How to clean and properly maintain your washing machine

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on

Washing machines do a lot of work, and need some TLC every now and then. They deal with dirt, detergent, water, and all kinds of other things, so it’s important to properly clean and maintain them to prevent grime, smells, mould and mildew.

Keeping your machine in tip top shape doesn’t take too much work, and we’ve got a guide on how to keep both front loaders and top loaders clean and effective at doing your laundry.

A white front loader in a laundry room.

How to clean and maintain your washing machine

Whether you have a top or front loader, following these steps every wash, month, and year can help keep your machine in good shape.

Every wash

  • Leave the washing machine door and detergent drawer open for air drying to prevent damp smells.
  • Wipe down the seal with a damp cloth with soapy water.
  • Wipe down the seal and any spills from the exterior to prevent bacteria build-up.
  • If you have a top loader, wipe down the agitator and clean the lint filter if your machine has one.
  • Adjust the feet of your washing machine to level it again if it has gone off-balance during a cycle.

Every month (or around every 30 wash cycles)

Front loaders are a bit harder to clean and maintain than top loaders because they’re more susceptible to the build-up of suds, but both still require a more in-depth clean every now and then.

For a front loader:

  1. Wipe down the seal with a damp cloth and soapy water.
  2. Add a bit of detergent (or 2 cups of white vinegar) to the detergent dispenser.
  3. Run the machine on its hottest cycle and largest load setting. This will help remove scrud, and is particularly important if you do lots of cold washes.
  4. Once the cycle has finished, wipe down the drum and machine exterior with a damp cloth and soapy water or white vinegar.
  5. Scrub the detergent dispenser with a toothbrush.

For a top loader:

  1. Add some detergent (or 4 cups of white vinegar) to the detergent dispenser.
  2. Run the machine on its hottest cycle and largest load setting.
  3. Wipe down the top of the machine with a damp cloth and soapy water or white vinegar.
  4. Scrub the detergent dispenser with a toothbrush.

Every year

  • Check how level your washing machine is and adjust the feet if it’s off-balanced.
  • Scrub detergent, mould and any residue in or on your machine with a toothbrush and soapy water or white vinegar.

What should I do if my machine stops working?

As soon as your machine stops working or stops doing a good job at cleaning your laundry, you should either troubleshoot the problem or call the machine’s manufacturer straight away. If necessary, organise for a repair technician to tend to your machine - it’s important to do repairs as soon as possible to prevent further issues down the track.

Do I need to use a washing machine cleaner?

Washing machine cleaners aren’t necessary to keep your machine sparkling clean. Using soapy water to clean your machine’s exterior, drum, and door seal should be adequate to keep it spick and span. Many people swear by using vinegar or baking soda to clean their washing machines - both are effective at disinfecting and killing bacteria in both top and front loaders.

However, many people still like to use washing machine cleaners. These cleaners are available at most supermarkets and occasionally at retailers that sell washing machines.

If you do choose to use an appliance cleaner, make sure that it’s appropriate for your washing machine by reading the product description as well as your washer’s product manual. You can also read reviews of washing machine cleaners to see whether users actually found them effective. Make sure you follow the instructions of the cleaner.

A product image of the Dr Beckmann Service-It Washing Machine Cleaner.
The Dr Beckmann Service-It Washing Machine Cleaner.
A product image of the Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner.
The Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner.

Can I clean my washing machine with bleach?

You can use bleach to clean your washing machine, however it’s important to use it correctly to avoid damaging your machine and laundry. Bleach kills bacteria and removes odours, however using too much can clog your septic system.

It’s important to read the cleaning instructions of your washing machine. If you decide to use bleach and want to mix it with anything other than water, check that the ingredients of your detergent or machine cleaner are compatible with the bleach you’re using.

How long do washing machines last?

A washing machine can last over 10 years when properly cleaned and maintained, depending on the quality of the appliance. After this, it doesn’t take too long before replacing the machine entirely is usually cheaper than repairing it.

More maintenance tips to help your washing machine last longer

  • Once your laundry is finished, empty your laundry from the drum immediately to keep bad smells at bay.
  • Replace the rubber seal of your washing machine as soon as it shows signs of damage, as a damaged seal can cause water to leak and make it easier for grime and mould to build up in your machine (which could end up on your laundry).
  • Don’t load the washer over its maximum capacity as this will cause the washer to overwork, and lead to excess dirt clogging the pipes and drainage system.
  • Don’t use too much detergent. If there’s residue left on your laundry, try using less detergent each load - this will be kinder to your clothes and will also prevent a buildup of suds (and odour) in your machine.
  • Try to keep your laundry room well-ventilated to reduce moisture and smells - a dehumidifier in the laundry room can help with this.

The bottom line

Cleaning your washing machine isn’t hard, if you do it regularly. If you don’t, you’ll find you’ll probably have to tackle a build-up of grime and mould - and this is where cleaning can get difficult.

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