Cleaning Washing Machines- The Right Way

Photo by Adrienne Andersen from Pexels cleaning washing machines

Washing machines are considered household essentials. True, it can get a bit expensive. Some can get as pricey as a college student’s tuition for an entire semester. Nevertheless, no matter how affordable or costly it can get, it still gets the work done. Throw dirty clothes in, add some detergent, set a cycle, and done! But like all things on this Earth, these sturdy machines have to be maintained. Else, they would break down far earlier than expected. Since the entire world is in lockdown, clean your washer and keep yourself busy!

Washers Don’t Clean Themselves

For some people, this comes across as a shock. With all the healthy doses of detergent and bleach that the washing machine has taken in, why isn’t it clean? Of course, it cleans clothes, linens, towels, and everything else. It must be clean, right? The answer: no.

While these are indeed heavy-duty cleaners for fabrics, they aren’t really for washers. Instead, they build up pretty quickly inside the machine. Even the minerals from water can get stuck and harden. There’s also all kinds of dirt from clothes. Yes, they get removed from your clothing, but they have to go somewhere. Even fibres from the clothes itself can spell a problem. Pilling or fraying clothes are especially vulnerable to this (We made an article about this. Check it out here). They contribute to the nasty smells, weird discolouration, and all sorts of icky stuff that you can find in your clothes, post-washing.

This makes the cleaning part crucial. It ensures that your clothes will not get all the unpleasant takeaways. It also makes your washer more effective. Sometimes people think that their washing machines are on the verge of a breakdown because it can no longer clean as well as it used to. This prompts many to ditch their working but unclean washers.

Steps to Clean Washing Machines Effectively

Prepare the Washer

First, you need to check the inside of the machine. You need to assess how much gunk and funk has built up inside. Due to the lack of space, some people turn the inside of their washers into storage compartments. Take out everything that you can see inside. If there are fibres, pet fur, or anything of the sort- do your best to pull them all out.

Newer models of washing machine have dispensers where you can put in the chemicals that you use for laundry. Some of them are detachable. Carefully remove them as they will have their rub down too.

Bust Out The Arsenal

Next, prepare the cleaning components that you will need. Almost the entire internet agrees that you need white vinegar. If you are unfamiliar to its cleaning properties, you are missing out. The acids formed during the vinegar’s fermentation are strong enough to break down bad odours and most dirt. Amazingly, they are also sufficiently diluted that they don’t pose a threat of rusting or doing kinds of any damage to machines. Using it also democratizes the entire process since people have easy access to the cheap but handy ingredient.

The next ingredient is either baking soda or chlorine bleach. Many homemakers use baking soda to clean stovetops and kitchen counters, thus it makes sense to use them in a washer too. However, baking soda comes in powder form, and its particles are prone to fly around. It may also not get fully dilated during the cleaning process. Thus, it is better to use chlorine bleach. It can be found in your home and already takes a liquefied form, making cleaning easier.

The other materials are brushes (can be old and used ones, but it has to be clean) and microfiber towels. They will help in entirely removing the stuff that is still stuck on the washing machine and was not washed off by the liquid cleaners.

Get Rid of Every (Yucky) Thing!

1. Clean the Dispensers

To do this, you need to wash the dispenser with hot water and vinegar. It is up to you how you would measure these. However, we recommend that you do a 1:1 ratio. It is best to soak it for a while to let the enzymes in the vinegar do their work. Then, brush it down, removing all muck stuck to it. Rinse, then air dry it before attaching it back to your washing machine.

If your dispenser is non-detachable, or if you’re afraid to take it out, you can opt to brush it clean. Make sure to dip it in the same vinegar and water mixture.

2. Give the Gasket and Filter a Power Cleaning

If you have a front-load washer, clean the rubber seal (called gasket) on the door. To do this, spray or rub vinegar on the gasket. You will notice how many unwelcome guests are there. This is where so much of the dirt build-up, rendering your washer and clothes smelly. You may have to make multiple applications before wiping it off with a damp towel soaked in hot water.

Take out also the built-in filter. For this, you have to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure that you do this carefully so you won’t damage your machine. If you are unsure or you have lost the manual, it’s best to leave this part to an authorized technician. You can skip this step.

3.1 Clean the Insides (With vinegar)

Now, this is the fun part. Fill your dispenser up to the maximum level with vinegar, set the water temperature to the hottest level, and let it go at the most aggressive setting. Don’t worry about overheating. There are no clothes inside that can overwhelm the process. Take deep breaths. You’re almost there. When done, drain the contents.

3.1.1 Brush the Insides (With vinegar)

When the deed is (partially) done, give the inside of the machine a good scrub. While most of the dirt has gone, some tough ones can still be stuck. Remove them by scrubbing the insides well with a brush dipped in the same mixture as before. Using the same mix, clean the lid or door of the washer, too.

3.2 Clean the Insides (With Baking Soda/ Chlorine Bleach)

This is similar to step 3.1, only instead of using vinegar, you’re going to use baking soda or chlorine bleach. If you are using baking soda, measure 1/2 cup before throwing it in directly into the drum. If you opt to go with chlorine bleach, you can pour it via the dispenser. Either way, fill the entire thing with hot water and set it on high.

4. Give the Entire Thing a Wipe Down

After cleaning the inside, its time to wipe the entire thing using a dry microfiber towel. This will help in absorbing all the residue and keep mildew and moulds from forming inside the drum. As for the outside of the washer, disinfect it using an all-purpose surface cleaner. When you are satisfied that no longer any wet areas left, air out your machine by leaving its doors open for a few hours.

Some Notes on Cleaning…

Use Alternatives!

Some sites such as Good Housekeeping do not suggest the usage of vinegar. Instead, they recommend using specialized washing machine cleaning detergents. There are available in most stores, but you need to check on your local grocery if they have such items.

Cleaning Isn’t Always the Answer

What if you’ve cleaned your washer and it still doesn’t work well? Perhaps its time to call in your local authorized service centre and have it checked. If there isn’t any chance that the washer will be okay again, maybe it’s time to splurge on a new and upgraded washing machine.

Clean Regularly

The ideal is to clean your washing machine every month. But let’s be honest with our selves. Cleaning it is a tiresome chore. At best, do your maintenance washdown every six months to keep the washer in tiptop shape. Just remember to give it a check once on a while.

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