Getting clothes clean isn't just about how they look; it's about how they smell too. If your washing machine smells like rotten eggs, one part of that equation just isn't happening. You might be able to compensate for it with an extra dryer sheet or two, but softener sheets leave a film on clothes that affects breathability, which isn't good either. Luckily for you, you might be able to stop your washing machine from smelling like eggs with some easy DIY hacks.
That rotten eggs smell can be sulphur or sewage, but it's usually just bacteria causing a big stink. Killing the bacteria often means killing the smell, and that means it's time to do some cleaning.
When Washers Smell Like Rotten Eggs
There are a couple reasons your washing machine smells like eggs, and it's usually not serious, but are you sure it's the smell of rotting eggs and not sewer gas? Sewage odors are gases that can have ill health effects if ignored too long. If troubleshooting doesn't help, then it's wise to call a plumber as soon as possible.
When a washer smells like eggs, it's often just bacteria being a pest since moisture provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, mold and mildew. Even soap scum buildup, old hair, neglected dirt, that annoying lost sock or just errant lint can usher in a bacterial invasion. It can seem counterintuitive to have to clean a machine dedicated to making your life cleaner, but that's exactly where to start and what to do on a regular basis to avoid costly future repairs.
The stink can come from dispensers or spaces around the washer drum, from the rubber gasket around the door or even from a semiclogged drain hose. Whatever the cause, the first thing to do is part of responsible homeowner basic maintenance: Clean that washer!
Start by Cleaning Dispensers
The first step is to bust out the elbow grease and give your machine a good scrubbing. The dispenser containers for detergent, bleach and softener can often be ground zero of odors. Remove these if you can and clean them using an old toothbrush to scrub out all the crevices and cracks. Use pipe cleaners to get thorough with the delivery tubes running from the dispenser, as funky gunk often gets lodged in those too.
Be thorough in the dispenser area. Now that you know it's a problem area, you can stay on top of it and avoid such painstaking work in the future.
How to Scrub Your Washing Machine
Next, clean the inside of the washer, including the drum, door and gaskets. Use a cleaning solution that will kill the bacteria: either 1:1 of distilled white vinegar and water or 1:10 of bleach and water. Maybe you've been told to use "cleaning" vinegar since it's slightly stronger than white vinegar, with 6 percent acidity versus 5 percent. However, cleaning vinegar is not safe for consumption and is considered a potentially dangerous product to store around kids. That acidity also renders it harsh on metals prone to rust, so sticking with 5 percent household vinegar is safe and still effective.
Front-load washers are notorious for mold and mildew on the doors, but vinegar does a good job of cleaning front-loading washing machines. Simply wipe down all accessible parts of the washer with a rag soaked with your choice of cleaning solution. This means scrubbing under the lid for top-load washers and scouring all around the door and under the rubber door gaskets on front loaders. For stubborn mildew or scum, sprinkle a bit of baking soda, scrub it in with the old toothbrush and then rinse it off. Don't forget to clean around the lint trap too and scrub the lint screen to remove any film left from dryer sheets.
Run a Cleaning Cycle
Now that you've buffed up the machine, run an empty cycle to purge it of other bacteria. For sanitizing, there's no need to buy anything fancy since bleach is the hands-down champion of knocking out odors and bacteria. Set the washer to the hottest cycle and then add full-strength bleach — 2 cups for a front-loading washer or 4 cups for top loaders. Start the hot cycle and fill the washer.
Once it's full and it has done some agitating in the spin cycle to mix the bleach into the hot water, stop the cycle and let the washer sit for at least 30 minutes while the bleach works its magic. Then, finish the cycle as usual. If it still smells of bleach at the end of the clean cycle, run another rinse cycle.
Now, to deodorize it, do the same thing all over again but this time with vinegar. It should deliver the crushing blow to neutralize any remaining odors. These bleach-then-vinegar hot-water cleaning cycles should be on your regular maintenance schedule. If you get a whiff of something, get ahead of it with these cleaning cycles.
Don’t Forget the P-Trap
If all that scrubbing and cycling hasn't solved matters for you, there could still be an issue with your P-trap. To function normally, P-traps should have some water in them; this is what keeps odors under control. Sometimes, though, the water is accidentally drained or it dries up, and then things can get smelly.
The trick is to locate the floor drains and pour hot water — not boiling water, as that can damage old pipes — down the drain. A few gallons should flush things and replenish the P-trap balance. Some plumbers recommend adding 4 ounces of mineral oil after the water has settled to slow the future evaporation from the P-trap.
Finally, Check the Drainpipe
If all else has failed, the last easy DIY solution is to check the washer drain pipe. If you have a plumbers' snake, use that to clear the pipe and improve flow. Anything clogging the pipe, from old gym socks to Fluffy's fur balls, will generate bacteria and inevitably create a stench. Removing it, however, should restore clean air to your laundry room.
If none of this has resolved a persistent odor, then it's time to call a plumber. Usually, though, you should see considerable improvement. All these things — scouring the machine, running cleaning cycles, flushing the P-trap and clearing pipes — are smart things to do at least annually to keep your investment running its best.
If you hate cleaning and fussing over your washer, the number one thing you can do is to leave the washer door or lid ajar after use so water residue can evaporate. This will slow down bacterial growth.
Steffani Cameron is the daughter of a realtor and interior decorator mother and a home contractor father. Steffani is a professional writer with over five years' experience writing about the home for BuildDirect and Bob Vila. Raised with a mad love for decorating, Steffani gave up her Art Deco apartment to travel and work remotely for five years. She's in love with experiencing traditional decor around the world, including stays in Thai teak plantations on the Mekong River and cave homes in Turkey.