The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
September 16, 2010

How to Take Apart and Clean a Stinky Kenmore (Whirlpool) Top Loading Washer


Kenmore washing machineSeems like this is the year for smelly appliances and DIY solutions. A few months ago, it was dishwasher funk. And then recently, we noticed a linty residue on our clothes and a moldy smell coming from the washing machine. (The residue was not laundry powder; we use soapnuts.)

So, how is fixing a washing machine related to plastic? Well, we did end up with some plastic waste during the week-long ordeal. And learning to fix things in general is one of my strategies for avoiding new purchases and hence, new plastic. But really, I’m just so tickled that I was able to take the whole thing apart, clean it, and put it back together again, that I have to share!

This post will be long and winding and contain a lot of pictures. Hopefully it will be funny, too, because who doesn’t enjoy a good washing machine repair story? And since I spent a ton of time on the web looking up parts and procedures and advice, I’ve included a list of all the resources I found at the bottom of this post for quick reference. I’m hoping someone else will find this information useful.

Onward. Here are the steps I took and the challenges I faced down…

1) Causes of white “lint” on clothes.  First, I Googled something like “washing machine leaves lint on clothes” and found this great discussion on the Gardenweb forum (which covers more topics than just gardening) and learned that since the advent of the automatic dryer, washing machine manufacturers have stopped adding lint baskets that can be manually removed and cleaned, assuming the dryer will remove the lint. But at our house, we hang all our clothes to dry, so we can’t rely on the dryer. Here are a few steps I discovered to reduce lint:

    a. Separate linty clothes from non-linty clothes. Wow. I never thought of that. I’ve always separated darks and lights (which seems like a no-brainer way to keep light lint off of dark clothes) but apparently, it’s also good to wash linty things like sweat shirts and towels apart from dark clothing as well.
    b. Avoid powdered detergent in cold water. But like I said, we use soapnuts, which are not powder and are not detergent.
    c. If the machine has a self-cleaning filter at the bottom (apparently ours does), you have to take the machine apart to see if it’s actually cleaning itself properly.

2) Causes and solutions for moldy washer smell.  Next, I Googled “moldy top load washing machine smell -front” (I excluded the word “front” because it seems that more front loading washers have this problem than top loading, and the instructions for them are different) and discovered a very helpful discussion of Kenmore Washer Odors on Bob Vila’s Website. From this and other sites, I found these suggestions:

    a) Run a hot water maintenance cycle once a month without clothes, adding a cup of white vinegar to the water. We tried that, and it helped for a couple of weeks, and then the washer started smelling again.
    b) Other suggestions for washer cleaning involved bleach, heavy duty detergents, and mold killer, none of which I want to use. Some posters blame cold water washing and natural laundry cleaners. Well, I’m not willing to use hot water for my clothes (once a month to clean the washer is okay) and toxic detergents, so there had to be a better way.
    c) Several people said they’d taken the washer apart and found terrible black gunk underneath the tub, so after the hot water vinegar failed us, and since I wanted to check that self-cleaning filter anyway, I decided to take the machine apart.

3) Note the model number of the machine.  How else was I going to find out how to take it apart?  Lift the lid. The model number is on a sticker on the rim of the washer.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer3) Order the DIY Washer Repair Manual.  Why? Because even if you still have the  Users Guide that came with the machine, it won’t tell you how to take the thing apart.  Sears wants you to call their technicians!  I found our manual on the Sears Parts Direct web site, but tonight, I get an error message when I try to find it on the site.  No worries.  Turns out, Kenmore top load washers are actually made by Whirlpool, so this Whirlpool washer repair manual will work as well.

The manual was shipped in a plastic mailer.  So that’s plastic item #1 for this project.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer4) Remove the cabinet. You don’t need me to explain this. Instructions are in the manual. And apparently, we didn’t even need to buy the manual because the repair instructions are also online at and the web site has good information about repairing a Whirlpool/Kenmore top loading direct drive washer as well!

What’s more, if you want to see how the machine is supposed to come apart, do the following search on Youtube: “WHIRLPOOL WASHER REPAIR VIDEO” and you’ll find the whole series of videos by Youtube user DIYAPPLIANCEREPAIR that show you exactly how to do it step by step. But beware.  The machine that British James uses in the videos is apparently new and works exactly like it’s supposed to. Mine did not.

