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Why Does My Washing Machine Smell Sour?

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A sour smell in your washing machine can be an unexpected and unpleasant surprise. It can turn a routine laundry day into a quest to identify and eliminate the source of the odor. In addition to being off-putting, a foul-smelling washing machine can affect the freshness of your laundry and the longevity of your appliance. But what causes this sour smell, and how can it be prevented? Let’s dive in.


A sour smell in your washing machine can be caused by mold, mildew, and bacteria that thrive in damp, dark environments. Stagnant water and lint, low washing temperatures, and overloading the washing machine can also contribute to the smell. To eliminate the sour smell, regularly clean your washing machine, use the correct amount of detergent, don’t overload the machine, and allow it to dry out after each use.

Common Causes of a Sour Smell in Washing Machines

The sour smell in your washing machine can be caused by a variety of factors. Here are some of the most common culprits:

Mold, Mildew, and Bacteria

Mold, mildew, and bacteria thrive in damp, dark environments, making your washing machine an ideal breeding ground. These microorganisms can accumulate over time due to soap scum, dirt, body oil, and other residues trapped in the gasket, seal, and detergent dispenser.

Stagnant Water and Lint

The combination of stagnant water and lint trapped by the filter can lead to a stinky smell, especially if fresh laundry water hasn’t been able to rinse away the buildup.

Low Washing Temperatures

Using cool water for your laundry may be energy-efficient, but it’s not as effective in rinsing away soap scum which can serve as food for bacteria, causing bad smells. Periodically running a hot-water cycle can help prevent this issue.

Overloading the Washing Machine

Overloading your washer can prevent detergent and clothes from moving around adequately, leading to missed stains and detergent residue on clothes. This can cause unpleasant odors to linger in your machine and your clothes.

How to Eliminate the Sour Smell from Your Washing Machine

Now that we’ve identified the usual suspects, let’s explore some effective ways to eliminate the sour smell from your washing machine:

Regular Cleaning

Deep clean your washing machine by running a hot water cycle with vinegar or a washing machine cleaner. This will help to remove any buildup of soap scum, mineral deposits, and grime that may be causing the sour smell.

Proper Detergent Use

Use the correct amount of detergent for your machine and laundry load size. Excessive detergent can lead to residue buildup which can contribute to the smell.

Do Not Overload

Avoid overloading the machine, as it can lead to detergent residue and mold growth.

Dry Out the Machine

Don’t let damp laundry sit in the machine for too long, as bacteria can breed and cause odors. Also, leave the washer door open after use to allow air circulation and prevent mold growth.

Preventative Measures for Sour Smell in Washing Machines

To prevent sour smells in washing machines in the future, follow these preventative measures:

  • Regularly clean your washing machine, including the rubber gasket, detergent dispenser, and lint filter.
  • Run a monthly hot water cycle with vinegar or bleach to eliminate bacteria and mold.
  • Leave the washer door open after use to allow it to dry out and prevent mold growth.

By following these tips, not only will you eliminate the current sour smell from your washing machine, but you’ll also prevent future odors from forming. This will ensure you have fresh and clean laundry every time.

Remember, a clean washing machine leads to clean laundry. So, the next time you’re faced with a sour-smelling washing machine, you’ll know exactly what to do. Happy washing!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I clean my washing machine to prevent a sour smell?

It’s recommended to clean your washing machine once a month. This includes running a hot water cycle with vinegar or bleach and cleaning the rubber gasket, detergent dispenser, and lint filter.

Can I use any type of vinegar to clean my washing machine?

White vinegar is typically used for cleaning washing machines due to its deodorizing and cleaning properties.

Is it okay to leave the washing machine door open all the time to prevent smells?

Yes, leaving the washing machine door open after each use can help the machine dry out completely, preventing mold growth and thus, the sour smell. However, ensure this doesn’t pose a safety risk in your home, especially if you have small children or pets.

What type of detergent is best to prevent detergent residue in my washing machine?

High-efficiency (HE) detergents are recommended for most modern washing machines. These detergents produce fewer suds and thus are less likely to leave residue in your machine.

How can I tell if I’m overloading my washing machine?

A general rule of thumb is to leave enough space in the washer for your hand to fit between the top of the drum and your clothes. Overloading can restrict the movement of clothes, leading to ineffective washing and rinsing.

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