Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is your washer smelly?

Funny thing, this. Somehow, back in the day, this blog got a few hits from people Googling smellywasher.com. I had no idea what that was all about. Washers get smelly? There is a website for that?

Then my laundry machine turned on me. There was a funky mildew smell, and it wasn't from festering wet laundry left inside for too long.

I removed the agitator mechanism and scrubbed it and bleach-sprayed it. There! All clean!

Except...not. Still had the stink.

I spent a few months being mystified and a not a little frustrated by the recalcitrant odor. Then I read a blog post that alluded to search terms leading people to the blog, which always has the effect of luring me into sweeping the dust out from under SiteMeter and checking out my referral records. And there it was: smellywasher.com. Could this be my savior?

I checked out the website for the first time. Seems like hooey—unless you happen to be vexed by refractory olfactory assaults wrought by your washing machine. I figured I had nothing to lose but $19 and the desire to drop $800 on a brand-new stackable laundry unit, so I placed my order. A few days later a padded envelope arrived, bearing a ziploc bag full of a white granular substance and a xeroxed page of instructions. [Aside: Yep, I just used two trade names as generic terms without capitalizing them. I still tend to capitalize Googling, but I'll give up the G soon enough.]

It took a few days to summon up the gumption and the time to soak the washer tub with hot water and the Purewasher powder for a few hours, soak it again overnight, and run a few rinses in the morning. The powder itself has almost no smell, and while you don't want to leave it on your hands, there's no need to protect your skin with gloves.

The verdict: It's not quite back to virgin washing machine non-odor, but the remaining mildewy smell is faint.

The smellywasher.com people say that overuse of laundry detergent leads to this fungal overgrowth somehow, and they advise using about a quarter of what the detergent bottle calls for. I do wonder if the Ecos lavender laundry detergent I've been using predisposed my washer to the stink. I used less than the eco-savvy bottle called for, but maybe that was still too much—or maybe it's the detergent itself that's the problem. I bought a small bottle of Tide and have been using a teeny amount of it for each load, and it seems to keep the mildew smell at bay. Every fourth load or so, I use the lavender detergent, but I get paranoid that I'm smelling mildew after each Ecos load.

The amount of Tide I'm using is halfway up to line 1, or about a half inch up from the bottom of the cap. (My washing machine has a small capacity, but I was using between lines 1 and 2 back in the day.) The fragrance is still plenty strong with such a small amount of detergent, so I'll bet smellywasher.com's advice about using a fraction of the usual amount is spot-on.

I feel like such a good citizen of the internet now that the people Googling smellywasher.com will actually find on-topic information at my blog. As for the "why is my poo orange" folks—sorry, I can't answer that question.

19 comments:

B.E.C.K. said...

Hmm. My washer smells only when I leave a bunch of wet clothes in it in the summertime -- which is never! Honest! What was in the powder you used to remove the smell?

Oh, and I'm thinkin' you'll start hearing more from the poo folks now that you've posted that bit of text. ;^)

Orange said...

No idea what's in the powder, beck. Probably something you can buy at a hardware store for 79¢, but still, $19 is a lot cheaper than a new washer or even a service call.

Becky..Absent Minded Housewife said...

I bet you dollars to donuts it was borax. It's an anti mildew agent.

Some smelly washer person left a comment on my blog months ago.

Soak your washer in a box of borax and a gallon of vinegar and see what happens. You could also try a soak in dishwasher detergent. It breaks down enzymes and starches.

I have a website for you. My high level is 43. I could do better if I don't answer so stinkin' fast.
Free Rice Vocabulary Test

Orange said...

I'll bet you're right about the borax, Becky. My sister-in-law makes her own cheap, eco-friendly laundry detergent with borax and a smidgen of fragrance. The smelly washer people say to use a couple tablespoons of their magick powder—but you say I can use a lot more borax? I do want to kill off the stink for good.

I've made it to level 50 in the Free Rice vocab test, but I can never manage to stay there for long. The trick is to keep at it long enough that you start to see the same words again, and to pay attention when it tells you the answer when you guess wrong.

Becky..Absent Minded Housewife said...

You may also want to check your washer's drainage and make sure nothing's loose or blocked. It might be pooling water somewhere.

Just recently I pulled the bottom off my dryer and vacuumed it out. I found several earrings I'd lost and a couple loose gemstones too...so, score.

Narya said...