Anyway, we removed the cabinet, and Michael set it up on top of the dryer because we have so little room in our back hallway.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer5) Remove the white plastic ring on top of the tub.  Follow the instructions.  After I got mine off, I found this gunk on the underside.  I cleaned it off in the shower.  It’s nothing compared to what we found later.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer6) Remove the cap from the agitator and remove the nut inside. Fortunately, the nut driver we bought to repair the dishwasher was the right size. It turned out not to be a single-purpose tool after all!

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading WasherHow to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer7) Remove the spanner nut. According to the manual, this thing should come off easily with a hammer and screwdriver.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading WasherHow to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

Whoa Nelly! I tried all day to get that thing off with a screwdriver, and all I did was dent the metal. Michael tried too, pounding and pounding against the screwdriver with the hammer. The spanner nut moved not at all.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

Then, I discovered that there’s actually a special tool made just for this purpose, which I learned about on the Discuss-o-Mat forum. (Okay, so we did need a single-purpose item after all.)

8) If the hammer and screwdriver don’t work, use a spanner nut wrench. We could have ordered one through the mail, but our washer was semi-disassembled, and we needed to do laundry. Michael put an ad on Craigslist to find out if anyone in the neighborhood had one. (Buying used or borrowing or sharing are other methods I use to avoid buying new stuff, plastic and otherwise.) We didn’t find someone with the wrench, but we did get advice about which hardware store to call. The store’s manager directed us to Reliable Parts in Berkeley. (Reliable Parts has a few locations in other states, too, as well an online store.) Michael was able to ride over on his bike and pick up the spanner nut wrench the very next day.

Unfortunately, the tool came packaged in a plastic bag and was wrapped in a plastic foam sheet. Plastic items #2 and #3.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

A few taps on the wrench and the spanner nut was off. I was good to go… or so I thought.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer9) Lift the entire inner porcelain washer tub up off the drive block and out of the outer plastic tub.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

This should have been easy. In fact, witness how easy it is for British James (who, as you’ll see, does NOT recommend getting the spanner nut off with a screwdriver and hammer):

Video Link:

Not so easy for me. I nearly tore my hair out for a whole day trying to pull the tub up. It didn’t budge. It didn’t even hint that it might budge. I wondered if there were screws or something else holding it in place — something that British James failed to mention. Then, I found a whole thread on the Appliance Guru discussion forum about this very thing: Whirlpool Washer Inner Drum Removal.

10) Try alternative methods to remove the washer tub. Members of the forum suggest that years of accumulated crud has cemented the tub to the drive block and that only brute force will move it. Michael’s strong. I could have waited for him to come home. But no way! I hate not being able to do things myself! I tried all the suggestions on the forum: banging a hammer along the drive block, using a screwdriver in gap on drive block to pry it loose, banging and yanking, searching on Google, banging and yanking, searching on Google again. This went on for hours. I was a little obsessed.

I even followed a suggestion on the site to get in the tub and stomp on it. So I did. If I could have taken a picture of myself stomping inside the washing machine, I would have.

Finally, I gave up on Google and used my own brain. I figured that the gunk was probably a mixture of solidified oil and soap. Maybe it would dissolve! First, I tried pouring some white vinegar into the opening between the tub and the drive block. Looking closely, I saw what seemed to be microscopic evidence of debris dissolving. Cool. So then, I boiled water. I poured an entire kettle of boiling water into that sucker.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

Then, I yanked. And Holy Mother of Everything Congealed, the thing moved!  I danced in my jammies.  (Because why wear big people clothes when all you’re doing all day is trying to take a washing machine apart?)  And after getting that thing out, this is what I found had been making it stick.  Gross, right?

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

And this is what I found inside the plastic tub:

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer11) Clean the drive block and inside the plastic tub. The task was harder than it might have been because now the tub was all full of water… the water I had poured in to loosen the inner tub. So I got a container and started baling. And when the water was too shallow to bale, I gathered up towels and sopped the rest of it up. Then, I cleaned that drive block with a toothbrush and probably a rag. I can’t remember now. Suffice it to say, you could have eaten lunch off that thing when I was done.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer12) Turn the inner tub upside down and remove plastic filter. The filter doesn’t look bad in this picture, does it?

