Learning CenterHow to Clean & Maintain Your Washing Machine

How to Clean & Maintain Your Washing Machine

Simple tips on how to extend the life of your washing machine with proper cleaning and maintenance.

Washing Machine

When you have an appliance responsible for cleaning things, you sometimes forget to clean that appliance yourself. Your washing machine is an absolute workhorse in your home, restoring your clothing after every wear. All that debris slowly accumulates inside the appliance itself.  

Coupled with the minerals and residue from your detergent, this accumulation simply builds up and leads to the appliance becoming less efficient and harder to use. In time, it simply fails and needs to be replaced.  

Extend the life of this essential appliance and get your clothing as clean as possible by learning how to clean your washing machine properly. This step-by-step guide will help you clean and deodorize the interior, exterior, and even the filters of your washing machine, as well as provide you with a few tips for washing machine maintenance.

What You’ll Need to Clean the Washer

Regular cleaning helps your washing machine operate properly and, fortunately, the supplies you’ll need are likely things you will already have on-hand. These cleaners can include: 

  • White Vinegar 
  • Baking Soda 
  • Microfiber Cloth 
  • Spray Bottle 
  • Old Toothbrush

How to Clean Your Front-Load Washing Machine

Woman with two babies, doing laundry

Your washing machine is your family’s best friend when it comes to cleaning clothes, but did you know that you have to clean your front-load washing machine? Not only will cleaning the washer eliminate odors and help it maintain peak performance, but it can even extend the life of the appliance. We’ll walk you through how to clean and deodorize your washing machine in a few simple steps.

Clean the Rubber Gasket

Open front-loading washer, rubber gasket, cloth, gloves, spray bottle

Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle and use it to spray the rubber gasket of your front-loading washing machine. Wipe all parts of the gasket with a microfiber cloth to get rid of any mold and mildew. If you have trouble getting in there with a cloth, use an old toothbrush, too.

Run a Cleaning Cycle with White Vinegar

The washer’s inner drum and tub can be an unavoidable source of gunk and grime. If the tumbler and agitator are less than sparkling, then the clothes will obviously come out a little less clean than they should. A cleaning cycle just for the clothes drum can help clear that up and doesn’t take much effort or time on your part. 

Three steps to a cleaner washing machine drum: 

  • Add two cups of white vinegar to your detergent dispenser.  
  • Set the washer on the hottest water temperature and the highest washing cycle.  
  • Run the empty washing machine through a complete cycle.

Run a Cleaning Cycle with Baking Soda

If you notice a bit more grime after your vinegar cycle, get a deeper clean by adding baking soda to your routine. Complete the same steps as before, except, this time sprinkle baking soda into the washing machine drum before starting the cycle. When vinegar and baking soda mix, the bubble reaction helps deep-clean crevices and all the little holes in the drum, breaking up any deep-down muck.

Wipe Down All Remaining Parts

Once you’ve completed the cleaning cycles, make the rest of your washing machine look squeaky clean as well. Use the white vinegar spray and the microfiber cloth to give the entire washing machine a final wipe down, both inside and outside. This helps keep dust and other lint debris off of your clothes in between washing and drying rounds.

How to Clean a Top-Load Washing Machine

Top-loading washing machine and matching dryer.

With more features and an entirely different design, top-load washing machines require a slightly different approach to get that deep clean.

Clean the Detergent Trays

Detergent tray pulled out showing fill lines

Top-load washing machines often feature removable detergent trays. When that’s the case, slide them out of the unit and take them to a sink for a deep cleaning. If the trays re not removable, you can wipe them out with white vinegar and a microfiber cloth while they are still in the unit.

Clean the Washing Machine Tub with Vinegar

Spray bottle, white vinegar, top-loading washer open, stainless steel tub

If your washing machine has a specific cleaning setting, choose that setting. If not, choose the hottest water setting and the largest load setting.  

