If you’re like me, you started off loving your front loading washing machine only to find out that your clothes and washing machine started smelling like mildew! Yuck.
So, don’t throw out that expensive washing machine yet. There is hope!
I struggled with this for a while before figuring out the secret, and I only get that stinky smell when I forget a load in the washer for a few days (oops! Yikes. ) Thankfully, if that happens, I know a quick and easy way to remove the mildew smell from clothes (and you’ll want to do that once you get your washing machine under control). 🙂
My struggle was at its worst when my brother-in-law was staying with us for a while. I couldn’t figure it out? He worked out a ton and washed his tiny loads of workout clothes almost daily with his special workout clothes detergent. You would think that the extra sudsing and rinsing of his daily washes would have actually helped the mildew smell to be washed and rinsed away. But nope.
That Mildew Smell In Our Clothes Was Unbearable
We sniffed every article of clothing before putting it on to decide if it was too stinky to wear. Within an hour of our humid Georgia heat, we would all be smelling like we just ran a marathon in some sweatpants that were left in a camping suitcase. I’m totally not kidding. It was awful. Totally embarrassing. And really frustrating.
Even our dresser drawers started smelling like these stinky clothes.
I got desperate. I turned to Google and Pinterest. I looked high and low. Searched through piles and piles of posts that said use vinegar, clean your washing machine (um, that gasket is totally gross!), put your clothes in the sun, rub your belly and tap your head. Seriously.
Some people swear by the vinegar. I’ve seen tips for baking soda. And I even tried washing that gross washing machine. I tried it all. More than once. And we kept stinking.
See, the problem was that the mildew smell would go away for a week or two and then be back with a vengeance in just a few short weeks.
The Answer Is Just Too Easy and Simple. Really.
So I continued on my search. I finally found, buried very deeply in a forum, a suggestion to use powder detergent instead of liquid detergent. It seemed too good to be true!! Hear those angels singing? And see that light shining through the clouds? This is the moment that will change your life. Seriously.
See, mold and mildew are bound to happen whenever there is water and dark (= washing machine). (I’ve recently been through a mold-tastrophe (that I happened to turn into an almost free Disney vacation), so I’ve learned a lot about it.) And if you give the mold something to munch on (like some of those delicious chemicals found in liquid detergent), it starts to grow up and make babies. No one wants their washing machine mildew making babies in there, amiright?!
Thankfully, powder detergent isn’t as delicious to the mildew, so it grows much more slowly (if at all). Whwew!
So, all you need to do is remove the mildew scooby snacks to prevent the mildew smell from being in your washing machine in the first place. Remove the source. Don’t treat the symptom.
Am I saying you shouldn’t ever clean your washing machine? No. I am saying that cleaning your washing machine might help, but there is a chance that it will only help for a little while. Switching out your detergent will remove the food source for the mildew so that you don’t need to clean out that nasty washing machine quite as often (unless that’s just what you like to do with your free time. Then by all means…party on!).
Keep Your Clothes From Smelling Like Mildew
So, to keep your clothes from smelling like mildew, all you need to do is switch to a powder detergent. I’ve noticed there aren’t that many choices for powder detergent for HE or front load washing machines.
I do think it’s still important to get detergent that is specifically made for high efficiency (or HE) machines, though. So be sure your detergent is the right kind. So far, I’ve found Gain and Tide locally in an HE powder detergent.
Natural Laundry Detergent to Prevent Mildew
Also, if you want to keep it natural, you can make your own, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. I believe that’s when all my trouble started (just before my brother-in-law moved in), and the extra soap from his daily washing those tiny loads must have escalated the problem.
There are some natural powder laundry detergents out on the market (), but I haven’t tried them yet. I’m hoping to give them a try as soon as my Tide runs out, if I can last that long. I’m dying to try this detergent with awesome reviews on Amazon. 🙂 If you use a natural detergent with an HE machine, I’d love to hear what you think about it!
Remove The Mildew Smell From Your Clothes
So, if you’re looking for a play-by-play for how to erase that awful mildew smell from your life, here’s what I would do if I were you.
- Donate that liquid detergent to a friend in need.
- Pick up a box of powder detergent marked “HE.”
- Start washing with the powder detergent.
- Add a couple of cups of vinegar for good measure to strip your clothes of the chemicals that have been in that liquid detergent. You’ll only need to do this for the first wash or two for each load. It’s cheap and it can’t hurt, right?
- Wash all your clothes using this trick to remove the mildew smell from your clothes.
- Do the happy dance because you’ll be smelling back to normal in no time.
There you have it! You’ve dealt with the root of the problem (liquid detergent), cleaned up the mess you made (using this trick), and now your clothes are going to smell like, well, clothes from now on.
And just like that, your life is changed!
Don’t skip the step of actually killing & removing the mildew that is already taking up shop in your clothes using this trick.
Help a mama out and pin this to your cleaning board. You never know, another mama might be sitting in her stinky pjs right now needing to read this post, too, and how awesome would it be if she finally found the real answer because of your pin?!
13 thoughts on “Get The Mildew Smell Out Of Your Washing Machine For Good!”
I have this problem too! I’m so happy I saw this post and I’m going to try powder detergent. I hope this solves the problem. My washer is old, but I really don’t want to replace it until it’s totally dead 🙂
I hear that!! I can’t believe my washer is already 10 years old! The powder detergent really works. It might take a few rounds of loads to get all the residue out of your clothes/washer from the liquid detergent, but the powder will get rid of the mildew and keep it gone.
Thanks for stopping by, Laurie! <3
I hope it helps, Laurie!!
How do you add a couple of cups of vinegar to a front load machine?
I don’t have that kind of space.
When you do an initial washing machine tub clean/rinse, you can just throw in some towels (to keep it balanced while it cycles) and put the vinegar right in the drum. You can put some in the dispenser, too, if you want.
Hope this helps!
Thank you, Natosha! I’ll start looking for a powdered detergent without any scents,
Sure thing, Theresa!
So, does this work for all clothing and bedding? I hate when I grab clean sheets and pillow cases and they don’t smell fresh, they have a smell I wouldn’t describe as either mold or mildew, I’ve always called it a “stored” smell. Placing bed linens in large zip lock bags helps a lot, if you can find them.
When you speak of 1/4 cup detergent per normal sized load, is that meant for soft or hard water?
Hi Judy, I have a similar problem with “stored” linens (especially if I store them in a tub or box, I’ve noticed, so now I store mine in a wire basket in the top of the closet). This post is about clothes that actually smell like mildew from being left too long in the washer.
For the water hardness, I have had hard and soft water. Either way, I’ve always just scooped up to the first line on the detergent scoop (I’m not a particular kind of person with these things). My scoops almost always have 4 lines, but I just try to get it around the #1 mark to keep from over soaping the washing machine.
If you find out how to keep that “stored” smell away, definitely come back here and let me know!! <3
Do you just put the powder straight in the drum instead of dispenser for liquid detergent?
Hey Kim, my front load washer has little sections for the various detergent types (bleach, detergent, etc). Well, those little sections have little cups that pull out of mine and I just pour the powder into the bigger area of the drawer (it says “powder detergent” on mine). If you aren’t sure, I’d look up your manual and see what your manufacturer recommends for powder detergent. 🙂 <3
I found this on Pinterest and loved it!! Your writing is hilarious (mildew scooby snacks, mama sitting in her stinky PJs…) I’m dying ??????
<3 I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Julie! <3