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How to clean your washing machine

How to clean your washing machine
(Image credit: Getty)

Wondering how to clean your washing machine? We’ve got handy tips and tricks for cleaning your washer and keeping it in top condition. 

We rely on some of the best front load washers and top load washing machines to free our clothes of dirt, germs, and stains on a regular basis, so it makes perfect sense that you’re going to want to keep the washer itself clean. 

Perhaps you’re just looking for handy hacks for cleaning your washing machine or you’re wondering why does my washing machine smell? Either way, you’re in the right place as we explain both. 

When we wash our clothes using a washing machine, we add detergent and conditioner to get our clothes nice and clean, however, many of these products have been designed to work at lower temperatures - meaning less of an impact on the environment. 

While washing your clothes at a lower temperature is a step in the right direction for the environment, it does mean that products can build up in the machine and detergent drawer and occasionally higher temperatures are needed to clean the washing machine. 

What’s more, you might notice your washer smelling damp or musty and that’s a sign it’s in need of a clean. If the smell is really bothering you, you can also take a look at this year's Black Friday washing machine deals to get a new one for less. 

How often should you clean your washing machine?  

We recommend cleaning your washing machine once a month, or every six months if you don’t use your washing machine really regularly. A hot wash along with the tips we’ve mentioned below will help keep your washing machine as effective and hygienic as possible, and it’ll also prevent your washing machine from smelling damp. 

For other appliance cleaning tips, check out our advice on how to clean a refrigerator.  


How to clean inside a washing machine 

Start off with the main area of the washing machine. Before you even get to the washing drum, run a bowl of hot soapy water - just regular washing liquid will be fine. Grab a sponge and while gently pulling it back, clean under the seal all the way around the machine door. This is a prime spot for mold to grow so take your time to remove any detergent that’s built up, or you may even find an odd sock you’d been looking for. 

Once you’ve cleaned the seal on your washing machine, give the inside of the washing machine door a thorough wipe down. Don’t worry about any watermarks or streaks it leaves at this point as it’ll get wet when you clean the drum. 

How to clean a washing machine drum  

To clean the washing machine drum you can buy dedicated washing machine cleaning products, but you can also use a simple bleach solution to sanitize your washing machine. 

If you’d rather not use any chemicals at all, put your washing machine on a boil wash once a month, making sure that’s it empty of any clothes. 

To clean your washing machine with bleach, use half a cup of chlorine bleach and put the machine on a warm cycle, rather than boiling hot. Boiling water with bleach isn’t as effective, so opt for a warm wash. It’s very important to make sure your washing machine is cleaned with bleach while empty, otherwise, it will take the color out of your clothes. Be sure not to use any other chemicals or cleaners at the same time as this can be harmful if you breathe in any fumes. 

If you live in a hard water area, you can use a limescale remover once a month, or choose a water softener in most washes. This should help you stay on top of limescale and grime inside the machine. 

How to clean your washing machine

(Image credit: Getty)

How to clean the washing machine detergent drawer

There are lots of tips and cleaning products out there for cleaning your washing machine drawer, however, some of the most effective ways to clean are often the simplest too. 

To clean your detergent dispenser, run a sink full of hot soapy water - there’s no need to buy a specialist cleaner for this part. Let your detergent draw soak in the hot water for a few minutes as this will help loosen any build-up. 

While the detergent drawer is soaking, turn your attention to the space where you’ve just pulled the detergent drawer out of. You might be surprised to find lots of dried up detergent or sticky substances that need to be cleaned up. A normal cleaning cloth will be fine to get off most of the build-up in this space, but for small spaces, take a clean toothbrush and scrub away. 

Next, go back to your detergent dispenser and apply the toothbrush to reach all the corners and crevices. Once you’ve finished, leave the detergent dispenser out to dry fully and don’t be tempted to put it back in when it’s wet. This will stop it from smelling. 

How to clean your washing machine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to stop your washing machine from smelling  

1. Leave the door open 

The easiest way to prevent your washing machine from smelling is to leave the washer door open once you’ve finished using the machine. If you do washing in the evening, leave the door open overnight, or if you wash during the day, try to leave it open for at least a few hours. 

By leaving the washer door open you’re giving the drum and seal time to dry out and prevent mold and mildew from forming.

2. Run a hot wash 

Another way to prevent your washing machine from smelling is to run a boil wash once a month using the techniques we suggested above, or simply with just hot water as this will help to sanitize the washing machine. Many detergents now have been formulated so that they work with lower washer temperatures. This may be better for the environment, but it’s not as effective as killing the germs in the washing machine itself. 

3. Make sure you’re not using too much detergent 

Using lots of detergent might be tempting if you want your clothes to smell amazing, but you’ll be left with build-up inside your washing machine, in the detergent drawer, and on your clothes too. To prevent any smelly build-up, stick to the recommended amount of detergent that is stated on the packaging. 

4. Take your clothes quickly out once they’re clean

We’ve all done it - put a load of washing on and forgotten about it, but it’s important to take your wet clothes out of the washing machine as soon after they’ve finished washing as you can. Leaving them in the machine when they’re wet will make them smell and in turn, make the machine drum smell too! 

Finally, make sure to wipe down the outside of your washing machine using hot soapy water and a cloth twice a month, if you can. You’ll be amazed how many things get slopped down the front of your washer. 

For tips specifically for top load washers, check out our 5 tips for cleaning your top load washer feature.