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A Guide to Cleaning Your Washing Machine

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May 4, 2022

Written by Zeynep Mehmetoglu

When we think of our washing machines, we tend to think of fresh linens and clean-smelling clothes. It can be easy to forget that you need to clean your washing machine. After so many cycles of handling soiled clothes, your washer collects a buildup that can leave behind a bad smell.

Leaving your machine lid open to let it dry after running can help reduce the chance of mold buildup, but knowing how to clean your washing machine can keep it fresh and functioning.

How to Know if Your Washing Machine Needs to be Cleaned

If you can’t think of the last time you cleaned your machine, it’s likely due for a cleansing. Any other odd behavior from your machine is typically a sign that it needs a refresh. Odors and marks on your clothes are the quickest way to tell whether your washer is functioning correctly or not.

Common signs that you need to clean your machine include:

  • Foul smells: Foul, mildewy smells are often an indicator that you have a mold buildup. It’s essential to kill this bacteria because mold can be transferred to your clothes, bedding, and towels.
  • Black spots: Soap scum or limescale can cause your clothes to come out of your machine with black spots. In areas with hard water, limestone can build up on the pipes and cause your washer to break down. In this scenario, you could end up with stained clothes that you need to wash again, or you’ll need to call for repairs.
  • Slimy residue: Your fabric softeners and detergents will occasionally leave behind a residue on the door and inside the drum. When this happens, the buildup can create streaky marks on your clothing that looks dirty.

Cleaning Products You Need to Clean Your Washer

Whether you have a top-load or front-load washer, you will need the same cleaning products. There are multiple ways to clean your machine, so you may decide that you prefer one method over another.

Method one supplies:

  • Soft cloth or rag
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Distilled white vinegar

Method two supplies:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth

When cleaning your dispensers, you could use white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Cleaning your washing machine with vinegar will dissolve grime and scum buildup. Using baking soda in the washing machine will gently remove any dirt left behind without leaving scratches.

If you’re unsure about cleaning the machine yourself, consult with a professional. They’ll be able to give you tips about products to use and when to apply them.

How to Clean a Washing Machine

You will need to take different steps to clean your machine depending on what type you have. Although each kind will use the same products, you will need to put cleaning materials in separate locations.

Method One

This method uses vinegar in one cycle and bleach in another — be sure not to mix the chemicals, which create dangerous chlorine gas when combined.

To clean a top-load washing machine, you first need to fill your machine with the hottest water available from its settings. Stop the water before it agitates, add one quart of bleach, and complete a full wash and spin cycle.

Once your machine has drained all of the bleach, you can fill the top-load machine with hot water again. This time, you should fill the washer with one quart of distilled white vinegar and run another complete wash and spin cycle.

If you have a front-load washer, you can add your bleach to the dispensers. Fill the detergent section halfway with liquid bleach and fill the bleaching compartment to the full line. Then, close the dispensers and allow your machine to complete a normal cycle with warm water.

After the process is complete in either machine style, use a cloth or rag to wipe the door opening, glass, and gasket to remove any leftover residue. Cleaning inside the washing machine will remove any mold that could be in crevices or cracks and kill any bacteria that has been left behind.

Method Two

Either machine can utilize the baking soda method. Begin by pouring in four cups of vinegar. At this point, you can start the machine and stop it again once the water is full and right before the cycle begins. Try to let the mixture sit for about an hour. While you wait, you can wipe the washer’s lid and surfaces.

After you run the washing cycle, add a cup of baking soda, and run a cycle on the highest temperature settings. Once complete, keep your door open to let the inside dry, then use a cloth to wipe it all down. You can use the toothbrush to scrub your dispensers clean.

Follow these steps to clean your washing machine’s dispensers:

  1. Take any clothes out of your machine.
  2. Use your stovetop or microwave to heat one cup of vinegar.
  3. Fill the dispenser with warm vinegar.
  4. Allow the liquid to loosen any buildup by having it sit for a few minutes.
  5. Run your machine on a regular cycle.
  6. Clean any removable dispensers by soaking them in warm vinegar and scrubbing them with a toothbrush.
  7. Rinse your dispenser with warm water.
  8. Allow your dispenser to dry before replacing it.

Open any windows nearby and use your exhaust fan to ventilate the area, and avoid inhaling chemicals as you clean.

How Often You Should Clean Your Washing Machine

Your machine might have a self-clean function. Depending on how often you use it, you can utilize this cycle about once a month to keep your machine clean. This function won’t always provide the deep clean your machine needs, and you should expect to deep clean it a couple of times throughout the year.

If you have a top load washer, you should clean it about twice a year. Meanwhile, a front-load washer uses water much less often, and you need to clean it more frequently. If you use your machine regularly or often launder heavily soiled clothes, you’ll also need to clean it often.

Your location will affect how often you should clean your machine, too. People living in areas with hard water should clean their machines about every three months. Those living in humid regions will need to bleach their machine to kill bacteria formed by moisture at least once a month.

Your dispenser should be cleaned every four to six weeks to avoid soap buildup.

Keeping your washer clean and fresh will ensure your clothes, linens, and everything in between will look and smell wonderful.

Count on Maid Bright for Regular Home Cleanings

Count on Maid Bright for Regular Home Cleanings

Maid Bright is proud to serve the D.C. area, including Northern Virginia and Maryland. We began our journey in 2004 and have since remained family-owned. We provide a prompt and professional experience that goes beyond your expectations. We offer free estimates, where a Maid Bright team member will take great care in noting any customizations you need.

Schedule a cleaning service with Maid Bright and get a quality clean every time. Whether you’re moving, need recurring services, or want to feel a one-time fresh experience, we’re happy to tackle any mess.