How To Clean A Washing Machine: Step-By-Step Guide

Someone Cleaning Font-Loading Washing Machine

Are you curious about the best way to clean your washing machine? It’s not something we think about often, but deep cleaning your washing machine and performing routine washer and dryer maintenance can help make your machine more efficient and even prevent fires. Learn how to keep this key appliance clean and danger-free.

The inside of your washing machine has to be one of the cleanest spots in your home, right? It’s one of the few appliances that requires soap with every use. However, any dark, warm, and moist environment can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew. And while a lot of the dirt and grime from your clothes goes down the drain, sediment and soap scum can remain, making the ick-factor pretty high. 

Things That Can Cause Mildew and Buildup

Too much detergent.  Extra detergent is often thought to be the best washing machine cleaner. But that’s unfortunately not true. If you are used to dumping a lot of detergent into your washer out of habit—or thinking that your clothes will get cleaner with more soap—you’re likely using too much.

Modern laundry machines are crafted to conserve water. So, with the reduced amount of water, the detergent may not break down entirely, leaving a coating of soap on the tub and possibly damaging your machine. You should always follow the washer manufacturer’s instructions on the type and amount of detergent to use.

Leaving wet clothes in the washer for too long. We’ve all been guilty of coming home from a long day, starting a load of laundry, then falling asleep on the couch, only to wake up in the morning to smelly clothes that have to go through the cycle again. If it’s a frequent habit, you may accidentally be welcoming mold and mildew growth.

The best practice is to move wet clothes from the washer and into the dryer as soon as the wash cycle is complete. Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you. 

Damp washcloths and towels. They should always be hung up to dry before being placed in a clothes hamper. The same goes for wet clothes and bathing suits.

If you’ve started to notice a musty smell in clean clothes after washing and drying, it’s time to act. Here are some tips on how to clean a washing machine.  

Top- and Front-Load Washing Machines

Fortunately, the ingredients for a sparkling washing machine may already be in your home. For example, you can clean a washing machine with vinegar. To clean top- and front-load washers, you will need:

  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda (front-loader only)
  • Bleach (top-loader only)
  • Sponge
  • Clean Cloth

How to Clean a Front-Loading Washing Machine

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If you have a front-load washing machine, you’re in luck. These models are the easiest to clean. A great front-load washer cleaner is simply vinegar and baking soda.

1.     Set the washer to the hottest, longest setting.

2.     Add two cups of vinegar.

3.     Add one-quarter cup of baking soda.

4.     Start the wash cycle and let it run until it’s complete.

5.     When complete, wipe down the inside and outside surfaces with a damp sponge. Pay special attention to the gasket (rubber seal) that wraps around the front since that can get gunky pretty quickly. 

6.     Dry all the surfaces with a clean, dry cloth.

How to Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine

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Cleaning a top-loader washing machine is a little more involved than cleaning a front-loader laundry machine.

1.     Set the washer to the hottest, longest setting.

2.     Add four cups of bleach.

3.     Let the washer fill completely, then stop it, and let it soak for a full hour.

4.     Turn it back on after an hour, and let it complete the entire wash cycle.

5.     Now, start it again, on the hottest, longest setting.

6.     Add four cups of vinegar.

7.     Let the washer fill completely, stop it, and let it soak for an hour.

8.     At the end of an hour, take a sponge and dip it in the vinegar water from the tub.

9.     Use the sponge to clean all the exposed surfaces, including the detergent or softener basket and the lip of the tub.

10.  Now start the laundry machine again, and let it run through the complete wash cycle.

11.  When complete, dry the interior with a clean, dry cloth.

It’s best to clean your machine once a month to help efficiency and get fresh-smelling clothes every time.

You depend on your laundry appliances to keep your life moving smoothly. An American Home Shield® washing machine warranty can help you avoid the headache of paying to repair or replace it if it breaks down due to a covered issue. We cover parts and components of 23 key systems and appliances. Check out all of our home warranty plans to find the best coverage for your household.

If you liked this DIY article on how to clean your washing machine, check out our other helpful tips like how to spot common washer and dryer problems and how to drain water out of your washer machine.

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Please be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions and ensure your project complies with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations. 

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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