how to clean your washing machine

How to clean a washing machine

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It may seem silly to have to clean something that cleans your clothes but it’s something that should be done regularly to prolong your washing machine’s life. There are a number of washing machine cleaning products available at supermarkets but if you’re after a more natural remedy you can use some common household items to clean it. Read on to find out how to clean your washing machine. 

What causes a washing machine to get dirty?

There are a number of reasons your washing machine can get dirty. First and foremost, the build-up of dead skin, dirt and lint from your clothes can cause your washing machine pipes can become clogged and the drum dirty. Secondly, a blockage in a pipe where water is drained can cause dirty water to sit in your washing machine and cause mould and a musty smell that transfers to clothing.

While your main concern would be the drum being dirty, the seal in your washing machine door can also become filthy. Any debris from clothing tends to get caught in between the seals and if your washing machine door is left closed too long mould can also build up due to the dampness trapped inside.

How do you clean your washing machine?

Using a cleaning product specifically designed to clean washing machines or using common household cleaning products will be equally effective in cleaning your machine. The trade-off is that specific products are could be more expensive and potentially contain stronger chemicals, while a homemade solution is possibly more natural but also more time-consuming.

How much does washing machine cleaner cost?

Store-bought washing machine cleaner ranges from as little as $4 up to $20 depending on the brand and the size of the packet. A cheaper option is usually  to choose the at-home remedy because it uses items you most likely already have in the cupboard.  

Washing machine cleaners

There are a number of brands that sell washing machine cleaner, including Dettol and Pine O’Cleen. Both are big brands in the cleaning product space, with a number of products ranging from toilet cleaners to  hand wash and more. You can find both brands at supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths. 

dettol washing machine cleaner

Dettol washing machine cleaner

Dettol,one of the biggest names in cleaning and antibacterial products, sells an odour eliminating washing machine cleaner. Retailing for around $10, Dettol claims its product removes both odours and germs to leave lasting freshness and remove limescale and dirt.. The brand recommends using the product once every two months to maintain the best washing machine hygiene. 

pine ocleen washing machine cleaner

Pine O’Cleen washing machine cleaner

Pine O’Cleen is another cleaning product giant best known for its multipurpose spray range, disinfectants and toilet cleaning products. It has two washing machine cleaners, retailing at about $5 for its standard antibacterial product and about $10 for its Gold 7in1 cleaner. Pine O’Cleen says both products remove odours, remove hidden dirt and bring lasting freshness. 

DIY washing machine cleaner

If you’re looking at an eco-friendlier at- home solution for washing machine cleaning, this is for you. You likely already have the ingredients to create natural cleaning agents in your home: baking soda and vinegar. You can use the vinegar alone for a surface clean,  then add the baking soda to break down any remaining build-up of dirt.  

Washing machine cleaning tips

person wiping exterior of washing machine

There are plenty of small actions you can take to extend both the time between cleaning your washing machine and the longevity of your machine. Here are some basic actions you can take after every wash:

  • Leave the door open 
  • Wipe down the rubber seals
  • Don’t use too much detergent
  • Wipe down the detergent dispenser or agitator after washes.

Replacing the door and pipe seals if they become damaged will also help keep your washing machine in tip-top shape for a longer life.

How to clean a top-loader washing machine

Top-loader washing machines take a little bit longer and can be fiddlier to clean than front-loader machines because they require a few additional steps Follow these steps when using a home-remedy for cleaning but read the instructions when using a store-bought cleaner.

  • Step 1− Empty your washing machine and allow the interior to dry.
  • Step 2− Set the washer on the hottest and largest load setting, then add four cups of white vinegar to the wash cycle in the detergent dispenser. Pause your washer after 15 minutes and let the mixture sit in the drum for about an hour.
  • Step 3− Use this time to spray the outside of the machine with vinegar and wipe it with a damp cloth, and -scrub the detergent dispenser with an old toothbrush.
  • Step 4− Once the hour is up, continue the wash cycle as normal.
  • Step 5− Repeat the cycle and this time, add one cup of baking soda to the drum.
  • Step 6− Once the cycle is complete, wipe down the lid top with a damp cloth.

How to clean a front-loader washing machine

Front loaders are susceptible to a build-up of dirt and mould in the door seal so always take a little extra time to clean those harder-to-reach areas. If you’re using a store-bought cleaner follow the instructions. For a homemade cleaner, follow these steps as a guide.  

  • Step 1− Empty your washing machine and allow the interior to dry.
  • Step 2− Wipe up any grime on the rubber gasket using a damp cloth and a little white vinegar.
  • Step 3− Add two cups of white vinegar to the detergent dispenser.
  • Step 4− Run a complete washing cycle with hot water and on the largest load setting.
  • Step 5− Repeat the cycle and this time, add ½ cup of baking soda to the drum.
  • Step 6− Once the cycle is complete, spray and wipe the drum and the outside of your machine with a damp cloth and vinegar.

Front loaders are particularly susceptible to suds building up, and with all the crud being dislodged, it may suds up quite a bit, so keep an eye on it! For fabric softener dispensers, most of the time they are able to be removed – this way you can place them in the dishwasher for cleaning. For front loaders, also pay attention to the filters, and clean and empty the crud caught up in them as necessary.

person cleaning washing machine seal

How to clean a washing machine seal

Cleaning a washing machine seal is a pretty simple task but can be a gross one! One way is to use a little bit of vinegar or washing machine cleaner on a damp cloth and wipe the insides of the seal. Another temporary cleaning method is to use some anti-bacterial wipes and quickly wipe it over to get all the muck off, then leave the door open for it to air out and dry. 

Looking for more guides on washing machines?

How often should I clean my washing machine?

If  you use your washing machine daily, you should deep clean it once a month to avoid any long-term damage to clothes or your machine. If you use your machine every few days you could possibly stretch it to once every two months with some smaller maintenance cleans in between deep cleaning. By maintaining your washing machine cleaning schedule you can prolong the life of your washing machine and have fresher clothes after each wash. 

Compare Front Load Washing Machines

Kate King
Casual Content Producer
Kate King was a content producer at Canstar Blue until 2024, most recently in the Home & Lifestyle section. She holds a Bachelor of Creative Industries from the Queensland University of Technology, majoring in Journalism and Media and Communications.

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