Stop the Smell: How To Clean a Front-Loading Washing Machine

updated Nov 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Have you noticed your clothes smelling… musty? Even if you’ve switched the load from the washer to the dryer immediately after the cycle has ended? Before you run out and buy a strongly scented laundry detergent to cover the smell, give your machine a thorough cleaning. Taking care of your washing machine can help it stay clean and prevent walking.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

If you’ve never taken the time to wash your washer, this task might take you a while (that is, if your machine doesn’t have a self-cleaning option) but will be worth every minute. After the initial scrub down happens, you can lighten the intensity of the task and simply give it a touch-up once a month.

And if you want to permanently avoid that musty smell, leave the washer door open. Leaving the door open will allow leftover moisture to evaporate, minimizing the chance for mildew to grow on the rubber seal. This is especially important in the summer and in extremely humid climates. If you’re concerned about your fur or non-fur babies crawling in, invest in a front load washer lock. It can keep a door open just as well as it can keep it shut.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

What You Need


  • 1/4 cup Baking soda
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups Vinegar
  • All-purpose spray
  • Tea tree oil (optional)


  • Measuring cups
  • Scrubbing sponge
  • Paper towels or clean rag


(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
  • First, start by wiping down all exterior surfaces with your all-purpose spray including the top, sides, front, and front window. Then, open all doors/drawers etc. and wipe down all the surfaces you can get to, paying close attention to corners and cracks that dust could easily collect in.
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
  • Next, combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup baking soda and pour this solution into your detergent tray.
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
  • Set the wash cycle for a large load, and place it on the hottest setting. Press the “start” button and let the baking soda do its thing!
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
  • After the cycle has completed, find the release button and pop the detergent tray out of the drawer. Run it under hot water, or drop it in a soak bath to remove soap scum and buildup.
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
  • While the detergent tray is soaking, spray the rubber seal with vinegar and let it sit for a minute or two. Grab your rag (I prefer paper towels for this step because it can be quite messy, especially if you have mildew) and start wiping down the folds of the seal. Really get in there, and lift out any debris or hair that has become trapped.

    If you have a mildew problem, clean with vinegar and a few drops of tea tree oil. If you’re brave, use bleach. Keep going until your rag wipes clean.
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
  • The baking soda detergent should have made the inside of your machine nice and shiny and odorless, but just to be safe I like to pour a few cups of vinegar inside while spinning the drum, and then I go back and scrub it down with a sponge.
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
  • If you don’t feel like getting inside the machine and scrubbing your little heart out, just pour a cup of vinegar in the detergent tray (after you’ve removed the tray from the soak bath and put it back in place, of course) and run one more cycle on low. You can certainly apply both steps, but really only one is necessary.

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