How to Clean Your Washing Machine

We've all been there. You go to do a load of laundry, lift the lid (or open the door), and there's a smell. It's a bit musty and a bit moldy and a whole lot of frustrating. How can a machine that is regularly filled with soap and hot water and bleach, a machine that can make even the stinkiest socks smell like daisies, contain such a foul odor?

The problem is that while we might see a washing machine as a magical portal where dirty laundry goes in and sparkling clean clothes come out, the washer is actually a place where odors can start. It's because the water and warmth in a washing machine can be the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and mildew, which can all lead to a stinky washer. Luckily, it's pretty easy to prevent bacteria from growing and fix the problem if your washing machine develops an unpleasant aroma.

How Often to Clean Your Washing Machine

Pros recommend a deep clean every few months. Use your "tub clean" or "service wash" setting (or the hottest setting on your washing machine) to freshen your machine up before cleaning sessions.

Considerations Before Getting Started

Mixing cleaning products can produce toxic fumes. This deep-clean method is safe because it's a two-part process and the cleaning products are never combined.

What You Need:

* Clean rags or paper towels

* Small cleaning brush or toothbrush

* Cotton swabs

* Pipe cleaners

* Water

* Bleach

* White cleaning vinegar

How to Deep-Clean Your Washing Machine

According to the pros at Bob Vila, here is the best process to use to deep-clean, sanitize, and de-stink your washing machine. 1. Clean the lid or door of your washing machine with vinegar. If you have a front loader, pay careful attention to a place where the gunk can gather: the seal on the door and the gasket. Use a cotton swab dipped in vinegar to get into any tight spots. 2. Next, attack a common spot for smelly standing water: the detergent and bleach dispensers. Scrub the dispensers and use a pipe cleaner to clean out the connecting pipes. 3. Fill the tub with bleach (4 cups for a top loader, and 2 cups for a front loader). Use the hottest temperature setting, and once the washer starts to agitate, pause it for 30 minutes. Start the cycle up again and add another rinse cycle at the end to get all of the bleach out. 4. Add the vinegar to the empty washer tub (4 cups for a top loader, and 2 cups for a front loader). Again, run the washer on the hottest setting, pause for 30 minutes once it starts agitating, then complete the cycle. 5. Finally, run your washer on "service wash," "tub clean," or the hottest wash setting. 6. If you still notice a funky smell, follow the manufacturer's instructions to clean out and drain the filter.

How to Keep Your Washing Machine Clean Longer

If you have a front-loading washer or a top-loading model, the easiest way to prevent making a stink (so to speak) is to simply leave the door or lid open for a few hours after washing a load of laundry. That will give any moisture left in the washer or the door gasket time to dry. Since moisture also likes to loiter in the detergent drawer, pull it out slightly to air dry any lingering wet spots.

It's also a good idea to get the clothes out of the washer as soon as possible after the cycle finishes. Wet clothes can jumpstart the growth of mold and mildew by creating a damp environment, so getting both the clothes and the washer drying quickly can help prevent smells from developing.

Removing Hard Water Buildup from Your Washing Machine

If you have hard water—water with higher levels or certain minerals, like iron—your washing machine may have limescale buildup that can attract bacteria and cause stains. Use water-softening tablets made for washing machines.

When to Call a Professional

Odors can also be due to poor drainage from the washer, which can cause the water to stagnate in the machine and create the perfect environment for bacteria. And a sewage smell might mean a clogged drain standpipe. Call in an expert for either of these bigger fixes.