How to Properly Clean Your Washing Machine

How often do you do the laundry? Do you use the washing machine? Let’s face it—if it wasn’t for this appliance we would all still be hand washing everything. While hand washing itself isn’t a problem, it can be quite tedious. With that said, there are still instances where it’s preferred to machine washing. Take swimsuits, for instance—they should never be put in the washer. That doesn’t change the fact that the machine is a wonderful invention, though. If anything, it makes our lives so much easier. After all, we all need to wash our clothes on a regular basis (you should, anyway)!

Advantages of Using a Washing Machine

The truth is, there are several benefits to using a washing machine. For one thing, it saves time. You do not have the monitor the washing process. All you need to do is put your clothes in and press the start button. While the cycle runs, you can carry out another task. Of course, you’d have to return once the washing is finished to hang up and dry everything. 

Another advantage is that it eliminates effort—that is, you don’t need to put in any real effort to wash your clothes. Stains are also much easier to remove—simply pretreat it with a detergent, throw in the washer and you’re good to go. As it is, the agitator will do all of the work for you—you won’t have to scrub or rub whatsoever. Sure, you still have to put everything in the washer and add detergent, but that’s minimal work.

Last but not least, there are different cycles—you can choose the one that’s best suited for your load of laundry. For instance, it’s best to use a heavy cycle for heavily soiled items. The delicate setting, on the other hand, is ideal for garments such as panties and bras. By choosing the right cycle, you’ll be able to protect your items from being damaged.

Washing Machines Need to be Washed Too

Have you ever considered, though, that washing machines also need to be washed? It’s true. Over time, detergent residue can build up inside the washer, which can lower its efficacy—this is especially true if you have a habit of being generous with the soap!

There’s another thing to worry about as well—bacteria. As it is, most of our clothes today require a cold wash. What this means is that the temperature will not be enough to kill the germs. As a result, they will stick on the sides of the washing machine. Depending on the environment, they may even multiply! In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to end up on your clothes again, which can ultimately shorten the life of your garments. Not to mention that it can cause an unpleasant odor!

Given all that, it’s crucial that you clean your washer every once in a while—ideally, at least once a month. What good would it do if you wash your clothes with something that’s contaminated with bacteria, right?

Signs You Need to Clean Your Washing Machine

Not sure whether or not it’s time to clean your washing machine? Here are a few signs to look out for.

1. Unpleasant Odor

Chances are, there will be an unpleasant odor if your washer is overdue for a cleaning. Ultimately, this smell is caused by mold and bacteria, both of which can easily be transferred onto your clothes. Left to their own devices, they can lead to respiratory problems.

2. Black Residue

You can also tell whether or not a washing machine needs to be cleaned by how it looks. Check around the door seal and the inside of the drum—do you notice any slimy residue? If so, it’s time to clean the washer. As it is, this black substance is due to the buildup of detergents that are leftover in the machine. Left alone, the residue can find its way back onto your clothes. Let’s face it, dirty black marks are anything but sightly.

3. Black Spots on Clothing

Always check your clothes once they’ve been washed. Are there any black spots on the fabric? If so, it might be due to soap scum or limescale, the latter of which builds up on the pipes of your washing machine. If you ignore it, it can lead to breakdowns, which can result in expensive repairs.

How to Deep Clean & Deodorize Your Washing Machine

Notice any of the above signs? Then it’s time to give your washing machine a deep cleaning. Don’t worry, it’s not as tedious as it sounds. If anything, the process is quite easy and straightforward. As a matter of fact, there are several ways that you can go about doing it.

Using White Vinegar and Baking Soda

As it turns out, you don’t always need to use chemicals for cleaning. There’s an all-natural method that works just as well! It involves using a couple of common household ingredients—white vinegar and baking soda. What does the vinegar do? It will help to dissolve the detergent residue in the wash tub. Not only that, but it will kill off any mold and mildew in the machine. As for the baking soda, it’s an excellent deodorizing agent!

The first step is to set your washing machine to run on the largest load setting. Use hot water as that will help to kill off the bacteria. It’s important that you do not add any clothes or detergent when you’re cleaning your washer.