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

Not until you check out the solidified crud inside that hole: the rest of what was cementing the tub to the drive block.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

And this is what the outside of the tub looked like. (Imagine how it smelled. Just for a second. Okay, you can stop imagining it now.)

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer13) Thoroughly clean the porcelain tub. I put it in the bathtub and sprayed it with the handheld showerhead until it too sparkled.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

Afternoon snack, anyone?

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer14) Put the machine parts back together. All the nice clean inner parts were easy to put back together, simply reversing what I had done before and without crappy icky crap to get in the way.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer15) Reattach the cabinet, and do some laundry! This part was not so easy. Remember, Michael had put the cabinet up on top of the dryer.  He was not here to bring it back down, and I was not strong enough.

Or was I?

It occurred to me that I had gravity on my side. Getting it down would be easier than lifting it up.  All I had to do was inch it over near the washer and then try and keep it from dropping too hard. Once the cabinet was on the floor, I did another little happy dance in my jammies. Setting it up on the bottom rail was no easy feat, but I got that done too. And then, I did laundry. Glorious laundry.

How to fix a Kenmore Whirlpool Top Loading Washer

Our washer and dryer are old. How old, we didn’t know because we inherited them from our last landlord. But there’s a way to find out! The web site has a Date Search page. Just enter the Brand, Appliance Type, Location, Model Number and Serial Number (both numbers are on that sticker under the lid) and the site will tell you the date your machine was made. Ours was manufactured the week of October 26, 1992. It’s 18 years old and has probably been accumulating nasty-smelling crud for that long. But it’s still going strong, as far as we know. So party on, Garth.


No evil smells yet. I’m separating linty clothes from non-linty. I’m running a cleaning cycle once a month with hot water and vinegar to prevent the build up from starting again. I should leave the lid up so the tub can air out when not in use, but there’s no telling what could fall in.

The real conclusion in all this is that fixing things yourself (if you have the time and obsessive persistence) is a great self-esteem booster. I highly recommend it, as long as it doesn’t require a needle and thread!


Gardenweb forum discussion of lint on clothes

Kenmore Washer Odors thread on Bob Vila’s web site

Source for purchasing Whirlpool washer repair manual if Kenmore is unavailable (they’re the same)

Top Loading, Direct Drive Washing Machine Repair Manual online information about repairing washing machines and other appliances

British James’s Whirlpool washer repair videos on Youtube

Sears Parts Direct web site for most Kenmore appliance parts

Reliable Parts source for spanner nut wrench and other appliance parts discussion forums Date Search to find out age of your appliance

But for information on how I finally unstuck the washer tub from the drive block, you’ll have to read the post!


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102 Comments on "How to Take Apart and Clean a Stinky Kenmore (Whirlpool) Top Loading Washer"

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I’m so happy!! I did it and now I have a clean washer for the first time in years. When we picked it up used, it stunk. But we kept the lid open most of the time and that mitigated the ‘odor’, sort of. Finally, I had enough when our towels came out smelling funky over and over. I took my time with this operation because I didn’t want to inadvertently break something. All-in-all, it went about as smooth as I could hope. Alot of work to scrub all the gunk out but now I have a sparkling clean 20+… Read more »
This post was right on time!!! I have a Kenmore top loader washer also. It is at least 20 years old. I thought I was either going to purchase a new one or get it repaired. I will not need to do either and this is why: My issue”was”, I was soaking some whites. I wanted to add a quarter cup of pool chlorine to the soaking process. However, I used the algae control thinking it was the chlorine. I left everything as is. Hours later, the water and my whites were black. The cool down and spin cycle would… Read more »

Amazing post. I followed your directions, but did not remove the drum. I filled the drum with boiling water and liquid plumber and left overnight. I then ran 2 hot rinse cycles and all the sludge came out of the hose. The clothes that come out of the washer now are more wringed out and don’t smell anymore. This post helped profusely. Thanks a million!!

at one time you could reach in and pull out the filter, clean it and you were done. Well, not you have to take the machine apart. Great for the company to send out a repair man to take your whole machine apart to find why you have lint on your clothes. The old filter in the machine back in a day were doing fine…so they should have let it be. I hate my kenmore. I have nothing but trouble with micro and now the washing machine.

