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.