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How to clean your washing machine

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

Find out how to clean your washing machine with this handy feature. Here, you’ll find tips on how to clean the washing machine drum, detergent dispenser, and to make sure your washing machine is as hygienic as possible. 

Whether you have a front load washer or a top-load washing machine, you’ll be relying on your washer to get your clothes sparkling clean. But, if you don’t clean the machine itself you could be washing your clothes in a dirty drum. Cleaning your washing machine is also important for maintenance. 

How often should you clean your washing machine? Aim to clean your washer once a month to keep on top of any build-up and to keep the drum as clean as possible. For more tips on how to sanitize your washing, read our feature on what coronavirus means for your laundry routine.

Energy-efficient washing machines have been designed to work at lower temperatures, which is better for the environment. However, it’s well worth running a hot wash once a month to make sure you’re giving your washing machine a thorough clean. 

Many washing machines come with sanitize hot wash cycles but if your washer doesn’t have that feature, we’ve got ideas for how to clean your washing machine manually.

So, here are the best ways to clean your washing machine. 

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.