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3 Ways to Clean Your Washing Machine [+1 Bonus!]

by Ann Ferguson

Does your washer smell odd? Are your clothes not coming out as clean as usual? A dirty washer is the most likely culprit. Without regular cleaning and maintenance, soap residue and the minerals used in detergents build up in the machine over time, which causes inefficient cleaning.

And if you don't let the inside of your washer dry out after every wash, you also run the risk of mold and mildew growth on your machine (yuck!). But with regular cleaning, you can keep your laundry machine in tip-top shape!

Method 1: Top-Load

Top view of open top-load washer

If you have a top-load washer, you'll need to clean it about twice a year (or every three months if you have hard water). With this simple method, all you need is a bleach and vinegar. Bleach will kill off any lingering bacteria, while vinegar cuts through residue, buildup, and hard water stains.

  1. Set your washer to the hottest and largest setting and start the cycle.
  2. Add 1 quart of bleach to the water and let the water agitate for a minute so that it mixes well.
  3. Lift the machine's lid and let it sit, full of bleach, for an hour.
  4. After the hour, close the cover and let it run an entire cycle.
  5. When the cycle finishes, repeat steps 1-4 with 1 quart of white vinegar (if there is loosened buildup, try adding ½ cup of baking soda to the drum).
  6. Once the vinegar cycle completes, spray the gaskets, dispensers, and exterior of the machine with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar.
  7. Wipe down everything with a clean cloth

Don’t use bleach if you have a stainless steel drum or pipes; instead, you can just run the vinegar cycle twice.

Pro Tip: If you have a high-efficiently top load washer, you'll need to clean it once a month since it uses less water.

Method 2: Front Load

Mold and mildew growth around door seal

Front-load washers are more prone to bad smells because it is too easy for the water to pool in tight spaces and grow mildew or mold. Typically, the gasket or rubber seal around the door is the smelly culprit, but cleaning the whole machine is always good.

  1. Using the hottest and largest load settings, run a cycle with a cleaner solution (like bleach, vinegar, or washer cleaner).
  2. Clean and soak detergent trays, drawers, and removable parts.
  3. Wipe down the outside.
  4. After the cleaning cycle finishes, scrub the door gasket with an old toothbrush and wipe it down with a choice of vinegar or bleach.
  5. Clean the filter carefully.
  6. Get a soft microfiber cloth and use it to wipe the inside of the tub and door.
  7. Leave the door open to make sure everything dries completely (no more smells!).

Method 3: Top Load

Another way to clean your top-load washer is by using peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is great for dealing with mildew and the bad smells associated with it. But before you add it, your washer needs to be dry and empty. Then after setting the cycle to the clean setting (or the hottest water setting), add 2 cups of hydrogen peroxide to the tub and run the washer.

When it's done, just make sure to wipe down the outside of the machine.

Method 4: Front Load

Someone spraying and wiping down front load washer

If your front-load washer is particularly smelly, this method might do the trick. You'll need liquid chlorine bleach, distilled white vinegar, and microfiber cloth.

  1. Put ½ cup of liquid chlorine bleach into the detergent compartment, then fill the bleach dispenser to the highest level.
  2. Run a normal cycle at the hottest setting.
  3. When done, spray around the door with distilled white vinegar (or diluted bleach solution). Make sure to get the gasket as well.
  4. Let it sit for one minute before wiping it clean with a microfiber cloth.

Be sure to run a rinse cycle after the bleach cycle is done to get rid of any bleach residue, so it doesn’t transfer to your clothes.

Pro Tip: If you have a stainless steel drum or pipes, use hydrogen peroxide instead to avoid corrosion!

Washer Care Tips

Clean dispensers

Routine maintenance is essential for any appliance, but it's especially true for your washer since it can grow mold and mildew. But with these tips, you can minimize the cleanup job:

  • To prevent mold and mildew growth, leave the washer door open a few hours after each wash to let out the moisture (do this for top-load AND front-load washers!).
  • After washing heavily soiled clothes, wipe the drum with a non-abrasive cleaner and rinse with water. You can also repeat a cleaning cycle with chlorine bleach after taking out your clothes.
  • If your laundry has little brown spots, then your washer has rust. You can either get a repair kit and repaint or replace the washer basket.
  • Regularly clean out dispensers with 1 warmed cup of white vinegar and let it sit a few minutes before starting a normal cycle. You can also use 1 full cup of unheated hydrogen peroxide instead.

Pro Tip: If your dispensers are removable, submerge them in warm vinegar and rinse with clean water.

Laundry Upgrade

Having a clean washer makes doing the laundry much easier since you don't have to keep re-washing the same clothes or worry about removing random stains from the washer. But if your current laundry appliances aren't providing the results you need, no matter how much you clean them, it's time to find an upgrade at Westco Home Furnishings!

Have any questions? Give our team a call or stop by in person! We'll help you make your laundry day more efficient.