Our 12-year-old washer had started leaving little brown flecks on clothes, and I discovered your very helpful post while searching for answers. Realizing we’d never cleaned it, I was concerned what would be lurking within, since I’d washed baseball uniforms for 6 years (with ground in clay & sand). Our tub ring had layers of caked build-up, and the agitator underside had a goo of clay & who knows what. We never got the porcelain tub out — 3 kettles of boiling water & a quart of vinegar, and that sucker never budged, despite 2 adults yanking & twisting. The… Read more »

Went looking for how to change a washer belt and saw your post. Intrigued by the opening description I read what you offered. Besides being informative it was humorous and I applaud your sticktoitiveness!

I loved this article. Thanks so much for the pictures and the resources and the step by step guide. Awesome

I have a HE Kenmore washer with the dreaded smell. I solved the problem in my prior Maytag by taking it apart and cleaning out all the lint/gunk but I can only get so far in this one with removing drum. Right now I can’t remove the nut at the bottom of the drum – any suggestions? I had it off once a year or so ago trying to find the source of the smell. I finally called a repair man who couldn’t/didn’t solve the problem. He looked at me like I was crazy when I said there is a… Read more »

I do not know when you posted this information but it sure was helpful. The bad part is I have to tear the washer apart again. That’s what I get for not doing a search prior to doing work. At least I know the ins and outs of tearing it apart and it will not take so long this time.

Thank you! This was just awesome—I also came across this highly instructive video looking for help:
I have a W/D Kenmore looks very similar to yours—off to find out the exact year–thanks for that link!!

Too funny, I found your story while desperately trying to get the drum out of my mom’s washer. I had stayed the night and was in my pajamas determined not to let this stupid machine beat me. You were a kindred spirit. I thought of you while I jumped in, hopping inside a washing machine. It was too funny. Between beating, hacking, destroying numerous knives & screwdrivers, vinegar and jumping up and down, then finally my mother and I rocked and yanked with all our might and it moved!!!!! Thank you for all the suggestions.

Great info. I, too, bought a used washer that was listed on craigslist. I have been using an he front loader for 9 years – no more, if I can help it! I got all the way pulling the inner wash tub out and it would not budge. I even pulled the motor and transmission out. Then I found this blog – working on dissolving the gunk now…..

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I hate wasting money when I can solve problems myself. I was expecting to scour the web to figure out how to clean my washer, but you have it all here. I’m hoping, with my husbands mechanic degree, we can avoid some tool and disassembly issues, and I can get right to scrubbing! Thank you for this! I will definitely be following you!

Thank you. I have the same problem with my beloved 90 series washer. I will not part with it under any circumstances. Now I know I need to call a repair guy to clean as I can’t do this myself. But there is relief since I know this won’t be an expensive part to buy or it’s not forever ruined.

I wanted to post to thank you for your tutorial.  Although I do not have a Kenmore, I had tracked down the necessary manuals for mine (as close as I could get anyway).  I was reluctant to get that bolt at the bottom of the washer out.  I did not want to force it, but I knew there were at least two articles of clothing at the bottom of that tub that needed to come out.  I am sure they were in part responsible for the laundry not being as clean and fresh as when we got the machine. After… Read more »
I am so thankful to have found your post. I keep smelling this awful gooky smell and I did all the vinegar/ bleach/ getting under the rim stuff and still these little brown mildewy pieces are in my washer. I cannot, will not,  wash my clothes with this germ infested residue present. I just knew there was gunk and goo in between the drum and the outside ” hidden horrors” I am obsessed with cleaning it, and in just this fashion!!! .”I have proof for my hysband, it is necessary” it can be done AND it WILL be done!!!!! Thank… Read more »

I could not get the basket off the shaft to pull it out of the tub and clean it out.  I tried for two days with everything short of a cutting torch (including jumping in it and twisting while pulling and hot water, etc.).  

I was able to use a pressure washer to get it mostly clean without removing the basket–yeah!  Only problem is that when I put it back together I had bent the brackets below from reefing on it so much.  It was ruined for good!  So don’t yank too hard.

“Inner tub upside down and remove plastic filter” ???? How in the world do you get that thing off !U0001f615U0001f615

You have to remove a small metal retaining ring inside of the inner tub.

BethTerry SusanWaite city !

Ok, here I go ! Wish me luck !

Good luck!

Terrific video.  Thanks for sharing.  Your video is better than any instruction booklet.

