Help! My Clothes Steamer Smells Bad

clothes steamer smells bad

Have you used your clothes steamer recently and it’s had a funky smell? Don’t worry, with a little effort you can get it back to clean and fresh again.

The most common reason that your clothes steamer smells bad is that bacteria has grown inside it. This can easily happen when you use tap water in your steamer.

Plastic components of your clothes steamer can retain offensive smells, generally emitting an odor that smells like you’ve left your washing in the machine for a few days. If this sounds like your clothes steamer, it is time for a deep clean.

Why Does My Clothes Steamer Smell Bad?

When water gets stored within the plastic tanks, it provides an excellent breeding ground for mold and mildew. Even if you empty your steamer after each use, moisture that was left in the steamer can lead to the development of bacteria. Bacteria grow in dark, wet environments, like the inside of your clothing steamer. 

Removing this odor can take some time and effort. It is worth it, however, particularly if you don’t want to replace your steamer. 

The most typical problem with a clothes steamer smelling bad is going to be either a musty odor or a musky smell associated with the development of germs and mold in the tubing and the machine itself.

This can happen quicker than you realize. Your clothing steamer can grow mold from one use to the next and making certain that you allow it to thoroughly dry after use will extend the life and keep the smells at bay. 

Using Vinegar to Kill Germs and Disinfect

The fastest way to try and remove a bad smell from your clothes steamer is to use the vinegar and distilled water method. This is a great way to descale your steamer at the same time, especially if you have been using tap water to steam. 

To do this, fill the water tank of your steamer with one-third white vinegar and two-thirds distilled water. Turn your steamer onto the highest steam setting and let it flow through until the water is almost empty. 

According to nsf.org, it can take up to 30 minutes of contact with vinegar to effectively kill germs. If you have a small handheld steamer, you may need to repeat the vinegar solution more than once.

Refill your steamer with a small amount of distilled water and turn it back on to steam again. See if that has helped to remove the odor. If this hasn’t fixed the bad smell, you can try this method again, or move on to my next suggestion:

Soak All Removable Parts

If the vinegar and water solution hasn’t worked for you, try cleaning individual parts of your steamer. To do this, you will need to pull apart any removable pieces and clean them, piece by piece. 

Depending on the type of steamer you have (full-sized clothing steamer vs. handheld steamer), you will need to remove as many pieces possible that can be easily detached for cleaning. 

Most full-size garment steamers come with removable hose pipes. As each steamer will vary, this is where you need to check your manufacturer instructions for what parts of the steamer can be immersed in water and which ones cannot. 

If it is safe to do so, you can soak the hose of your steamer in a vinegar and warm water solution for at least 30 minutes to help remove any odors. Hang up the hose and allow it to dry thoroughly after soaking. 

With a handheld steamer, there may be a small detachable tube inside the water chamber that can be removed for cleaning and soaking. A small straw cleaner could help to remove any build-up. Soak the tube and the water chamber in a warm water and vinegar solution for at least 30 minutes. 

Please make sure you do not immerse any electrical components of your steamer in water. For example, if your handheld steamer has a steam pump or heating element behind the soleplate (the ‘face’ of the steamer), do not put this in water. Instead, use a soft cloth and a q-tip to gently clean around the steam holes. 

If possible, scrub the inside of your steamer water tank with a warm water and vinegar solution. If you have a plastic tank with no electrical parts, soaking this in warm water and vinegar for at least 30 minutes will help to disinfect. 

If you have a built-in water tank in your full-sized steamer, like a Jiffy steamer, you can use a liquid cleaner like the Jiffy Liquid Cleaner. Please keep in mind this is an acid-based cleaner and should not be used in plastic tanks. Click here for full instructions on how to use this

Replace Your Steamer

If all else fails and your clothes steamer still smells bad, it may be time for a replacement. 

Remember, it is generally the use of tap water in your steamer that causes bad smells. Even small amounts of residual tap water left in your steamer can cause bacteria to grow. 

Using distilled water is always my preferred choice to avoid bad odors and build up of scale that will ultimately shorten the life of your steamer. 

Lauren

Passionate organizer, t-shirt folder and owner of a commercial garment steamer, home steamer and handheld steamer. I'll discuss all things steaming, so if you need help with buying or using a clothing steamer or home steamer, I'm here for you. Please join me on Facebook and don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. Happy Steaming!

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