Why Does My Washing Machine Smells Like Sewer?

Sewer Stench in Your Laundry? Don’t Panic! Here’s Why and How to Fix It.

Imagine reaching for that fresh laundry, only to be greeted by a wave of sewer stench. Not exactly the aromatic experience you were hoping for!

This unpleasant surprise, while definitely unwelcome, is entirely fixable. Whether it’s bacteria building up or a plumbing issue lurking beneath the surface

We’ll help you diagnose the culprit and reclaim your laundry room’s olfactory peace. Let’s dive in!

Why does my washing machine smell like sewer?

Washing Machine Smell Like Sewer: Top Causes and Solutions

Cause 1. Bacterial Bonanza:

Your washing machine can become a breeding ground for bacteria if stagnant water, detergent residue, and organic matter (think forgotten socks!) team up.

Low-temperature washes, infrequent cleaning, and overloading your machine are like throwing a bacteria party. The result? That nasty sewer smell.


1. Fight back with regular cleaning! Run hot water cycles (at least 140°F/60°C) to blast away bacteria.

2. Use a washing machine cleaner specifically designed for odor removal, these target the hidden nooks and crannies where bacteria love to hide.

Cause 2. Clogged Up and Smelly:

Your p-trap, that U-shaped bend under your drain, is a hero: it traps water to prevent sewer gas from entering your laundry room.

But if it gets clogged with lint, debris, or soap scum, that trapped water can become stagnant and, well, smelly.


Be a plumbing detective! Check your drain and p-trap for clogs. You can usually clean them yourself, but if the clog is stubborn, don’t hesitate to call in a professional plumber.

Cause 3. The Case of the Missing Water:

Sometimes, the culprit isn’t even in the machine itself! If your washing machine rarely gets used, the water in your p-trap can evaporate, leaving it dry and defenseless against sewer gas.

Think of it as an open door for those unpleasant smells to waft in.


Be a water hero! Simply pour a gallon of water down the drain to refill the p-trap and restore its odor-blocking power. However, if the smell persists, it’s best to call a plumber. They can check for any underlying issues like:

Cause 4. Plumbing Peril:

While less common, plumbing problems can also be the source of the sewer stench. Think cracked pipes, faulty vent connections, or even issues with your sewer line. These require expert attention to diagnose and fix safely.


Don’t be a plumbing pro wannabe! If DIY solutions haven’t solved the problem, call a qualified plumber to get things flowing smoothly (and smelling fresh) again.

How to Fix Washing Machine Smell Like Sewer

1. Cleanliness is Key:

Think of your washing machine as your own personal spa retreat. But to truly experience zen, regular cleaning is a must! Here’s your step-by-step guide to a stench-free haven:

1. Interior Scrub: Grab a damp cloth and some mild detergent. Wipe down the inner drum, paying attention to areas where gunk can accumulate, like the door seal and detergent dispenser drawer.

2. Gasket Groove Groove: Don’t let the door seal become a haven for mold and mildew! Use a toothbrush and diluted bleach solution (always test for colorfastness first) to clean its grooves, then rinse thoroughly.

3. Drawer Drama: Remove the detergent and softener dispensers and soak them in warm, soapy water. Rinse and dry completely before replacing them.

4. Filter Frenzy: Locate the drain filter (usually behind a small panel) and remove it carefully. Clean any trapped debris and rinse the filter under running water before putting it back in place.

Bonus Tip: To really punch up the cleaning power, run a hot water (at least 140°F/60°C) cycle with either a cup of white vinegar or a commercial washing machine cleaner. This helps kill bacteria and remove built-up residue, leaving your machine smelling fresh.

Make hot water cycles your new laundry BFF! Run them monthly to keep bacteria at bay and prevent future odor problems.

2. Detergent Do’s and Don’ts:

Using the right amount of detergent is crucial for fighting odors. Too much can leave residue behind, attracting bacteria and creating that dreaded smell.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions based on your water hardness and load size.

Overloading your machine is another recipe for disaster. It traps water and reduces cleaning effectiveness, leading to odor development. Stick to the recommended capacity for optimal washing and odor control.

