How to Clean a Washing Machine

Let’s face it. Life is dirty! Luckily, we have awesome washing machines to clean the stains we encounter in our everyday lives. While washing machines evolve over time, one thing remains the same, and that is the need to clean them on a regular basis to avoid a build-up of dirt, grime, and excess chemicals.

Luckily, the process of cleaning your washing machine is relatively straightforward and requires very few tools. If your machine is getting a bit funky, try the steps below to properly clean both top and front-loading washing models.

Why Must You Clean Your Washing Machine?

Upon hearing that it is important to clean your washing machine, some people might be perplexed. After all, it is the job of your machine to wash clothes, so doesn’t it take care of itself? 

The issue is that while you will not notice a problem right away, over time, a build-up of mold, dirt, and leftover detergent will occur on the interior walls of the machine, as well as on the rubber gasket near the door and within the soap and detergent dispensers.

By not cleaning the washing machine, you are allowing those chemicals to build up and they can transfer back to your clothes. If the person who uses the machine or wears those clothes has allergies, they could face a serious medical issue.

How Often Should You Clean Your Washing Machine?

Cleaning frequency depends on if you have a top-loading or side-loading washing machine. Top loaders are typically okay when washed twice per year. Front-loading washers and high-efficiency machines are a bit different because they use less water so the bad chemicals aren’t washed away as frequently, so they should be cleaned once per month.

A big consideration you need to make when it comes to cleaning frequency is if you live in an area of the country with exceptionally hard water. If you do, and you have a top loader, it is wise to clean it every three months as hard water can lead to stubborn mineral deposits, which can be difficult to remove. 

Required Supplies

Regardless of the type of washer you have, you’ll need the same basic supplies:

  • Soft microfiber cloth
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda

Cleaning a Top-Loader Washing Machine

The process of thoroughly cleaning a top-loader is rather straightforward and will require you to run two cycles of the machine.

1. Turn on the washing machine and allow it to fill with very hot water using the highest temperature setting available. Keep an eye on it because you will need to pause the washer before it begins to agitate.

2. Instead of adding detergent, add one quart of chlorine bleach to the detergent compartment dispenser drawer. 

3. Run the machine on the longest complete wash and spin cycle available and make sure that it completely drains at the end, including all bleach.

4. Once again, fill the machine full of very hot water and stop it before it agitates. Now, add one quart of distilled white vinegar.

5. Run one more full and complete cycle. Double-check that all of the vinegar has been completely drained before running your next normal load of clothes.

6. After you are done with the wash cycles, clean the other parts of the machine. Spray the white vinegar onto a microfiber cloth and rub down every inch of the unit, including the lid and the front of the washer.

Cleaning a Front-Loading Washing Machine

A front-loading machine is much like its top-loading counterpart except there are a few extra areas to focus on, including the rubber gasket that keeps the door closed. However, most of the process is the same.

1. Pour a half cup of chlorine bleach into the detergent compartment that is often found in the dispenser drawer that also holds the fabric softener.

2. Set the machine to warm water and run a normal cycle to completion. 

3. Once the cycle is complete, take your microfiber cloth and wipe down the entire unit. That includes the exterior along with the outside and inside of the door. 

If the machine still has an odor or visible dirt, then grab some white vinegar and try the additional steps below:

1. Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray the inside of the water drum and then wipe every inch with your cloth. 

2. Next, pour more white vinegar into the detergent dispenser.

3. Set the unit to the longest, hottest setting and run a full cycle.

4. For extra freshness, take a half cup of baking soda and disperse it directly into the drum of the machine. 

5. Once again, run the longest and hottest cycle to completion.

6. Use your cloth to wipe down the exterior if necessary.

Cleaning the Washer Dispensers

Some newer washing machines have automatic dispensers that place fabric softener, bleach, and detergent into the wash when necessary during the cycle. In order to ensure that the dispensers continue to work properly, you will want to clean those as well if necessary.

To do so, heat one cup of vinegar in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and pour the mixture into the dispenser and let it sit for several minutes so it can loosen up any built-up dirt. 

Then, run the machine through a normal cycle. The vinegar will disperse during the process and rinse away once the cycle is complete.

Keeping the Washing Machine Maintained

To avoid excess dirt and chemicals and to ensure that your washing machine runs smoothly, you will want to keep it well maintained. 

In addition to cleaning the machine as described above, you should also empty the lint filter on a regular basis. Doing so will let your machine run more efficiently. Plus, excess lint could also cause a fire hazard.

Also, to avoid musty odors, keep the door of the machine open when not in use. Finally, always use the correct amount of detergent as overfilling it will leave that residue that you were cleaning away in the first place.

By following the tips and cleaning steps described here, you will have a washing machine that will operate efficiently for years to come.

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