What? Clean My Washing Machine?

Yes, washing machines need to be cleaned once in a while; just like dishwashers, sinks, bathtubs, and drains. Although most of the soil is washed out with the water, grime and detergent residues can be left inside the washer and plumbing โ€“ especially when fabric softeners have been used. These are organic, greasy, and/or soapy deposits; and the coating provides a base for mold, mildew and bacteria which can cause odor in your laundry. They may also damage interior components of the washing machine.

If your laundry comes out of the wash with a mildew smell, it could be due to a dirty washer. Front -loading machines seem to be more susceptible to developing mold and odor (due to the watertight seal on the door), as well as routinely washing on cold.

It is recommended to clean your washer once a month.

  1. Exterior
    Wipe down the exterior of the washing machine with vinegar, or your favorite household cleaner. You can use Q-tips and old tooth brushes to get into the nooks and crannies. Never use an abrasive cleanser which can scratch and damage the surface. Use your household window cleaner on any glass.
  2. Lid/Door
    Scrub around the edge of the lid/door with vinegar to remove mildew and detergent build up. This includes the seal on front loaders.
  3. Tub
    There are commercial washing machine cleaners, or you can use organic household cleaners such as baking soda and white vinegar.
    -If using a commercial cleaner, follow directions on the package.
    -If using baking soda and vinegar:

    • Pour two cups of baking soda into the tub, and run a hot wash on the largest setting. You can run a Clean cycle instead for machines with that option. After the machine drains the water out, stop the cycle. Do not run the rinse if possible.
    • Repeat with another hot wash cycle on the largest setting, this time adding two cups of white vinegar. Use a warm rinse cycle if possible. Let the cycle run through including the rinse.
    • When the rinse cycle is finished, use a sponge with a bit of vinegar, and wipe down the inside of the tub. You may need a bit of CLR or a mineral remover for a stubborn mineral ring. Also make sure to clean above the tub where debris can accumulate.
  4. Dispensers
    Remove the bleach and fabric
    softener dispensers. Soak them in hot water and a bit of vinegar for about 15 minutes, and clean them thoroughly. Clean inside the dispenser area. When the dispensers are dry, return them to the machine.

  5. Drains and Filters
    If your washer is equipped with a lint filter, remove all lint accumulation. A clogged drain can prevent the water from draining properly. Remove any build-up in the strainer after each washing cycle.
  6. Vacuum under and behind the machine.
    This not only makes it cleaner, but helps to alleviate a possible fire hazard.


  • To prevent mildewing, leave the lid open after you finish a load to allow the washing machine to dry out.
  • For households with high humidity, add one cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle when washing your towels weekly.
  • When the wash cycle is finished, remove the load promptly.
  • If you have a pet in your house that sheds such as a dog or cat, you may need to vacuum out the washer. After the drum is dry, use your vacuumโ€™s soft brush attachment and vacuum out the pet hair.
  • Clean out the inlet hose filters twice a year. You’ll find them inside the water inlet connections.

*Your machine may come with manufacturerโ€™s recommendations on how to clean your machine. If so, please refer to your machineโ€™s owner manual for instructions.

Written by Sonya Choron 1/5/2012