How To Get Rid Of Smells In A Washing Machine (UK remedies)

If you have noticed an unpleasant smell around your washing machine, it probably means you have not cleaned the machine for some time. Or if you have cleaned it, you’ve not done it properly. In this article, we’ll look at how you should clean your washing machine, how often you should clean it and how to prevent that smell from returning.

Why Does My Washing Machine Smell So Bad?

There are a number of reasons why your washing machine has an unpleasant smell. The most common is an irregular or non-existent cleaning regime. Washing machine manufacturers say that their appliances need to be regularly maintained. As many of us aren’t electricians or plumbers that leaves us with a regular cleaning routine as our only course of action.

The source of the smell emanating from your washing machine could have any number of starting places. Let’s start with the most obvious and work from there.

Pump Filter

The pump filter is located at the bottom front of the washing machine and is often behind a pull down flap. It simply unscrews anticlockwise but be sure to place a bowl beneath it as it is likely to spill some water from the filter as you remove it from the machine. It might be a good idea to place a towel on the floor to soak up any spillage as well.

Once you remove the filter check inside the housing for any dirt, debris, hair, coins. Screws, nails, buttons or anything else which could have found its way into your machine with your laundry. Remove any obstacles and clean the inside of the housing using an old toothbrush or similar.

Then wash the actual filter using warm soapy water and that old toothbrush. A blocked or partially blocked pump filter is often the source of bad smells from washing machines. You should aim to clean the pump filter at least every 4 weeks.

Detergent Drawer


The detergent drawer on your washing machine should look as clean as it did when your machine was new. Overtime, detergent drawers get a build up of detergent, mould, limescale, even mildew. All of which can cause the machine to smell bad.

Remove the detergent drawer and give it a good scrub in soapy water using a toothbrush to get into all of the small hard to access areas. Then, with the drawer out, clean the area the drawer fits into. As this can also become grimy over time.

You will notice a large hole at the bottom of this area, we recommend blocking this with a cloth before you start scrubbing with your toothbrush. 

If you drop the toothbrush down this hole, you will need an engineer to safely remove it for you and under no circumstances should you run the machine with a toothbrush stuck inside.

Pay attention to the small holes at the top of this area as this is where the water jets over the detergent. If these holes are clogged with limescale, mould, etc the water will not remove all of the detergent which can cause the drawer to get filthy again. Use a thin piece of wire or cocktail stick to gently unblock any of these holes before finishing it off with the toothbrush.

The Drum

Modern washing machines consist of an inner and outer drum, and even if the inner drum (the part you can see) looks relatively clean, the outer drum could be the source of the smell. It is recommended that a service wash is run every month to prevent the build up of any bacteria and germs which could be the cause of the smell.

If you haven’t run a service wash ever, or it has been sometime since your last service wash, we suggest using a proprietary drum cleaner (there are many available) or run the service wash using ½ cup of bleach in the drum or alternatively 1 cup of white vinegar. Ensure all traces of bleach or vinegar are removed before putting any laundry in the machine.

Service Wash

Just in case you’re unsure of what we mean by the term “service wash”, it’s basically a short wash cycle on the hottest setting available on your machine. Many modern machines have a service wash or drum wash program, if yours does, this is what it’s for. If your machine doesn’t, just select the hottest wash cycle and use that as your service wash.

Rubber Door Seal

The machine’s rubber door seal is another place which could be harbouring the bacteria and germs that cause it to smell. Inspect the seal and if you see anything which shouldn’t be there, remove it using a soft cloth and some white vinegar. Be sure to remove all of the white vinegar once you have removed all of the mould or other debris from the rubber seal.

Vinegar can damage rubber over time which is why you have to ensure all traces of vinegar have been removed. Rinse the seal using clean water to remove all of that vinegar.

Drain Hose

If you’ve checked everything else and you still haven’t found the cause of the bad smell, it could be the drain hose is the culprit. Pull the drain hose from the standpipe (which is attached to the wall). Look into the drain pipe if it all looks clear, it’s probably OK and it’s time to check the standpipe.


The easiest way to check if the standpipe is blocked or partially blocked is to use your phone and take a photo or two looking into the standpipe from above. If the water sitting at the bottom of the pipe is clear, there’s probably no problem. However, if the water is dirty, full of hairs or any other debris, you’ll need to remove the “S” bend at the bottom of the standpipe.

