It is wrong to smell a lot of bleach

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Doesn't cost anything and works safely: How to ensure that your washing machine never smells bad again. And why vinegar, citric acid or dishwasher tabs are of no use.

Status: January 20, 2021

Why does my washing machine smell?

The unpleasant odors from the washing machine are mostly due to bacteria that accumulate in the washing machine or the detergent compartment and form a film of bacteria over time. Researchers at the University of Furtwangen discovered around 230 different types of bacteria as part of a study in household washing machines, most of them in the detergent compartment.

"These bacteria get into the machine through dirty laundry and also through fresh water and are able to break down dirt particles from the laundry or detergent ingredients."

Bernd Glassl, expert at Forum Waschen, a working group from science, business and consumer protection on the subject of washing.

"These biofilms are usually not a health risk," he says, but rather "an aesthetic problem." A very unsavory one that stinks to us in the truest sense of the word.

Eco programs promote bacterial growth

Most of us now do most of our laundry at low temperatures, say 30 or 40 degrees - that saves energy and money. And according to the Federal Environment Agency, it is usually enough to get clean clothes. Why, we explain here: Does underwear really get clean at 30 degrees?

Ecoprograms usually do not wash warm enough to kill germs

There is one problem with these low-temperature washes: the germs in the laundry are not actively killed, this only happens when the wash temperature is 55 to 60 degrees. Thanks to the moisture and the pleasant warmth, the biofilm even grows and thrives splendidly. You can smell this clearly even if you frequently use energy-saving eco programs (including saving or environmental programs): "The temperature shown is usually well below the displayed temperature," says washing expert Bernd Glassl, adding that in places around 60 -Grad ecoprograms even only measured values ‚Äč‚Äčaround 30 degrees. That is enough for the stain removal and energy saving required by the legal Eco-Norm and ensures clean laundry - only the machine can start to smell at some point.

What helps against the odor in the washing machine?

In order to remove the biofilm and thus the smell, washing expert Bernd Glassl recommends washing at 60 degrees with a solid heavy-duty detergent such as powder, granules or tabs at least once a month. In contrast to liquid detergents, these detergent forms contain so-called bleaching agents, which do two important jobs, as Glassl explains:

"They're actually in the detergent to remove stains - but a welcome side effect is that they decimate bacteria and loosen biofilms."

Bernd Glassl, expert at Forum Waschen

Laundry smells musty after washing

Especially with dark laundry or sportswear, it happens more often that they come out of the machine freshly washed - and still smell smelly! The explanation is astonishingly simple: "Dark textiles are often dirtier than you can tell," says washing professional Glassl and advises trying an additional rinse afterwards or a prewash. This usually means that there is enough water on the fibers to adequately decimate the germ population.

This way the washing machine remains odor-free

Where many stink bacteria live

The Moraxella osloensis bacterium, which is mainly found on the porthole seals, is responsible for the typical washing machine smell. Therefore, dry the seals regularly and keep the door of the machine open when it is not in use.

Moisture promotes bacterial growth in the machine - so reduce it as much as possible.

That means: Take the laundry out of the machine as soon as possible at the end of the program, wipe the rubber seals and grooves dry - and very importantly, leave the porthole or cover open and pull out the detergent compartment so that the machine can dry.

How to properly clean the washing machine?

Regular cleaning of the lint filter also prevents unpleasant odors

If necessary, you should also clean your washing machine thoroughly on a regular basis: Take the detergent drawer out completely (see instructions for use) and rinse it under running water; for firmer toppings, you can soak it in a bucket of hot water and carefully clean it with a brush. Wipe the seals, especially thoroughly in the grooves. "The best way to do this is with a clean, dry cloth," advises Bernd Glassl. Depending on the device, you should also regularly remove the foreign body trap or the fluff filter (see instructions for use) and clean it.

Cleaning the washing machine with dishwasher tabs?

Can you save yourself: do not use the dishwasher tab for the washing machine

Put a dishwasher tab in the drum and then let the washing machine run dry once at 60 degrees - many swear by this tip with the tab. And of course, because the tabs contain bleach, they work against the biofilm in the machine. Nevertheless, you can save yourself idling, says Glassl: "You don't need that at all - run white laundry at 60 degrees with solid heavy-duty or multi-purpose detergent." This removes the biofilm AND delivers a clean load of laundry.

Descaling the washing machine - citric acid?

An additional descaling of the machine should not actually be necessary. Provided that you dose the detergent according to the hardness of your water, as recommended on the packaging. According to the experience of the washing specialist Glassl, limescale deposits are much less of a problem now than in the past, where washing was carried out much more often at high temperatures. But: "If you permanently use too little detergent, you may have the problem that you also have to descale from time to time," warns Werner Strothoff, developer for washing processes at Miele. The means of choice for him are a ready-to-use machine descaler from the store or citric acid: "Pour 150 to 200 grams of it into the drum and then let the machine idle at 60 degrees or higher."

By the way: You can find out the hardness of your water from your water supplier - either on the water bill or on the website. The quick inquiries from the neighbors can, however, under certain circumstances give the wrong result, warns Glassl:

"In large or medium-sized cities, not the whole city is supplied from one well - the water hardness can vary accordingly from soft to hard from one street to the next."

Bernd Glassl, expert at Forum Waschen

Clean the washing machine with vinegar?

The advice to descale the washing machine regularly with vinegar or even vinegar essence is almost as stubborn as limescale deposits. Don't do it, experts and manufacturers agree: vinegar attacks the sealing materials, and in the long run this can cause even more damage because it can spread as volatile acid through the air throughout the machine. "With a one-time use, certainly nothing breaks, but in the long term it is not the best solution," says Miele developer Strothoff. His advice:

"Better to use a machine descaler or other citric acid-based products that are specifically made for it."

Werner Strothoff, developer for washing processes at Miele