How to Clean Your Washing Machine, According to Laundry Experts

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If you've never cleaned your washer before, it's high time you started!

You might think that cleaning your washer—something you use to clean other things—sounds ironic and totally unnecessary, but knowing how to clean a washing machine is incredibly important. Regardless of whether you use the safest laundry detergents or all-natural products, even the best washers and dryers need a deep cleaning once in a while.

“Washers get buildup from detergent and oils from clothes that periodically needs to be removed for the machine to be most effective,” says Patric Richardson, founder of The Laundry Evangelist and host of the new discovery+ series The Laundry Guy. “If you don’t ever clean your washer, it is less efficient, and sometimes the residue in the washer will come off on your clothes, leaving an odor or an oily-looking stain.”

That, of course, is the exact opposite of what you’re hoping to accomplish when you put your clothes in the washing machine! Plus, you don’t want to shorten the lifespan of your washer, which isn’t a cheap item to buy. Luckily, a few common household ingredients work incredibly well on your washing machine. Here’s how to deal with current problems and ward off future issues—quickly and easily.

How often should you clean your washing machine?

Learning how to clean your washing machine is one thing, but knowing how often to clean it is another. Of course, if you suddenly have a smelly washing machine or, worse, see mold in your washing machine, you need to take action, since mold is one of the things in your house that could make you sick. But you should really be cleaning it regularly. How regularly? “It really depends on your machine and what products you use,” Richardson says. “If you are using plant-based products, they tend to rinse cleaner and leave less residue, so once a year would work. If, however, you are using petroleum-based detergents, fabric softeners, or fragrances, you should clean it more often—maybe every three to six months.”

RELATED: The Definitive Guide on How Often You Should Clean Everything

What’s the best way to clean a washing machine?

If you’re wondering how to clean your washing machine with vinegar, read on. But if you’re wondering how to clean your washing machine with bleach, hold your horses—Richardson advises against it. “Chlorine bleach has no place in my laundry room,” he says, which is why he opts for a vinegar and borax mixture instead.

“The fastest and easiest way to clean your washer is to put one pound of borax and one gallon of vinegar into your washer and run it on the longest, hottest cycle,” Richardson says. “When you are finished, wipe down the gaskets and the latches and you’re good to go! Easy.” You’ll use the same approach for both top-loading and front-loading washers, he says, but the placement of the gaskets is different.

How to clean a top-loading washing machine

If you have a top-loading machine, cleaning it is pretty straightforward—even when it’s super smelly.

What you’ll need:

Directions:

  1. Pour one pound of borax into your washing machine drum.
  2. Then pour in one gallon of white vinegar.
  3. Run your washer on the hottest, longest cycle.
  4. When it’s done, use a soft cotton cloth to wipe down the insides, the gaskets, and the latches.
  5. Leave the door open to air-dry.

Don’t forget to wipe down the detergent drawer with vinegar when you’re done. “On a top-loading washer, pull the drawer out, and then tip it up to remove it,” says one of Samsung’s washing machine experts.

How to clean a front-loading washing machine

The process to clean a front-loading washer is equally simple, and you’ll use the same affordable household cleaners to get the job done.

What you’ll need:

  • Borax
  • White vinegar
  • Cotton cloth

Directions:

  1. Carefully pour one pound of borax into the bottom of your washing machine drum, spreading it out as you go so it doesn’t pile up and spill out.
  2. Where you’d normally pour the bleach, pour one gallon of white vinegar.
  3. Then run your washer on the hottest, longest cycle.
  4. When it’s done, wipe down everything—including the inside of the drum, the gaskets, and the latches—with a cotton cloth.
  5. Leave the door open to let it air-dry.

You’ll also need to wipe down the detergent drawer opening. “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 expert. Then clean it with vinegar, making sure to wipe off all mold and grime, before reinserting.

RELATED: Washer/Dryer Problems You’ll Regret Ignoring

Interior Of A Modern Laundry Roomimaginima/Getty Images

How to clean the outside of a washing machine

Of course, 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. “Surface blemishes on the door are usually caused by water or detergent residue,” says the Samsung rep. “A mild detergent and a damp cloth will remove most spots. 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. Then use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to dry the area.

How to keep your washer clean between loads

Taking these steps will help keep your washer smelling fresh long-term, according to the Samsung pro.

  • If you normally wash with cold water, run a cycle with warm or hot water occasionally to help slow down soil and detergent buildup.
  • Keep the door and detergent drawer open between cycles. It’ll help air them out and prevent moisture from lingering long enough for mold or mildew to grow.

Now that you know how to clean a washing machine, find out the secret ingredients you should be adding to your laundry.

Sources:

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.