Cleaning A Washer That Smells of Mold or Must: 10 Steps

Are you tired of dealing with a washer that smells moldy and musty? You’re not alone. This common problem can be a real nuisance for many homeowners. 

But don’t worry; I’ve got some simple fixes that will have your washer smell fresh and clean in no time. 

In this article, I’ll guide you through 10 easy steps to eliminate those unpleasant odors and restore your trusty laundry machine to its former glory. Let’s dive in and tackle this smelly issue together.

The good news is that solving the problem of a stinky washer is easier than you think. By identifying the source of the odor, giving your washer drum a thorough cleaning, and checking for mold in hidden areas, you’ll be well on your way to a fresh-smelling laundry room. 

Additionally, cleaning the detergent dispenser, keeping the door or lid open, inspecting the door seal, and ensuring proper drainage are all essential to banishing those musty odors for good.

With these items, you’ll be ready to tackle each step in getting your washer smelling fresh and clean again. 

Read on for a detailed guide to help you banish that moldy, musty smell from your laundry room once and for all.

What you will need:

  1. White vinegar
  2. Baking soda
  3. A scrub brush
  4. Clean rags
  5. A bucket or container
  6. A flashlight or good lighting source
  7. Rubber gloves (optional)

Cleaning A Washer That Smells of Mold or Must: Follow These 10 Steps

#1: Identify the Source of the Smell

Before we can banish those pesky odors, we must figure out where they’re coming from. Common culprits include detergent residue, fabric softener buildup, mold or mildew, and lingering moisture. 

Please keep your eyes (and nose) peeled as we go through the following steps to pinpoint the source and tackle it head-on.

#2: Run a Cleaning Cycle with Vinegar or Bleach

We’ll start by running a cleaning cycle with white vinegar to kick off our mold and must-busting mission. 

First, fill your washer with hot water and add two cups of white vinegar. Then, run a full cycle on the highest heat setting. 

This will help break down detergent residue, soap scum, and mineral deposits contributing to the smell. The owner/user manual has steps on how to do this if your washer has a cleaning feature

#3: Scrub the Drum with Baking Soda

After the vinegar cycle, sprinkle half a cup of baking soda inside the drum. Then, using a scrub brush, give the drum a thorough scrubbing, making sure to reach all those nooks and crannies. 

It will help remove any lingering odors and further clean the drum. Remember, it’s not a race – take your time to ensure you’ve covered every inch of the drum.

scrubbing washer drum with a sponge
Scrub the drum with sponge to remove odors

#4: Clean the Detergent Dispenser

The detergent dispenser can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew, it’s essential to clean it well. 

First, remove the dispenser drawer (usually at the top or front of the machine) and soak it in hot water and white vinegar for about 15 minutes. While it’s soaking, use a scrub brush to clean the area where the dispenser drawer sits. 

Remember to scrub those hard-to-reach areas. After cleaning, replace the dispenser drawer and run a rinse cycle to flush out any remaining residue.

filling washer with vinegar
Remove the dispenser drawer and soak it in white vinegar for 15 minutes

#5: Inspect and Clean the Door Seal (for front-load washers)

Front-loading washers are notorious for harboring mold and mildew in their door seals. To inspect the seal, open the washer door and locate the rubber gasket that runs along the perimeter of the opening.

It should be flexible and slightly wrinkled, like the neck of a well-loved turtleneck sweater. Next, peel back the gasket folds and look for signs of mold or mildew. If you spot any, it’s time for some serious scrubbing.

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a bucket, then dip a clean rag or scrub brush into the solution. 

Vigorously scrub the affected areas until the mold or mildew is gone. Once satisfied, wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any remaining vinegar solution.

Pro Tip: 

Don’t be scared to pull and tug on seal to get in all the folds, gently pushing and pulling will not remove or mess up the door seal but allow you to clean it thoroughly

#6: Inspect and Clean the Lid Seal (for top-load washers)

For top-load washers, checking the lid seal for mold and mildew is essential. The seal is typically a soft, flexible strip of rubber or plastic that runs along the edge of the lid, creating a watertight seal when the lid is closed. 

Closely inspect the seal with a flashlight or good lighting for any signs of mold or mildew. If you find any, it’s time to get scrubbing.

Using the same white vinegar and water solution from Step 5, dip a clean rag or scrub brush into the mixture and scrub the affected areas until the mold or mildew is gone. 

After you’ve finished, wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any remaining vinegar solution.

#7: Check the Door Latch or Lid Lock

The door latch (for front-loaders) or lid lock (for top-loaders) is the mechanism that keeps your washer door or lids securely closed during a cycle. It’s on the edge of the door or the front of the machine, opposite the hinges, or on the top edge of the lid. 

If your door latch or lid lock is covered in mold or mildew, it could contribute to the smell. Please thoroughly clean it with vinegar and water solution, using a clean rag or an old toothbrush to get into any small crevices.

#8: Leave the Door or Lid Open Between Loads

One of the simplest ways to prevent mold and musty smells in your washer is to leave the door or lid open between loads. It allows air to circulate inside the drum, helping to dry out any lingering moisture that could encourage mold and mildew growth. 

In addition, if you’re concerned about curious pets or children, consider using a laundry room door or baby gate to keep them out of the area while the washer is airing out.

#9: Inspect and Clean the Drain Pump Filter (Front-Load Washers) or Valve Filters (Top-Load Washers)

Many front-load washers have a drain pump filter designed to catch lint, coins, and other debris that could clog the drain. If this filter becomes clogged or moldy, it can contribute to unpleasant odors. 

To access the filter, consult your tech service manual, as the location can vary from model to model. In many cases, it’s behind a small panel near the bottom of the machine or underneath the drum.

Once you’ve located the filter, remove it and inspect it for any signs of mold or mildew. If necessary, clean the filter with a mixture of white vinegar and water, scrubbing away any debris or buildup. After cleaning, reinstall the filter and make sure it’s securely in place.

For top-load washers, filters are typically found on the valves. The valve filters sift the water going in and out of the pump and hoses. If your top-load washer has removable filters, consult your owner’s manual on properly removing them.

Remember that the user manual typically doesn’t contain component information or repair instructions. Instead, a service manual, written for appliance technicians, is needed for such information. To find a service manual, check out our free guide on finding manuals online. Alternatively, consider purchasing access to a tech manual library, such as

#10: Run Regular Maintenance Cycles

Finally, make a habit of running regular maintenance cycles to keep your washer smelling fresh and clean. 

At least once a month, run a cleaning cycle with white vinegar or a store-bought washing machine cleaner. It will help break down any lingering residue, prevent mold and mildew growth, and keep your washer running smoothly.


Following these ten simple steps, you can banish those pesky molds and musty smells from your washer for good. Remember, a clean and well-maintained washer not only smells better but also performs better, extending the life of your trusty laundry companion. Roll up your sleeves, grab your scrub brush, and let’s show that mold and must who’s boss.

Hi there! I’m Craig, and I’m the founder of Appliance Analysts. When it comes to appliances and anything electrical, I’ve always loved opening things up, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. This website is where I share free advice from myself and our experts to help our readers solve their appliance/HVAC problems and save money. Read more