How To Clean a Washing Machine

Musty Smell? Here's How to Freshen Your Washing Machine

Woman putting shirt into washing machine
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Is your washing machine looking or smelling grungy? You may have never considered cleaning something that you thought was basically cleaning itself every time you used it, but washing machines get dirty just like anything else. They can grow mildew, develop build-up from detergents and hard water and collect fingerprints and smears. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to clean a washing machine. Here's how it's done.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time Required: 15 minutes of hands-on time

What You Need to Clean Your Washing Machine

  • Vinegar or lemon juice
  • An all-purpose cleaner
  • A cleaning rag
  • An empty spray bottle (do not reuse bottles that have held other chemicals or cleaners)

How to Clean Each Part of Your Washing Machine

  1. Exterior of Your Washing Machine:
    Wipe down the exterior of your washing machine with vinegar or your favorite all-purpose cleaner. Vinegar is an easy and inexpensive choice that is natural, and it does a great job of removing fingerprints. Lemon juice works just as well. Pour some vinegar or lemon juice into a clean spray bottle to spritz and wipe away grime, or use it to soak a cleaning rag and wipe down your washing machine. Be sure to wipe down every part of the machine, including the knobs.

  2. Tub
    Pour two cups of vinegar or lemon juice into the tub, and run the washing machine through a complete cycle on the longest, hottest setting to remove odors, stains and detergent build up. If you have hard water, the acid in the vinegar or lemon juice will also help to remove mineral deposits.

  1. Lid or Door
    Scrub around the edge of the lid or door with vinegar to remove mildew, dust and detergent build up. You may want to use an old toothbrush or a small scrub brush to get into all the grooves and tight spots.

  2. Rubber Door Seal
    If you have a front-loader, gently pull back on the top of the rubber door seal, and check for mold. Use vinegar to remove any that you find. An old toothbrush can also come in handy for this area.

  1. Bleach and Fabric Softener Dispensers
    Remove the bleach and fabric softener dispensers, and scrub them in the sink. Then, dry them thoroughly and return them to the machine. While you have them out, take a minute to scrub around the opening with an old toothbrush and some vinegar.

Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Washing Machine

  1. To prevent mildewing, leave the lid open between loads, so your machine has a chance to dry out. This may not be possible, if you have small children or pets. 
  2. Commercial fabric softeners leave build-up in the machine. Make vinegar your fabric softener of choice instead. Once you make this switch, the inside of your washing machine won't need to be cleaned as frequently – if at all.
  3. While you're cleaning your washing machine, inspect the washer hoses to make sure they're still firmly in place and in good condition . They should be replaced every few years, so they don't fail. Hose failure is common and costly. Spend a few bucks now to avoid spending a bunch of money later.

More Appliances That Need Cleaning: