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5 Ways to Clean and Sanitize Your Washing Machine

Failure to clean and maintain your washing machine can lead to bad odors, germs, bacteria and mold. I experienced this first hand when I began to see black bits all over my washing. At first I thought it was just the remains of a forgotten tissue hidden in a pocket. But it didn’t go away. I finally realized that it was coming from my washing machine, so I peeled back the rubber seal to look between the drums. I was horrified. It was covered in black mold and built up soap scum. I spent weeks trying different strategies to get rid of it. In this article I will share these with you and explain how they work.

Do you regularly clean your washing machine?

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Maintain you and your families health by keeping you washing machine clean.
Maintain you and your families health by keeping you washing machine clean.

What's Causing My Washing Machine to Get so Dirty and How Can I Prevent It?

  • The gasket of your front loading machine (the rubber around the door that forms the seal) traps a lot of water in it which promotes the growth of mold. Wipe the gasket dry after each wash.
  • Mold grows in damp places, so leave the washing machine door open at all times to help it to dry out and don’t leave your wet washing in there.
  • Washing with low temperatures is a problem when it comes to the germs and bacteria that build up in your machine. Do at least one wash a month at a minimum of 60ºC (140ºF), preferably 90ºC (194ºF) to sanitize your machine.
  • Overuse of detergent can cause build up, so carefully measure out your dose according to your load size and how soiled it is.
  • For HE machines, reduce excess suds by using a specialized HE detergent.
  • Using liquid detergents and fabric softener can cause a sticky waxy build up on the inside of your washing machines drum. This problem is exacerbated when we wash at low temperatures. Use powdered detergents instead of liquid and use half a cup of distilled white vinegar in place of fabric softener.
  • Those with hard water have to contend with both limescale and soap scum that builds up on that surfaces that it comes in contact with like pipes and hoses. Add a water softening product to each wash such as Raindrops and follow detergent dose instructions for hard water.

See what this guy discovers when he pulls his washing machine apart...EEEK!

How to Clean the Washing Machine Components

How to Clean a Front Loader Washing Machine Gasket

Pack the rubber folds and cavities of the gasket with paper towels soaked in hydrogen peroxide. Leave it to soak for a few hours before wiping down clean and dry. You may need to use a soft brush to gently scrub it.

To prevent it from getting moldy by using an old towel or paper towel to dry around the rubber gasket/door seal after each wash. You could also add some vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to the towel as you wipe it down to really scare away the mold.

The water trapped inside the washing machines gasket which encourages mold to grow.
The water trapped inside the washing machines gasket which encourages mold to grow.

How to Clean a Washing Machine Top Loader

Use a paper towel soaked in hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar to wipe around the opening of the machine. Try to get between the tub rim and top edges, and all the areas that the water can’t get to.

How to Clean a Washing Machine Dispenser

Remove the dispensers from the machine. Fill your tub up with hot water and half a cup of vinegar and scrub away. Don’t forget to also clean inside the area where the dispenser sits as this can become moldy too. If the dispenser can’t be removed (check your machines manual), then use a pipe cleaner or an old toothbrush to get into the crevices.

5 Ways to Clean the Washing Machine Drum

1. How to Clean a Washing Machine with Oxygen Bleach and Enzyme Detergent

Choose powdered enzyme detergents over liquid ones. Look for a detergent that contains a range of grease eating enzymes such as Amylase, Protease as well as Lipase or Mannanase (you may need to check the manufacturer’s website for the list of ingredients). Regularly add powdered oxygen bleach to your usual detergent. Seventh Generation detergents use these types of enzymes and they also sell oxygen bleach. Be aware that enzyme detergents are not safe to use on wool or silk.

The machine is designed to rise to this temperature as the wash progresses, so this should give the enzymes enough time to do their work without being affected by the heat. If your machine has manual load levels, then set it to its biggest load capacity.

Learn more about enzyme detergents here.

Look for the word enzymes in the ingredients.
Look for the word enzymes in the ingredients.
Quantities
How to clean a front loader washing machine
Top loading machine
Powdered enzyme detergent and oxygen bleach. Use dose as directed on the label for large loads.
Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Add the detergent and oxygen bleach to the detergent dispenser and begin the cycle.
Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Add the detergent and oxygen bleach to the detergent dispenser and begin the cycle.

2. How to Clean a Washing Machine with Baking Soda and Vinegar

You can clean a washing machine naturally using distilled white vinegar and baking soda. Vinegar is acetic acid, but it’s only a mild form of acid and will not kill all of the mould. Therefore it’s best to use it alongside baking soda to kill a wider range of mould species. Both are safe to use and help to remove limescale. Baking soda also deodorizes.

Combine white vinegar and baking soda for maximum cleaning power
Combine white vinegar and baking soda for maximum cleaning power
Quantities
How to clean a front loader washing machine
Top loading machine
½ cup of baking soda and 1 quart (1 liter) of vinegar.
Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Add the baking soda to the detergent dispenser. Pour the vinegar into the drum of the machine and begin the cycle.
Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Add baking soda to the detergent dispenser and begin the cycle. Wait until the machine has filled with water then add the vinegar. Let the machine agitate for 1 min to combine then stop the cycle and soak for one hour before letting the cycle finish.

