Recently, when I emptied or filled the washing machine, I noticed a foul musty smell. Call it wishful thinking if you will, but I tried to rationalize it away. First I pushed it on to the loads of wash waiting in front of the machine. However, when these were washed and cleared, the smell still lingered and I had to become suspicious that it was coming from the machine itself. As a first measure, I cleaned the filter screen, but there wasn't much in it there and as I learned today, that might not be the cause at all.

My half-knowledge about care gleaned from my childhood and the Internet reminded me that frequently washing on cold leads to deposits, which in turn cause odors, as does frequent use of liquid detergents. We like liquid detergent better since it somehow leaves the clothes softer. Still, it does not work as well, which can be seen in test after test it is probably based, among other things, on the fact that bacteria is not killed and the rest, well you can figure that out.

Since we had bought some new towels from the Ikea and we wanted to having the colors run (we suspected that they might run) we washed them with some disinfectant laundry detergent. I assumed that any smell would disappear.

After washing, I opened the washer to get a penetrating smell of the disinfectant, paired with the disgusting stale smell.

Okay, the experiment failed.

The next solution was to revisit the manufacturer's website which said that low temperatures could lead to strange odors and it was recommended to let them send out a specialist (machine cleaner). I refrained from calling one out.

I came up with the idea to look for a manufacturer-independent cleaner for washing machines in the local drugstore. I found one, bought it and threw it into the machine when I got home. During the cleaning process, a strong citrus scent developed throughout the house and if you got too close to the washing machine, you noticed an acidic lemony taste in the mouth. The whole thing was suspicious but I felt like I had accomplished something.

Convinced that everything was fine I once again opened the machine only to be hit by a strong perfume smell backed up with the already well-known stink.

After the series of failed tries I ended up calling the manufacturer of the machine, and for good measure the dealer where we bought it.

And so I now share; for the interested reader, my accumulated knowledge of washing machine cleaning.

The deposits in the machine consist of fat, detergent residues and lime. Fats, dirt and lime require different solvents. Sounds logical and fits my residual knowledge from chemistry lessons. For this reason, the machine cleaner I used could not work, because the cause of the smell is not the fat deposits. Rather in the lime deposits.

Disinfectant only makes sense in very few cases. The frequent use of disinfectants only leads to allergies. Apart from the fact that it is pointless in this case, see above, regarding the source of smell. Most bacterial/viruses etc. die at higher temps and the use of disinfectants is therefore unnecessary, only thanks to the overpowering perfume do you get the feeling of cleaner machine. And furthermore, normal household cleaners kill almost everything, so their use in most cases is senseless.

So, back to the actual subject, how do I get the stench effectively removed.

First, let the machine wash empty at the highest possible temperature. The addition of a cleaner is not strictly necessary, because there are still enough remnants of detergent in the depths of the machine. This can be seen that foam formations occur when it is absolutely idle. I have been able to observe this myself so I know that it is true. With this method one removes the greasy dirt that is stored on the lime.

In the next step, you take a washing machine de-caulker that can be applied at normal temperature, according to the expert. This then dissolves the lime layer, which is probably the main cause of odor formation. You can't take every de-caulker because it depends on the dosage and that should be right for your machine, otherwise, it won't work. Too low a dosage does not dissolve enough, a too high reacts with the aluminum in the machine, I forgot what the exact component is called but will and cause the drum to turn black inside.

Don't take any de-caulker either, I de-caulker in the second drugstore I looked at that is explicitly made for washing machines. The one that I selected instructed you to wash at the maximum temperature when using it.

In the last step, the machine is left to run empty at a high temperature, so that the grease/dirt layer under the lime layer is now removed. I was told that the detergent remains would now be out; it should not produce foam this time, which I can also confirm. The smell was also gone after this step to my relief.

A final comment, one should try to carry out the three steps in order and not squeeze a load of clothing in-between. Otherwise you will add new detergent to the mix which will need to be removed. Deposits will be formed, and if there are deposits of detergent on the lime again, this cannot be removed by picking up where you left off. To avoid this I did everything one evening and finished with the last step in the morning. But if you don't wash, you are welcome to allow yourself a day in between.

I hope I have been able to help someone with the case of the smelly washer.