Stinky Laundry? Your Washing Machine May Be Moldy

The interior of a washing machine is a dark and damp place covered in detergent residue – the perfect environment for odor-causing mold and mildew to thrive in. If left unaddressed, it can cause your laundry to stink no matter how many wash cycles you run it in.

Don’t worry, your washing machine is not defective – it just needs some cleaning and maintenance. Do these steps periodically to stop molds from taking hold in your washing machine.

Things you’ll need:

  • Cloth or rags
  • Gloves
  • Spray bottle
  • Old toothbrush
  • Basin
  • Toilet brush
  • Cleaning solution of choice
    • Water + Non-toxic hydrogen peroxide
    • Water + baking soda + vinegar

Don’t use a soap-based cleaning solution for this one, as any leftover detergent can be used by the microbes as food.

As you know, washing machines can either be top-loading or front-loading – each with different parts to clean. Let’s start first with the more popular top-loading washer.

How to remove molds from a top-loading washing machine

1. Clean the tub rim

Wipe around the rims of the tub using your cloth and cleaning solution. For the hard to reach parts, you can use an old toothbrush. Remember to get in to all the nooks and crannies where water – and molds – can sip through.

2. Sanitize the dispenser box

Remove the soap dispenser box from its cabinet. Fill a basin with warm water, vinegar, and baking soda, and start scrubbing away. Don’t forget to clean its cabinet as well with the same solution. Use a toothbrush for the crevasses.

3. Toss the lint filter to the basin as well

Most automatic washing machines are equipped with a lint filter. This is usually located at the side of the tub. Once you’ve taken this out, open it up and remove the lint and debris inside. After that, it a scrub in the basin.

You should also wipe down the area where you took the lint filter from.

4. Wipe down the impeller/pulsator

The impeller is the part that makes the water inside the tub spin. Most are made from antibacterial plastic, but it never hurts to clean this and the area around it. Its screwed to the bottom of your tub so you can’t take it out easily. Use a toilet brush (it’s better if you don’t use the one you actually scrub your toilet with) to clean it to save your back from aching.

5. Run a regular cycle with water and the cleaning solution

Once you’ve returned the lint filter and the dispenser box to their proper place, fill up the tub with water and 2 cups of your cleaning solution of choice and let it run its usual cycle (without the clothes of course). The cleaning solution will break up the molds inside and outside the tub. Run a second cycle with the same inputs if you want to.

6. Run another full cycle only with water

This will rinse out the loosened-up molds and the built-up detergent residue. After this cycle, you’re done!

How to remove molds from a front-loading washing machine

1. Clean the gasket

Molds love rubber. Apply the cleaning solution to the area and get scrubbing. Make sure to get into all the folds of the gasket. You can also use a toothbrush to clean hard to reach places.

2. Sanitize the dispenser box

Do the same thing as with the top-loading washing machines. Fill a basin with warm water, vinegar, and baking soda, then mix it up. Remove the soap dispenser box from its cabinet and place it in the basin and scrub away. Clean the cabinet where the dispenser sits as well.

For some models, the dispenser box cannot be taken out from its containers. In this case, use a pipe cleaner or an old toothbrush and scrub as best you can.

3. Run a regular cycle with hot water and your cleaning solution

Put the dispenser box back in to its cabinet, and fill it up with your cleaning solution. After this, run a regular wash cycle minus the clothes.

Some front loaders also have a hot water setting, use that to kill any other bacteria in the tub if your washer model has it.

4. Run another cycle just with water for rinsing

This will rinse out the loosened-up molds and the built-up detergent residue. After this cycle, you’re done!

How to prevent molds from building up

Prevention is better than cure. Do this steps regularly so that the molds won’t come back.

1. Wipe down after use

After doing your laundry, you should always have a dry cloth ready to wipe down your unit. This includes the lid, gasket, tub, detergent dispenser, and the exterior of the unit itself. If you have a front-loader, pay close attention to the gasket, as this is the most susceptible to molds.

2. Leave the lid open after use

Since molds like a damp environment, you should always keep your washing machine as dry as possible when not in use. Wiping it down with a dry cloth will only remove the superficial moisture – you still have the exterior of the tub to worry about. This is why it is advised to leave the lid open for a while to ventilate the interior of the washing machine – helping it to dry off quicker.

3. Remove wet clothes promptly

Not only will doing this prevent molds from forming in the tub, it will also prevent our clothes from developing mildew (and stinking in the process).


To keep molds at bay, you should clean your washing machine atleast once a month so that the molds and mildew won’t build up to a severe extent.

If it’s already severe, it may require a few cleaning sessions for the odor to completely subside. Just keep at it, and add baking soda to your washing cycle to help deodorize it.

FURTHER READING: Washing Machine Buying Guide

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