Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Deodorize Washing Machines

In 1999, Dr. Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona professor, conducted a study on the cleanliness of Americans' washing machines. After washing a sterile washcloth in 60 homes, he found evidence of fecal matter and E.coli in approximately 25 percent of the machines. Dr. Gerba theorizes that laundry has become less clean due to fewer Americans using bleach and hot water in addition to shorter washing and drying cycles. Deodorizing your washing machine should be a frequent task not only to eliminate odors, but to kill the bacteria and germs left behind when you finish a load of laundry.


1. Choose a product. Customized brand-named products called washing machine cleaners are available, or you can use products you may already have in your home, such as distilled white vinegar or bleach.

2. To deodorize the interior surfaces of the washing machine: soak a white cloth in a mixture of equal parts distilled white vinegar and hot water. Wipe all surfaces of the inside of the machine, including the rim, lid, and dispensers. A wire brush normally used for toilets will work around the rim and other more difficult area to reach (Colorado State University Extension). Allow surfaces to dry and resume normal use.

3. Deodorize the entire washing machine by filling the machine with hot water by starting a normal wash cycle. Once it's full, add a full gallon of distilled white vinegar to the hot water and allow it to complete its routine of washing, spinning, and drying (Oklahoma State Extension).

4. Substitute bleach for vinegar, if desired. Fill the machine with hot water by starting the wash cycle and then add two cups of bleach to the machine before resuming the complete cycle.

5. For front-loading washing machines, take particular care to use a vinegar or bleach mixture to clean the rubber seal around the door. If you notice a moldy smell coming from your washer, this could be the area that needs attention.

Tips Warnings

If you frequently wash in cold or warm water, consider adding at least one hot water load to your routine per week to prevent mold and mildew from forming.

A preventative measure recommended by Dr. Charles Gerba is to wash underwear in a separate load with bleach, followed by a cycle with bleach and hot water only that he calls mouthwash for the machine.

According to, four common culprits cause odors most frequently in washing machines: using too much detergent, using fabric softener, washing clothes in cold water, and infrequent use. Modifying these habits may decrease the need to deodorize your machine as often.

Tags: deodorize, washing, machines, washing machine, distilled white, distilled white vinegar, washing machines, white vinegar, bleach water, Charles Gerba