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How to Clean a Washing Machine Inside and Out - Expert Tips You Need to Know

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October 10, 2023

Your washing machine is a miraculous device that ensures your clothes stay fresh and clean after every wear. It’s supposed to be the cleanest place on earth, then. Otherwise, how does it get the job done?

Well, it may be hard to believe but this household appliance is the perfect breeding ground for germs and mildew. Think about the leftover fabric softener laundry detergent, and even soil. So much nastiness in one place.

That’s reason enough to include the unit in your cleaning calendar as soon as possible, especially if you have never given it a proper clean. Fortunately, cleaning a washing machine doesn’t require any special skills or knowledge. For the most part, you wipe down some parts and let the machine do the rest.

In this post, we will teach you how to care for your model so that you always get fresh clothes. You'll find this especially helpful if you're doing your move-out cleaning and the washing machine is something that tenants often forget. Keep reading for our cleaning tips.

Key Takeaways from How to Clean a Washing Machine

  • Before you get to clean a washing machine, read the user manual to ensure you don’t cause any unwanted damage to the machine
  • Start by cleaning the detergent dispenser, then move to the washing machine drum and door seal/rubber gaskets; finish off with a hot cycle that will kill bacteria
  • Front loaders and top washers are cleaned in a similar fashion
  • For a smelly washing machine, you can employ vinegar and baking soda

What Can I Use to Clean My Washing Machine

If you’re wondering what to use to clean a washing machine, it’s simple. It’s a good idea to prepare all the cleaning tools you are going to need before you begin. Basically, you should have the following at hand:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Baking soda solution
  • Old toothbrush
  • Damp cloth
  • Sponge

How to Clean Washing Machine - A Step-by-step Guide on Regular Maintenance

woman cleaning a washing machine on the outside

Before cleaning of washing machine, play on the safe side and unplug the unit from the wall socket.

Then locate your owner's manual and look for specific instructions on how to care for the appliance. Different models might require different methods.

It’s vital to stick with an approach that won’t damage your washing machine, so go through the guidelines and see if there is anything specific that you should not do during regular cleaning.

Start with the detergent drawer

The detergent dispenser is often neglected. Most people think that it's sufficient to clean the main parts of the washing machine. However, the drawer collects plenty of washing powder residue and mould.

It’s safe to say lots of bacteria and germs take shelter in there, so it makes sense to give it a good clean.

So, slide it out of the machine completely. In some models, you have to press down some sort of a button to release the drawer. It may be blue and it's usually located in the centre. Other models require you to wiggle the piece a little bit until it comes out.

The easiest thing to do is to immerse the dispenser in a solution of warm water and dish soap and wait for it to do its magic. Before rinsing, scrub the residue with a toothbrush or sponge.

The other way to go is to grab an old toothbrush and a multipurpose antibacterial cleaning solution. Spray the inside and outside of the drawer and scrub vigorously all the dirt build-up.

Either way, let the unit air dry completely before putting it back in.

Now, don’t forget to clean the drawer cavity too. You will be surprised to find the same amount, if not more residue and mould in there. It may be a bit challenging to reach the back, so work it out to the best of your ability.

Clear the washing machine filter out

The washing machine filter is what catches loose stuff that comes out of the wash. Unfortunately, it is not something that gets cleaned regularly. That's why if you want to do a thorough clean, you should clear the filter if applicable to your case (some washing machines do not come with filters).

It is located inside the washer drum or behind the emergency drain tube. Remove the latter, placing a bowl to catch any excess water that may have been trapped in there.

Next, remove the filter cover and watch as dirt drains out into the bowl. Take a damp cloth and run it over the filter to clean any leftover grime build-up. Put the cover back on and the emergency drain in.

Clean the washing machine drum

For the drum, you can run an empty quick spin cycle on the washing machine. A hot wash will kill any germs lurking in the drum (don’t assume it’s spotless clean, it’s not).