3. Ventilation Matters:

Just like you wouldn’t keep your bathroom door shut after a steamy shower, let your washing machine breathe! Leave the door open after each cycle to allow moisture to escape and prevent mold growth, which can contribute to odors. Additionally, ensure proper ventilation in your laundry room. Open windows or install exhaust fans to keep the air circulating and prevent moisture buildup.

When to Call a Professional?

Sometimes, even the most diligent DIYer needs a hand. Here are the signs it’s time to call a professional:

The Smell Lingers: If you’ve tried all the DIY solutions and the odor persists, don’t fight a losing battle. Seek professional help to diagnose the issue and ensure it’s not a deeper plumbing problem.

Plumbing Woes: Suspecting a cracked pipe, faulty vent, or sewer line issue? Leave it to the experts! Plumbing problems can be complex and dangerous to tackle yourself. Contact a qualified plumber to diagnose and fix the issue safely and effectively.

How often should I clean my washing machine to prevent odor?

Aim for monthly cleaning with a hot water cycle and a specialized washing machine cleaner. Don’t forget to clean the door seal, gasket, and dispenser drawer!

Bonus tip: run additional hot water cycles occasionally (even without cleaning products) to keep bacteria at bay.

What type of detergent should I use to avoid odor?

The right detergent can make a big difference! Choose one based on your water hardness and load size, and avoid using too much.

Excess detergent leaves residue, attracting bacteria and contributing to odor. Consider an odor-removal laundry detergent for an extra boost of freshness.

My washing machine door seal is moldy. Can I clean it myself?

A: Yes, but with caution! Use a diluted bleach solution (test for colorfastness first) and a toothbrush to clean the grooves. Rinse thoroughly and ensure good ventilation while drying. If unsure, consult a professional cleaning service for peace of mind.

I tried everything, but my washing machine still smells like sewage! What now?

Don’t panic! If DIY solutions haven’t solved the problem, it’s time to call in the pros. They can diagnose the issue, including potential plumbing problems like cracked pipes or faulty vents, and fix them safely and effectively.

Remember, seeking professional help can prevent further damage and ensure long-term peace of mind.

Are there any natural cleaning methods for my washing machine?

Absolutely! You can use a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda for cleaning. Add a cup of vinegar to the detergent dispenser and a half cup of baking soda to the drum, then run a hot water cycle. This is a great option for those sensitive to harsh chemicals.

Is using bleach safe for cleaning my washing machine?

While bleach can be effective in certain situations, use it sparingly and with caution. It can weaken rubber components and damage colored fabrics.

Always test for colorfastness before using bleach and dilute it properly to avoid harming your machine.

I hear gurgling sounds coming from my washing machine drain. Is this related to the odor?

Gurgling sounds can indicate a clogged drain or vent. This can trap stagnant water and contribute to odor.

Check the drain and p-trap for clogs, and ensure proper ventilation in your laundry room. If the gurgling persists, consult a plumber.

I live in an apartment building. Who is responsible for fixing a plumbing issue causing the odor?

This depends on your specific lease agreement and building regulations. Typically, landlords are responsible for plumbing repairs, so report the issue to your building management immediately.

Can using fabric softener contribute to the odor?

While not a direct cause, fabric softener can build up over time in the dispenser drawer and contribute to musty smells.

Regularly clean the dispenser drawer with hot water and vinegar to prevent this. Consider using a fragrance-free softener or skipping it altogether for optimal odor control.

My washing machine smells faintly like sewage even after cleaning. Is this normal?

A very faint odor might linger, especially if the issue was severe. Continue regular cleaning with hot water cycles and monitor the smell.

If it intensifies or doesn’t disappear within a few weeks, consult a professional to rule out any underlying plumbing problems.


That stench? It’s not a sewer monster, but likely bacteria or a plumbing issue. Don’t despair! Clean regularly with hot water cycles, use the right detergent amount, and avoid overloading.

Check your p-trap for clogs and ensure good ventilation. Still stinky? Call a pro! Fresh laundry awaits!

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