I Cleaned My Washing Machine for the First Time in Years and Now It's Like New—Here's How I Did It

My laundry has never smelled fresher.

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I'm writing this article anonymously because I feel an immense amount of shame regarding how long it had been since I last cleaned my washing machine (read: never). I decided to give the whole cleaning thing a go.

I'll be honest—it wasn't pretty. Half the problem was that we have a long-haired dog who sheds his winter coat for 10 months out of the year (you tell me how that is possible). There was a lot of fur, a lot of grime, and a lot of holding my breath through the process, but it was worth it. I used this article as a jumping-off point but tailored my cleaning process to my specific machine. Here are the details on how I finally cleaned my front load washing machine. Research your model before determining how to clean your washing machine.

What You'll Need

  • White cleaning vinegar (you'll only need a few cups)
  • Old (but clean) rags
  • Bowls
  • Kitchen gloves
  • Toothbrush
  • Baking soda

Clean Detergent and Softener Drawer

As you might imagine, mine was a gloopy mess. I removed the whole drawer and took apart the pieces. I filled my sink with a mixture of hot water and white vinegar (probably about half a cup) and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes. I scrubbed the remaining residue, rinsed, and let it air dry while I tackled the new few steps.

Wipe the Gasket

This was by far my least favorite part. I used a rag dipped in vinegar to thoroughly wipe down the inside of the rubber gasket where all kinds of fur, mold, and other unidentifiable grime had taken up residence. I applied the vinegar pretty liberally and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing it clean. I found that method to be helpful as far as dislodging the yucky stuff. After the gasket was clean, I gave it one more wipe-down with a damp, warm cloth.

*Note: Make sure you're working in a well-ventilated area so those vinegar fumes don't get to you.

Clean the Door and Exterior

I used vinegar on the inside part of the door but opted for good old-fashioned Lysol All Purpose Cleaner for the exterior of the machine. By the time I was finished, it looked brand new.

Clean the Filter

There's a little door at the bottom of my washing machine that says, "Clean filter once every two months." Shame. This is where I was sure to follow the instructions from the manufacturer to a T: Unplug the unit from the electrical socket, take out the tubing, remove the cap, and drain water into a bowl (keep an extra one or two nearby for backup). I'm going to pause here and tell you how stinky that water was. My toddler and husband even commented, and they're both typically blissfully unaware of strange odors of any kind.

Once the water drained, I left the cap off the tubing and removed the filter cover and filter itself. I used the flashlight on my phone to peer into the drain pump to make sure there wasn't anything clogging near the back. Then I returned to my sink full of hot water and vinegar and gave the filter a good soak and subsequent scrubbing with the now labeled "washing machine" toothbrush. Once it was dry, I snapped it back in place, put the caps back on both the tubing and the filter, and closed the filter cover. You'll want to check that everything is closed and secured properly or your machine could leak or malfunction. Again, especially for this step, consult your owner's manual on the proper technique for cleaning.

Replace Detergent Drawer

I reassembled my detergent and softener unit and slid it back into the machine. I'm writing this as its own step just so that you can feel the accomplishment of completing another task. These little victories in life are important.

Run on Highest Setting

Add two cups of vinegar to the detergent slot, then run on the highest setting, with the hottest water level. Listen to that swish, swish, swishing, and pat yourself on the back because you're almost there.

Add Baking Soda

Once the vinegar cycle finishes, add ½ cup of baking soda to the machine—directly in the drum. Run on the highest settings again.

Wipe It Down

You will be tempted to skip this step as I was. It was 9 at night and my alarm was already set for my 5:15 wake-up call the next morning. I managed to get myself out of bed and wiped the drum down with a dry cloth and was glad I did. With a few flips of the towel, I was able to wipe away the last remaining sediment.

Be sure to look up your owner's manual before committing to a cleaning process for how to clean your front load washing machine—and do keep in mind that it's a completely different cleaning process for a top-load.

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