3. How to Clean a Washing Machine with Citric Acid

Citric acid is derived from citrus fruits and is a natural and powerful way to remove limescale, soap scum and buildup. It is a much stronger acid than vinegar so works a treat for machines with lots of buildup. Citric acid can also be used alongside baking soda to help remove odors.

Citric acid is an excellent natural product to remove limescale, soap scum and detergent buildup.
Citric acid is an excellent natural product to remove limescale, soap scum and detergent buildup. | Source
Quantities
How to clean a front loader washing machine
Top loading machine
1 cup of citric acid and ½ cup of baking soda (optional)
Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Add the citric acid and baking soda into the drum of the machine and begin the cycle.
Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Wait until the machine has filled with water then add the citric acid and baking soda. Let the machine agitate for 1 min to combine then stop the cycle and soak for one hour before letting the cycle finish.

Citric Acid

Citric Acid - 5 Pounds - Food Grade , Non-GMO, Organic, 100% Pure - Alpha Chemicals
Citric Acid - 5 Pounds - Food Grade , Non-GMO, Organic, 100% Pure - Alpha Chemicals

Citric acid is a natural and powerful way to remove limescale, soap scum and buildup. Citric acid will remove washing machine detergent buildup and remove odors.

 

4. How to Clean a Washing Machine with Hydrogen Peroxide

Instead of chlorine bleach, try using hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is sold as a 3% diluted liquid solution and is an excellent all around cleaner. You may see it being sold in higher concentrations but these are used by commercial cleaners and diluted it to make large quantities of cleaning solution. I would not recommend that you do this because of the safety risks involved when handling solutions above 3% and because hydrogen peroxide must be must be used within a year of opening and stored in a dark place as it loses its effectiveness.

Hydrogen Peroxide removes limescale, kills mould and is antiviral and antibacterial. It can also be used with hot water. It is safer to use than chlorine bleach because it doesn’t leave behind toxic fumes and residue and is safe for the environment as it breaks down into oxygen and water. The down side to hydrogen peroxide is that it takes longer to work, so you’ll need to leave it soaking in your machine for at least three hours. As this is not possible for front loaders, you may need to run it through twice.

Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner

Flo-Kem GP107 All Purpose Peroxide Cleaner with Citrus Fragrance, 1 Gallon Bottle, Clear
Flo-Kem GP107 All Purpose Peroxide Cleaner with Citrus Fragrance, 1 Gallon Bottle, Clear

Hydrogen Peroxide removes limescale, kills mold, and is antiviral and antibacterial. Hydrogen Peroxide is an effective alternative to chlorine bleach because it doesn't leave behind toxic fumes and residue.

 
Quantities
How to clean a front loader washing machine
Top loading machine
1 quart (1 liter) of hydrogen peroxide.
Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the drum of the machine and begin the cycle. Add an additional rinse cycle to ensure all traces of peroxide are removed.
Set water temperature to 90ºC (194ºF). Wait until the machine has filled with water then add the hydrogen peroxide. Let the machine agitate for 1 min to combine then stop the cycle and soak for at least three hours before finishing the cycle. Add an additional rinse cycle to ensure all traces of peroxide are removed.

5. How to Clean a Washing Machine with Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach must only be used with warm or cold water, as it loses it effectiveness at high temperatures. Many people like to use chlorine bleach, but I prefer not to because of its toxicity and the fact that it can’t be mixed with other products. Also, it does not remove limescale and although it’s great at removing mould from smooth services like tiles and glass, it can’t penetrate porous surfaces such as the plastic inner drum or porcelain inner drum of your washing machine. You may think that you have killed the mould because you can no longer see it, but the roots of the mould are still alive and well and will happily re-grow in a short amount of time.

Quantities
How to clean a front loader washing machine
Top loading machine
1 quart (1 liter) of chlorine bleach.
Set maximum water temperature to 40ºC (104ºF). Pour the bleach into the drum of the machine and begin the cycle. Add an additional rinse cycle to ensure all traces of bleach are removed.
Set maximum water temperature to 40ºC (104ºF). Wait until the machine has filled with water then add the bleach. Let the machine agitate for 1 min to combine then stop the cycle and soak for one hour before finishing the cycle. Add an additional rinse cycle to ensure all traces of bleach are removed.

Persistent Problems

Unfortunately, if the situation is bad, don't expect the problem to be resolved the first time. You may need to continue to clean it up to 6 times before you see an improvement. If you prefer, you can purchase a commercial product such as Lemi Shine Machine Cleaner that is specially designed to remove tough limescale and detergent build up.

Remember: The only way to avoid your machine from getting built up with limescale, soap scum, mold and bacteria, is to do regular maintenance cleans!

Lemi Shine Machine Cleaner

Lemi Shine Machine Cleaner 2.5 oz, 3 Count
Lemi Shine Machine Cleaner 2.5 oz, 3 Count

Lemi Shine Machine Cleaner is specially designed to remove tough limescale and detergent buildup in your washing machine.

 

How to Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

How to Clean a Top Load Washing Machine

What is your preferred method to clean your washing machine?

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© 2015 C L Mitchell

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