Smelly Washing Machine? A Dirty Agitator Could Be the Culprit

It's time to clean the washer.

If you've noticed your clothes don't smell as clean as usual or that your washing machine has a particularly funky odor, it may be time to give it a good scrub.

If you have a top-loading washing machine, the agitator is likely the culprit of your smelly, newly washed clothes. Dirt and detergent can quickly build up inside and below the agitator, causing clothes and the machine to smell if not cleaned regularly.

Thankfully there are a few steps for removing buildup from an agitator. As with any appliance, consult your washing machine's user manual before attempting to remove certain parts.

Washing Machine w/ Agitator
Getty Images

Remove the Fabric Softener Tray

The fabric softener tray should easily pop or twist off the top of your agitator. Once you've removed this piece, you can put it in a tub of bleach to soak off any built-up grime. If you prefer a less harsh but effective cleaning agent, you can make a paste out of vinegar and baking soda and scrub it on the tray.

Try a Deep Rinse

Run a normal cycle on a high fill level with warm water and a deep rinse. Add one-fourth cup of detergent and one cup of bleach to the washer's drum.

This cycle will begin by removing any dirt and residue stuck in the drum. You could also use the same vinegar-baking soda mixture as a cleaner in your washer.

Use a Long-Handled Brush

After a five-minute cycle, open the lid and scrub inside the agitator with a long-handled brush.

The water will help loosen any dirt and debris inside the agitator, and the scrub brush ensures you reach every nook and cranny with the bleach-detergent mixture.

Continue the Washer's Cycle

After scrubbing inside the agitator, let the washing machine finish the cycle.

When the cycle drains, debris will drain through the water line, leaving your washing machine and agitator sparkling. Leave the washing machine's lid open to ensure that everything completely dries. Leaving the lid open after every wash cycle will also help prevent future odors.

Replace the Fabric Softener Tray

Once the tray is clean and dry, you can put it back on the top of the agitator, and you're all set to clean clothes in your freshly cleaned washing machine.

Tips for Other Machine Models

Depending on the model of your washing machine, you may be able to remove the agitator altogether and soak it. If you can remove the agitator, you will see a bolt at the bottom of the barrel once you've removed the fabric softener tray.

Twist off the bolt and carefully lift the agitator. You can soak it in bleach or use a baking soda-vinegar scrub. While you have the agitator removed, you can also check to see if any dirt has collected under the agitator. You can also use any household cleaner or the baking soda-vinegar scrub to clean this area.

After replacing all the parts in your machine, you can run a cleaning cycle using a washing machine cleansing pack. It's best to clean your washing machine monthly to avoid buildup and keep it performing in peak shape.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles