Cleaning your washing machine is important to keep your washing machine smelling fresh and guaranteeing your clothes coming out clean. Learn how to clean a washing machine.
My washing machine is the last thing on my long list of things to clean. I don’t usually remember to clean it in a timely manner. Unfortunately, it many times comes down to my washing machine smelling a bit funky before I remember to clean it. Thankfully it is a very simple process.
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I’ve created a free cheat sheet to help you clean your washing machine at home. You can download it below.
What Causes the Smell?
If you have a very smelly load of laundry that could cause a lingering smell. However, most of the smells that we encounter with our washers are typically caused by either mold or mildew. It is easy to distinguish the difference as if the smell is from a smelly load the smell with diminishing within a load or two but, if it is due to mold or mildew, the smell will continue to get stronger the longer it hangs around.
Reasons Your Washer May Smell Bad
There are a few different reasons as to why your washing machine smells.
The design of your washing machine may be contributing to the smelliness. If you have an HE machine, it is designed to hold water in some areas which can make the machine smell.
Hard water causes build up on many of the components of the machine which can also contribute to the smell. Not only that but, your water flow and possibly pressure won’t be the same either.
It is very important that your washer is able to dry out completely between uses. When your washer sits in a constant state of dampness it will start to take on a musty or moldy smell.
How to Clean Your Washing Machine
Depending on what type of machine you have, there are certain ways to clean it that would work better than other ways. Whether you have a top loading washing machine or a front loader machine, you have the option to use natural cleaners or commercial cleaners. If you are unsure of how to clean your machine, your instruction manual should tell you.
Natural Ways to Clean Your Washing Machine
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Vinegar and Baking Soda
Simple white vinegar and baking soda will do the trick. White vinegar has a natural disinfectant property to it so it will help to kill the germs or bacteria causing the smell. Another added bonus to the vinegar is the acidic properties of it will dissolve a good portion of the build-up that is within the washer. The baking soda will help to neutralize the smell and will aid in the cleaning of any soap scum build up.
- Set your washer to the largest load and the hottest water.
- Add 3 or 4 cups of white vinegar to the wash basin
- Let the machine agitate for a minute or so to mix the vinegar with the water
- Next, add about a half of a cup of baking soda to the machine
- Let the water mix for another minute
- Stop the machine and let it ‘soak’ for a minimum of 30 minutes but an hour is better
- After the baking soda and vinegar solution has soaked for a while, dip a cloth or rag in the mixture and wipe down the outside of the machine, fabric softener or bleach area, and the knobs
- Once your 30 minutes to an hour is up, restart the washing machine and allow it to finish the cycle until right before it is going to drain. To get all of the residues out run another hot wash cycle with just the water
Front Loading Machines:
Before you start any sort of cleaning on the inside of the machine, it is important to clean the rubber gaskets at the front of the machine. These gaskets are fantastic traps for hair and a very commonplace for mildew to grow.
How to Clean the Gasket
Spray full strength vinegar on the gaskets and wipe down with a cloth. Applying baking soda to your cloth before wiping your gaskets down with giving you a more thorough clean. If the gaskets have mold on them I suggest following the vinegar and baking soda mix with peroxide as that will kill the mold.
- Now that the gaskets are clean, wipe the door down before you start the rest of the cleaning process.
- Inside of the drum sprinkle ⅓ of a cup of baking soda to fight odors
- In your detergent dispenser put about 2 cups of vinegar
- Set your machine for it’s cleaning cycle
- After the cleaning cycle is finished you are done
There are several commercial cleaners on the market for both top loading and front loading machines. They can be bought at your local grocery store or online.
- Each commercial cleaner will come with its own specific set of instructions.
- Making sure to wipe down the inside top of your washing machine and clean out the bleach/fabric softener spot of your machine (if you have a top loading machine) or, clean all of your gaskets (if you have a front loading machine).
How Often do I Need to Clean my Washing Machine?
Frequent cleanings are very important when it comes to keeping your machine from getting stinky. It is typically recommended to clean your washing machine at least monthly.
Promptly removing wet clothes from your washer will help immensely to minimize the chance of getting a stinky washer.
When to Avoid Bleach
Bleach is one of the best ways to kill germs and bacteria but, if you have a septic system it is best to avoid using bleach as much as possible. Since bleach will naturally kill bacteria, it will kill the naturally occurring good bacteria found in septic systems. With these bacteria being killed off they will no longer be present to break down things as they naturally would which can cause big issues in the septic system.
Keep the Lid or Door Open
It may not be the most pleasing site to see but, keeping the door or lid open on your washer after using it will allow it to completely dry out.
The Smell Transfers
If your clothes are coming out of your washer with a less than pleasant smell, there is a pretty good chance that your washer needs to be cleaned.
It is very easy to forget about cleaning your washing machine but, ideally, it would be worked into your routine cleaning schedule to keep your machine running at its absolute best. It will also keep your laundry room and clothes from having a bit of a funky smell. While it is easy to forget about it is thankfully a simple process and can be done as soon as you remember.