How To Clean Your Washing Machine—Because It’s Not Going To Clean Itself

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Hate to say it, but you've got one more addition your spring cleaning list. Just like your dishwasher, your washing machines does most of the heavy lifting, but it's also not going to clean itself. In fact, you should be cleaning your washing machine pretty regularly if you don't want to damage your clothes, says Katie Jennings, manager of consumer technical insights at Seventh Generation.

"Just like any appliance, you need to properly maintain it. And cleaning is a part of proper maintenance for any appliance you'd like to keep working better for longer," says Jennings. "The more modern machines, in particular, are really good at soil removal, but they're doing it with less water." Reduced water consumption makes the machine more efficient, but it also means that the debris on your clothes might not be fully rinsed away. "You might notice an odor, filming, or discoloration, especially depending on the model you have. And so that maintenance also helps avoid musty odors and make sure that there are no residuals as you wash additional loads of clothing."

Experts In This Article

To keep your washing machine operating at peak performance, stick to a weekly, monthly, and yearly cleaning regimen. Before you get started, read the manufacturer's instructions to learn how to clean your specific washing machine. "Each model will be a little different and the manufacturers have done a lot of due diligence in this space," Jennings.

How to clean your washing machine

1. Weekly: Wipe it down

After each use, or at least once a week if you do laundry more frequently, Jennings recommends using a damp cloth to wipe down the gasket, which is the piece of rubber around the opening of the machine that seals the lid closed. "Sometimes you can even pop out the little detergent holder and the fabric softener holder, and those get quite disgusting, and you can rinse those at your sink and wipe them out with that cloth," says Jennings. "And that just makes sure that there's no buildup from your regular detergent." (As someone who did not know that tray was removable, this intel is particularly helpful.)

2. Monthly: Run the tub clean cycle

For a monthly deep clean, Jennings says to use your machine's tub clean function. "It'll make sure that the water and the cycle is hot enough and reaching the places it needs to reach to get a lot of that debris and build up and odor removed," she says. If your machine is a bit older and doesn't have this, check the instructions for information on the best way to clean it. "If your manufacturer suggests, or if it's compatible with your machine, you can also add an incremental additive to the cleaning process," she says. Tub cleaners, like Affresh ($12), get into all of the little crevices and pipes in your machine to get it clean from the inside out. A tub cleaner be especially great for removing odor and hard water build-up. Chlorine bleach or white distilled vinegar will work, too, though not as well as specialized tub cleaners.

3: Once or twice a year: Clean the filter

If your machine has a filter, Jennings says you should clean that out once or twice a year. This involves draining out all of the excess gunk and water that can collect in your machine. "That's probably a bucket and gloves situation because it can be quite gross," says Jennings. The filter removes really big particulates before they head to your septic or your wastewater system. "To get that once a year and hose it down is a good idea," she says.

When your machine is nice and clean, your clothes will be even cleaner. Please excuse me while I go to check if my washing machine has a filter.

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