How To Clean a Washing Machine

We all depend on our washing machine for clean clothing, towels, blankets, and bed-sheets, but how do we clean a washing machine itself? The answer partly depends on the kind of washer you have, so it’s always a good idea to refer to the directions found in the owner’s manual.

Does your washer have a tub clean cycle?

Over time, dirt, fabric softener, and detergent residue left behind following the wash cycle can allow mold and mildew to grow in the tub. Apart from being unhealthy, this can result in the washer becoming smelly with the likelihood that the bad smell will transfer to your clothes and bed linens. To help combat mold and mildew build-up, some newer washing machine models from manufacturers like LG, Samsung, Kenmore, and Whirlpool will have a “tub clean” or “clean washer” function; a cycle specifically designed to clean the interior of the tub itself. If your washer has this feature, you should use it at least once a month with a specially formulated cleaning product like Affresh:

  • Fully unload the washer.
  • Place one cleaner tablet directly into the tub, not in a dispenser.
  • Select “tub clean” or “clean washer” on the control panel and press “start”.
  • After the cycle is complete, wipe away any residue with a microfiber cloth.

If your washer doesn’t have a dedicated self-clean function, you’re not out of luck. After placing the cleaner tablet in the tub, run the washer through a normal wash cycle using the hottest water setting. Selecting a high-load size and a long wash cycle will help as well.

Do you have to use formulated tub cleaner tablets?

As an alternative to a formulated washer tub cleaning product like Affresh, you can clean and sanitize the inside of the tub with a combination of white vinegar and baking soda, or liquid chlorine bleach (be aware that vinegar and bleach should never be used together).

  • With the tub empty, select the highest load-size and the hottest water temperature.
  • Add two cups of white vinegar to the tub for a front-load washer; four cups for a top-load washer, along with a cup of baking soda (unlike tablets, the vinegar and baking soda can be placed directly into the detergent dispenser). Alternatively, you can use a ½ cup of liquid chlorine bleach instead of the vinegar and baking soda solution.
  • Run the washer.
  • After allowing the wash, rinse, and spin cycles to complete, run the washer through another complete wash cycle using only hot water (no vinegar, baking soda, or bleach) to completely rinse out any residue.
  • Use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the tub.

Top load washer cleaning tips

When cleaning a top-load washer tub, consider lifting the lid after the tub fills to interrupt the wash cycle for thirty-to-sixty minutes to allow the vinegar and baking soda solution, or bleach, time to break down bacteria and soap build-up on the inside of the tub. After allowing this time for the solution to set, close the lid to continue the cycle.

In addition, top-load washers have agitators, and often detergent dispensers as well, that can be removed. You should consider uninstalling these parts and soaking them separately in hot, soapy water then using a soft bristle brush to scrub off any debris. Use fresh water to rinse them off, then dry them with a microfiber cloth before reinstalling the components.

Front load washer cleaning tips

Front-load washers can be especially prone to odors due to the water and bacteria that collects in the folds of the rubber door boot seal. After each use, you should dry off the inside of the seal with a cloth. As part of a regular maintenance routine, add a ¾ cup of bleach to a gallon of water and use the solution to clean the seal and the inside of the door glass. You can use a scrubbing brush to thoroughly clean the inside of the boot seal folds.

Detergent drawers and drain pump filters can also be uninstalled in order to be cleaned separately. As a precaution, be sure to place a towel down when removing the drain pump filter as a considerable amount of water is likely to spill out.

Additional tips:

  • Always take the clothing, towels, blankets, and bed linens out of the washer promptly after the spin cycle has completed to prevent odors from developing.
  • Clean any debris, mud, or pet hair from the interior of the tub. You can often vacuum this material out of the tub after it has thoroughly dried.
  • Leave the washer door ajar or the lid propped open after use to help dry out remaining moisture.

Find the right washing machine parts with Repair Clinic

With years of repeated use, parts within the washer can fail, become damaged, or simply display signs of wear-and-tear. A top-load washer’s agitator or dispenser can crack or become discolored. A front-load washer’s door boot seal can become torn or the boot seal retainer or retaining spring can break. Whether you need to repair your washer or just want to keep it looking like new, you can find the right parts for your appliance by entering the full model number in the Repair Clinic search bar. The navigation filters on the left side of the part results page will allow you to refine your search down to just the part or parts you want. Repair Clinic stocks parts for all the major brands of washers including Whirlpool, Maytag, Kenmore, Samsung, LG, and GE, but you’ll want to make sure you’re purchasing the exact replacement part that fits your particular model.

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