If you are like a lot of people, cleaning your smelly washing machine is not high on your list of regular chores. However, despite its intended function, your washing machine is not typically a clean appliance. In fact, soap residue and mineral deposits from detergents often build up in washing machines, preventing it from getting your clothes completely clean.
This build-up can be a little different depending on whether you have a top-loading or a front-loading machine. If you feel like your garments and whites are just not as fresh as they used to be, or if it has been a very long time since you have cleaned your appliance, these are the steps you should follow to get your washing machine back in good shape.
How to Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine
Before you begin the cleaning process, you will need just a few materials, including:
- Bleach or white vinegar
- Baking soda
- Microfiber cloth
The process for a top-loading washing machine is quite simple:
1. Set your washing machine to the highest load size, the hottest water temperature and the longest wash cycle.
2. As the water begins to fill the washer tub, open the lid.
3. Add a quart of either bleach or white vinegar to the water. Bleach is a disinfectant that will treat the water and the machine, but vinegar will do an equally good job without the bleach toxins. If you are concerned about bleach lingering and affecting your laundry later, you can either run an extra load of just water after the cleaning cycle or stick to the vinegar.
4. In addition to the bleach or vinegar, add a cup of baking soda to the water.
5. Close the lid of the washing machine and allow it to agitate and to mix the water for about a minute.
6. Open the lid of the machine again, stopping the water movement.
7. Allow the water, bleach/vinegar and baking soda mixture to sit and soak in the washer tub for about an hour.
8. While the water is sitting, take the time to detach any removable parts for further cleaning. Try soaking these in the mixture as well.
9. Clean all the nooks where soap could have gathered with your toothbrush. Do not forget to clean the upper part of the agitator, under the lid and around the rim of the tub.
10. If you have more time, clean the front and sides of the machine with the microfiber cloth, but keep the lid open.
11. Once about an hour of soaking time has passed, close the lid of the washing machine. The rest of the cycle can continue at this point.
12. This is a good time to finish cleaning the exterior of the machine, such as the top, the dials and the console. Use a vinegar and baking soda solution for these areas as well.
13. Run your machine one more time with hot water and a quart of vinegar to completely clean away any loosened gunk and residue that was not flushed out in the first cycle.
14. Once both cycles are finished, wipe down the inside of the tub thoroughly with that vinegar solution to completely remove leftover residue.
15. To lengthen the time between cleaning sessions, consider leaving your washer lid open in between your normal clothes-washing activities. This will allow the machine to dry out, and you will have fewer issues with mildew.
How to Clean a Front-Loading Washing Machine
A front-loading washing machine is a different kind of beast than a top-loading one, so it requires a slightly different cleaning process. These machines are more likely to have the door fall closed and are more prone to mildew. However, the cleaning supplies are very similar:
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- Scrubbing sponge
- Microfiber cloth
If you have a front-loading machine, try these simple steps to get your washing machine sparkling clean:
1. Begin with all the doors, drawers and trays that you can open and possibly remove. Soak the removable pieces in a solution of white vinegar and baking soda, rinse them thoroughly and replace them in the machine. Pieces that cannot be removed can be cleaned carefully with a scrubbing sponge or even with a toothbrush to get into all the cracks and crevices.
2. Replace all the important pieces before running the cleaning cycle.
3. Run your washing machine on the hottest water and largest load settings to fill the entire tub with water.
4. Depending on the style of washer and the entry point for your detergent, properly add one-fourth cup of white vinegar and one-fourth cup baking soda to the wash cycle.
5. Once the cycle has begun and the tub appears to be full, pause the machine so that the water sits inside. Leave the cycle paused for about an hour.
6. While the water is sitting in the washing machine, take the time to begin wiping down the surfaces, such as the top and the sides. Use a microfiber cloth dipped in vinegar water for the best residue-loosening effects.
7. After about an hour has passed, restart the cycle and let it run.
8. Once the entire cycle has been completed and all the water has drained from the machine, you need to tackle the rubber seal around the door. This is the place that front-loading washing machines attract grime and mildew more than anywhere else. Some of it should have been loosened by the cycle, but it will also need a thorough cleaning with a toothbrush and a scrubbing sponge.
9. Make sure that you also take your microfiber cloth to the inside of the washer door. This can also get extra mildew around it that will not be washed away during the cleaning cycle.
10. Wipe down the interior of the tub with your microfiber cloth and the vinegar solution to remove any leftover residue.
11. You may want to end with one last cycle of just clean water to get any remaining residue or vinegar completely out of the washing machine.