You may not know this, but your washing machine needs some cleaning of its own. It may seem counter-intuitive that a machine dedicated to cleaning and spending most of its time filled with warm soapy water would essentially need a bath, but it’s true. Soap and minerals present in most commonly used detergents are apt to build up over time and you will notice that your clothes are not as clean as they once were. Hard water causes lime buildup in components and pipes, causing things to run slower. Washing machines and pipes are more efficient when lime is removed. If you are using a high-efficiency washer, HE washers tend to hold water in certain components, becoming a breeding ground for mold and mildew and causing unpleasant odors. All those odors can transfer to your “clean” laundry.

How you clean out your machine will depend on the type of machine you have in your home. Regardless of the type of machine, this should be done several times a year. You should set a calendar reminder and plan on doing it every three or four months.

For a top-loading washer:

Many tutorials will recommend bleach. While it is definitely powerful, it can be hard on septic systems and many people prefer to use no bleach. This uses white vinegar and baking soda to clean your washer. The vinegar will disinfect and will kill the mold and mildew and keep those odors at bay. The acidity of the vinegar will help dissolve soap residue in the wash tub and can also be helpful in dissolving lime deposits in pipes (if you have hard water). The baking soda cleans off the soap scum and does the work of deodorizing.

  1. 1. Run a load with the washer set to hot water with the largest load setting. Do not add clothes or detergent. Add 1 quart of white vinegar to the water and allow your washer to agitate for about a minute to get that vinegar good and mixed.
  2. 2. Now you want to dump in about 1/2 cup of baking soda. Run the machine for a short bit to mix in the baking soda. Now let the machine sit for about an hour with the vinegar and baking soda mix in the drum.
  3. 3. Now is the time to give attention to the rest of the machine, paying attention to the knobs and the top of the wash bin and depending on your enthusiasm, you may even get an old toothbrush out and get into the seams.
  4. 4. Finish the cycle until the water runs out. It’s best if your machine can spin while draining, but if not just run a plain hot water cycle completely through to rinse.

For a front-loading washer:

For a front-loading washer, all you will need is vinegar.

  1. 1. With no clothes or detergent, run a long wash cycle with only water and one cup of white vinegar in the washer.
  2. 2. Wipe down the washing machine with a cloth doused in a 50/50 water and vinegar solution, paying special attention to the door gasket, seals, and door interior.
  3. 3. Make sure to rinse the door gasket and seals after you clean them to prevent possible deterioration. And then make sure to wipe them dry and always leave the door slightly ajar to allow the inside of the washer to air out.

Follow these steps and not only will your clothes and washer feel cleaner, you may notice your whole laundry room feels a little bit cleaner!