Oh my gosh You are my hero.  I have been searching for instructions for this for a while.  Our machine is, like, 30 years old and a Maytag and I cleaned a bunch of that black goo out of the lint trap thing in the agitator it still smells…. just think of what’s in the drum.  All anyone else posts is that vinegar are or bleach rinse and that didn’t do trap, cause our machine didn’t come straight from the store, it was bought on craigs list.  Thank you, you documented your journey so now I will just shrug when… Read more »

How did it go?  :-)

You have given me hope. I am stuck trying to remove the spanner nut and have used an entire can of WD-40, it seems. I have beat the spanner wrench so hard with the hammer that the nut is stripping and won’t budge. I am going to try boiling some vinegar & water in a pot, now.   :)

Thanks for the advice. I used boiling water and some Goof Off poured in there, and for me the addition “trick” was to twist AND lift (with my son helping). Just lifting straight up was too hard. The twisting did the trick (after the boiling water ‘n’ stuff!)

Absolutely disgusting discovery ensued…

Thank you for this post.  I followed your instructions and watched the videos from British James and successfully took apart, cleaned, and re-assembled my washing machine.  Hopefully I can get several more years of use out of the washer now.  Is your machine still kicking along?

It’s now March 2015, and the machine is still alive and well!

Mine is still working flawlessly as well.  I get a little excited when i get an email that people came across this article and are taking on this project.  It’s not that hard to do once you can get the the large nut off with the spanner wrench.  I used a 5 lb “engineer’s hammer” to budge the nut loose – that seemed to do the trick for me.  Once again thanks for this article!

my four pots of boiling water have, so far, yielded no results.  I have also poured in CLR… and attempted to WD40 the heck out of it.  Hopefully I am not creating a chemical nuisance in my garage with all of that, but I can literally see the gunk stuck to the outer tub through the semi-translucent plastic and I don’t dare install the thing before I get it clean – because the last thing I want is a pipe/sewer issue because of all the gunk!!  I’ll get at it again tomorrow – thanks so much for this post!!

How did it go?

Bill in Washington State
Beth,  Thank you for your post on the stinky washer and a step by step repair.  Our washer is a Kenmore and is in the same era that your is.  We bought it used from an older couples estate sale about 4 years ago.  The smell started coming and we tried numerous ways to “clean” it.  The drive coupling failed and I had to take the cabinet apart to replace it.  I noticed that the top of the outer tank had accumulated grime mixed with dog hair.  I wiped out what I could reach with my big hands and thought… Read more »

Not sure if the funky smell ever came back, but I’ve found running my washer empty with 60 g each of washing soda and borax every couple months prevents smells. (I looked up the MSDS for Affresh and these were the primary components of it, so I save myself the cost and artificial fragrance and just mix my own.)
That’s really interesting about the lint trap. I air dry my clothes, too, and the room where I dry them gets coated in the dog fur a dryer would collect.

Not quite the success I was wanting… NOT because of your tutorial, no…. it’s because somehow I always take possession of things that are possessed! haha. I got all the way down to the Spanner Nut, and everything came to a screeching halt. Mine just so happened to have a locking nut (my father in law even welded me a spanner nut wrench in a couple hours since no where near us had one) and after trying, for more than 5 hours (I really wish I was exaggerating!) we finally said that it’s not coming off, and forcing it may… Read more »

MamaS Ours won’t budge either!!!

Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator

MamaS Wow, five hours! That is some serious dedication. How nice of your father in-law to join in on the operation and weld you a spanner nut wrench, wish I had a welder in the family :) And yes, it does sound like your washer is possessed! Sorry to hear it didn’t work out.

I love You tube for this sort of thing… I was nearly finished with this post before I realized a female was doing this task… Kudos to you for steppin’ up to this job. I was married to a woman who wouldn’t even watch me mow the lawn or whatever much less do it. Women are supposed to be helpless… You are very special; I hope your husband appreciates your resolve. If you were my wife and did something like this, I would light candles, pour your wine and give you a bubble bath when I got home…. Oh… incidentally, I did… Read more »

Thank you. I am totally forwarding this comment to Michael.

I’m so glad this post has been helpful to so many people.  Hurray for the empowerment the Internet gives us.

