How to Clean Your Washing Machine, According to Laundry Experts

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Experts share step-by-step instructions for how to clean a washing machine (both inside and out)—plus how often you should do it.

Knowing how to clean a washing machine may sound unnecessary, but even if you use the best laundry detergent or all-natural products, experts say even the best washers and dryers need a deep cleaning once in a while. Just as a lack of cleaning can shorten the lifespan of your washer—not a cheap item to replace—regular cleanings actually help a washing machine last longer, work more efficiently, last longer, and do a better job of cleaning your clothes.

Luckily, by adding a few common household ingredients to your washing machine, you can improve performance. Just add some borax, vinegar, or baking soda to your washing machine drum (for top-loaders) or detergent compartment (for front-loaders) and run a cycle.

Here, laundry experts share step-by-step instructions for how to clean a washing machine, including pro tips on how to clean a washing machine filter and how often you should clean your washing machine.

How to clean a top-loading washing machine

Learning how to clean top-loading washing machines (even the smelliest ones!) is really straightforward. Just follow these simple steps.

What you’ll need:

Directions:

  1. Pour one pound of borax directly into the drum of your top-loading washing machine.
  2. Next, pour one gallon of white vinegar directly into the drum along with the borax.
  3. Run your washer on the hottest and longest cycle available.
  4. Once the cycle is complete, wipe down the insides of the drum, the gaskets, and the latches with a soft cotton cloth.
  5. Leave the washer door open to fully air-dry.

Wipe down the detergent drawer with vinegar when you’re done too. “On a top-loading washer, pull the drawer out and then tip it up to remove it,” advises one washing machine expert with Samsung, which manufacturers washers and dryers.

How to clean a front-loading washing machine

The steps for how to clean a washing machine that loads in the front are quick and easy. As an added bonus, you don’t need to spend a ton of money on fancy cleansers. The following steps work for traditional and HE washers.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Borax
  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • Cotton cloth

Directions:

  1. Pour one pound of borax onto the bottom of your front-loading washing machine drum, spreading it out evenly as you go. Be careful not to let it pile up or spill out.
  2. In the compartment where you’d normally pour bleach, pour one gallon of white vinegar.
  3. Run your washing machine on the hottest and longest cycle available.
  4. Once the cycle is complete, wipe down the insides of the drum, the gaskets, and the latches with a soft cotton cloth.
  5. Leave the washer door open to fully air-dry.

Don’t forget to wipe down the detergent drawer with vinegar as well. “On a front-loading washer, you can remove the washer detergent drawer by pushing in on the ends of each side of the drawer at the same time and then pulling it out,” says the Samsung washing machine expert.

How to clean a washing machine filter

You clean your dryer’s lint filter after each cycle. Good for you! You’re less likely to deal with a dryer that’s not drying. But washing machines have filters, too, and they can get clogged with lint and hair. These expert-approved steps will walk you through the simple process of cleaning a washing machine filter.

What you’ll need:

  • Bowl
  • Towel

Directions:

  1. Open the filter cover, typically located on the front and at the bottom of your washing machine. Inside you’ll see a filter and a drainage tube.
  2. Lay down your towel, then place the bowl on top.
  3. Uncap the drainage tube and allow the water to drain into the bowl. Keep draining until no water comes out, then recap the tube. Empty the bowl.
  4. Unscrew the filter by turning it counter-clockwise, and pull it out to remove. Use your fingers to remove any lint or debris, then rinse the filter off under running water.
  5. Reinsert the filter and screw it clockwise to secure in place. Close the filter cover.

How often should you clean your washing machine?

Clean a washing machine. Preparing washer for workSergiy Akhundov/Getty Images

That depends in large part on your machine and what you’re using in it. “If you are using plant-based products, they tend to rinse cleaner and leave less residue, so once a year would work,” says Patric Richardson, founder of The Laundry Evangelist and host of the new Discovery+ series The Laundry Guy. “If, however, you are using petroleum-based detergents, fabric softeners, or fragrances, you should clean it more often—maybe every three to six months.”

Of course, if you suddenly have a smelly washing machine or, worse, see mold in your washing machine, you need to take action since it can make you sick.

How to clean the outside of a washing machine

The inside of your washer isn’t the only thing you need to clean. Dirt, grime, and water spots build up on the outside of your washer, too, and you’ll want to remove all of that without damaging the finish.

“A mild detergent and a damp cloth will remove most spots,” says the Samsung laundry expert. “If you’ve already tried that and the spots remain the same, use a small amount of Cerama Bryte Cooktop Cleaner.”

What you’ll need:

Directions:

  1. Dispense a small amount of mild detergent or Cerama Bryte onto a clean, damp microfiber cloth.
  2. Clean the affected area by gently scrubbing in a repeating circular motion.
  3. When you’re finished scrubbing, use a clean, damp microfiber cloth to clean off the area.
  4. Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to dry the area.

You’re going to want to wash those cloths when you’re done, so be sure to follow instructions for how to wash microfiber towels to preserve their cleaning power.

Sources:

  • Patric Richardson, founder of The Laundry Evangelist and host of the Discovery+ series The Laundry Guy
  • Samsung washing machine expert

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Maryn Liles
Maryn is a seasoned lifestyle writer who's always on the lookout for what's new and next. When she's not writing, you can find her working on her latest home decor DIY project, out for a hike or dancing around the house to 80s jams.