Two months after installing my new washing machine, my excitement waned when I noticed that my clothes had started smelling bad. I had been using the self-cleaning cycle, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. My clothes still smelled like they had been sitting, wet, for too long.
If the self-cleaning cycle isn’t working for you, either, here’s how you can deep-clean your washing machine and restore the just-cleaned smell of your laundered clothing.
Step 1: Clean the seal
Your first step in decontaminating your washer is checking the seal around the door.
The seal catches lint, coins, paperclips and all manner of pocket fodder. If you don’t clean it out, that junk can mold or, even worse, it can make its way down to the trap. Just swipe your hand around the seal and remove any junk. Then, wipe it down with a damp cloth.
Step 2: Clean the trap
When items don’t get caught in the washer door seal they go to a place inside the washer ominously called “the trap.” (It’s also called a filter.) These items languish and mildew until you either remove them or the washer stops draining water.
My washer had to stop draining water before I even learned that the trap was a thing. My husband deftly took apart the washer and found that our washer trap was full of Legos and about $5 worth of change.
Here is how you can clean your own trap:
- Unplug your washer.
- On the front or back of the washer there should be a little door.
- Place a small bowl by the little door to catch drips.
- Pry open the door using a flathead screwdriver or a coin.
- There will be a black tube inside the door. Gently pull the top end of the hose out and pull off the plastic cap.
- Drain the hose in the bowl.
- Place a towel in front of the door.
- Beside the black hose will be the trap cap, also called the filter cap. Twist it to the left and pull it forward.
- Clean out the trap and replace the trap and hose.
- Close the little door and you’re done.
These directions may vary depending on the year and model of your washer. Be sure to check your owner’s manual before attempting to clean your washer’s trap.
Step 3: Run the self-clean with bleach
When you run your washer’s self-cleaning mode, don’t leave it to its own devices. Add one cup of bleach to the detergent cup before you start the cycle. This is my number one tip for getting rid of nasty smells. It works every time.
The long haul
To keep your washer smelling fresh, leave the door open so that the inside of the washer can dry and air out after every wash. Closing the door traps humidity and encourages mold growth. Also, remember to check pockets before running a load and always add bleach to the self-cleaning cycle.
Editors’ note: This article was originally published Nov. 20, 2015, and has since been updated.