How to Clean Your Washing Machine, According to Cleaning Experts

Find out how to clean your washing machine from the inside out the safe and easy way.

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When you think about giving your home a good scrub down, you probably don't consider washing the objects that do some of the cleaning for you. For example, cleaning your washing machine probably doesn't come to mind as often as it should. You're not alone if you think the appliance is basically cleaning itself every time you run it. But that's hardly the case. Yes, even washing machines get dirty—or worse yet, moldy—and chances are high yours is need of a good cleaning.

"A lot of people think washing machines are self-cleaning. On the one hand, they do rinse out after each use, but on the other hand, what's left behind is soap residue, dirt, bacteria, and hard water deposits," explains Melissa Maker, host of YouTube channel Clean My Space. "All of the things that come off your clothing—most of it rinses away, but there are even remnants of that that get stuck behind." Ready to start scrubbing? Below, we've compiled a step-by-step guide on how to clean your washing machine, according to Maker and other experts.

How to Clean Your Washing Machine

Step 1: Read your machine's user manual.

man reading manual while doing laundry
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Different types of washing machines need to be treated differently. So, before you start cleaning, read your owner's manual and find out what you should and shouldn't do. If you've misplaced the manual, Maker says you can search your washing machine's make and model number on Google and pull up the manual online.

Step 2: Clean the drawer with soap and water.

open detergent drawer in washing machine
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When cleaning your washing machine, the first thing you should do is scrub down the drawer where you put your detergent and fabric softener. According to Cyrus Bedwyr, appliances cleaning expert at Fantastic Services in London, keeping the drawer fresh ensures that it "can't get clogged with old detergent."

And all you need is hot, soapy water and a sponge to totally transform this part of your washing machine. Scrub it down once a month, and Bedwyr says you should have "no problem with mold and limescale."

Step 3: If your machine has one, clear the filter of any debris.

dirty washing machine filter with coins stuck inside
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You'd be amazed what kind of stuff can get stuck in your washing machine filter if your appliance has one. That's why Bedwyr notes that you should "check the filter for coins or anything else that can be forgotten in the pockets." Removing any unwelcome items can prevent a blockage and save you a call to the repairman.

Step 4: Check your hoses.

Back side of an old washing machine with drain hose.
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Without fully functioning hoses, your washing machine will stop running. And a hole in a hose could cause flooding in the house. As part of the cleaning process, Bedwyr recommends inspecting your hoses for proper attachment and any holes.

Step 5: Run your washing machine on the hottest setting with nothing in it.

water swirling in close up of inside of washing machine

According to Bedwyr, bacteria most often accumulates on the drum and seals of the washing machine. Thankfully, you can easily clean these areas with a product you likely already have: vinegar. Just put two to three cups of vinegar where you'd normally put your detergent and voilà: Your machine should be good as new. Try to do this at least every three months to clean the drum and pipes, Bedwyr says.

If vinegar is too potent for you, Maker notes that there are other products on the market specially designed to clean your washing machine. "Either/or will work," she says.

Step 6: Remove any remaining debris with alcohol.

woman's hand wiping down inside of washing machine
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If you think the drum of your machine needs further cleaning after you run a full cycle with vinegar, try scrubbing it with rubbing alcohol. Abe Navas, general manager of Emily's Maids in Dallas, notes that this dissolvent will "brush away any gunk that could [have] formed." Make sure not to use soap instead, as it could impact future laundry loads.

Step 7: Scrub down the outside of the machine.

woman's hand with gloves cleaning exterior of washing machine
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The exterior of your washing machine is much less sensitive than the interior. Therefore, Navas notes that you can simply use hot water, a brush, and dishwasher soap to "scrub anything on the exterior." Just be careful when you're cleaning the back of your washing machine since that's where all the cables are.

Step 8: Keep your washing machine's door open.

washing machine view from the side with door wide open
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Get into the habit of keeping the washing machine door open not only after you clean it, but after every use. "If you keep the door closed, then you're going to have much more mildew on the inside of your machine," Maker explains. Letting your machine dry out after every use will prevent any build-up and make future cleaning sessions much easier.

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