How to Clean Your Washing Machine

Person holding a very dirty debris filter from a top-load washing machine.
Do you know how to clean out your washing machine? Many people don't think about it at all until they notice that their clothes just don't seem as fresh and/or bright as they used to. Or maybe they sense an unpleasant odor coming from the machine. These are both signs that it’s time to deep clean the washing machine; here’s how.

First, Run the Washing Machine’s Self-Clean Cycle

If your washing machine has a self-clean cycle, your first step in addressing any odors would be to run that. Consult the user’s manual that came with your unit if you don’t know how to run the cycle, or if you aren’t sure whether your machine has a self-cleaning cycle.

In general, it’s unnecessary to add cleaners to your machine when it’s self-cleaning; however, you might want to consider adding baking soda if you’re noticing odors. Baking soda will help neutralize any “off” smells and give your washing machine a little extra cleaning power. If you’ve noticed mildew or a moldy smell, add bleach during the self-cleaning cycle to get rid of it.

How to Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine

The steps for how to clean a top-loading washing machine aren’t difficult, and much of the time involved is waiting while the machine runs through its cycles. Using bleach is recommended below, but if your home is on a septic system, it can be too harsh for the delicate septic ecosystem. In that case, it’s best to clean your washing machine with white vinegar rather than bleach.

  • Make sure the washing machine is completely empty.
  • Select the largest load size and hottest water cycle available on your machine.
  • Fill the washer with hot water but stop it before it moves on to the agitation cycle.
  • Add four cups of bleach to the water in the washer drum. Then, allow the machine to completely run through its wash, rinse, and spin cycles.
  • Clean the soap and fabric softener dispensers. Either remove them and wash them out or scrub them in place with an old toothbrush.
  • Fill the washing machine with hot water again, this time adding four cups of white vinegar to the water.
  • Let your machine run through its complete cycle one more time, and you’re done!

How to Clean a Front-Load Washing Machine

The instructions for how to clean a front-loading washing machine are a little different but still straightforward.

  • Make sure the machine is empty. Then fill the detergent dispenser and bleach dispenser with bleach.
  • Run a normal cycle, using warm water.
  • After the cycle finishes, wipe down the door gasket. If the gasket is moldy or smelly, use an old toothbrush to scrub it. A bit of vinegar mixed with water is a great gasket-cleaning solution.
  • Dry the door gasket with a dry cloth or towel.
  • If the washing machine interior still feels greasy (for example, if you had very soiled clothes in a recent load), you can either wipe down the interior with a household spray cleaner or run the entire cycle again.
  • Remove the dispenser drawers of your machine according to the instructions in your user’s manual, and clean and dry them well before replacing them.
  • Run one more short cycle with warm water.
  • Dry the interior of the machine and the gasket one more time. Now you should have a nice, clean washing machine.

Need Washing Machine Plumbing Repairs?

Most washing machine odors are due to bacteria or mold growth. Regular cleaning should take care of the problem. If you’re noticing persistent odors despite frequently cleaning your washing machine, it could be a sign you have a plumbing problem in your laundry room. Your local Mr. Rooter Plumbing can inspect your plumbing and recommend the best options to eliminate the smell. To get started, request a job estimate online or give us a call.