“S” Bend

The “S” bend simply unscrews but you will need to place a bowl underneath to catch any water which spills from the joints as you unscrew them. Once the pipe has been removed, wash it out and remove any dirt, gunk or debris from the pipe before replacing the pipe, and the drain hose from the washing machine.

Washing Machine

How To Get Rid Of Smells From Your Washing Machine Using Natural Ingredients (alternative home remedies)

If you don’t relish the idea of using chemical cleaners in your washing machine, there are several natural ingredients which can be used as an alternative.

White Vinegar

White vinegar has natural antibacterial and anti fungicidal properties which makes it a great choice for use in the washing machine. It can be used in the drum, the detergent dispenser drawer and around the rubber seals. If you don’t want to leave a vinegar smell in your machine try mixing with a small amount of detergent.


If you decide to use bleach to clean your washing machine it should be watered down to a 50/50 solution with warm water. You should also wear protective gloves and keep the bleach (even in its diluted form) away from clothes etc. Ensure to rinse the machine thoroughly after using bleach before putting any laundry in the machine.

Soda Crystals

Soda crystals can be used all round the home and are a great way to clean your washing machine. Just pour 500g of soda crystals into the drum of your machine and run a hot wash. For more ways to use soda crystals in your washing machine follow this link.

How To Prevent Your Washing Machine Becoming Smelly


Now that you have removed that nasty smell from your washing machine, let’s look at how to prevent it ever getting in that state again. Don’t just skim over this, as it’s not just a summary of what we’ve already said, there are a few extra tips here as well.

Use The Correct Amount Of Detergent

Modern washing machine detergents have built in cleaners for the machine as well as cleaners for the clothes. But they only work if used in the correct quantities. Never use more or less detergent than you need for your area. 

Remember hard water affects the amount of detergent your machine will need. This means you will need to calculate accordingly.

Using less detergent than is recommended might get your laundry clean, but at what cost to your machine? 

It’s not just bad smells, the actual rubber of the internal hoses of your machine can rot if there is a buildup of gunk for long periods.

Run A Regular Cleaning Cycle

Washing machines should be put on a cleaning cycle at least once a month to ensure they are running at optimum performance levels. Your machine might have a drum wash or service wash program and if it does this should run every 4 weeks. 

If your particular machine doesn’t have a dedicated service program, just select the hottest wash program available on your machine, and run it empty using an appropriate washing machine cleaner.

Allow Good Airflow By Leaving Door & Drawer Open

After every use, always leave the door and detergent drawer open on your machine to allow a decent flow of air through the machine. This allows the machine to dry out properly and prevent the formation of mildew, mould or bacteria.

Use Detergents Which Contain Bleaching Agents When Possible

Whenever your laundry allows, use detergents which contain bleaching agents to help combat mould and bacteria lurking in your machine.

Break The Cool Wash Cycle

Many of us have been brainwashed into believing that cool wash programs are the best for our clothes and the environment. However, the constant use of cool wash cycles is not good for your washing machine. 

All washing machine manufacturers recommend running a hot wash cycle every 4 weeks for the cleaning and maintenance of their machines.

If you only use cool wash programs and liquid detergents, you are encouraging mildew, black mould and bacteria to breed in your washing machine.

Always Empty The Machine Once The Wash Cycle Has Finished

Leaving wet washing in the drum of your washing machine is a great way of making it smell. Always remove the washing from the machine once the program is finished.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get the smell out of a washing machine in the UK?

To get rid of the smell in your washing machine, you should run the hottest wash program your machine has, with no laundry, just either, a proprietary drum cleaner or 1 cup of white vinegar, or ½ cup of bleach or 500g of soda crystals. This will clean the machine, you can also ensure the pump filter is clean and clean out the detergent drawer too.

How do I get my washing machine to stop smelling like rotten eggs?

If your washing machine smells like rotten eggs, it probably has a build up of mould and bacteria. This is often caused by only using cool wash programs. To remedy this you should run a hot wash program every month using a proprietary drum cleaner or 1 cup of white vinegar, or ½ cup of bleach or 500g of soda crystals. You should also clean the detergent drawer and the pump filter too. Plus you might want to check the drain hose and standpipe.

Why does my laundry still smell after washing?

The main reason washing smells after it has been washed is because it has been left in the machine. This can cause all manner of moulds and mildews to form which will make your clothes smell. Always remove clothes from the machine as soon as the program finishes.

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