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How to Clean Your Washing Machine

Even a washing machine can get smelly if you don’t maintain it. Follow these steps and give your washing machine the TLC it needs!

Smelly washing machines of Ireland – we’re coming for you!

Be honest. When was the last time you cleaned your washing machine

We’re not talking about running an empty cycle with some water and dusting the top of the machine. We’re talking the whole shebang – a deep clean of the interior and its components, including the rubber seal, filter, drawer and drum. 

We’re going to make an educated guess that quite a bit of time has passed since your last proper washing machine cleaning (if you’ve ever cleaned it at all!) In that case, it might horrify you to know that all sorts of nasties, like mildew, mould and bacteria (not to mention grime, hair, dust, dead skin cells and laundry detergent scum) can build up over time, clinging together to form deposits in all the nooks and crannies of your very expensive washing machine. 

Which stands to reason – after all, all that dirt that magically disappears from your clothes has to go somewhere! 

After a while, though, all of this buildup not only makes your washing machine look and smell bad, it also reduces the efficiency of the appliance. Not only that, but all that washing machine gunk can actually start leaving dark spots on your clothes if mould is left to grow unchecked.

How to wash your washing machine at home

Here at Littlewoods Ireland, we’re big proponents of cleaning our different home appliances to keep them working in tip top shape. So, for the benefit of everyone and their overworked washing machines, today we’re bringing you some effective ways to clean yours. 

But first, let’s cover…

How often should I clean my washing machine? 

how to clean washing machine with bleach

According to cleaning experts, you should clean your washing machine at least once every three months to keep it working properly and to help your clothes stay fresh and clean. Fortunately, our three-step process is easy to do and doesn’t require any special cleaning agents. 

What can I use to clean my washing machine?

Ingredients

  • Vinegar (or citric acid/descaler)
  • Bleach
  • Baking soda

Equipment

  • Clean, dry cloths
  • Rubber gloves
  • Face mask (if using cleaning agents with fumes)
  • Small scrubbing brush/toothbrush

Vinegar

Whether you’re committed to green cleaning, want a hard-working multi-purpose product, or are looking for a washing-machine-cleaning solution that is about as cheap as you can get, vinegar is the answer.

It works a treat to break down grease and grime, build up and remove any mysteriously stinky odours emanating from your washing machine. White distilled vinegar can also help descale (aka remove limescale buildup) in your washing machine, which is key to keep your machine running well. 

Baking soda

Baking soda, a real household staple, is a great natural way to clean your washing machine. It’s an effective, yet gentle abrasive and is a great deodorizer. Baking soda, similarly to vinegar, breaks up mineral deposits and any mould growth while cleaning and refreshing your washing machine.

Bleach / hydrogen peroxide

It can be easy to forget when the local supermarket has an entire aisle of specialty cleaning products, but good old-fashioned bleach can get down and dirty with pretty much everything you need to clean inside your house – including mildewy, mouldy washing machines.

Bleach is a great disinfectant, helping to kill any mould or mildew that might be breeding in your machine. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s also a great stain remover, working a treat on those weird brown mouldy spots that can crop up on the rubber of your machine. Best of all, it does all these things while being environmentally safe and economical.

Note: When using bleach, be aware of heavy fumes. Avoid contact with your skin as much as possible, as bleach is an irritant. And never, ever mix bleach with other household cleaning items that have vinegar or ammonia in them, as these react with one another to produce a highly dangerous, toxic gas!

How to clean the inside of your washing machine

how to clean washing machine with vinegar

Yep, that glorious machine in your kitchen that cleans clothes like magic, does in fact need to be cleaned as well. Happily, these three simple steps can solve most washing machine problems (and help you avoid an expensive repair bill!)

Step 1. Remove and wash any removable parts

  • The first (and easiest) step is to remove the washing machine drawer, including detergent and fabric softener dispensers. 
  • Wash in the sink with warm, soapy water, rinse with cool water and leave to air dry.
  • Depending on how gunky things are, you might want to have an old toothbrush on hand to give these a really good scrub.

Pro tip: If you have a high efficiency machine, using the wrong type of detergent can cause build up in your machine. Cut down on this by using a special high-efficiency laundry detergent, instead. These are readily available in most supermarkets.

Step 2. Wipe down the washing machine surface

  • With a clean, dry cloth (or a damp cloth if needed) and any all-purpose cleaner, give the surface of the machine a good wipe down. Steer clear of anything overly abrasive that can scratch up the paint. 
  • Make sure your cloth isn’t dripping wet, especially when cleaning around any switches.
  • Don’t forget to give the part inside your machine where the dispenser drawer sits a good cleaning out, too, as this can be prone to mildew. 

Step 3. Clean the interior

Over time, hard water minerals can build up in your machine’s inner workings. To get things back in tip-top shape, you need to cleanse and decalcify the machine. 

  • For this, all you need is some white vinegar. Pour a cupful into the detergent dispenser.
  • Then, run the washing machine through a hot-water cycle.
  • If the vinegar wasn’t enough to get your machine sparkling and smelling fresh, we recommend following the vinegar cycle with a baking soda wash. Simply sprinkle a cup of baking soda across the interior of the drum and run a short wash cycle with hot water.

Side bonus: the vinegar also works to break down grime, build up and remove any mysteriously musty odors emanating from the machine. You can substitute with either citric acid or a descaling solution, like Calgon.

How to deep clean the rubber seal

If, after all this, your machine machine is still smelling a little funky, it’s entirely possible that the rubber seal between the drum and door is the culprit. Here’s how to tackle this issue:

  • Soak some cloths with bleach and stuff these in between the rubber seal. This will help loosen up any lingering mouldy spots. Leave this to sit for at least an hour. 
  • At this point, give the rubber a good wipe down, using your trusty toothbrush on any stubborn mildew spots. 
  • Finally, run your machine through another quick wash cycle using the hottest water setting. 
  • Once it’s done, make sure to leave the washing machine door open so the inside can dry out fully. 

Pro tip: Make a habit of leaving the machine door open after every time you run a load. This allows any remaining moisture inside the rubber seal to evaporate and helps stop your washing machine from developing any mould, mildew and smells which can transfer to your (otherwise clean) clothes.

Cleaning the washing machine filter

It’s the filter’s job to help stop lint and dirt from recirculating onto your clothes after the water and detergent have washed them away. But to do its job, this hardworking aspect of the machine must be free of buildup.

  • Most washing machines have a little door near the bottom of the appliance that can be unscrewed to remove any loose coins, hairpins, lint or other debris that may be lurking there. Cleaning this out regularly helps your machine drain water better. 
  • Next, examine the area where the filters are installed for grime, using a damp towel to wipe the area clean if necessary.
  • Lock the filter securely back in place before running another wash cycle.

Hopefully, this article has pushed cleaning your washing machine to the top of your to-do-list – after all giving it a little TLC every couple months will help keep it running for years to come. 

When you’re done, don’t forget to add a reminder in your calendar to schedule a cleaning three months out (and set it to repeat). Meanwhile, your sparkling clean appliance is ready for its next load of dirty clothes, so fill ‘er up.

Looking to upgrade your washing machine, dishwasher, fridge or other appliances without the heavy price tag? Littlewoods Ireland has the best deals and express delivery on the latest household appliances for your home, from brands like Samsung, Bosch and more. Best of all, you can buy online today and pay later!

Fiona Hyland

Fiona loves nothing more than discovering new cities, brunch on Sundays, and a good documentary. If you don't find her cooking up a storm in the kitchen, you'll find her in an interiors store, feeding her very real blanket addiction.

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