The right (and wrong) way to clean your washing machine

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As much as we hate doing laundry, most of us can’t imagine life without a washing machine. These trusty machines are there for us through minor stains and major ones — food spills, sweaty socks, and even the most disgusting stains we get on our clothes. But like everything else in our homes, even our washing machines get dirty. Really dirty.

Have you ever noticed that gunk that builds up around the washing machine door jam? What about the grains of dirt and sand that accumulate inside of the machine’s drum? Let’s not forget to mention the bacteria you can’t see with your naked eye, like mold and mildew. When you have dirt and grime inside of your washing machine, this can impact your machine’s performance, and the cleanliness of your clothes. It’s time you washed your washer.

To avoid damaging your washer or your clothing, you need to maintain and care for your machine properly — and that’s true whether it’s brand new and beautiful or the reliable one you’ve had for years. We’ve put together some tips on how to correctly clean your washing machine, as well as some washer-cleaning methods to avoid. Here are the right (and wrong) ways to clean your washing machine.

How to clean a top-load washer

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Step 1: Leave the door open after you remove your clothes, and allow your washer to dry out completely when you’re not using it. This helps prevent mold and mildew from growing in your washing machine.

Step 2: Use a damp cloth and a small amount of liquid detergent to wipe the inside of your machine.

Step 3: Wipe up any dirt, spills, and grime from your machine’s exterior and from the door jam with a damp cloth and mild soap.

Step 4: Change the fill hoses on your machine every five years, per the recommendation of GE. It’s a good idea to label your fill hoses, indicating the date you replaced them. Just label some masking tap with a Sharpie.

Tips: We asked GE for suggestions on how to clean top-load washing machines properly. The appliance company suggested we use Tide Washing Machine Cleaner once a month to clean and freshen the unit, and to refer to the washing machine’s owner’s manual for additional cleaning and maintenance instructions.

What not to do: It’s best to avoid using harsh cleaners, notably those that contain ammonia. You should also shy away from anything that’s too abrasive, like gritty cleaners or Brillo pads. Harsh cleaners can damage you machine.

How to clean a front-load/HE washer

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Step 1: Leave the door ajar after you remove your clothes with a front-load washer as well, and allow it to dry out completely when you’re not using it. This helps prevent mold and mildew from growing.

Step 2: Clean the washer door by wiping it down with a damp cloth.

Step 3: Clean the door seal. Gently pull back the seal between the door opening and the drum, and check for foreign objects; remove any you find. After that, check for stains or dirt buildup. Clean dirt buildup using either washing machine cleaning wipes, or a solution made of bleach and water (¾ cup of bleach mixed with one-gallon of water). Make sure you remove any leftover bleach solution with a damp cloth. Finally, allow the washer to air dry completely with the door open.

Step 4: Clean and sanitize your detergent tray. Take the tray apart (if applicable) and soak it in hot water and mild soap for about 20 minutes.

Step 5: Clean the inside of the washing machine. Most HE washers have either a “clean cycle” or a “clean with Affresh cycle.” To run a clean cycle, add ¼ cup of bleach to the bleach dispenser and run an empty load. To clean with Affresh, add an Affresh cleaning tab directly inside of the washer drum, and run an empty “clean with Affresh cycle.”

Tips: It’s best to use HE detergent when you have an HE washer, and to avoid using too much detergent, as this can cause excess buildup. Lastly, use warm and hot water washes periodically (but not all of the time), as warmer water can help control soil and detergent buildup, per the recommendation of Maytag.

What not to do: Some HE washer owners run a clean cycle only, and neglect the other steps. You should try to clean your HE washing machine every 30 wash cycles, and follow all of the steps to make sure you are not allowing dirt and grime to accumulate in other parts of your machine.

How to clean a self clean or smart washing machine

samsung activewash washer wa52j8700a panel1

Step 1: Clean the control panel with a damp cloth.

Step 2: Clean the mesh filter of the water hose once or twice a year. To do so, soak the filter in water until it is clean (make sure the threaded connector is also submerged). Then allow the filter to dry completely in a shaded area.

Step 3: Clean the dispensers. Rinse the inserts in warm water to remove traces of accumulated detergent and other laundry products. Then clean the recess with a toothbrush to remove residue.

Step 4: Clean the interior: You can wipe it with a damp cloth and a washer-safe cleaner. Also, run the self-clean cycle when the indicator light comes on. Self-clean helps get rid of mold that grows inside of your washing machine.

Notes: These instructions are for a Samsung top-load self-clean washing machine. Your machine may have different parts and cleaning instructions. It’s best to refer to your owner’s manual to obtain the specific cleaning instructions for your washing machine. If you misplaced your owner’s manual, you can likely locate it online by visiting the manufacturer’s website and searching for it using your model and serial number.

Tips: Clean the outside of stainless steel machines using stainless steel cleaner, vinegar, or Windex. When you clean stainless steel, it’s best to go with the grain. You can also use a little bit of rubbing alcohol to dissolve oily finger prints, per Better Homes and Gardens. Also, if you have a shiny metallic finish on your washer’s exterior door, you can clean that surface using a small amount of Cerama Bryte and a clean, damp, non-abrasive cloth, per the recommendation of Samsung.

What not to do: Do not use harsh or abrasive cleaners when cleaning the control panel, and avoid using bleach cleaners on stainless steel surfaces. Also, do not run self-clean cycles while you have laundry in your machine.