Washing Machine Care

Laundry room

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.

Deep-Clean the Interior

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.

Clean to Prevent Mildew

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.

  • Leave the washing machine lid or door open after every load of wash to allow moisture to escape. Wait a few hours before closing it again.
  • Dry just-washed clothes promptly. Even four to five hours is too long to let wet clothes sit in a warm, enclosed space.
  • Clean your washing machine tub on a regular basis to remove residue that encourages the growth of mildew.
  • Remove mildew from your washer by setting the machine for a large load and running the cycle with only hot water and one cup of household bleach. Follow this with a second cycle, this time using only hot water and two cups of white distilled vinegar to remove the smell. Vinegar also helps reduce the amount of soap residue clinging to the drum. Reducing the amount of soap buildup will reduce the likelihood of developing mildew. Finally, run a third regular, hot-water cycle (without any additional products) to remove bleach residue. Repeat the process until no odors remain.
  • Clean around the lid or door and the seals with a 10:1 mixture of warm water and bleach. Wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands, dip a soft cloth in the mixture and wipe carefully. Rinse with clean water, and dry with a soft cloth.
  • Repeat the process every few months or as needed to keep mildew in check.
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