How to clean any type of washing machine
You might think that washing machines don’t need any cleaning because they’re the ones doing the cleaning. But even your washing machine needs a good deep cleaning on a regular basis to keep functioning effectively.
Table of contentsWhen is it time to clean your washing machine?Top-loading machines vs. side-loading machinesWhat you’ll needHow to clean a top-loading washing machine in 8 easy stepsHow to clean a side-loading washing machine in 6 easy stepsWhen to use bleach
Cleaning your washing machine is as easy as putting in a load of laundry—with a few extra steps to wipe down the machine and its components. Common household items, like baking soda and vinegar, can help break down any soap scum or deposits left from hard water or detergents.
The process for cleaning top loaders and front loaders is slightly different because of their door types, so determine which type you have before you choose a cleaning method.
When is it time to clean your washing machine?
Aim to clean your washing machine about once a month to keep if functioning well and getting your clothes as clean as possible. Clean it more often (every 2 weeks) if you live in a hot or humid climate where it’s easy for mildew to build up, if you have hard water which can leave behind mineral deposits, or if you are frequently laundering extra dirty clothes like cloth baby diapers or outdoor work clothes.
If you notice detergent spots on your clothes after you do a load of laundry, any bad smells on your clean clothes or coming from the machine, immediately give the washing machine a clean.
Top-loading machines vs. side-loading machines
The main difference between top- and side-loading washing machines is the way each machine opens. A top-loading washer open from the top which means that the water will not rush out when you open the door. A side loading washer door swings open (like a regular door), which means that the water would rush out if you were to open it mid-cycle. For this reason, the cleaning process differs slightly for each type.
Another difference between the two types of machines is where the detergent goes. Most top loaders will have built in detergent and fabric softener wells, or no wells at all (if you’re to pour detergent directly into the machine). For top loaders, pour warm vinegar into the wells to clean. Most side loaders will have removable wells. Take these out to clean with warm vinegar.
Side-loading machines also have a wide rubber seal that prevents any water from leaking out during the wash cycle. It’s easy for lint, soap, and hair to get caught or collect in the seal. Pay extra attention to cleaning this area if you have a side loading washer.
What you’ll need
1 quart white vinegar
1 cup baking soda
Vinegar cleaning solution
Warm white vinegar
How to clean a top-loading washing machine in 8 easy steps
With the lid open, start a wash cycle on the hottest setting and allow the machine to fill completely with water.
Add in 1 quart vinegar directly to the hot water.
Close the lid for one minute to allow the vinegar to agitate.
Open the lid to pause the cycle and let the vinegar and water sit for one hour.
While you wait, clean the exterior of the machine with a vinegar cleaning solution and a cleaning cloth. Clean the detergent wells with warm vinegar.
Close the lid and let the cycle complete.
Once the cleaning cycle is complete, repeat steps 1 through 6 with 1 cup of baking soda instead of vinegar.
When you’ve completed the process with baking soda, wipe down the inside of the washer with a vinegar cleaning solution.
How to clean a side-loading washing machine in 6 easy steps
Add as much of the quart of vinegar to the detergent, bleach, and fabric softener wells as your machine will hold. Add any remaining vinegar directly to the inside of the washing machine.
Start a cycle on the longest and hottest setting.
While you wait, clean the exterior of the machine and the machine door and glass with a vinegar cleaning solution and a cleaning cloth. Take out the detergent wells and clean them with warm vinegar.
Once the cleaning cycle is complete, repeat with 1 cup of baking soda instead of vinegar adding the baking soda directly to the inside of the machine.
When you’ve completed the process with baking soda, wipe down the inside of the washer with a vinegar cleaning solution. Leave the door ajar to allow it to dry out completely and prevent any mildew from forming.
Clean rubber gasket with vinegar and a cleaning cloth or old toothbrush. Wipe in between any folds in the rubber. If you see mold or mildew in the gasket, use the bleach method below.
When to use bleach
Note: It is very important to never mix bleach and vinegar as they can create a harmful gas when combined. A bleach cycle may be necessary if you:
See mildew or mold growing in the rubber gasket.
Still smell odors after cleaning with vinegar and baking soda.
Follow the same cleaning process above (based on what type of washer you have) using 1 quart chlorine bleach instead of vinegar. Then follow the steps with vinegar and baking soda as usual.
You can also purchase a washing machine cleaner made specifically to sanitize your machine or use 1 cup powdered oxygen bleach the same way you use the baking soda in the cleaning method above.
After you’ve finished cleaning your machine, do a load of laundry and take note of how fresh and clean your machine smells! To help make deep cleaning easier in the future, keep containers of baking soda and vinegar near your laundry detergent as a visual reminder to run a cleaning cycle about once a month, or put up a chore calendar in your laundry room marked with all of your deep cleaning routines.
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