Eventhough we use it all the time, it’s a good idea to clean your washer once a month. This will ensure that it stays clean and fresh along with your clothes. While your machine is ridding your clothes of dirt, it doesn’t always rid itself of that same dirt or a buildup of detergent residue.
In addition, the newer HE (high efficiency) machines are prone to developing mold and mildew, especially if you live in an area with high humidity levels, which can lead to an odor developing both in the machine itself and on your “clean” clothes. So give your washing machine some love.
How Often Should You Clean a Washing Machine?
Most manufacturers recommend cleaning the washing machine once a month, although the majority of us, are still wrapping our heads around the idea of cleaning the machine at all. Fortunately, the process is fairly painless, especially since the machine itself does most of the work.
Before Cleaning: Identify Your Machine and Select Your Cleanser
The type of washing machine you have will dictate which method you use to clean it. HE front loaders and top loaders need one approach; top-loading non-HE machines need a slightly different approach.
Before you start, decide what type of cleanser you want to use: white vinegar, bleach or a commercial cleanser. Using vinegar to clean a washing machine is nontoxic, and it’s easily available, making it a favorite, but some manufacturers recommend bleach or other chemical cleansers, so check the manual for your machine. If you are using a commercial product, follow the label’s instructions for the recommended amount.
Caution: Choose only one cleanser. Never mix products.
How to Clean a High-Efficiency (HE) Washing Machine:
Front Loader or Top Loader
A monthly cleaning is especially important if your HE machine has developed a smell. Wiping down the interior of the washer with cleaner, using extra detergent or running everything on hottest cycle does nothing to get rid of odor. Many newer high-efficiency (HE) machines have a clean cycle, which makes the process even easier, but the basic procedure is the same whether you have that or not.
1. Choose the “clean” cycle. If your machine doesn’t have this, select the hottest water setting. In some cases, this may be the setting for whites or heavily stained clothes.
2. Choose the added rinse cycle if it’s available.
3. Fill the bleach dispenser with your cleanser choice.
4. Fill the tub to the highest level (this will probably be automatic with the clean cycle) and run the machine.
5. If you don’t have a second rinse cycle, run the rinse cycle again manually.
Once the cycle has ended, use a microfiber cloth dipped in vinegar to clean the gasket that seals the door and the area around it. Carefully pull it back and inspect to see if you have mold or mildew underneath.
Don’t overlook cleaning the washing machine soap dispensers. Use vinegar or soapy water to wipe any detergent, bleach, fabric softeners or other laundry add-ins from the dispensers. You can often just pop them out. Wipe off all these areas with a cloth dipped in water and dry them with a microfiber cloth.
Finish by wiping down the controls and the outside of the machine with a microfiber cloth dipped in vinegar or an all-purpose spray. To make the exterior shine, dry with a microfiber cloth.
How to Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine
Although older top loaders don’t generally have a cycle for cleaning, you can easily create your own version. It involves a bit of a wait time between beginning the cycle and ending it, so use that time to clean other areas that won’t be reached by the water in the tub.
1. Choose the hot water setting and the longest cycle.
2. Fill the tub to the maximum level, then pause the machine.
3. Add 4 cups of white vinegar or 1 cup of bleach to the water and let the machine agitate for a minute or two.
4. Pause the washing machine and let it sit for an hour. Dip a microfiber cloth into the soaking solution, wring it out and use it to clean the top of the drum and agitator where the water doesn’t reach and the inside of the lid.
If you can remove the bleach and fabric softener dispensers, do so and clean the areas beneath them with the cloth and cleaning solution as well. If they are fixed in place, clean them and the area around them.
Finally, clean the control panel and the outside of the machine with the cleaning solution or an all-purpose spray. Use a dry microfiber cloth to dry and polish the surfaces.
5. Restart the machine and finish the cycle. If you still smell vinegar, add another rinse cycle.
Almost Daily Care
The experts also have some advice for preventing a buildup of dirt and odors between cleanings. If mold and mildew are a problem, leave the machine’s door or lid open after you finish a load of laundry so that the interior will dry out completely. Before you do this, make sure curious children and pets can’t get into the machine, especially if it’s a front-loading one. Some machines have latches designed to keep the door ajar without leaving it wide open.
It is also a go idea to wipe down the door or lid to get rid of any condensation. Wiping and drying the gasket around the door every time you finish a load of laundry will help prevent a buildup of dirt in that area. As a final tip, be sure to use the correct amount of detergent for your loads.