How To Deep Clean a Washing Machine

March 7, 2023
Washer Repair

Because a washing machine is always full of hot, soapy water, you might think it is self-cleaning. However, due to issues like detergent buildup and mildew growth, washing machines can be prone to mold and unpleasant smells. 

Our guide will walk you through how to deep clean your washing machine, ranging from the drum to the detergent drawer. You’ll have your washing machine looking and smelling clean and fresh in no time!

Step 1. Clean the exterior

This step is often neglected, but it is essential when it comes to getting your washer looking brand new. The outside of your washing machine can get dusty or a buildup of spilled powder or liquid detergent. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the outside of the machine, including the control panel and the top of the machine.

Step 2. Clean the  detergent dispensers

Remove the dispensers from their housings and clean them thoroughly with warm, soapy water, either in the kitchen sink or in a bucket. Make sure you also wipe out the housing they sit in with a damp cloth, as the detergent dispensers are a common place for mildew to form. Rinse and dry them before replacing them to avoid new mildew forming. 

Step 3. Clean the drum

Run a hot cycle with no clothes in the machine, using either a commercial washing machine cleaning product, or a homemade one. If you want to make your own, add two cups of white vinegar  and an optional few drops of an essential oil of your choice to the detergent dispenser or directly into the drum. Some machines have a cycle specifically for cleaning, so if yours does, use it. Otherwise, use the longest and hottest cycle available.

Step 4. Clean the door seal

The door seal is also a common place for mold and mildew to develop, particularly in a front loading washer.  Use a damp cloth to clean the door seal, making sure to remove any visible dirt, grime or mold.

Step 5. Clean the filter

Locate the filter, which is usually located near the bottom of the machine. This can often be the source of unpleasant smells, as lint and hair and other foreign objects can get trapped in it — and if left long enough can develop mildew or bacteria buildup. Because each washing machine will be different, you will need to look in the user’s manual to find out how to remove the filter from your machine. Once you have removed it, clean it thoroughly with hot soapy water and put it back in place. 

Step 6. Clean the agitator

If your machine has an agitator, remove it and clean it thoroughly with warm, soapy water. A washing machine agitator is a mechanism located in the center of the drum of a top-loading washing machine. It is responsible for moving the clothes around in the drum during the wash cycle to ensure they are thoroughly cleaned. 

How to remove the agitator will vary based on the machine, so again make sure you check your user’s manual — but be prepared that you may need to use either a screwdriver or a socket wrench. Make sure you wipe carefully around where it was sitting in the bottom of the machine, as this is a common spot for grime to get trapped.  Rinse and dry it before replacing it.

Step 7. Run a second hot cycle

Once you have cleaned all the parts, run a second hot cycle with no clothes in the machine. This time, add half a cup of baking soda to the drum. As with the vinegar cycle, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil at the same time. 

Step 8. Wipe down the drum

Once the second cycle is complete, wipe down the drum with a damp cloth to remove any remaining residue.

Step 9. Leave the door open

Once you have finished cleaning the machine, leave the door open to allow the drum to dry completely.

Preventing mildew and odors in your washing machine

Now that your washing machine is perfectly clean, how can you prevent it from getting dirty again? Here are a few things you can do to prevent mildew buildup:

  • Always leave your washing machine open when not in use. This allows it to air dry and prevent mildew formation.
  • Try to leave your detergent dispensers open as well from time to time, as these also need a chance to air dry. 
  • Every month or so, run a hot vinegar cycle followed by a hot baking powder cycle. If you do these regularly, you may not need to do a deep clean of your washing machine as often. 
  • Make sure you aren’t using too much detergent. It is common to use more than the recommended amount of clothes detergent, and this leads to buildup and mildew. Ensure you read the instructions on the packet and use the correct amount. 
  • Never leave wet clothes sitting in your washing machine. This is the number one cause of bad odors in a washer. If you ever accidentally do, make sure you immediately run your machine on empty on a hot wash with vinegar and then with baking soda to make sure the smell doesn’t linger. 

Note: It is recommended to deep clean your washing machine every six months to keep it in good working condition and to prevent mold or mildew buildup.


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