Quick and Dirty Tips
Quick and Dirty Tips
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  • New York, NY

How to Clean a Washing Machine

Why would a washing machine need to be cleaned? After all, it’s getting a good wash each time a load is washed, right?
Not so!
Go to your washing machine and stick your nose inside - does it smell like fresh flowers? If so, you’re in luck and don’t need to clean yours. But if it smells musty, dank, or like a teenage boy’s foot, then, you need to clean your washer ASAP.
Here are the 3 steps to getting (and keeping) your washing machine fresh and clean.
how to clean a washing machine, appliances, cleaning tips, how to, laundry rooms
Step Clean the Seals
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that smell coming from your washing machine has a nasty source and it’s likely mold and mildew. Front load washers are built with lots of rubber around the door to prevent water from seeping out. The problem is that those seals create spaces for soapy water to gather, and if it can’t dry out completely, it’s the perfect breeding ground for mold.
The first step to cleaning a washing machine is to get rid of the mold. To do this, all you need are a couple rags and a spray bottle with one part bleach and 10 parts water. Open your washer door and start feeling around the big rubber seal surrounding the door. You may be able to flip it inside out, or you may just need to curl your rag-covered fingers into the pockets it creates. I would recommend making sure that you have a rag covering your fingertips when you do this, because there’s a good chance that your fingertips are going to meet a patch of slimy mold, and you’ll be less likely to scream like a little girl at the grossness if your fingers are protected.
Check out this link to learn how to use hydrogen peroxide to clean your home:
Once you figure out how to get behind that seal, it’s time to clean it. First, wipe all the way around the seal with a dry rag. If any mold or mildew comes off on your rag, continue to wipe until your rag comes out clean. Then, take your spray bottle and carefully spray behind the seal. If you aren’t able to easily spray the seal, saturate your rag and wipe around the seal. Finally, take a dry rag and wipe it again. I’m not a huge proponent of using bleach, but for this case I do recommend it. You can also try using hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar. If the mildew problem isn’t bad, they may do the trick. If they don’t though, bleach is going to be the cheapest, most effective option.
Photo via @englishinvader on Flickr
Photo via @englishinvader on Flickr
Step Clean the Washing Machine Basin and Hoses
If you have mold and mildew growing behind the seal of your washer, there’s a good chance it’s growing somewhere else in your washer too. To clean the entire washer, you can buy a fancy, expensive washing machine cleaner product, or you can again turn to your jug of bleach. If you choose to use bleach, make sure your washer is completely empty (don’t want to chance bleaching a stray shirt!).
Then pour a cup of bleach into the detergent compartment, and set your washer to run a long cycle (typically the sanitary setting, or choose a long time), with hot water, and an extra rinse cycle. If there is still a strong bleach smell when that cycle completes, you can run another empty cycle with hot water to rinse it out again. By the time the bleach and hot water are done, that mold won’t know what hit it!
Step Keep Mold at Bay
Once you have the washer clean and smelling fresh again, it’s very easy to keep it that way by simply keeping the door open after the wash is complete. Many front load washers are so well-sealed that they aren’t able to air out with a closed door like top loaders. The door doesn’t need to be left wide open, just not latched. This will give it enough airflow to keep the mold from coming back, but it won’t be open enough to be noticeable.
Photo via Theen Moy  on Flickr
Photo via Theen Moy on Flickr
Cleaning a washing machine is fairly simple, and well worth your time if you have a smelly washing machine. The whole process takes about 10 minutes of hands-on work, and a couple of hours running wash cycles. That’s less time than it takes to call your friend and complain about the funky smell coming from the washer, so grab some rags, a jug of bleach, and get rid of the stench today!
Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at DomesticCEO@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Domestic CEO Facebook wall.
Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.
This post was originally published at http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/house-home/housekeeping/how-to-clean-a-washing-machine.
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Have a question about this project?

2 questions
  • Edw3291915
    on Aug 26, 2016

    The out water hoses was filled gunk, removed the hose and manually fed hose down to push most out could we have used any liquid, bleach, baking soda? We are thinking this is the washer is not spinning the clothes sufficiently? Thanks

  • Diane
    on Feb 2, 2017

    Can you just wet a rag and add bleach cause I do this for seal. Why dilute it? I have never had problem with this way.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Feb 5, 2017

      It might dry out the seal and cause it to crack. If it's never been a problem in the past r you, i'd keep doing what your doing

Join the conversation

3 of 17 comments
  • Lori Black
    on Aug 7, 2016

    I heard that hot water negates bleach's power. So...

    • Neva Dew
      on Aug 8, 2016

      Best advice of all: do away with the HE washers. I fail to see why it is a good thing - isn't the idea to save water? - if I have to run 2 cycles to wash and rinse the stupid thing every 30 loads (according to the book.) That negates any water savings I may have gained. And I don't think they clean as well either. Also, I washed a load and DH's jacket came out with a dry spot on the sleeve!!!!! How can it get clean if it doesn't touch water or detergent? Just saying..........

  • Jackie Whisenant
    on Sep 5, 2017

    I have a front load washing machine and leave the door open, so now the door is about to fall off and I can't find a way to tighten it. I have ran regular washer cleaner, bleach and vinegar through the washer. I agree, I will not own another front load washer.
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