So you open your washing machine or dishwasher, and PHEW, you’re hit in the face with a musty, foul stench. Now how are you to use an appliance that’s supposed to clean things when it smells so dirty? To make matters worse, the odor is starting to permeate the room, and the “clean” towels smell mildewed, fresh out of a wash cycle!

One of the top consumer complaints regarding water-using appliances is odor – not surprising when we consider water brings life, in this case, bacteria and mold, making these types of appliances ideal breeding grounds if dirty water lingers. Just like us, gases are emitted from the biological functions of these critters, and these gases often stink. Simply put, what you’re smelling are microbial farts.

Mr. Microbial Fart

WARNING: In all likelihood, your appliance odor is organic in nature. HOWEVER, if you’re smelling something chemical and burning, it ain’t Mr. Microbial Fart (pictured at right) you have to worry about. An odor like this would be due to faulty/loose wiring or melting plastic mistakenly left in place from packing materials. Either case must be checked out and corrected. So before moving forward with this fix, identify your stink.

 How To De-Stink Your Dishwasher

  • dishwasher_drainRemove any debris that has accumulated on the strainer or anywhere in the dishwasher.
  • Clean the dishwasher interior and around the door (especially the door seals) with a pasty Borax-water solution, a scrub brush and sponge.
  • Clean the spray arm – unclog the holes using vinegar in a spray bottle, a brush and pipe-cleaners.
  • Pour in a cup of white vinegar to the bottom of an empty dishwasher and run it on a light cycle.
  • Check to see that the dishwasher drain hose is looped higher than the sink drain. If it’s not, drain water from the sink can back-up into your dishwasher creating a stinky pool in the bottom of your washer.

Bonus Dishwasher Performance Tips

  • To boost hot water in your dishwasher cycle, run the hot water at your sink until it’s good and hot, and then start the dishwasher.
  • If you have a garbage disposal, always run it to clean out any debris before starting a dishwasher load.
  • Use a product like Finish® Jet-Dry® Rinse Aid to get rid of spots and film on your glasses and dishes. You can make a natural rinse agent from 1 cup of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide and 10-15 drops of lemon or lavender essential oil or simply straight white vinegar. Refill your rinse-aid dispenser about once a month.

How To De-Stink Your Washing Machine

 Front Loader:

  • KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALeave the door open after it’s been emptied of a load. If you don’t, because of the watertight seal door, any remaining moisture will fester and breed mold.
  • Use only HE laundry detergent and only as much as recommended. Too many suds will linger in nooks and crannies and eventually cause odor.
  • Wipe down the interior of the drum and all around the door, especially the seals, with a water-bleach solution. If you can’t reach any grimy spots, say inside the dispenser tray opening, spray with a water/bleach solution (or something like Clorox Clean-Up).
  • Remove the dispenser trays and wash them in soapy water. Let them dry.
  • Run the “clean washer” setting on the largest load with hot water, adding 1 cup of bleach or 2 cups of white vinegar.

Top Loader:

  • Wipe down the interior of the drum and all around the lid with a water/bleach solution. Rinse with hot water.
  • Fill the washer with hot water and add 1 quart of bleach. Let it agitate, then sit for about an hour. Start the machine again to complete the cycle. Repeat the entire process using white vinegar.

Any Washing Machine:

  • smelly washer cleanUse a level to check that your machine sits level, both front to back and side to side. If it doesn’t, it won’t agitate and drain properly. The 4 leveling feet spin to adjust the height. (For easy lifting, see one of my previous Fix-It Friday columns, “Brain Over Brawn… A Girl’s Guide To Gaining Brute Strength For Tough DIY Projects“, Tip #4).
  • Clean any lint or drain trap regularly. Some traps are more visible than others and every machine differs from where or whether or not you even have one. See your owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer for proper instructions.
  • There’s a product called Smelly Washer Cleaner. I’ve never used it, but people swear by it. I investigated to see what it’s actually made from with limited results – only got as far as it being of citric origin, all natural, and safe in septic systems. If all else fails, I’d try it!

How To De-Stink Your Garbage Disposal

On a final smelly note, if your garbage disposal has a foul bouquet, it needs to be cleaned. Disposal manufacturers do not recommend grinding ice to clean it – a common cleaning practice. I’m not a big fan of using lemons either, another cleaning method, as they’ll just churn more food stuff (pulp, seeds, rind) in the works. Use a product that’s specifically designed to clean a disposal like Liquid-Plumr Disposal + Drain Foaming Cleaner Foaming Power Packs or Plink Lemon Garbage Disposal Cleaner which is biodegradable and non-toxic.

And now you know how to rid your water-using appliances of that not-so-fresh feeling.

Norma sig

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Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.