Prevent spills and other debris from staining your laundry by keeping the outside of your washing machine clean. Promptly wipe up any spills with a damp cloth or paper towel. Avoid using ammonia, bleach, abrasive cleaners, or household solvents for this chore because they might damage the machine's surface or the electronic control panels.
Every week or so, wipe down the outside of your washing machine with a soft cloth and your favorite all-purpose cleaner or with a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and water. Open the machine so you can clean inside the lid and around the edges of your washer's opening. Use a folded piece of paper towel or cotton swabs to get crevices and seams clean. Rinse with clean water and wipe dry.
Use a damp cloth or paper towel to wipe the drum inside the machine. This will remove lint and other debris, as well as any residue left behind by laundry detergent.
If your washing machine isn't getting clothes as clean as you would expect, it might be time to deep-clean the machine. Thankfully, the machine will do most of the work. Here's how to do it:
Choose the largest load setting, then fill your washer with hot water. Add detergent and run a complete wash-and-rinse cycle.
Fill the washing machine with hot water a second time. This time, add two cups of chlorine bleach and run the machine through a complete wash-and-rinse cycle.
Fill the washing machine with hot water a third time, without adding any products. Run a complete wash-and-rinse cycle to eliminate any residue and odor left by the detergent or the bleach.
Also, clean removable bleach and fabric-softener dispensers. Simply soak the dispensers in warm water for 10 minutes, then clean them with an all-purpose spray cleaner and paper towels. Don't use laundry detergent for this task. Return the dispensers to their original locations once they are dry.
Vacuum the floor around your washing machine to remove lint and other debris (but keep your eyes open for stray buttons!). Gently pull the washer away from the wall and vacuum behind it, too.
Although more likely in front-loading washers, mildew can develop in top-loaders, too. Mildew is most common if your laundry room is poorly ventilated or you live in a warm, humid climate. Mildew can also develop if you always wash clothes in cold water -- which doesn't kill mildew-causing bacteria -- or if you leave wet clothes in the washing machine for a long period of time. Once your clothes develop the musty smell of mildew, it's hard to remove.
Follow these steps to stop the spread of mildew.