How to Stop Clothes From Smeling Like Mildew From My Washer & Dryer

Updated April 17, 2017

If your clean clothes are coming out of the laundry smelling less than fresh, reconsider before you toss them back into the washer for another round. The washer might very well be your problem. Whether you have forgotten one too many loads in the machine or you fall victim to the common culprit of overusing detergent and fabric softener, washing machines are great breeding grounds for mildew and the smell can transfer to anything being washed. Although in some cases, getting to the root of the problem involves professional help, you can do something to try to freshen things up.

Run a cycle of the hottest setting available and add 2 to 3 cups of vinegar when the barrel is full.

Remove the fabric softener receptacle and clean it thoroughly with bleach. Use a sponge and diluted bleach to clean the receptacle space as well. Replace when finished.

Remove the bleach receptacle and clean thoroughly as well as the surrounding receptacle area. Remove any buildup with equal parts hot water and vinegar and return when finished.

Run a small load of towels (as they are the best indicator of mildew smell) through the washer, dry them and do a smell test to see if the problem has resolved. If your clothes still come out of the laundry smelling like mildew, contact a professional as the washer may need to be taken apart to be thoroughly cleaned.

Make a mixture of three parts warm water and one part bleach.

Dampen a sponge with the mixture and wipe down the entire inside of the dryer drum. Allow it to dry thoroughly before adding clothes.

Repeat anytime a wet load has been accidentally left in the dryer long enough to produce a musty smell.


Avoid overusing too much detergent or fabric softener on regular loads as this can cause a lot of buildup. Only using cold water keeps your washer from getting properly cleaned. If you prefer to wash your clothes in cold, allow the washer to run through its hottest cycle at least once a week.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Bleach
  • Sponge
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