How to effectively clean your washing machine according to the experts

Find out how to clean your washing machine from the inside out, safely and easily, with this step-by-step guide designed by experts.

When you think about deep cleaning your home, it's unlikely that you'll think about washing the that are used to clean. Take your washing machine, for example: when was the last time you cleaned it? You're not alone in thinking that the machine cleans itself with each use. But that's not really the case. Yes, washing machines can get dirty, even moldy, and chances are yours needs a good cleaning.

Washing machines are not self-cleaning

“Many people think that washing machines are self-cleaning. On the one hand, they rinse after each use, but on the other, what's left is soap scum, dirt, bacteria and hard water deposits,” says Melissa Maker, host of the YouTube channel Clean My Space. “All the stuff that comes off your clothes – most of it comes off when you rinse, but there's even residue that gets stuck.”

Ready to start cleaning? Follow this step-by-step guide from the cleaning experts on how to clean a washing machine.

Step 1: Check your machine's operating instructions

Depending on the brand of your appliance or whether it is a front-loading or top-loading washing machine, there may be specific care instructions.

So before you start cleaning, read the manual and find out what you should and should not do. If you have misplaced the manual, Maker advises you to search for the make and model of your washing machine on the Internet to view the manual online.

Step 2: Clean the drawer with soap and water

To clean a washing machine, start by scrubbing the drawer where you put your detergent and fabric softener. According to Cyrus Bedwyr, an appliance cleaning expert at Fantastic Services in London, keeping the detergent drawer clean helps “prevent it from clogging with old detergent.”

All you need is hot soapy water and a sponge to completely transform this part of your washing machine. Clean it once a month, and Cyrus Bedwy says you'll have “no problems with mold and scale.

Step 3: If your machine has one, clean the filter of any debris

You'd be surprised what can get stuck in your washing machine's filter, if it has one. That's why Cyrus Bedwy recommends “checking the filter for coins or anything else left in the pockets.

Removing these unwanted items can prevent a blockage and save you from calling a repairman.

Step 4: Check your pipes

Without properly functioning pipes, your washing machine will stop working. And a hole in a hose could cause a flood in your home. As part of the cleaning process, Bedwyr recommends inspecting your hoses for proper attachment and no holes.

Step 5: Run your washing machine with vinegar and baking soda

According to Bedwyr, bacteria and soap scum most often accumulate on the drum and rubber seal of the washing machine. Fortunately, you can easily clean these areas with two products you probably already have at home: white vinegar and .

Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, previously told Best Life that a natural way to clean your washing machine is to mix ¼ cup of baking soda with ¼ cup of water and pour that mixture into the detergent dispenser. Then, add four cups of white vinegar directly into the drum.

“The vinegar dissolves detergent and hard water residue and allows the machine to rinse clean,” he explains.

Run your washing machine on the normal cycle at the highest temperature with nothing in it. Try to do this at least every three months to clean the drum and hoses, Bedwyr says.

If vinegar is too strong for you, Maker says there are special washing machine cleaners on the market designed for this purpose. “Either one will work,” she says.

Step 6: Remove remaining debris with alcohol

If you think your machine's drum needs extra cleaning after running a full cycle with vinegar, try rubbing it with rubbing alcohol.

Abe Navas, general manager of Emily's Maids in Dallas, notes that this solvent “will remove any residue that may have formed.”

Be sure not to use soap instead, as it could affect future laundry loads.

Step 7: Clean the outside of the machine

The outside of your washing machine is much less sensitive than the inside. Therefore, Abe Navas says you can simply use hot water, a brush and dishwasher soap to “clean everything on the outside.”

Just be careful when cleaning the back of your washing machine, because that's where all the cables are.

Step 8: Leave your washing machine door open

Get into the habit of leaving the washing machine door open not only after cleaning it, but also after each use. “If you keep the door closed, then you'll have a lot more mold inside your machine,” Maker explains.

Letting your machine dry after each use will prevent buildup and make future cleanings easier.

Can bleach be used to clean a washing machine?

You may be wondering whether it is better to use white vinegar or bleach to clean a washing machine. This is really a matter of personal preference, as bleach is a powerful cleaner that can cause respiratory problems if not used properly. If you choose to use bleach, it is best to wear a mask and gloves.

According to Clorox, their classic disinfectant bleach “is specially formulated with sodium hypochlorite, cleaning agents and corrosion inhibitors to make cleaning easy and effective.”

The company's instructions say to fill your machine's bleach dispenser to the maximum line with the product. Again, choose the highest temperature setting, as well as “extra rinse”. (If you don't have this setting, you can simply run a second cycle).

Once these two cycles are complete, repeat these steps as many times as necessary to make sure all the bleach has been rinsed away. Clorox recommends doing this once a month, but no more than once a week.

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