How to Clean Washing Machine at Home

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Should your washing machine have a stronger odor than your worn-out perspiration-soaked shirt, a thorough cleaning is overdue. Surprisingly, even appliances like washing machines accumulate grime and need cleaning.

Washing machines build up on laundry residue, detergent, and hard-water deposits on edges and folds you can't see, especially around the machine lid and door. If you don't regularly clean your washing machine, it might harbour leftover detergent, hard-water deposits.

Mould and mildew thrive in such conditions and spaces. These fungi might be the reason why your white clothes are not coming out quite so bright. 

So, here are some cleaning tips on how to banish the mould, lousy odour, and residues on your washing machine and bring back your good laundry days for best results, clean after every six months.

Cleaning Tips for Cleaning your Washing Machine

If you're lucky, your washing machine comes with a self-clean function, chooses that cycle, and follows the instructions to clean your washing machine. Otherwise, here are simple tips to eliminate buildup in the washing machine, hoses, and pipes and ensure your clothes get swept in the wash cycle.

1. Clean the Detergent Dispenser and Fabric Softener Dispenser

Ironically, the detergent dispenser/drawer can be a breeding ground and haven for germs, considering this is where you put the detergent to clean your clothes. Remember that old toothbrush lying around somewhere? Well, here's where it comes in handy, literally. Remove the entire drawer and set to work using the toothbrush and your ordinary domestic cleaning products. Also, make sure to clean the drawer cavity. Once done, do the same for the fabric softener drawer.

2. Clean the Debris Filter

The debris filter, also known as the lint trap, protects your washing machine’s pump by sieving and holding tissues, lint, pet hair, and general dirt during your wash cycle. This means it's also another place where germs collect.

It provides warm and humid areas perfect for mildew, probably why you're getting those dodgy smells during your cleaning cycle.

The solution is to empty and clean it regularly to remove the fluff and grime gathered there. The filter is located below the machine's lower edge, in most appliances, behind a hinged cover.

If you can't see it, check your user manual. Carefully unhinge the emergency drain tube and place something to collect trapped water on the floor below it.

Next, carefully unscrew the filter cover, then place a rag below. The trapped residue should flow out with the trapped water. Run water through them and check the cavity to be sure. Wipe and replace the cover. Check that you have carefully returned the cover properly to prevent future accidental leaks while in your washing process.

3. Cleaning the Rubber Gasket

Before the washer drum, you will need to clean the gasket. Spray it with white vinegar and use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe. In a high-efficiency (HE) washer, the rubber gasket at the front of the washer tends to accumulate water, hair, scum, and mildew.

Next, set the washer to the highest level and the hot water temperature, then add two cups of white vinegar to the detergent dispenser. Run it through a complete wash cycle.

4. Cleaning the Washer Drum

Ever had your washing machine door open and had that musty odour coming off it? Well, the washer drum may seem clean, but there are lots of nooks and crannies where bacteria can hide.

Run an empty wash cycle every few months. To clean the front load washer, add one half a cup of baking soda into the washer tub directly and set it on the hot water wash, the hottest your washing machine can.

Run a hot water wash, preferably at around 60 degrees. The baking soda and hot water combo remove and prevent bacteria growth. White vinegar also acts as a deodoriser, cutting through mildew odour. This should remove the grime and stop soap scum from building up.

When cleaning is done, wipe the inside drum of the washer with a damp microfiber cloth. The tips include to leave the door open slightly after washes and allowing air to circulate in the drum, and reduce the washer being damp.

5. Wipe Door Seal

When you’re putting your clothes into the machine and pulling them out again damp, it’s easy to forget about that rubber seal that stops water from spilling out on the laundry room floor. If you let this moisture build-up, it encourages mould growth and becomes a problem to remove.

Using a damp cloth, wipe the seal.

6. Cleaning the Top Load Washers

  1. Set the washer to the highest level of hot water
  2. Then add four cups of vinegar water
  3. When the cycle starts, pause the machine and allow the ingredients to sit for an hour
  4. While it sits, wipe down the washer's top load with a cloth dipped in the hot vinegar water
  5. Using an old toothbrush, scrub the fabric softener and bleach dispensers
  6. After an hour has elapsed, continue the cycle
  7. After this, add 1 cup of baking soda and run the cycle again
  8. At the end of the cycle, wipe the top lid inside of the washer tub with a cloth to remove any scum

Now your washer is ready for your clothes again.

7. Do This Regularly

The best way to clean a washing machine is to prevent it from getting dirty in the first place. Meaning you'll have to add this to your list of home chores.

Frequently Asked Question

1. What causes the musty smell in the laundry?

The moisture and dirt trapped in the gasket or rubber seal around the door is usually the reason behind the musty-smelling laundry.

2. What are the tips for deeper cleaning?

For deeper cleaning, you can wipe these areas with a diluted chlorine bleach solution.

3. How frequently should I clean the washing machine?

Every other week, especially when it’s hot and humid.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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