Repair or Replace Grease-Smelling Washing Machine?
April 26, 2008 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Can this smelly washing machine be saved?

Recently our GE washing machine* has started to smell like grease. The machine itself (so far) is functioning--it fills, it agitates, it rinses, it spins, it empties. However, each time it is run there is an overwhelming smell of grease.

I have done some online research and think perhaps it is the gear case, but I do not know for sure.

The machine is probably less than 5 years old, but it came with the house we bought 2 years ago, so I assume if there was a warranty that it does not transfer.

I know you are not my repairman, but if you have some experience with this sort of thing, perhaps you can let me know whether this is an easy/inexpensive fix or whether I need to start looking for its replacement.

* GE model WBSE2090A0WN, in case it helps.
posted by terrapin to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
This link looks like it has a lot of good info on getting rid of grease/odor--One suggestion is to do a "maintenance" wash about once a month--where you run a tub on hot (no clothes--just an empty load) with detergent that has bleach. If this doesn't get rid of the odor, try running another hot wash with distilled vinegar.

Here is the link--(I can't seem to get the link function to work for me!)

Good luck!
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 8:02 AM on April 26, 2008

My old roommate's smelled like that, and I'd just run an empty load with bleach. After the bleachy smell died out, the greasey one would be gone. So the bleach thing is tried and true, at least as far as I go.
posted by damnjezebel at 8:10 AM on April 26, 2008

I run a HOT baking soda and vinegar load (empty) about once a month to keep things fresh. of course, if yours is a leaky gear case issue, that won't help at all. :-( I would call a repair service.
posted by killy willy at 8:28 AM on April 26, 2008

I'm not a repairman, however, it seems logical to believe that the gear box in a washer is sealed and the grease smell you are smelling may not be grease at all but rather the back odor from the drain pipe.

If the discharge tube from the washer to the drain pipe does not have a good seal then you would notice a strong odor, which may smell like grease to you, emitting from the pipe.

I'd suggest that you make sure your seal is good...if not stuff some rags in the drain tube that blocks any odor coming back into the room....see if that works.

Good luck.
posted by malter51 at 8:32 AM on April 26, 2008

Do not seal the connection between your washer's drain hose and the house drain. There is a P-Trap downstream of your washer that will normally prevent sewer gases from entering your laundry room. However if you seal the connection between the washer and the house you defeat the syphon break function of that opening and, depending on the exact configuration of your drain system, the lack of a syphon break can cause the P-Trap to empty and result in sewer gases entering your laundry room through your washer.
posted by Mitheral at 9:48 AM on April 26, 2008

My washer started to smell a few years ago. I don't know what caused it, but since then I always leave the lid open when it's not in use. It doesn't smell anymore.
posted by Wet Spot at 12:11 PM on April 26, 2008

I do maintenance washes. We are on a septic, so as far as I know is not sewer gases. The smell is not there unless I run the washing machine and then it is very much like being in a garage.
posted by terrapin at 12:31 PM on April 26, 2008

I'm not sure if this will work with a washer to get rid of a smell, but I know it works with refrigerators and freezers: newspaper. Bunch the newspaper up into balls (fill it up) and then shut the door. It's a dream cure for a nasty, smelly refrigerator.
posted by bigmusic at 4:26 PM on April 26, 2008

Seriously. This is not because my clothes stink. It is the smell of grease or burning rubber. I didn't burn rubber or put greasy clothes in my washing machine. It doesn't stink if it isn't being used. (I think this is key) It only stinks when it is run and I am pretty darned sure it is some sort of issue with a moving part or a burning motor or something. I don't use bleach on a regular basis, but periodically I use a bit in an empty load to clean the machine. This was the first thing I tried when I first smelled the odor.

I appreciate the help, but I am pretty sure it isn't sewer gas, mold, etc, etc.

If anyone has mechanical experience, especially with household appliances I would appreciate it.
posted by terrapin at 6:08 PM on April 26, 2008

It doesn't stink if it isn't being used. Double negative confused me there. Sorry about that. You might try asking in this forum. It looks pretty active.
posted by bigmusic at 6:24 PM on April 26, 2008

Thanks, big. I was getting frustrated, as you may have guessed, but I feel I was clear enough in my original question. I have registered at that forum and posted my query. Whether I get an answer or not, you still get best answer, bud!
posted by terrapin at 2:45 PM on April 27, 2008

Had a repair person over today who immediately identified the problem as a broken transmission. Once he opened the machine we could clearly see the oil everywhere. He said parts and labor would bump it up to the price of a new lower-end machine, and advised we look for a new or used front-loader. The repair person is a local independent who also sells used/refurbished appliances. He invited me to stop his place, and we found out we had two degrees of separation because of a mutual acquaintance.

Thanks for the assistance everyone.
posted by terrapin at 10:12 AM on May 12, 2008

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