting using 2 cups of baking soda in place of detergent. The baking soda will help scrub away residues. Next, fill the detergent dispenser with 1 cup of baking soda. Also pour 2 cups of white vinegar directly into the drum. Run another hot cycle. The vinegar will break down grime and the baking soda will neutralize odors. The combination creates a fizzing chemical reaction that cleans and deodorizes.
For a top-loader, stop the cycle midway to allow the soda and vinegar solution to soak before finishing. This gives time for the fizzing action to work before rinsing. After completing the cycle, wipe down the door gasket thoroughly using a cloth dipped in undiluted vinegar. For a final step, run a rinse cycle to flush away any remaining vinegar. The washing machine should now smell fresh and clean!
Vinegar or baking soda alone can also freshen washers. But using them together leverages their combined cleaning power. The acidity of vinegar cuts through soap scum, while the alkaline baking soda neutralizes odors. This one-two punch is a budget-friendly way to tackle washing machine smells.
Inspecting and Replacing Drain Hoses to Clear Clogs
As discussed earlier, clogged drain hoses are a common washing machine odor culprit. Drain hoses expel used wash water from the machine into a standpipe or drainage system. When clogged, stagnant water can linger in hoses or the machine sump, creating unpleasant smells. Here are tips for inspecting and clearing drain hose clogs:
Locate the drain hose, typically at the rear of the machine. Use a flashlight to peer inside the opening and check for obstructions. Lint, coins, gravel, sand, and soap scum are common hose-clogging culprits. If the hose or standpipe connection contains visible gunk, use a wire coat hanger or narrow drain snake to loosen and extract the debris.
For bad clogs, disconnect the hose from the standpipe to access the entire length. Try blowing compressed air through the hose to dislodge the blockage. Still blocked? Submerge the hose in hot water to dissolve any soap residues.
Check the exterior of rubber hoses for cracks or bulges indicating damage. Kinks can impede proper drainage too. Straighten any bends or crimps to open the path. If hoses are over 5 years old or show wear, replacement is the best solution. Install new hoses properly without kinks and secure the fittings tightly.
Periodically inspecting and cleaning drain hoses prevents clogging that can lead to foul washing machine odors. Act promptly at the first signs of blockages. Follow drain hose maintenance tips from your appliance manual for best results. Proper drainage keeps wash water moving and eliminates stagnant pockets where smells can brew.
Using a Store-Bought Washing Machine Cleaner
For those short on time, using a specialty washing machine cleaner offers a convenient way to sanitize and deodorize washers. Look for cleaners formulated to break down residues, soap scum, mold, and mildew that cause odors to develop over time.
To use a store-bought cleaner, start by reading the product label fully. Check that it’s safe for use on your washing machine model. Top-loader and front-loader interiors have different materials needing different care. Follow instructions specified.
Many cleaners come as pre-measured packets you simply toss into the drum. Others are liquids added to the detergent dispenser. Set the machine to a hot water cycle and run normally. As it fills with water, the cleaning agents will distribute and start breaking down grime.
For severely smelly machines, stop the cycle midway and allow the cleaner to soak for an hour or more before finishing. This extended dwell time lets the active ingredients scrub away robust buildup. After completing the cycle, wipe the gasket and dispensertray by hand to address any isolated smells.
Look for washing machine cleaners containing ingredients like bleach, vinegar, enzymes, oxycleaners, or microbial cultures that safely eliminate all types of soils and smells. With powerful store-bought formulas, deep cleaning is as simple as running a wash cycle.
Common Signs You Need Washer Repairs
While many washing machine odors you can handle yourself, serious mechanical problems require professional service. Here are common signs of issues needing appliance repair:
Strange Noises: Grinding, scraping, squealing or loud banging sounds point to broken parts. The drive motor, pump, or transmission could be failing. Have it diagnosed quickly before damage worsens.
Burning Smell: A burning rubber smell indicates the drive belt or motor is severely worn. Stop using the machine and call for service.
Leaking Water: Slow drips or puddles under the machine mean a leak. The pump, tub, hoses or seals need replacement.
Won’t Drain: If water won’t drain fully or the drum stays filled, excess water breeds odors. The pump, drain hoses and filter need inspection.
Won’t Spin: Clothes remain sopping wet? The motor, drive pulley, or belt may be broken. Failure to spin properly leads to mold.
Fuses Blowing: Fuses shouldn’t blow frequently. This points to a short circuit somewhere in the washer’s electrical system.
Shaking/Off-Balance: If the machine shakes violently on spin cycles, the internal suspension or balance components are out of whack.
Don’t ignore these red flags! Making repairs quickly avoids bigger problems down the road. The cost of replacing damaged components is usually much higher than early repairs.