Quick Tip: Regular Use of White Vinegar Will Keep Your Washing Machine from Smelling

If you have a front load washing machine and have experienced a horrible stench coming from one, you will appreciate this tip.  If you have a front loader and have no idea what I’m talking about, you might want to try this as a preventative measure.  This tip comes from my personal experience, research, research, and more research.  I hope it’s helpful for you!

Long story short, I clean my front-load washing machine weekly, after washing my microfiber cleaning cloths.  I leave the door open between uses, never leave wet laundry in the machine, and I use natural laundry products. Pretty much doing all the ‘right’ things for a non-odorous washing machine.

Quite a few months ago, my less-than-a-year old washing machine (which I absolutely LOVE) started smelling.  It would go away when I ran the self-clean cycle only to return a load or two later. Our laundry never smelled (thankfully) but the stench coming from my laundry room was strong and couldn’t be ignored.

After googling the problem and not finding any new solutions, I called the manufacturer.  They recommended that I try to ‘shock’ the machine with 6 cups of white vinegar and the hottest setting (sanitize).  Then repeat this weekly for a month with the hope that it would go away. This worked for less than a week and the smell returned.

I started thinking about this solution and realized that perhaps I needed to be doing something with each load of laundry to kill whatever was causing this scent with each load.  If the manufacturer recommended cleaning the washer with white vinegar, I started to be add white vinegar to more loads than just my towels.  I love using white vinegar as a fabric softener with bath towels!  I added 1/4 cup of white vinegar to every.single.load of laundry.  Guess what?  The scent hasn’t returned and it’s been almost six MONTHS!

Here’s what you need:

  • vinegar
  • container to decant the vinegar (if you’d like) – I use my Clean Mama Home glass spray bottle and seal it with the included cap
  • label if you’d like
  • funnel to transfer liquid

Here’s what I know:

I figured that there might be some residual detergent build-up that wasn’t fully rinsing.  So I switched to laundry powder. In my research I’ve found that some liquid detergents don’t fully rinse and can leave some build-up in the inner workings of your washing machine.  If you have this issue and it isn’t going away, I recommend the combination of white vinegar with every load of laundry AND using laundry powder.  Molly’s Suds is the only laundry powder I suggest using – it’s rated an “A” in EWG’s Healthy Guide to Cleaning – no residue and it works beautifully!  (Keep an eye out for something really exciting with Molly’s Suds + Clean Mama!)

Here’s how to keep your washing machine from smelling, naturally:

Simply add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser or one of those fabric softener balls.  The white vinegar will act as a fabric softener AND it will keep your washing machine smelling fresh and clean!

Why would you want to switch to vinegar as a fabric softener? Most conventional fabric softeners and dryer sheets are not only toxic (read more here from EWG.com), but they also coat fibers making clothes and towels harder to clean because they build up with fabric softener.  If you love your fabric softener and dryer sheets and love that scent that’s associated with clean laundry, you probably don’t want to make the switch to something natural if it’s unscented.  Go to this post for 4 ways to naturally soften + freshen your laundry.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced this with your washing machine?  Ready to try a different approach?

Go to this post for this free printable infographic with instructions for cleaning your washing machine.



  1. Donna Rewald says:

    My only concern with using vinegar in with my wash for fabric softener, is of course everything smelling like vinegar. Did you not find this happened to your clothing etc?

  2. Bonnie Limbird says:

    I’ve been using about a 1/4 c. of white vinegar with “every.single.load of laundry” for almost four years now. I never have that smell any longer unless someone closes the door between loads or leaves a wet load in there for days. And, LOVE white vinegar for natural cleaning! Win! Win!

  3. I mainly use my dryer sheets to get rid of static ( of course they do smell nice too). I absolutely hate when my laundry comes out staticy! I love the idea of switching to vinegar only, I currently use it for my towels. What do I do instead of dryer sheets to guarantee a static free load?

  4. Random question, but since you love your washer so much, may I ask what you have? I’m in the market for a new one. 🙂

  5. The one thing that I do is leave my washer door open when I’m done with the laundry. The inside of the washer drys and never smells. I have a front loader washing machine and it never smells. Once a month I do a tub clean, just to make sure the machine is clean.

  6. Kathy Moore says:

    Hi Becky, thanks to you I’m getting things on schedule for cleaning my home. My question is I have Heinz all-natural cleaning vinegar, special cleaning strength. Is that the same as the vinegar you’re talking about and can I use that for cleaning my washer? And clothes?

    Thank you in advance,

    • Hi Kathy! I just use standard distilled vinegar, not cleaning for this scenario. There’s a slight difference in the acidity and I prefer the lower acidity for the washing machine.

  7. Is this a problem specific to front-loading washers or should I start this with a top-loading washer? So far I haven’t noticed any negative smell. I do leave the cover open long enough for the machine to dry out after use.

    • It’s more prevalent with front loading washing machines but you can use vinegar in a top loading washing machine as well.

  8. MeghanH says:

    Since it’s summer here we have been going through towels much more & since my daughter is home on summer break, more laundry. I have a top load but still get a funk smell. I’ve been adding a cup of vinegar to every wash and you are right. It knocks that smell out. Love vinegar.

  9. I’ve used vinegar to get the smell out, but I still have mold spots on the rubber ring of my front loading washer. Any ideas on how to get those off? I’m really about ready to buy a top-loading one!

  10. I had understood before with my top loader that vinegar would contribute to degradation of the hoses. So hesitate to use it on my fabulous new front loader as well. However, I sure like the idea! What do you know about that aspect of using vinegar?

  11. Maureen says:

    I have never used fabric softener due to allergies. Plain vinegar not only does the trick, but it also disinfects.

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