Keeping your washing machine clean is not only essential for maintaining its longevity but also for ensuring your clothes come out smelling fresh and looking their best. Over time, washing machines can accumulate grime, mold, detergent residue, and mineral deposits from hard water. Neglecting cleaning can result in laundry that appears dull, gray, or even leaves white streaks on dark clothing.
We will walk you through the step-by-step process of cleaning your washing machine correctly, providing in-depth explanations for each step.
How Often to Clean a Washing Machine
The frequency at which you should clean your washing machine depends on the type of washer you own and your water quality. Here’s a detailed breakdown:
1. Top-Load Washers: It’s advisable to clean a top-load washer at least twice a year. If you reside in an area with hard water, consider cleaning it every three months to prevent mineral deposits. Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can lead to scaling and buildup in your machine.
2. High-Efficiency Top-Load and Front-Load Washers: These machines use less water and should be cleaned more frequently, typically every month. Their design requires less water, making it easier for residue to accumulate and potentially lead to odor and cleaning issues.
3. Exceptional Circumstances: If your clothes are heavily soiled, you may need to clean your washer even more often. Additionally, if you live in a hot and humid climate, mold growth can be more problematic, necessitating more frequent cleaning to prevent its development.
4. Dispensers: Don’t forget to clean the detergent, fabric softener, and bleach dispensers every four to six weeks to ensure they function correctly. Neglected dispensers can lead to uneven distribution of detergents, affecting your laundry’s cleanliness.
Materials and Equipment Needed
For Top-Load Washer Cleaning:
- A standard top-load washer
- Hot water: Hot water is effective at dissolving detergent residues and mineral deposits.
- Measuring cup: This ensures accurate measurement of cleaning agents.
- 1 quart of chlorine bleach: Chlorine bleach helps disinfect the washer and remove stubborn stains and odors.
For Front-Load Washer Cleaning:
- A front-load washer: Front-load washers have unique cleaning needs due to their design.
- Soft cloth: Use a soft cloth to wipe down the washer’s exterior and seals.
- Measuring cup: Ensure precise measurements when using cleaning agents.
- Warm water: Warm water is gentler on front-load washers than hot water.
- 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach (optional: hydrogen peroxide): Chlorine bleach helps disinfect, while hydrogen peroxide is an alternative for those who prefer a milder option.
For Washer Dispenser Cleaning
- Small saucepan or microwave: Used to heat vinegar for cleaning.
- Measuring cup: Ensure accurate measurements of cleaning agents.
- Small bottle brush (optional): Useful for scrubbing hard-to-reach areas in the dispenser.
- 1 cup of white vinegar: White vinegar is effective at dissolving mineral deposits and detergent residue.
Getting Mold Out of Your Washer
Prepare a Cleaning Solution
The first step in cleaning mold from your washer is to create a cleaning solution. While commercial cleaning products are available, it’s often safer and more cost-effective to use natural ingredients that you can easily find at home.
Vinegar is a highly effective natural mold killer.
- To create a vinegar mixture, you’ll need:
- 1 part white vinegar
- 4 parts water
- A spray bottle
If your washing machine has a mildew smell or you’re dealing with a minor mold infestation, this mixture is ideal. Mix it in the spray bottle and then proceed to the next steps.
Apply Vinegar Mixture: Spray the vinegar mixture over the areas of the washer affected by mold. Ensure complete coverage.
Wipe Clean: Use a soft cloth or paper towel to wipe away the vinegar spray and mold spores. As a result, your washer should smell fresh and mold-free.
Bleach as a Mold Killer
While not a natural solution, bleach is highly effective against mold. Only use bleach if other methods haven’t worked, as it’s a harsh cleaner. Here’s how to make a bleach mixture:
- 1 part bleach or hydrogen peroxide
- 4 parts water
- A spray bottle
Use the same ratio as the vinegar mixture, spraying it on areas with mold patches. For severe infestations, consider running a bleach and hot water wash cycle, which serves as a cleaning cycle for the entire machine.
Lemon Juice and Bleach Combo
For larger mold infestations, a combination of bleach and lemon juice works well. This mixture not only cleans but also inhibits future mold growth.
Create the solution by mixing:
- ½ cup of bleach
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 cups of water
- A spray bottle
Spray this mixture onto essential areas of the washer and use a toothbrush to reach any nooks where mold buildup has occurred.
