Your Complete Guide to Cleaning Your Washing Machine (Because Yes, You Need To)

how to clean washing machine - robin's egg blue laundry room

Design: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Sara Tramp

Your washing machine is one of the hardest working appliances in your house, but when was the last time you cleaned it? If the answer is "never," it's time to bust out your cleaning supplies and head to the laundry room. While you may think laundry detergent keeps the machine itself clean, the reality is that those soaps actually build up in your washer over time, reducing your appliance's effectiveness, and nobody wants that.

If you run your washer daily, you should clean it at least weekly or biweekly to keep it working well. The good news is that this is a fairly simple chore that you can do without too much elbow grease. Here's what you need to get started.

Supplies You'll Need to Clean a Washing Machine

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • A cloth
  • All-purpose cleaner

See? Painless enough. Read on to get your washer sparkling clean before laundry day.

Fill the Washer

First, start your washer as if you're doing a standard load. Select the highest load setting and the hottest water setting. No need to worry about special settings here, just make sure you're filling the washer with the hottest and largest amount of water.

If you smell rotten eggs or a moldy smell when taking clean clothes out of the washer, it's a pretty good sign you need to clean your machine.

Add the Vinegar

Once your machine is full of hot water, open the lid and add a quart of vinegar. While you can opt for bleach here, vinegar is a safer, natural solution that will eliminate grime just as effectively.

Close the lid and let the washer run for about one to two minutes more before opening the lid to stop the cycle.

Let It Sit

After about a minute or two, lift the lid. Let the vinegar and water sit in your washing machine for roughly an hour. If you have a really dirty machine, consider letting it soak even longer. After an hour or so, close close the lid and let the cycle complete and drain.

Now is a great time to organize your laundry room. It may be one of the last rooms in your house you think about, but a tidy laundry room can make that daily task a little less taxing.

Clean All the Extra Parts

While the water is sitting and the vinegar is doing its thing, now is a great time to wipe down the top and outside of your washer, including the lid and knobs. A great all-purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth should do the job, but if you have really stuck-on grime you may need something a little more heavy duty.

Run Once More

After you've completed the first cycle with vinegar, fill the washer with hot water again. This time, use a cup of baking soda instead of vinegar. Not only will this help kill that vinegar smell left behind, but it does wonders breaking up any lingering residue and removing dirt left behind.

This time you don't need to let the water sit. Just run the cycle on hot as normal and let it drain fully.

Wipe Down the Sides

While the machine is running, focus on wiping down the outside of the washer, including the lid and the sides. A microfiber cloth works well for most jobs, but a toothbrush can be handy for getting into cracks and under your machine.

Alternately, spend this time tackling another one of those chores on your list (a quick bathroom clean, perhaps?).

After the machine is done with your final cycle, keep the lid open to fully dry out. You can even use a rag and vinegar to wipe the barrel down one final time.

Scrub the Seal

After the final cycle is completed, make sure to use a rag with a touch of vinegar to clean down the machine's rubber seal. Wipe down all the nooks and crannies and make sure you dry it well to avoid any lingering mildew smell.

Keep Your Machine Clean

Now that you've given your washing machine a deep clean, it's a good idea to make a habit of doing so regularly. Wiping out the rubber seal and running vinegar and baking soda through your machine regularly will keep it in the best condition possible.

Additionally, make sure to never overload your machine or use more detergent than needed. These extra steps can keep your appliance in great shape and ensure your clothes never come out of the washing machine with that mildew smell we all know.

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