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How to clean your washing machine

White sleek modern laundry room with whicker laundry baskets

Unfortunately, just because our washing machines clean our clothes, they don’t stay clean. Our washing machines can grow bacteria, mildew, and musty smells which eventually make their way to our clothing. Just like your clothes, your washing machine needs to be cleaned often. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to deep clean your top loading or front loading washing machine, and dryer. 

Basket of cleaning products on beige background

What you will need to clean your washing machine

1. Distilled vinegar:

Distilled vinegar is an awesome cleaning solution, and you probably already have some in your home. The acetic acid in vinegar naturally “can dissolve mineral deposit, dirt, grease, and grime”[3], kill bacteria, and dissolve soap scum. Using vinegar to clean your washing machine will disinfect, and kill any bacteria causing any foul or musty odors. 

Lucy's Family Owned - Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 1 Gallon (128 oz) - 5% Acidity

2. Baking soda:

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and is naturally abrasive. Use baking soda to clean your washing machine to help deodorize any odors, and gently scrub any built-up soap scum on the inside of your washing machine. 

ARM & HAMMER Pure Baking Soda 8 oz

3. Scrub brush:

For hard-to-reach places or caked-on debris or soap build-up, you can use a small scrub brush or an old toothbrush. This will come in handy when you clean the rubber gasket or door seal as it can be hard to clean in between the rubber creases. 

4. Cloth rags: 

Cloth rags always come in handy when cleaning. Keep some dry clean cloths on hand to wipe down the outside of your washing machine, wipe down the inside of your dryer, and dry out the rubber gaskets after cleaning them. 

Mrs. Meyer's Multi-Surface Cleaner Spray, Everyday Cleaning Solution for Countertops, Floors, Walls and More, Lemon Verbena, 16 fl oz Spray Bottle

5. All-purpose cleaner:

All-purpose cleaner always comes in handy. Keep an all-purpose cleaning spray on hand to clean the outside of your washing machine and the rubber gasket. 

How to clean a front loading washing machine 

Washing machine door closed running a wash cycle with soap suds on door

Step 1: Clean your detergent dispenser

Your detergent dispenser can become bogged down with soap build-up, soap scum, and fabric softener. Remove your detergent dispenser and soak it in a bucket or sink of hot water. You can use a scrub brush to gently scrub away any residue, or simply let it soak and let the hot water do the work for you. Using a scrub brush or a clean cloth with warm water, wipe down the cavity where the soap dispenser goes as there will be build-up here as well. While your detergent tray soaks, give the outside of your washing machine a good wipe down with a cloth and an all-purpose cleaning spray. After your detergent tray is clean, dry it down with a cloth before reinserting it into the cavity to prevent any mildew. 

Step 2: Run a vinegar wash cycle

The next step to giving your washing machine a deep clean is to run a hot wash cycle with vinegar. Put 1-2 cups of vinegar into your detergent dispenser and run a wash cycle with the hottest water possible. The hot water and vinegar will work to remove and prevent any bacteria from growing[2]. The vinegar will also help kill any bad smells that might give your laundry a musty unclean smell. 

Step 3: Scrub-a-dub

There is a bit of elbow grease involved when you’re cleaning your washing machine, but we’ll keep it as brief as possible! To get your washing machine sparkling clean, use a mixture of warm water and vinegar (about 1 part vinegar 3 parts water) use a sponge, cloth, scrub brush, or old toothbrush to give the inside drum, and inside the door a good scrub. 

Step 4: Cleaning the rubber gasket

Using a scrub brush or old toothbrush and your water and vinegar solution, or an all-purpose cleaner, scrub in between the crevices of the rubber gasket. Use a clean cloth to wipe down the rubber gasket and pick up any loosened grime. Follow up with a dry cloth to dry the area after cleaning

Step 5: Run a baking soda cycle

Sprinkle a 1/2 cup of baking soda in the drum of the washing machine and run a second hot wash cycle with no detergent or vinegar. Use a short hot cycle to save on wasted water. The baking soda is naturally abrasive, so it will gently scrub away any extra residue and get rid of any offensive smells. After the cycle is complete, use a clean damp towel to wipe up any residue from the drum. Run a third short hot wash cycle with no vinegar, detergent, or baking soda to make sure your washing machine is free of any chemicals before your next load of laundry. 

How to clean a top-loading washing machine 

Above view of top loading washing machine filled with clothes

Step 1: Run a vinegar wash cycle

Pour 4 cups of distilled vinegar[1] into the drum of your top-loading washing machine and a wash cycle on the hottest and highest setting. Once your washing machine is full of water with the vinegar, pause the cycle and let it sit for one hour. 

Step 2: Scrub-a-dub

As you wait for the vinegar to work its magic, take this time to give a good wipe down of your washing machine. Wipe down any soapy residue or dust on the body and lid of the washer, and button dials. You can use warm water and vinegar with a washcloth or an all-purpose cleaning solution. 

Step 3: Clean the detergent dispenser

Using an old toothbrush or scrub brush, scrub the detergent dispenser clean of any soap scum or buildup. Use hot water and vinegar to dampen your brush and get to scrubbing. Follow up with a clean cloth to wipe away any residue.

After you’ve cleaned the dispenser, resume the vinegar wash cycle and allow it to complete. 

Step 4: Run a baking soda wash cycle

Once the vinegar wash cycle is complete, run another cycle with baking soda. Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the drum of your washing machine and start a wash cycle on the hottest and highest setting. The baking soda will deodorize the washing machine while the vinegar kills bacteria and soap buildup. 

Step 5: Air it out

Once the baking soda cycle is complete, you can do a once-over with a towel to wipe down any water or residue. Leave the lid up and allow the washer to air dry to reduce the possibility of mildew. 

How to clean a dryer

Luckily dryers stay pretty clean due to the high temperatures they operate on. Though they come in contact with the moisture from your clothes, the heat of the dryer is able to kill most of the bacteria. Most, but not all, so it’s still important to give your dryer a clean every once in a while. 

To deep clean your dryer you will just need some all-purpose cleaner and a couple of rags. Make sure there are no bleach or lightening agents in your all-purpose cleaner as this could damage your clothes. 

Mans hands cleaning the lint trap in a white dryer machine

Step 1: Clean the lint trap

Did you know that almost 3000 dryer vent fires occur every year in the U.S[4]? Almost 40%[4] of these fires occur because of dryer lint build-up. So cleaning your dryer lint won’t only help your clothes to dry faster, it could save your life, or at least save you thousands of dollars in damages. Be sure to clean your dryer lint every single time you use the dryer. 

Step 2: Clean the drum 

Use an all-purpose cleaning product to spray the inside of your dryer including the door. Use a cloth to wipe it down dry and remove any dust or debris. 

Step 3: Clean the exterior

The last step is to just make it look good! Use an all-purpose cleaning spray and cloth to wipe down the exterior of the dryer to make it look brand new. 

Article Sources: 

  1. Architectural Digest. “How to Clean a Washing Machine So It Runs Like New
  2. Better Homes & Gardens. “How to Clean Your Washing Machine for Fresh Clothes and Linens
  3. Healthline. “Vinegar: The Multipurpose, Chemical-Free Household Cleaner You Should Know About
  4. Paul Davis. “Dryer Lint is a Bigger Fire Hazard Than You Think

Related: Why Does My Washing Machine Smell