The Easiest Way to Clean Your Washing Machine

The Easiest Way to Clean Your Washing Machine

Your washing machine cleans your clothes, therefore you should clean your washing machine. It’s a simple concept, but not one we think about too often. The washing machine doesn’t always strike me as a clean-able object or even one that needs to be spruced up, but in reality, it does get pretty grimy after pulling the dirt off all our clothes and towels. Sometimes the washing machine even stinks, which is a good enough reason to tackle it. Here’s the easiest way to get it done.

Why clean a washing machine?

The reasons for cleaning your washing machine extend beyond aesthetics and smells: Soap residue and chemicals from your detergent, plus whatever is on your garments, can create a nasty film inside. Not only can this clog up your mechanisms, making the whole thing run less effectively, but it can trap bacteria, too.

Clean your washing machine with baking soda and vinegar

You don’t need anything fancy—just vinegar and baking soda, though the methods you use to disperse these vary depending on what sort of tutorial you’re watching. In the past, I’ve just dumped about a cup of vinegar straight into the drum and run a hot, empty load. That’s always worked well for me in terms of de-stinking, but you can also kick it up a notch. More recently, I sprinkled baking soda into the drum and put a cup of vinegar directly into the detergent tray.

Adding baking soda and vinegar to the washing machine.
Photo: Lindsey Ellefson

I’ve read that you can put the baking soda in the softener tray, but I don’t like the idea of something grainy that isn’t designed to be inside a washing machine going through all the components like that. Adding it to the drum felt safer to me and there was no ill effect when I finished my cleaning cycle, which was just a plain, empty cycle on the hot setting.

The washer-cleaning results

Nice and clean!
Photo: Lindsey Ellefson

The vinegar-in-tray, baking-soda-in-drum technique worked well and left the interior of the machine shiny where before it hadn’t necessarily been visibly dirty, but you could certainly tell it had been used.

Smells were zapped away, too, which was my primary goal this time. For that to happen, though, it’s worth leaving your machine open to air out and dry fully after a cleaning cycle (and, in my opinion, after a regular load of laundry, too). Don’t forget to air the beast out, lest you spoil your cleaning efforts.

This is just a simple way to clean out the inside of the machine, but don’t forget that periodically, you have to go deeper inside to find your washing machine’s filter, and clean that, too. That’s trickier and requires you to find your owner’s manual. Be prepared for it to be full of nasty old water, lint, and other general grossness. You’ll clean it with mild soap and water and should do it quarterly, with the old vinegar-and-baking soda trick sprinkled a few times in-between.

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