How to eliminate the mildew smell in a washing machine

Written by melynda sorrels
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How to eliminate the mildew smell in a washing machine
Don't let mildew ruin the scent of fresh laundry. (Martin Poole/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Mildew, a fungal growth with a slimy consistency and foul odour, thrives in dark, humid places, which makes your washing machine a prime target. With moisture and residual dirt and debris from dirty clothes under or behind a closed lid, mildew has the opportunity to spread quickly. If your washing machine doesn't smell clean, your clothing won't either. Taking the time to clean your washing machine pays off in the form of fresher smelling laundry.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Medium-bristled brush or toothbrush
  • Baking soda
  • Chlorine bleach or white vinegar

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Dampen an old toothbrush or medium-bristled brush in warm water and dip it into baking soda.

  2. 2

    Scrub the interior walls with the baking soda to remove any build-up or residual dirt.

  3. 3

    Remove any dispensing trays and wash them with warm, soapy water before placing them back where they belong.

  4. 4

    Scrub around the seal of the door on front-loading washing machines. This area needs special attention as this is where dirt and debris become easily trapped.

  5. 5

    Turn on the washing machine and allow it to run a full cycle with hot water and a cup of chlorine bleach or white vinegar.

  6. 6

    Open up the door or lid as soon as the cycle has finished and allow the washing machine to air out.

Tips and warnings

  • If the smell persists, unplug the washing machine and remove the back panel. Disconnect the hoses and clean them out with a wet/dry vacuum. Reconnect the hoses and attach the back panel before plugging the washing machine back in. Run another cycle with hot water and bleach or vinegar to rinse out the hoses. Check the manufacturer's instructions for specifics on removing the panel if you need help.
  • Leave the door or lid to your washing machine open after each load of laundry to allow it to air dry.
  • Use only the recommended amount of detergent for each load you run through the washing machine. Too much detergent can lead to build-up of excess soap and promote mildew growth.
  • Never use chlorine bleach and white vinegar together. The combination produces toxic fumes.

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