All you need is some white vinegar and the machine will do the rest. Pour the liquid into the washing powder dispenser.

It’s recommended to use the 60 or 90-degree setting for this one because you want to kill as many bacteria as possible. If a quick cleaning cycle is not an option with that temperature setting, go for a normal cycle.

A quick tip: always remove clean clothes immediately after the end of a wash cycle to prevent bad odours and mould from taking over the inside of your machine.

Wipe down the rubber seals with a microfiber cloth

Having done these steps so far, it’s time to clean the washing machine door seal. Given its shape, you can assume germs and unwanted dirt can get trapped in the space. Ideally, you will wipe down the seal with a microfiber cloth after each wash to prevent mold from forming on the surface.

But if you can already see a build-up of leftover detergent, soap scum, and mould, you should opt for some heavy-duty cleaning product to get rid of it. Spray the rubber seal with the cleaner of your choosing, let it sit so it can dislodge any dirt, and then wipe it down.

Leave the washing machine door open after every cycle

To keep mould and mildew at bay, it’s wise to leave the door of your washing machine open between cycles. Remember that mildew spores love wet and warm environments.

The best way to go is to leave the door slightly ajar instead of pushing it shut. It's also recommended to keep the detergent drawer open for a few hours after using the machine.

How Do I Clean a Smelly Washing Machine?

a clean washing machine drum

If you tried hard but you still couldn’t prevent your washing machine from getting smelly, don’t worry. We have a fix for that one too.

Simply make a concoction of white vinegar and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Pour it inside the drum and run an empty cycle. You can sprinkle half a cup of baking soda directly into the drum and it will take care of it.

How to Clean a Front-loading Washing Machine

It's safe to assume the instructions above apply to front-load washers. Basically, you need to grab a spray bottle, fill it with vinegar and spray the solution inside the drum. Then you should wipe down every single spot.

Work out the rubber sealer in a similar fashion. When you see gunk and mould, make an extra effort to scrub and wipe. A front-load washer might also benefit from some bleach mixed with soap but don’t go overboard with it.

As you wipe down everything, ensure to run a hot cycle to remove any residue and bacteria. Now, set the front-loading machine to the highest temperature possible. If you want your unit to smell good, you may add a few drops of your favourite essential oils.

How to Clean a Top-loading Washing Machine

It’s always a good idea to check the washing machine manual on how to proceed. Generally speaking, you should spray the inside of the machine with a multipurpose cleaner or pour two cups of white vinegar onto the drum.

Let it sit for an hour so it can work its magic. Then run a wash cycle with hot water. In the middle of the cycle, you may add a cup of baking soda. This will remove nasty smells and provide additional cleaning effects.

Another thing to take into account is to avoid using too much soap for your clothes. Many people think that putting more detergent will clean clothes better but all it does is clog your washing machine. It also facilitates germ formation.

How Do I Deep Clean My Washing Machine UK?

If you want to deep clean your washing machine, you can follow the same steps from above but change one of them a little. Essentially, you want to use a stain remover as it can provide a more thorough clean.

Another way to do the deep cleaning is to buy a product that is specifically designed to deep clean your unit. Spray the inside of your machine with it and run hot water.

Needless to say, the drum should be empty while you are at it. Choose a 40-60-degree setting. All in all, this cleaning process will eliminate more than 95% of bacteria.

How to Clean a Washer Machine FAQs

How often should you clean your washing machine?

It’s advisable to clean your washing machine once a month or once every couple of months. It depends on the number of cycles you run throughout the month. Ideally, your cleaning routine should take place once every 30 cycles.

How to make your own washing machine cleaning solution?

If you want to clean a washing machine with your own products, it’s as simple as one, two, three. Pour two cups of white vinegar into the detergent drawer and add baking soda to the drum for a better effect.

Cleaning a washing machine with these two ingredients will achieve the same results as when you use a store-bought product. It may as well be the best way to clean the washing machine because it involves products you already have readily at hand.

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