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What Can Cause My Kenmore Washing Machine to Make Clothes Smell Like Oil?

Terri Williams

There are several scenarios in which a Kenmore washing machine would make clothes smell like oil. A malfunctioning transmission, coupler or faulty gear box would produce an oily smell, but would also leave oil leaks under the washing machine. A worn agitator seal would also result in oily-smelling laundry, but this would be accompanied by oil spots on the clothes. However, if the washing machine is producing an oily smell with no spots on the laundry or the floor, this narrows the field to just a few options.

Water Temperature

Low water temperature, mild detergent and a buildup of oil can result in oily laundry smells.

The cool water temperature in the Kenmore washer may be causing laundered clothes to smell like oil. Traditionally, clothes have been laundered in very hot water; however, manufacturers of newer, energy-efficient Kenmore models, as well as other high-efficiency washing machine manufacturers, recommend the use of cold water. In addition, energy companies, like Beaches Energy, state that cold water cleans clothes as effectively as hot water, which has led to a decrease in hot water usage. However, the appliance repair site, “WasherHelp,” warns that cold water does not break down and remove grease and oil, and this may cause the oily smell in clothes.

Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent may also be a culprit in producing oily smells in freshly washed clothes. Liquid detergents are recommended for use in energy-efficient washing machines. Also, in response to environmental concerns, detergent manufacturers have changed their formulations to exclude harsh ingredients such as bleach. However, “WasherHelp,” warns that these laundry products are not as successful in removing oil during the washing process. This problem is compounded by cool water temperatures and consumers who skimp on the amount of detergent used.

Oily Buildup

The result of cool water temperatures and milder detergents is a buildup of oil and grease in the machine, which produces oily smells in the laundry. Grease and oil can take many forms, ranging from automotive lubricants to greasy foods to oily toiletry items, and, over a period of time, these oils can accumulate and become trapped in various parts of the machine, particularly in the door seal of front-loading machines.

Removing Oily Smells

To remove the oily smell from your Kenmore washing machine, run an empty cycle with hot water and a detergent that contains bleach to remove grease and oil from the appliance. However, be sure to use bleach designed specifically for laundry, as opposed to using regular bleach. As an alternative to bleach, “WasherHelp” recommends using a biological powder detergent, soda crystals or a cup of distilled white vinegar.