From there, you want to add 3 to 4 cups of white vinegar into the washer. Let it agitate for a minute or so—that will allow the vinegar and water to mix. Next, add in half a cup of baking soda. Once it’s mixed in, stop the washing machine. Let the water mixture sit for up to an hour—that will give time for the two ingredients to work its magic!

In the meantime, it’s a good idea to wipe down the sides of your washer with a clean cloth (dip it in the vinegar water first). Pay extra attention to the knobs, top of the washer, wash bin, and any dispensers. You’d be surprised just how much grime there can be!

When you’re finished, resume the washing cycle. Ideally, you want to set it so that the washer will drain while spinning. Why? That will push the water through the bin holes, which will help to loosen grime and gunk. Not all washing machines are capable of this, though. If yours doesn’t allow this, make do by running another hot water cycle.

Sanitizing with Bleach

Does it surprise you that you can also clean it with bleach?

If anything, this method is even simpler than using vinegar and baking soda. Start by filling the bleach dispenser with bleach (most washing machines will have this). Alternatively, you can add half a cup of bleach directly into your wash tub.

The next thing that you want to do is to choose a hot water cycle. Not only will it help to loosen grime, but it will sanitize the inside of the washer. From there, run the washer on a “clean out” or “maintenance” cycle. These settings will swirl the bleach and hot water around, which will help to clean the basin. As always, you do not want to put any clothes into the washing machine when you’re cleaning it.

Once the machine fills with water, pause the cycle—this will give the bleach a chance to soak in the drum. Ideally, you want to let the bleach water sit for at least an hour. While you’re waiting, you can wipe down the sides of the washing machine with diluted bleach water.

From there, you can turn it back on and finish the cycle. Worried about there being leftover bleach? You can always run a second rinse cycle with hot water—that will help to get rid of any residue that might be present.

Using Washing Machine Cleaner Tablets

Washing machine tablets are a thing—they’re designed to remove odor-causing residues inside your washer. Take Affresh, for instance—the product will penetrate into your washer to break up dirt and grime.

First things first, you want to empty your washer. You never want to have anything in the tub when you’re cleaning the machine. Once you’ve done that, place one tablet inside (not in the dispenser). Select a normal cycle with hot water and let it run. The way the tablets work, they will dissolve slowly throughout the wash cycle; in doing so, they will clean the inside of your washer. After the cycle has ended, wipe away any residue with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Ongoing Cleaning & Care

It’s important that you take proper care of your washing machine. After all, you’ll be using it on a regular basis! Here are a few things that you can do to keep it in tip-top shape. Don’t get me wrong, though, you’ll still have to clean it thoroughly every once in a while.

1. Don’t Leave Wet Clothes Inside

You never want to leave wet clothes in the machine. In other words, you should always take your garments out once they’re done washing. Leave them in for a few hours and bacteria and mold can easily grow, which would lead to a pungent smell. Not only that, but it can affect the functionality of your washing machine as well!

For this reason, you should always remove wet clothes from the washer as soon as possible. Either hang them up on a clothesline or put them in the dryer (only if it says you can on the care tag label).

2. Leave the Door Open

Leave the door of your washing machine open after running a cycle. You do not want to close it as that will trap in moisture. As you can imagine, that would create the perfect environment for bacteria and mold to grow. Always leave it open—that way, any excess moisture can evaporate.

3. Clean the Lint Filter

Most washers come with a lint trap that prevents lint from getting on your clothes. Keep in mind, however, that that only happens if you keep it clean.

To clean it, you’ll first have to locate it. Depending on your washing machine, it might be along the top rim of the drum, at the end of the drainage hose, or inside the agitator. Once you’ve found it, you want to either soak it in hot water (if it’s removable), brush away the lint (if it’s secured in place) or replace it (if it’s disposable). Ideally, you want to do this every three months or so.

4. Do Not Use Too Much Detergent

Contrary to popular belief, more detergent is not actually better. It’s actually the opposite—it can affect the performance of your washing machine by sticking to sides and crevices! For instance, it can damage the motor and water pipes.

Considering this, you only want to use the amount of detergent that is necessary. Check the label on the bottle to see how much you should be using of a certain product.

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