Lemon Juice and Vinegar Remedy
If you want a less intense solution than ammonia, consider using a combination of lemon juice and vinegar for satisfactory cleaning. For both front-loading and top-loading machines, follow these steps:
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 2 cups of water
- A spray bottle
Combine the ingredients in the spray bottle and then spray the entire interior of the washing machine. Wipe it down and ensure thorough drying. For heavily soiled machines, you may need to repeat the treatment.
How to Clean a Top-Load Washer
- Empty the Washer: Begin by ensuring there is no laundry inside the machine, and make sure there’s no detergent or fabric softener in any of the dispensers. It’s crucial to start with a clean slate.
- Ventilation: Safety is paramount. Avoid adding both bleach and vinegar simultaneously, as this could produce toxic chlorine gas, even in small amounts. If you have an exhaust fan in your laundry area, turn it on, or open windows for proper ventilation.
- Fill with Hot Water: Use the washer settings to fill the drum with hot water. Stop the process before it begins agitating. Opt for the hottest temperature setting available on your machine. Hot water is effective at dissolving detergent residues and mineral deposits.
- Add Chlorine Bleach: Carefully pour 1 quart of chlorine bleach into the hot water in the drum. Do not add any detergent at this stage. Chlorine bleach helps disinfect the washer and remove stubborn stains and odors.
- Run a Complete Wash and Spin Cycle: Allow the washer to complete its longest wash and spin cycle. This ensures it goes through a full rinse and drain. It’s crucial to make sure all bleach is thoroughly removed before proceeding.
- Fill Again with Hot Water: Once the previous cycle is complete, use the washer settings to fill the drum with hot water again, stopping it before it agitates.
- Run Another Complete Wash and Spin Cycle: Run the longest wash and spin cycle once more, allowing the washer to rinse and drain thoroughly. This step ensures that any remaining bleach or residue is completely eliminated.
How to Clean a Front-Load Washer
Front-load washing machines require special attention when it comes to cleaning. They tend to accumulate dirt and can develop unpleasant odors that can transfer to your clothes. This is often due to the build-up of mold and mildew resulting from excess detergent, fabric softener, and moisture left inside the machine. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to clean your front-load washer effectively:
1. Add Chlorine Bleach to the Dispensers:
Front-load washers come equipped with detergent dispensers. To begin the cleaning process:
- Add 1/2 cup of liquid chlorine bleach to the detergent compartment in the dispenser drawer.
- Fill the bleach dispenser compartment with chlorine bleach to its highest level.
- This step helps eliminate mold and mildew and disinfect the machine.
2. Run a Normal Cycle:
Set your washing machine to the normal cycle with warm water settings and allow it to complete the entire cycle. This will thoroughly clean the interior of the washer.
3. Wipe Seals and Door:
After the cycle is complete, use a soft, absorbent cloth to dry the area around the washer door opening, the flexible gasket, and the door glass. This step is crucial to remove any remaining mold residue that may have been killed by the bleach.
How to Clean Washer Dispensers
Most modern front-load washers have built-in dispensers for detergent, fabric softener, and bleach. These need regular cleaning to ensure they work correctly and prevent issues like excess suds or detergent residue on your clothes.
- Start by emptying the washer of any laundry.
- Heat 1 cup of white vinegar in the microwave or a small saucepan.
- Pour the heated vinegar into the detergent dispenser, allowing it to sit for a few minutes to loosen any residue. Alternatively, you can use one full cup of unheated hydrogen peroxide.
- Run the washer through a normal cycle. The vinegar will be dispensed into the wash water, helping to remove build-up before being rinsed away.
- If your dispenser is removable, you can submerge it in warm vinegar, rinse it with clear water, and then replace it. If it’s not removable, use a bottlebrush to scrub it clean.
Tips to Keep Your Clothes Washer Clean Longer
To maintain a clean front-load washer and prevent future issues, consider the following tips:
- Leave the lid of a top-load washer open after each use to allow the drum and seals to dry out, reducing the risk of mold and mildew growth.
- After washing heavily soiled clothing, wipe the drum with a nonabrasive household cleanser and rinse it thoroughly with water. Alternatively, repeat the entire cleaning cycle using chlorine bleach.
- Check for rust spots on your laundry, which may indicate chips in the washer’s finish. You can repair and repaint the porcelain coating or replace the washer basket if necessary.
- Avoid storing or placing laundry products on top of the washer, as spills can damage the finish or electronic controls.
- Run the machine’s built-in cleaning cycle every month or so when the machine is empty, or run an empty water cycle with the hottest water setting to clean the appliance.
- Always use the recommended amount of detergent according to the detergent container for your load size to prevent oversudsing, build-up in the washer, and potential damage to its parts.