GREAT post – very helpful and I can now say, our washing machine is as clean as new. I seriously could not have done it without having found your post – the part about the spanner wrench was the best! Turned out a local appliance repair shop LOANED me one! Guess where I’ll be going next time I need a repair? Ah, who am I kidding, after accomplishing this task, I feel like I can do anything! By the way – I took my apart outside and took an electric power-washer to it. I can’t imagine how hard you worked… Read more »

hey thanks for your help, i used this to clean the gunk out of my Whirlpool

Great information. I know what my next project is ! Once I get tub out, I think I will take to car wash and hit it with a high pressure hose. Thanks for sharing your story, to help others. Can’t wait to rid clothes of the funk smell !

This was so helpful. We are so thankful for you posting this to help others. Thanks so much

Wait — one problem. The filter piece — how do I get that off? I see the tabs and ring inside, but it’s not obvious to me which piece to press on. There may be too much gunk in between the tabs and the base.

Thank you! Just took apart my top loading stacked washer/dryer to figure out a leak. Your instructions were so helpful! Now a proud owner of a spanner nut wrench for $11. Cleaning the gunk out now and getting ready to reattach the hose that came detached. Feeling very proud of myself for learning how this appliance works that I use constantly. Thank you! Feeling empowered about my laundry.

I repair and resell these Kenmore washers and your idea of the boiling water to loosen the inner tub from the block is something I’d never thought of. Wow, if it works for me I owe you big time. You sould be very proud of yourself doing all this. I’ve been at it five years and I’m still learning. A small electric pressure washer works great for cleaning all the part you mention. Take the maching outside, remove the hose from outer tub to water pump and fire away. Once again you’re awesome for sticking with this.  I’ll bet you… Read more »

Thank you so much for your detailed story and instructions.  Our washer is much cleaner.  I think of myself as handy, but your perseverance and willingness to share your experience saved me a bunch of hassle.

Thank you so much! My dad and I sorely needed this info! You’re the best!

fyi- buying the spanner wrench can be avoided. instead of a screwdriver try a 3/8″ socket extension, use the edge of the female end on the part groove and hammer the other end. also they make an adjustable spanner wrench that at least might come in handy for multiple projects. p.s. we love your dedication.

Thanks so much for all this information.  I have a stinky Kenmore washer, and after reading your blog, I think it is not a job for me to tackle.
I thought it was just a matter of removing the agitator and cleaning a filter.  Duh!!!
I don’t remember this being a problem years ago, so it has to be the detergent and softeners that are causing this problem.
thanks again

How did you remove the lint filter from the bottom of the spin basket?

WOW! What a great post, thank you so much for walking us thru this. As others have said I am ready to go home and tear mine apart. My Whirlpool has a terrible odor, I have tried vinegar, bleach, hot water, you name it. My clothes come out fine (I can’t smell odor on them coming out of the dryer – just the fabric softener smell…) but despite leaving the lid open all the time that smell won’t go away, I figured I had a sock stuck in there. Cleaning gloves here I come!

Thank YOU! Your sense of humor regarding this ordeal has helped me through it. We unwittingly began this project in an attempt to see where the mold was seeping into our inner bucket. Another site got me most of the way there, but I stumbled upon your post when we ran into problems removing the inner bucket from the outer. Your vinegar and hot water worked like a charm! And I don’t feel so bad about not realizing this needed to be done to our machines. All this searching helps me see that I’m not the only one!

Beth J., what did we ever do before Google? Glad the post was helpful!


Amazing post! This was sooo helpful!! My washer smells absolutely disgusting right now. (I blame my forgetful boyfriend. He ALWAYS forgets about his wet loads of laundry in the washer. UGH!)

Doing a deep clean of the washing machine looks like a BIG project; something I’ll have to do on a day off of work.

I am very thankful you documented your experience in such a funny, informational way!!

THANK YOU!!! now … I shall attempt to do this next weekend …

The end of my stinky story is a surprise! Before attempting to take apart my washing machine for de-stinking, I pulled it away from its normal position in the laundry room. Underneath I found a drain for the room. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when a stinky breeze hit my face from that drain! The stink was coming from the drain due to the fact that without water going into it for years, the water in the trap had dried out leaving a direct airway from the sewer to our laundry room. I poured a couple of cups of water… Read more »
Hey Beth – we just moved into a 15 year old condo and when we do the laundry – PEEEEE – UUUUU! I recalled your washing machine cleaning adventure and re-read it. Though I fancy myself a handyman and, of course, a man of steel…I would rather sit back and read a book than take the machine apart. What a shame that washing machines aren’t made so they can be easily cleaned, that everything is not made with user maintenance in mind. Right now I am trying the vinegar and praying, rationalizing that I might not be able to accomplish… Read more »

Clif, Michael would probably take issue with the bit about my assessing my own capabilities, since he sometimes ends up having to bail me out. :-)

Thanks for posting the link to I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get the top off my washing machine and your link to them was awesome. Thanks!!

