How to Deep Clean Your Washing Machine

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Imagine popping your stinky, dirty linens into your washing machine and pulling them out after a wash cycle, smelling a different kind of funky. Yikes! Are you sure you didn’t leave your garments to marinate in there for too long?

Thinking that a machine designed to clean something naturally cleans itself is a huge misconception. Your dirty washing machine is as likely a culprit as your laundry habits, for that musty smell comes off your laundry and the washer itself. If you can’t remember the last time you gave your washer a deep clean, roll up your sleeves and get to it now.

Here’s a complete guide on deep cleaning the inside of your front- or top-loading washing machine.

What You Will Need To Clean Washing Machine

Clean Washing Machine for Cleaner Laundry

Over time, laundry dirt and residue from soap and fabric conditioner accumulate in the nooks and crannies of your washer, a fertile ground for odor-causing mold and bacteria to thrive. The unpleasant odor wafts from your washer can also cling to your laundry. Worse, mold exposure can trigger an allergic reaction.
Once every month, you can do the following steps for deep cleaning your washing machine:

Clean the Wash Drum

To bust the musty odor once and for all, run your washer’s cleaning cycle with a specially formulated cleaner such as Affresh or Tide Washing Machine Cleaner that can dissolve grime and malodor.

To make sure there are no traces of bleach or cleanser left in the drum that can stain your clothes, run an extra spin and rinse. If not available, a cup of liquid bleach is also a powerful substitute to kill mold and bacteria. If your washer doesn’t have a clean tub feature, run your washer on a hot cycle with either the cleaner or the bleach.

Vinegar and Baking Soda: Eco-friendly Alternatives?

If you want a more natural approach, run a hot cycle using two cups of white vinegar and one-fourth cup of baking soda to sanitize the wash drum. A word of caution, though: check your owner’s manual before trying this DIY solution.

Vinegar may be friendly to the environment, but overusing it may cause some damage to your washer’s internal parts, such as rubber seals and hoses. These two kitchen staples are good at deodorizing but are not as effective for deep cleaning your washer as a cleaning tablet or bleach.

Clean the Lint Filter

For non-high-efficiency washers, the lint filter is a godsend. If your clothes come out with unsightly fuzz on them after a cycle, chances are the filter is choked with lint and leftover detergent, preventing it from doing its job.

The lint filter is a screened receptacle usually found along the rim of the wash drum or inside the center agitator. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure about its location or don’t know whether you have one.
Once you’ve removed the filter, follow these simple steps to clean it:

  1. Soak the filter in hot soapy water and let it sit for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Scrub away any buildup with a used toothbrush and rinse.
  3. Wipe off the scum from the filter’s slot in the washer with a cloth dipped in the soapy solution. Use a toothbrush to get to the crevices.
  4. Make sure everything is dry before you put the filter back in.

Clean the Detergent Drawer

Depending on the brand, there are different mechanisms for pulling out the detergent drawer. If you’re unsure how to remove yours, refer to your owner’s manual to avoid breaking it.

  1. Soak the drawer in a mixture of equal parts vinegar and hot water for at least 30 minutes to loosen up any gooey slime, limescale, and black mold. You can do this step in your sink or a dish pan large enough to submerge the drawer fully.
  2. Now on to the detergent drawer pocket. Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and spritz a generous amount into the pocket.
  3. Busy yourself and let the vinegar work its magic for 30 minutes. Undiluted vinegar can irritate the skin, so protect yourself and wear gloves. And yes, vinegar is excellent with plastic.
  4. After 30 minutes, scrub the pocket with a used toothbrush.
  5. Wipe with a clean cloth to dry.
  6. Do the same with the detergent drawer. Air-dry it before you pop it back on.

Clean the Rubber Seal of Front-Loader

Even after a hot cycle with a mold cleaner or bleach, stubborn gunk can remain around the rubber seal, an area often neglected in your front loader.

  1. Using a damp cloth slathered with pea-sized dish soap, work around the seal and peel the layers carefully to get to any dirt buildup lurking inside. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush if needed.
  2. Rinse your cleaning cloth to remove any soapy residue from the rubber seal.
  3. Give it a good wipe using a clean, dry cloth.
  4. Finally, leave the lid open so it can thoroughly dry.

After a Deep Clean, Now What?

Using too much detergent harms your clothes and your washer more than good. It can lead to buildup, make your machine work harder, and wreak havoc on the pump and motor. Never pour detergent blindly. Use a measuring cup and stick closely to your brand’s recommendation. But even brands tend to exaggerate their package instructions, so you know you’ll buy more. Remember that a little goes a long way with laundry soaps.

Pro Tip: As a general rule, use one tablespoon of detergent (liquid or powder) for a regular load and two tablespoons for a heavy load. If you’re using high-efficiency (HE) detergent, use two teaspoons only. For laundry pods, one is enough for your usual load.

Let’s Wrap Up

Your washing machine is the ultimate beast of burden among your home appliances. It’s only fair to give it the TLC it needs and deserves so it can serve you for a long time.
Incorporate deep cleaning of your washing machine into your routine once a month. It will keep it in tip-top condition and if you want fresh-smelling laundry all the time.

About Emily Leake

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