How to Clean a Washing Machine

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Few household tasks are more important than laundry. After all, the evidence of most neglected chores remains inside the home, but unkempt clothing will follow you. But what happens when the washing machine itself needs a good wash? Without occasional cleanings, a dirty washing machine may lead to stained or even moldy shirts and socks. It’s a good idea to give the machine a good cleaning at least a couple of times a year; this will prevent mould and mildew growth and ensure that the machine always does its job the way it was intended.

The actual cleaning approach will vary depending on whether you’re using a top-loading or front-loading machine. Before getting down to business, make sure to come equipped with the proper tools for your particular machine. Ahead, discover how to clean a washing machine to perfection.

Top-Loading Machines

Still the most common type of washing machine found in the home, a top-loading machine can be cleaned in about two hours using a cup of baking soda and a quart of white vinegar.

  1. Start a wash cycle using the highest heat setting and load size. Make sure it's set for the longest wash cycle available.
  2. Let the machine fill about halfway with water, and then add a full quart of vinegar. Allow the vinegar to dissipate into the water for a few seconds before proceeding.
  3. Add your baking soda and close the lid, allowing the machine to fill entirely with water.
  4. Open the lid as soon as the tub fills with water, and allow the water to remain still for about an hour. The baking soda and vinegar will break away any dirt, mildew, and grime along the walls of the machine.
  5. Close the machine and allow the cycle to complete. If the washing machine isn’t fully clean, repeat these steps using only vinegar.

Front-Loading Machines

Front-loading machines require a bit of extra caution because you can’t fill them halfway and then add cleaning solutions. Luckily, Consumer Reports has some excellent tips for cleaning a front-loading machine, and the process is actually easier and less time-consuming than for top-loading machines. You’ll just need a cup of bleach.

  1. Pour a cup of bleach into the bleach dispenser. If the machine doesn’t have a bleach dispenser, pour it directly into the machine.
  2. Close the door and start a full wash cycle using the highest heat setting. If you’re concerned about the corrosive properties of bleach, you can use a non-chlorine alternative like oxygen bleach—so long as it’s designated for wash cycles.

Don't Forget the Exterior

Once the inside of the washing machine is sparkling, you can clean the outside easily using a damp cloth or toothbrush. For tough stains, mix equal parts white vinegar and water, and scrub. 

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