Though it might sound absurd that a washing machine designed to clean everything from clothes to baby bottles needs cleaning itself, it makes complete sense. If you think about it, a multitude of undesirable leftovers can—and will—build up inside your machine. The first culprits that come to mind are the dirt and grime from your soiled clothes, which can accumulate over time. But there are others like leftover detergent, hard water mineral deposits, mold, and mildew—none of which should really be in there. You know that funky odor that sometimes follows your laundry as you transfer it to the dryer? That’s what not cleaning your machine can lead to.
Here’s exactly how to clean your washing machine.
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1. Run an Empty Cycle (or Three)
There are two schools of cleaning methods when it comes cleaning your washing machine: bleach and vinegar. If you’re a fan of bleach in the laundry sphere, you’re in luck because it might just be the hardest-working product for sanitizing. If you want to avoid bleach and its harsh chemicals, though, white vinegar is a good alternative with powerful deodorizing and bacteria-killing properties.
Whichever one you pick, the instructions remain the same. Add two cups of liquid bleach or white vinegar to the detergent dispenser and run an empty cycle with hot water. For those who want a double-duty clean, complete one empty cycle with bleach and a second empty cycle with vinegar. Follow this up with a third empty cycle using a cup of baking soda, which can help neutralize any remaining bleach or vinegar and eliminate any persistent buildup. If you use your washing machine frequently, you should go through this routine monthly.
2. Scrub the Gasket
For front-loading washing machines, cleaning the gasket or rubber seal around the door is pivotal. Moisture gets trapped in this area, which means mold and mildew love to live there. Be sure to wipe it down after each load to keep it dry. If your gasket is as icky as we imagine (we’ve been there), dampen a rag, microfiber towel, or even a nylon brush with diluted bleach or white vinegar and scrub, scrub, scrub. Also, leave the door open for an hour or two after cleaning and each laundry cycle so the gasket dries out.
3. Remove and Clean Trays
Any removable trays or wells, like those for fabric softener and bleach, should be taken out and cleaned in the sink because buildup can occur in these spots, too. Before returning the trays, clean their slots as well. Aim to do this once each season.
4. Wipe Down the Exterior
Using your favorite all-purpose cleaner, give the exterior of your washing machine a good once-over. Dust and detergent spills that gather on the outside of the machine have a sneaky way of making their way inside during laundry day, so it’s better to keep the surface spotless.
5. Dry the Interior
Once your cleaning endeavor is complete, wipe down the interior of the machine with a dry cloth to make sure all the moisture and scum is completely gone. If it remains damp and dirty in there, all your work was for naught.
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