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I bought a used Washing Machine (Miele W828) that looked to be in perfect condition.

It actually works perfectly. However, the inside of the Machine smells horrible, like mildew. This smell gets really strong right after a wash.

I've read online about doing a Hot Cycle wash to clean the inside of a Washing Machine, and did 2 of those at 95 C / 200 F and it only made the smell stronger.

I also read that it could be caused by a clogged drain pump that can be accessed from the front of the machine (by opening a front lid and unscrewing and draining the water), but it had only 2 coins in there. Although the long screw top had some black stuff on it that I tried to clean, the inside of it or the area I pulled it from was not particularly bad.

I then read that you can run a Hot Cycle with White Vinegar or Bleach in the dispenser drawer to fix smelly washing machines, so I did one Hot Cycle with about 1.5 L of White Vinegar and it made no difference, and then I did one Hot Cycle with about 2 L of Bleach and although I could smell the Bleach afterwards, the strong mildew smell was still there.

I moved the machine from where it's tucked into the wall to see if any smells were coming from behind it, and I couldn't detect any smells behind the machine. But as soon as I open the front door of the Washing Machine, the smell hits you like a ton of bricks. The smell also hits you when you open the Dispenser Drawer, so I removed the Dispenser Drawer (which is clean) and the inside was very nasty.

Here is a pic of the inside of the Dispenser Drawer (with the Drawer removed), of the big tube going down from it, and of the drum:


Dispenser Drawer:

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Big Tube Going Down:

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Drum:

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(The liquid you see in the Drum is bleach that I added there directly for another Hot Cycle wash I'm currently doing.)

Based on those pics, the inside of this machine is completely nasty despite the outside of the machine and drum looking perfectly fine and the machine itself working fine.

Is this fixable or is this machine doomed? If it's the former, then how can I fix this?

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Tip: you can't even see the real nasties, which are between the inner and outer drum, and in the drain tube. –  Bryce Mar 19 '14 at 5:44

5 Answers 5

First, let me say, you are far from the first person to have smell problems with washers, especially front-loaded ones. This has been the topic of many conversations resulting from home inspections and with concerned customers. I have had followup consults with factory reps, appliance repair specialists and the like.

The most common problem seems to be with the rubber sealing rings at the door. Water sits in the folds, mold grows in the folds and is untouched by the "washer cleaners" that are currently on the market. Wonder why they are so popular? some folks have been able to manually clean these areas with bleach and many rags. Others have had to have it replaced then keep it clean before the mold takes hold again.

Any closed reservoir can harbor mold and usually does. If you cannot access them to clean the mold out, that part usually has to be replaced. The other problem is if small amounts of water sit in the bottom of the unit and don't get expelled. this is easily treated with flushing cycles with bleach or cleaners.

Before you completely give up on the unit, see a Bosch dealer with a good service reputation. Several models from several manufacturers have been recalled or service bulletins issued for exactly the problems you are having.

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Bleach and air. I would run empty bleach cycles (HOT) and let it air out. Repeat a few times. You don't want to have to take it apart to clean anything until you have tried this many times. On front loaders you need to keep the door open to prevent mold issues.

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How long should I let it air out between each cycle? –  ProgrammerGirl Mar 18 '14 at 22:12
    
Until you feel it is dry. Few hours. The key is to get the door open at all times it isn't in use. You should notice it get better after a few times - maybe over the course of a few days. If it is getting better you just need to keep doing it until the mold is gone. Also clean around the front rubber seal as good as you can. –  DMoore Mar 19 '14 at 1:02
    
Also the other two answers are right. I am just giving you the easiest/first thing to do. This can't hurt the machine and is relatively easy. Steps after this include buying other unique cleaning products and taking apart the machine. –  DMoore Mar 19 '14 at 4:19

Here's what I do for this exact problem, on a similar model from a different vendor:

Whirlpool Duet Mold Solution

The clamp in the back is to bypass the safety switch. We drain the residual water out of the washer by removing the large object filter, after every load. Yours probably retains a similar amount of water. Then we leave the door open between loads, and sometimes run a fan, even though this is a real pain. Note the wires of a water alarm just visible under the stuffed animal: we've forgotten to replace the filter more than once.

Forget about cleaning the inside of the drum mechanically: I watched that process once. The guy knew exactly what to do, and it took most of a day, with part of it requiring a helper. We lucked out as that was a flat rate repair.

A bleach load never really helped. A citrus based washer cleaner (not the brand made by Whirlpool) worked better. But ultimately only drying the unit out between loads really was effective.

You're not alone. Check out "The Case of the Moldy Washing Machines, Again" from Slate Magazine discussing the recent Supreme Court decision, or the status page of Chimicles & Tikellis on the ongoing lawsuits.


Now as to your specific machine @ProgrammerGirl , you're using too much soap. Note the soap scum everywhere in the pictures. Pick up a bottle of citrus cleaner, run a super hot load, and then lay off the suds.

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what the heck is this stuffed animal ?? –  amphibient Mar 19 '14 at 3:34
    
+1 for the lint monster - also it might be the type of soap. –  DMoore Mar 19 '14 at 4:18
    
What do you mean by "citrus cleaner"? –  Mads Skjern Jun 10 at 21:09

Go to the supermarket and buy cheap automatic dishwasher powder. Here in Australia I get Coles Smart Buy Automatic Dishwasher Powder at $2 per kilogram. Check the MSDS on the internets and get a powder that is a mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate. These are the active ingredients in things like Affresh, OxiClean, and many alkaline water-based degreasers, only quite a bit cheaper. (As an aside, MSDSs are an excellent way to work out what the active ingredient in a cleaning product is, so you can find a cheaper alternative.)

Put a cup of dishwasher powder straight into the drum and run it on the hot cycle. Afterwards clean as much mold out of the gasket as you can, including back and underneath the gasket, I have found a rag and a tile grout cleaning brush the most useful as it has stiffer bristles than a toothbrush. Repeat several more times. Observe the chunks of mold and lint floating around during the rinse cycle. Based on internet comments elsewhere, I have tried sodium hydroxide solution (to saponify grease deposits), litres of vinegar, a litre of strong cloudy ammonia, but I have observed the best results with the dishwasher powder and elbow grease. Oxalic acid solution (timber bleach, also in Bar Keepers Friend) could be an interesting future project, as could sulfamic acid.

I also do the same as Bryce and remove the drawer, manually drain the residual water by removing the large filter and run a fan blowing into the drum after every use. You need to lower the relative humidity inside the machine to a level unfavourable for mold growth. Removing a stagnant puddle (draining residual water) and aiding evaporation (running a fan) are simple ways to do this.

Avoid liquid washing detergents and fabric softeners (search the internets for why these should be avoided). Change to washing powder, use less than the manufacturers suggestion and use vinegar in place of the fabric softener. Washing powders are basic, so it makes sense to run a weak acid like vinegar in the rinse to neutralise any remaining detergent. Wash with warm water rather than cold, the increased temperature makes everything work better.

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Next to the other answers, I'd also make sure that your drain pipe has a proper siphon that blocks air from the drain going back into your machine.

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What is the problem if air runs back? –  Mads Skjern Jun 10 at 21:12
    
@MadsSkjern air from the drain stinks. –  maasg Jun 10 at 21:29
    
Now I see what you meant. I had the described problem one time, but the smell was very far from and much worse than sewage. –  Mads Skjern Jun 11 at 5:14

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