A couple of years ago, I got a brand new washer and dryer.
The washer is the fancy "high efficiency" kind that uses less water and detergent than its predecessors. It takes a special detergent, that won't produce too many suds.
It works beautifully and I love everything about it. That is - everything except the smell I started to notice on my clothes, especially the towels. It was a mildewy, dirty sock smell that nobody in the family was fond of.
At first, I thought maybe the clothes didn't appreciate me leaving them in the washer overnight, like I was in the habit of doing. I changed my routine and made sure to put them in the dryer as soon as they were through washing, but the smell remained.
I changed detergent, but that didn't help either. I was flummoxed until I came across an ad for a product that is specifically designed to remedy stinky washers.
It turns out that the detergent and fabric softener build up on the drum of the washer and form a sticky, stinky wall of gunk that breeds mildew! The water passes over this sticky gunk on the way to the clothes. No wonder they smelled like mildewed socks!
This is especially a problem for the high efficiency washers, because they use less water and the detergent is thicker, so it is harder to rinse away.
There are a few different solutions for this, and they all require monthly maintenance.
One solution is to run the empty washer on the "clean" cycle with a cup of bleach. I alternate this with running it on "clean" with a cup of vinegar about once a month. (Don't mix vinegar and bleach, unless you are trying to create a bomb! In that case, I can not be held responsible for the laundry shrapnel that could possibly result.)
Another solution is to use a product like SMELLY WASHER CLEANER, which is specifically designed to clean stinky washers.
I also remember my frugal fabric softener trick and that helps eliminate gunky build up, too.
Now my washer and my clothes smell fresh and clean again!