I moved into a new apartment shortly after reading this post. I did my first wash and the agitator came out with my clothes! I started to freak out thinking I had a broken washer, but then discovered it was actually supposed to come apart because my washer has a filter! I would never have thought to look for a lint trap before reading this. Now I’m very excited to have a washer with a lint screen since I always hang dry my clothes.

Impressive work!! (I would have found this so satisfying – cleaning up nasty stuff like that makes me feel very accomplished.)

Well done!

Yeah Beth! I had a used and refurbished 1980something washing machine that broke a belt and my husband and I repaired. The only reason we got rid of it is the last time it broke, they didn’t make parts for it anymore! We shipped it off to a scrap metal seller, it’s probably a chair or tin can by now.

Fixing something is empowering, isn’t it? Next time find a job where you have to rent a jack hammer. I got a serious Girl Power rush after using it!

Ah, I remember the good old days of the washing machine lint trap, I personally wish they would build them in again, it would really help reduce the lint build up in the dryer duct. Awesome tut. on how to clean out the washer, I totally want to go home and pull mine apart!

thanks for the list of repair and info links….

Way to go! I’m so impressed!

Wow I am impressed! Perhaps, having your story in the back of my mind, I’ll be more courageous when the time for DIY comes :-)

this was such a terrific write up that I couldn’t tear myself away. It’s not that I have a thing for stinky laundry gook jelly or anything like that. I’m a Jack of all trades and have pulled many a washer apart for the same reasons you did.

Hurrah Beth! That is EXTREMELY impressive! :) I recently re-caulked and re-grouted my bathroom tiles and now my bathroom looks sparkly new and I must admit that I was VERY impressed with myself and did several of my own jammie dances! I love the satisfaction of DIY! Way to go!

Cycling, Recycling and The Real Reason to Care « Not An Activist

[…] How to Take Apart and Clean a Stinky Kenmore (Whirlpool) Top Loading Washer on Fake Plastic Fish. This post just happens to be relevant to me because I’ve noticed a bit of funk coming from our washing machine. I probably won’t take the whole thing apart just yet, but maybe I can prevent the smell from getting so bad that the whole thing has to be disassembled. […]

Lori @ Groovy Green Livin

I am beyond impressed…..I don’t think I have it in me. Big pat on your back for a whole lot a DIY work!! And now you have it documented so if it happens again there will be no learning curve! Thanks for sharing-i feel like i was right there with you.

My husband has become an accomplished appliance repair person. And I am super-impressed with him. He’s saved us a bunch of money when our various appliances have been down for the count.

Yay for DIY appliance repair!

Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green

My front loader has mold issues. My husband is looking into getting a new seal for it as the mold will not come out of it. I clean it at least once a month but it just won’t totally come off. *sigh*

Nice. I was sorry to have to ditch my last machine but after 30 years of solid use I could no longer get the spare part that broke :(

I now have a second hand machine which is about 8 years old and it doesn’t match up to the old one at all.

viv in nz

holy crap! How does all that just keep accumulating and you don’t notice it til it gets horribly stinky? I am going to have to bookmark this for five years from now

That was the best washing machine repair story I’ve ever read! We had a weird smell coming from the dishwasher a while back so I took mine apart to see if anything gooey was in there – (how many times has my fiance heard “Beth from Fake Plastic Fish said…”) Yeah, he thinks I’m crazy, but I got the whole thing back together again and it still works. (Turns out it was a problem with the disposal, but was still good to clean out the filter) You’ll have to pass the spanner nut wrench around to those who are brave… Read more »

That’s quite revolting.

I’m with you on the smell thing though. I spent half of this morning cleaning out a gunked-up chicken mash feeder, which I don’t think had been cleaned out for years. It was clogged up with about four inches of solidified mashed up pellet food, and it STANK!

Good on you for fixing the darn thing. So many people would have called the appliance guy, been told “can’t fix that, luv” and gone out and bough a new one.

