Smelly Washer Syndrome

What is that awful smell eminating from my washing machine???  It’s kinda sour, kinda musty and making my clothes smell the same way.  EEEWWWW.  GROSS.

I have never encountered this before at home in all my 35+ yrs of owning a washing machine.  Even when I washed the kids diapers it never smelled this bad…and you know what kind of nasties happen in diapers…. p-u, glad those days are over.  Back to the present though… we have no basement here at the Homestead, so the washer and dryer are located in the bathroom, which has to be about the most humid room in the place.  And after doing some research, apparently it is not the most ideal place to locate a washing machine if you do not have air conditioning.

Air conditioning does just that, it conditions the air in a home removing humidity, which is one of the factors that contribute to Smelly Washer Syndrome (which is more prevalent in the summer months than winter).  That and along with leaving the lid closed on the machine after each use.  These two combined will create the perfect environment for mould to start growing.  Resulting in that sour, musty odour.  UGH….

So…what to do?  I searched on-line for a solution but most suggested using a product called Smelly Washer or Magic Washer.  Both had a long list of ‘active ingredients’ with one being ‘dkfjsdnfkdjvnakdjsfndjfn’ acid (while not actually named that, it certainly contained just as many letters).  If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t buy it.  I prefer to use home-made remedies in all my cleaning efforts, especially being at the Homestead as I need to be mindful of what I put down the drains due to our septic system. 

Septic Systems rely on bacteria to break down matter, thus, you can not dump harmful, chemicals into it.   As well as potential runoff from the leach field poisioning the surrounding land.  Hence my dilemma.

Most sites I cruised around say to use a high ratio bleach/water solution in the washing machine, running it through a cycle with hot water and it will kill the bacteria.  I can’t use a lot bleach as it will kill the good bacteria in my septic tank.  I can only use it very, very sparingly.  So what I tried first was to use a mix of Vinegar and Baking Soda, my standard cleaning duo.

I filled the washer with water, dumped in about 1 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of vinegar and then let the science volcano project erupt and do the deodorizing and cleaning.  Once the cycle was done, I opened the lid and left it that way overnight.

The next morning, it still smelled, but not as bad.  I then added a cup of bleach mixed with a large bucket of hot water.  Poured that into the machine and let it sit all day.  Mind you, if you do this, keep the door to the room closed or you end up with a major headache from the ammonia fumes.  When hubs later arrived, he suggested running the washer in the drain cycle for a few seconds to get the bleach/water solution into the drain area as that is probably where the bulk of the odour was coming from.  Smart guy, glad I married him.

We let that sit for a couple hours, then ran the washer on a full load capacity with hot water.

Muuuuuucccchhhhhh better thank you very much.  The smell was gone.  Thankfully.  It looks like I will be having to do this at least once a year, as well as keep the lid open on the machine when not in use to let it air out.  As a preventative measure, I think once a month I will do the volcano science project method, even if just to watch the water boil up when you add the vinegar to the baking soda.  I loved science in high school, making things bubble and boil are fun….especially when the teacher wasn’t looking.

This remedy works really well for top-load machines.  But I did read that the newer, front-load HE machines have big issues with the seals around the door going mouldy.  So if anyone has a front-load, make sure you read your owner’s manual (yes, I know that nobody reads the manuals on anything you buy, but do it this once) on how to keep it clean and mould free as it can be quite costly to replace the seal if it’s too far gone. 

Now that I have done my good deed for the day in letting the world know how to get rid of their smelly washing machine odours, I am off to rewash some things….

5 thoughts on “Smelly Washer Syndrome

  1. I have a front load machine and laundry facilities in my bathroom with NO air-conditioning. A recipe for some major stink like you experienced. And, like you only noticed it as a problem in the summer time. I did a similar thing but used just vinegar and no baking soda with hot water. Let it sit overnight before running it out and filled with a bleach wash. I keep a hand towel handy to wedge in the door so it doesn’t close between loads. It is a huge difference.

  2. I also have the front loading machine-absolutely HATE the thing. I have had the repair man out for nearly every moving gadget on that darm machine….OK enough of my rant. The only time I noticed a smell was when my son closed the door after transferring a load to the dryer. The machine was left for several days and a faint odour was present. I wash my loads with liquid Tide-cuz it works with my water, a bit of washing soda and throw vinegar in the rinse cycle. My machine is old(er). Keep adding the vinegar, love that stuff. It is used in my house like holy water at the Vatican 😛

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