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The Tale Of The Smelly Laundry Room (Tips For Those With High Efficiency Washing Machines)

October 26, 2010 · 18 comments

in Home & Garden, Misc Tips

Have you ever encountered a smell in our house and you had no idea where it was coming from?

I know several people that would follow a smell, and discover a dead mouse or something worse lurking behind an appliance or in the chimney.

Well, our smell was definitely coming from the laundry room, and it mystified us for months.  We moved all the appliances and looked behind and under them.  We emptied a bunch of frozen food out of the chest freezer, and to no avail.  I figured it couldn’t be an animal because the smell was not constant, and it only happened when the dryer was on.   We even vacuumed out the dryer vent that leads to outside. (Not a bad maintenance idea to do every 6 months or so anyway.) Again, we came up empty handed.

What Fixed the Smelly Washer, and What Didn’t

So, the process to locate the smell continued.  I researched ‘stinky dryer’ on the internet extensively and tried all kinds of remedies.   I poured boiling water down the drain that was in our laundry room.   I poured baking soda and vinegar down the same drain.   That solution didn’t fix anything, but it was fascinating to watch.  Next I read that dryers suck in air to dry the clothes, so I also covered the drain with saran wrap and tape.  That little fix worked for a couple of loads of laundry, and I thought I was home free.  Alas, the stench was back during the third load of laundry.

Finally, I was reading about using vinegar in the washer.  We have a little ‘fabric softener’ slot on our high efficiency washer, so I just dumped some vinegar in the little container and hoped for the best.  Needless to say, it worked!

Why High Efficiency Washers Get So Smelly

So what was the problem?   This is what I think happened:  High Efficiency washing machines are known to get gunky.  That HE detergent gets nestled in the machine, but I also think it was somehow got into some of our towels.  Not all our towels, but just our giant, fluffy brown towels.  Even though they appeared clean and dry, there may have been some detergent residue in them.   (I concluded this because we did narrow the smell down to happening only when the brown towels were being washed.  We are so smart!)

We Don’t Use Afresh Anymore!

Now I add a little vinegar to every load of wash I do (in the fabric softener cup) and everything is fresh and clean, and even softer!  I don’t use the ‘Afresh’ that my washing machine recommends because the stuff is so darn fragrant it almost killed me when we used it one time.  Vinegar is also a great ingredient to use for pre-treating stains.    The best part of the solution is that the clothes do not retain any odor from the vinegar; it all just washes away.

As a side note, my washing machine in a top loading high efficiency model.  Front-loading models are notorious for getting smelly because of the water that doesn’t get fully drained and is left behind.   Therefore, if you have a front-loading model, always keep the door open when it is not in use to dry the machine out.  Using vinegar may also help reduce the smell for front loaders also, even though the cause of the problem is different.

What was the worst smell you ever encountered in your house?  Did it take awhile to solve the problem?  How did you fix it?

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