Believe it or not, your washing machine can get dirty. You may be running loads several times a week, but particularly if you typically use cold water, live in a humid area, have hard water or wash heavily soiled clothes, you need to take affirmative steps to keep your washing machine pristine. Here’s how to clean your washing machine.
Clean your washing machine regularly
The inside of your washing machine can develop grime, hard water film, and mold, and mildew over time. Washing clothes won’t remove this, so you must follow a schedule to clean your appliance to keep it operating at its best.
If you routinely wash with cold water, run an empty load once a month with hot water, adding a cup or two of white distilled vinegar through the detergent dispenser. Additionally, a top-loading machine needs a thorough deep cleaning at least twice a year — four times if your water is hard. Front-loading machines use less water and thus need to be deep cleaned every two months or so. Dispensers for soap, bleach or fabric softener should be cleaned every four to six weeks.
How to deep clean a top-loading machine
There are several approaches to deep cleaning inside a top-loading washing machine. No matter the method you use, leave the lid open so the machine can dry. You should also leave the lid open between uses.
- You can clean your machine with vinegar and baking soda. Fill the machine to its highest level with the hottest possible water, then add four cups of distilled white vinegar. After the cycle starts, stop the machine and let the vinegar and water sit for an hour. Then complete the machine’s longest cycle. Next, run a cycle with the hottest water and a cup of baking soda.
- To clean the machine with vinegar and bleach, follow this procedure. (WARNING: Mixing bleach and vinegar can release potentially lethal chlorine gas, so never combine these two substances directly. If you want to clean your washing machine with vinegar and bleach, use a two-step procedure.) Fill the machine with the hottest water possible, add a quart of liquid chlorine bleach, and run a few minutes of the machine’s longest cycle. Stop the machine and let the bleach and water sit for an hour. Then let the machine finish the cycle, spin and drain. Make sure all the bleach is completely removed. Next, fill the machine again with its hottest water, add a quart of white distilled vinegar through the bleach dispenser, let the machine operate for a few minutes, and then stop the machine for an hour. Then finish the complete cycle.
- You can also clean the interior of a top-loading machine by running a complete hot water cycle with two cups of hydrogen peroxide added to the machine’s tub.
- Finish the job by wiping the interior of the drum with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any remaining scum.
- To clean the other parts of a top-loading washing machine, mix a quarter-cup of distilled white vinegar into a quart of warm water and use it, a microfiber cloth and an old toothbrush if necessary to remove grime and clogs from the soap, bleach and fabric softener dispensers. If necessary, to remove stubborn clogs, fill the dispensers with white distilled vinegar you have heated on top of the stove or in the microwave, let them soak for a few minutes and run a normal wash cycle without clothes to rinse them.
- Scrub the exterior of the machine with the vinegar mixture and a microfiber cloth. Don’t forget the inside of the door and around the door opening.
How to clean a front-loading machine
- Begin the job by cleaning the washing machine’s filter. Unplug the washer. Open the filter door, wipe out the inside of the door, and drain the filter into a shallow basin. Soak the filter in hot water for 15 minutes, then scrub it with a toothbrush and distilled white vinegar to remove all grime. Let the filter dry and replace it.
- Fill the detergent dispenser with a half-cup of liquid chlorine bleach to deep clean the tub of a front-loading machine. Fill the bleach dispenser as high as possible. Run a normal cycle with hot water or a sanitizing cycle. Alternatively, use vinegar and baking soda to clean the interior of your front-loading washer. Run the hottest, longest cycle possible with four cups of distilled white vinegar. After the cycle starts, pause and let the water sit for an hour. Complete the cycle. Next, fill the washer again with the hottest water and a cup of baking soda and let the cycle run completely. When finished, wipe the inside of the washer with a damp microfiber cloth.
- Clean the gaskets on a front-loading machine by spraying them with distilled white vinegar. Let the vinegar sit for a while, then wipe it with a microfiber cloth. You can also clean gaskets by wiping them with a bleach-and-water solution. After either procedure and after each wash, leave the machine door open for a few hours so the gaskets can dry.
- Clean the exterior of the front-loader with a vinegar and water solution and a microfiber cloth. Clean the machine’s dispensers as described for a top-loading machine.