Tips for how to clean your washing machine. You should clean your machine regularly to keep it fresh and germ-free, particularly if you do a lot of laundry!
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We use a great number of cloth products and we also clean a LOT of dirty clothing. As we live on a small farm and my kids LOVE playing in the mud, I am THE QUEEN of the laundry room. BTW- you TOTALLY need to check out my laundry room renovation.
I’ve written a lot of posts about cleaning because while my house isn’t always organized, I’m pretty serious about germs and grossness. You should read up on how to clean bath toys in the washing machine as this is a good idea with all the germs going around! But I disgress… let’s get to the WHOLE point of this post.
Table of contents
- Why Should I Clean My Washing Machine?
- How Often Should I Clean the Washer?
- How to Clean a Washing Machine
- Cleaning the Washing Machine with Steam
- How to Clean a Washing Machine with Vinegar
- Cleaning the Washer with Bleach
- How to Clean the Washing Machine with Affresh
- How to Get Debris out of the Washing Machine
Why Should I Clean My Washing Machine?
The washing machine, particularly if you happen to clean on cold frequently, is apt to get dirty. Debris can stay in the tub of the washer, mold can grow in the rubber area of front loaders, and I’m sure there’s plenty of germs harbored elsewhere.
For what it’s worth, cleaning is cheap or free, depending on how you decide to clean it. It seems like a good precaution to take.
How Often Should I Clean the Washer?
My goal is to clean my washing machine once per week. I tend to alternate methods.
I also try to wash stuff in order from less gross to most gross. Our last load before we do a cleaning is the guinea pig cage liners. They tend to be pretty icky and I usually have to deal with pet hair or hay.
How to Clean a Washing Machine
There are four ways I’ve tried cleaning my washing machine. This is your standard cleaning… any debris must be dealt with differently. We’ll chat about that AFTER.
The FIRST thing to look at is the manual for your washing machine. Certain cleaning methods may void your warranty. You never want to use something that could damage your machine. You’ll also be able to see their recommended cleaning method in the manual AND determine if your machine is setup for steam cleaning.
DO NOT MIX certain chemicals. Not everything is safe to mix. These methods are to be used INDIVIDUALLY. More is not more. For example, mixing bleach + vinegar is EXTREMELY dangerous for your health. DO NOT DO THIS.
It doesn’t matter how “natural” or “organic” a method feels, you need to tread carefully because there are plenty of naturally occurring things that are dangerous to us if mixed.
Cleaning the Washing Machine with Steam
My favorite method to clean my washing machine is with steam. Many washers and dryers now come with a steam cleaning option. This is for clothing really, but hot steam is supposed to be extremely effective in killing germs. I also am a fan of hot water for the same reason.
We do NOT wash our clothing in hot water, but I DO clean my washing machine on the hottest setting.
I simply run a load with steam and/or hot water. Just remember that you’ll be using a ton of hot water from your hot water heater so do this when you’re not about to take a nice bath.
How to Clean a Washing Machine with Vinegar
I have used vinegar to clean my washing machine, as well as to remove odors from clothing (adding the vinegar where many people add fabric softener).
There’s two types of vinegar- cleaning vinegar and regular white vinegar. The cleaning vinegar is MUCH stronger. Most recipes for adding vinegar to a washing machine refer to the regular vinegar so be careful.
If you decide to use cleaning vinegar, I would water it down with water.
To use vinegar, I just dump about a cup into my washing machine. By itself- no clothes, no detergent, no other chemicals or additives. Then I run a cycle.
Cleaning the Washer with Bleach
I occasionally run a cycle with bleach, although I try to avoid it as I have asthma and don’t like handling the chemical. It makes my head hurt.
When I clean the washer with bleach, I use the bleach as it’s intended to be used on clothing. I just don’t add clothing or anything else to the machine. Refer to your manuals instructions on this, as well as the back of your bleach container.
If I run a cycle with bleach, I always run an additional cycle with just hot water to make sure the bleach all was rinsed from the tub. I worry about accidentally getting bleach spots on other stuff.
Cleaning the Washer with Affresh
We will sometimes use Affresh to clean our machine. This is the “safe” option because it is MADE for the machines. You drop the Affresh tablet in your washing machine by itself and let it work. It works really well and I always feel like the machine gets very clean.
I think there are a few other brands of these now as well.
How to Get Debris out of the Washing Machine
Your main concern may be getting debris out of your washing machine. It’s easy for hair, paper, hay, and other stuff to get caught in the drum of your washer.
The washing machine doesn’t really take away anything that doesn’t dissolve. Running the cycle over and over ISN’T going to solve a major problem like dealing with paper all over the machine’s tub after your son leaves an entire Lego booklet in his laundry bin.
You need to remove the debris manually- sorry, I know you didn’t want to hear that! If it’s just some hay or dog hair along the inside of the drum, you can take a wet paper towel and wipe it out. Compost both the hair/paper towel.
The EASIEST way to deal with it is to leave the door to the washing machine open overnight to let everything inside dry out. Once everything is dry, I have used a vacuum to clean it all up. It seems to work pretty well- just remember you’re working with electricity here and you don’t want to mix water + electric!
This unfortunately doesn’t apply to poop… if you have kids, at some point someone may put a dirty diaper (cloth, disposable- doesn’t matter) through the machine… or dirty underwear. I wouldn’t suggest waiting for poop to dry out in your machine. This is a good time to pull out the paper towels and manually clean out the drum of your machine. Once the poop has been removed and the paper towels disposed of in the trash, you can run your cleaning cycles.
Make sure to check out my post about how to clean your dryer… specifically, how to clean POOP out of your dryer. This was a fun one.
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Danielle Pientka is the sewing and DIY blogger behind DIYDanielle.com. She taught herself to sew in 2011 when she wanted to make cloth diapers for her first son. She’s been sewing everything from ecofriendly items to kids products to clothing since, as it has become a passion. She loves learning how to do new things and teaching others in the process. She hopes to inspire other moms to take time for themselves to find their own creative passion.
Danielle lives in Maryland with her three young sons and her husband, Brandon. In her spare time, she gardens, reads, horseback rides, and has a small homestead with goats and ducks. Visit her shop to buy patterns or her sewing eBooks. Subscribe to her newsletter to get blog updates, free patterns and other printables by clicking here.