For some stink prevention in front-loaders, use a rag to dry the plastic gasket all around the front after each use. When we first got out Bosch front-loader, I did a bunch of googling and found this is the most likely source of smells and expensive service calls. The water just wears that thing out and it smells bad as it dies. I dry the big window and the soap dispenser, too, plus I leave all the doors open between loads. But I have an actual laundry room with a door I can close…I wouldn’t leave the machine open all… Read more »

Thanks so much for this! I have a relatively new washing machine (Bosch front loader bought 18 months ago), no dryer so line dry, and seem to have lint all the time, especially on black clothes (and I wear A LOT of black!) so this was rather timely!

AMAZING! I would not have gone that far, except by accident. (ie started can’t stop now) I had an apparent filtre problem in my super fancy all-in-one washer dehydrator. The water would not drain, so I ran a multitude of cycles of vinegar & warm water, draining with a hose into paint trays from a tiny hose at the bottom of the washer’s front utility panel. I kept taking it more and more apart until I found that the pump thing-y was jammed by a kiddie eraser I couldn’t get out. And now it was broken, too. I pulled out… Read more »

Brilliant. Subtract the moldy crud (gah!) and add a new motor and I know what you mean. You are brave!

That is AWESOME! That makes me want to figure out how to do a similar cleaning on my front-loader. I know there’s janky stuff growing in there, I just don’t know how to clean it.

I am so impressed! A few months ago the ancient Kenmore left a big puddle on the floor after doing a load. I thought about trying to fix it. Looked and looked but couldn’t find a model number. So I pulled it out of its place to look at the back, and there was a really nasty pile of black tarry goop on the floor! I don’t really want to think about what was in there! I’m heartened to know that disgusting black laundry machine gunk is not a problem unique to me! There was also an old sticker on… Read more »

Holy Cow! I must admit I stumbled upon this article while searching for unrelated stuff. But this was such a terrific write up that I couldn’t tear myself away. It’s not that I have a thing for stinky laundry gook jelly or anything like that. I’m a Jack of all trades and have pulled many a washer apart for the same reasons you did. And I have to commend you for taking the readers step by step and entertaining us the whole while.

Bravo. Now back to Google I go LOL

WTG Beth! You have shown that with Google there is no reason folks can’t give DIY a try. Washers and dryers are good subjects to work on because they are big and mostly mechanical with replaceable parts. They usually have clear wiring diagrams somewhere inside should the problem be electrical. On the gunk – Judy and I have a big water jug we keep in the refrigerator for cold water. We use it almost daily. A while ago I decided to take the top off and discovered the underside was black with mold – we never thought to clean it… Read more »

Awesome! DIY is so empowering, and you might have saved that old washer from and early burial at the landfill!

Thanks for sharing! My washer is a Kenmore from 1998. I only get the stinky problems when I forget to take the wash out within 18 hours, but I know we’ve got some hairballs wound around the central drive shaft that need to be cleaned out. This lets me know it’s not something that’s totally out of my DIY league. One thing I found out is that if your dryer isn’t drying as well as it used to it’s most probably because you need to clean out your dryer vent, which is much easier than taking apart a dryer! I’m… Read more »

Wow Beth. I have a Kenmore washer circa 1993 (came with the house) and diagnosed the white stuff on clothes problem as related to the internal filter, looked up the diagram for my machine and decided no way was I going to take everything apart to get to the filter. Good for you. I’m still not convinced I’ll be taking the whole thing apart – we don’t have the stink problems.

So far sorting clothes differently and changing the way I wash fleece has solved most of our problems (cold water wash, powder detergent, line dry).

Yeah Beth! My hero! I’m so amazed you literally took it completely apart and put it back together again. Our front loader smells really bad too and it’s less than 7 years old… I will have to check out the front loader sites. I have cleaned out the filter before (that filters before wastewater is pumped out of the machine), and that thing gets clogged with toddler socks and underwear and it sits there moldifying and smells re-heally terrible. Of course, that area is pretty easy to get to.

Holy cow! Now I want to immediately rip apart my washer to see what gunk lurks beneath. Gross! Ours is a little funky too, but we have a Maytag front-loader. Water tends to stay in the tub causing the smell. I have started to leave the door open between loads and run an occasional load of vinegar or tea tree oil through, but it still smells. I wonder what’s hiding underneath???