I cannot abide laundery detergent with a scent. (And don't get me started on dryer sheets, toward which I bear a loathing that surpasses the heat of 10k suns.) More on your topic, however, I have not been having good success with Ecos dishwasher detergent, in that my dishes don't actually get clean. (Whole Paycheck cheapo powder works just fine, though.) So perhaps Ecos is a better concept than execution, throughout their line of products. Seventh Generation is the laundry detergent I use, incidentally, but I don't have my own washers/dryers, so have no choice re: smells.

Orange said...

I agree with Narya that the eco-friendly dishwasher detergent I tried (forget if it was Ecos or Seventh Generation) was terrible. Better for the wastewater, but left the dishes dirty.

I bought a big ol' box of 20-Mule Team Borax yesterday for $3.49. Apparently you can not only add a half cup to your laundry detergent to freshen your laundry, but it makes baby clothes fresher, you can clean your toilet with it, and it has a zillion household uses. I will see if the Ecos lavender detergent + borax is a good laundry solution that will keep the mildew out of my machine.

And Becky, alas, I really can't dig around in the laundry machine parts. It's a stackable compact unit wedged into a closet and it would be a huge pain to pull it out, what with the air vent and gas pipe and water pipes attached to it. And there's no room to get into the closet, unless I can make myself a half-inch thick.

thrice said...

Since I live in an apartment building and use a public laundromat.

OMG, did you really just go "Eeeewwwwww?"

Anyway, in every wash I put in a 1/2 cup of baking soda and 2T of white vinegar with the detergent and Downy. You'll need to use a fabric softener so your clothes won't smell like vinegar. With my whites, I use the same with bleech. I can tell you that my whites are whiter and my clothes smell lovely and I have three stinky sons!!!

Lisa said...

I actually found a home remedy recommended for cleaning a washer in general, not for ridding it of a particular odor, but it was a mixture of borax and some other stuff...maybe vinegar? And I just ran it through a cycle and it worked wonders...no, I don't have the recipe...

Chuck said...

Once you go Borax, you never go back. I use it pretty regularly in the laundry, have completely stopped using other stuff to clean the toilet (really, it's pretty amazing, just follow the directions on the box), and it's also great to scrub down the kitchen sink every now and again, esp. with some hot water when the drain gets stinky.

Nessie said...

You should switch to Charlies Soap. I LOVE it. A small bag lasts me a year, because I have a front loader, and I only use 1/2 of what they recommend.

Rhea said...

Gee, I never worried about my washer's smell before, but now that you mention it...

exponent said...

I agree Smelly Washer Cleaner (formerly Purewasher Cleaner) is well worth the 20 spot. www.smellywasher.com

DickelDog said...

Smelly washer stuff did not work that well for me. I had to use the product at NuFreshNow.com. It is an extremely strong version of borax chemical. It works extremely well. You only need to use one or two scoops a week to keep the smell under control. 20 Mule Team Borax did not work for me. It was not strong enough.

paul flynn said...

There are 3 reasons for washer odor. The most common reason is overuse of detergents by following directions for amount used. We recommend using just a fraction of what is advised (especially when using liquid detergent and especially when a water softener is in the home.
The second common reason is use of fabric softener. We recommend switching to dryer sheets. Keep in mind dryer sheets can also be overused and cause towels to be less absorbent and retain odor.
The last not-so-common reason is washing with mainly cold water to save energy. If this is you we recommend a hot soak at least once a week to break down detergent residue.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I use the ECOS brand and have found that my washer really is starting to STINK!

cavisco said...

I have found that Clorox II powder has completely elliminated the odor problem I was having with my front loader. It has the same active ingredients as the Affresh tablets and is far less expensive than the powders sold online to freshen your washer. Both Affresh and Clorox II contain sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate. The liquid version of Clorox II does not have the same active ingrecients and I have not tried it, so I cannot comment on it's affectivness.

Lee said...

I had the same problem, I started loosing friends because of smelly clothes !!

In spite of what I initially thought - the liquid detergent is a huge part of the problem. It may work for the environment - but not for the clothes. It disolves the fat, but can not keep it in solution and then it is deposited inside the washer....

where do you normally have to deal with difficult to remove fat..... ? The dish-washer....

I took a dish washer tablet, threw it in the washer's drum and ran a short 50 degree cycle. Worked magic. I also switched to powder so no more liquid detergent.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Our stinky washer problem was so bad that I even ripped up the toilet and replaced the wax ring thinking that the smell was coming from there. My wife just figured out that the only variable that changed in our washing regimen is the Ecos laundry detergent. When she switched back to Sunlight the smell disappeared. Running one load with Ecos and the smell returned. So, the half used jug of detergent is going back to Costco.