  • Allow the water to start filling the tub. Open the lid and add a quart of white vinegar to the tub as it fills with water.  
  • Close the lid and set a one-minute timer for the machine to agitate.  
  • After a minute, lift the lid to pause the washing cycle and allow the water and vinegar to sit for about an hour.  
  • During this time, wipe out the inside of the lid and any exposed parts using a white vinegar spray and a microfiber cloth and toothbrush. 
  • After an hour, close the lid and resume the washing cycle. (This is a great time to clean the outside of the washing machine.)

Clean the Washing Machine Tub with Baking Soda 

After you clean the washing machine tub with vinegar, repeat the same steps as above again, except this time, don’t use vinegar, use baking soda instead. Baking soda helps to neutralize the vinegar you used in the previous step and provide a deeper clean.

How to Clean a Washing Machine Filter & Agitator

Top-loading washing machine in black finish. View of agitator inside tub

We all know it is important to empty the lint trap on a dryer, but did you know that your washing machine has a filter too? This filter gathers up a lot of the debris present on your clothing when you throw them in the washer. Part of proper washing machine maintenance is taking a minute to clean out your washing machine filter.  

  • Find your filter by using the owner’s manual for your make and model of washing machine. 
  • If you have a removable agitator in your top-load washing machine, you can remove that using a socket wrench according to the directions in your user’s manual.  
  • Place the agitator in a bucket and clean it using a solution that is one part water, one part baking soda, and eight parts vinegar. Try using 2 cups of vinegar and ¼ cup each of water and baking soda.  
  • Remove the filter using the manufacturer instructions, dig out any large pieces of debris, and use the same cleaning solution as above to scrub the filter clean. A toothbrush reaches filters and agitators easily. 
  • Once clean, replace your filter and agitator.

Simple Washing Machine Maintenance Tips

Although this level of deep cleaning only needs to be done every 6 months or so, wiping down the outside and inside with a cloth can be done as needed. In between deep cleanings, there are also some simple washing machine maintenance tips that will help you keep your washing machine operating at optimal performance and reduce the built-up grime that is left to clean up.

Always Start with the Right Detergent

Filling laundry detergent tray of front loading washer with detergent.

There are many options when it comes to laundry detergent, but that doesn’t mean you should just go dumping them all into your machine. Some detergents are specifically formulated for use in High Efficiency (HE) machines. If you own a high-efficiency machine, make sure you use detergent that is created for use with that type of appliance. Not only will it help your washing machine perform better by reducing build-up, but it’s better for your clothing, as well.

Keep the Door/Lid Open Between Uses

Front-loading washer with door left open, dog laying on carpet.

Between washes, make a habit of leaving your washing machine door open. Keeping the lid or door closed may help your laundry look tidier, but it also traps in all the moisture.

Leave the door open for a few hours after each use and allow that extra moisture to evaporate. This is an easy way to help prevent the growth of mildew and bacteria, as well as other unpleasant odors. While this is a great tip for all styles of washing machines, it is especially important for front-loading washing machines that have a rubber seal, as this is a popular place for mold and mildew to flourish.

Check Your Hoses

The drum inside of the washing machine is responsible for a large portion of how your clothes get cleaned inside of the device. It can also cause it to move around a bit. You know the sound: the rumbling and shaking of the washing machine at the height of the spin cycle. Especially if something spins out of balance. 

This movement can cause unnecessary stress on the hoses and lead to other problems with the way your washer operates. This can also create water leaks that can get into other areas of your machine and cause them to rust. To ensure optimal performance, consider checking your water supply hoses at least once a year, as well as promptly replacing any that appear to be leaking or degrading.

Listen to Your Washing Machine

Woman folding towels while laundry is washing.

Finally, one of the most important tips for ensuring your washing machine is in good shape is to take the time to listen to it as it operates. During its various cycles, observe the washer and try to spot odd sounds or excessive movements that may be an indication that something is wrong with the appliance. 

For example, if you notice that it suddenly starts to shake a lot, it may just be a sign that the load balancer needs to be readjusted. On the other hand, it could be an indicator of a much-needed repair. Resist the temptation to assume the worst and have your washing machine professionally serviced if you believe that it is not operating to its optimal performance.