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washing machine smell like mildew

Why Does My Washing Machine Smell Like Mildew?

Washing machines should make our clothes smell fresh. So when you have a washing machine smell like mildew, it’s pretty off-putting. Mildew, mold, and bacteria can thrive in warm, moist environments, which is exactly what your washer provides. We’ll show you how to get rid of the smell and prevent these toxic invaders from returning in the future.

Washing Machine Smell Like Mildew? Try This.

Does your washing machine smell like mildew? We’ll tell you why this happens and how to clean the washer to restore its freshness.

Why Your Washer Smells Like Mildew

If you have a smelly wash tub, you may need to do some detective work. A little washer troubleshooting is always helpful when trying to determine what is wrong with our appliances. Sometimes the wash tub itself develops a foul odor from harboring bacteria. If you own a front load washer, chances are the funky smell is also coming from the door boot.

Front loaders have a large rubber gasket that wraps around the door to seal the washer when closed. This door boot traps warm moisture and is a breeding ground for mold. Consequently, it makes your machine smell like mildew. The good news is, it’s easy to clean.

How to Clean a Washer that Smells Like Mildew

Does your washing machine smell like mildew? Ew. Here’s how to get rid of mildew and freshen it up using just a few household ingredients.


  • white vinegar
  • tea tree (melaleuca) essential oil
  • lemongrass essential oil
  • small glass spray bottle
  • clean toothbrush (one designated just for household cleaning)
  • clean sponge or cloth

Natural Cleaning Spray:

Mix a disinfectant solution into the glass spray bottle using this recipe:

  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops lemongrass oil
  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part water

Put the essential oils into the bottle first, then fill the rest of the bottle with equal parts of vinegar and water.

Clean the Wash Tub

If you want to know how to clean washing machine parts, this is an easy way to do it. When your washer smells like mold, run an empty wash cycle (no clothes) on the hottest setting with 1 cup of white vinegar and 10 drops of tea tree essential oil. This will clean, deodorize, and disinfect the inside of the washer tub.

Once the cycle is complete, spray the disinfectant solution on a soft cloth to wipe away any remaining residue.

It’s also a good idea to clean the detergent dispenser. Remove the dispenser housing and clean it thoroughly. Wash it with warm soapy water and a toothbrush. Replace clean components into the detergent compartment and reinstall the dispenser.

washing machine smell like mildew
Image from DIY Natural


Clean the Door Boot

The door boot – that big rubber gasket that seals the door when closed – has a nasty habit of trapping moisture and encouraging mold growth under the boot’s fold.

Spray the disinfectant solution liberally all around the boot and in all the crevices. Let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes. Using the toothbrush, scrub the crevices and boot area thoroughly to rid of any mold or mildew growth. Use a clean damp cloth sprayed with the disinfectant solution to finish wiping away all signs of muck.

How to Prevent a Washer from Mildewing

To prevent having your washing machine smell like mildew again, incorporate these steps into your monthly cleaning schedule to keep mildew at bay and the washer smelling fresh.

  • Clean the washtub
  • Wipe down the door boot
  • Only use HE detergent if you have an HE washer
  • Clean the detergent dispenser
  • Leave the door ajar when not in use to allow air to circulate

For more tips and service from our washer repair experts, contact Caesar’s Appliance Service today!