How to Clean Your Washing Machine & Dryer: Spring Cleaning!

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Our beloved washing machine has officially thrown in the towel (sorry, I had to). This machine has appeared in countless Clean My Space videos and posts. In its final wash, where it made enough noises to scare a burglar away, we just knew it was no longer going to be a part of our family. To honor the fine service this washer has provided us over the years – AND because it’s one of our MOST requested topics – I’m going to show you how to thoroughly clean your washer and dryer.

Maintaining your washer and dryer is really important. They are expensive to repair and replace and pretty necessary for modern life. Also, proper maintenance keeps them going at peak performance. I would recommend watching the video also so that you can have good visuals on how to do each step.

How to Clean a Washing Machine

(Works for Top Load and Front Load Washers)

Cleaning your washing machine is actually pretty straightforward and necessary. Therefore, consider doing this cleaning once a month if you are a heavy user and a couple times a year otherwise. Maintaining it also means it lasts longer. As well, it allows you to get rid of moldy smells caused by stale soap build up and fabric softener. Above all, it means you get a better quality wash.

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Cycle One – Baking Soda

Begin with an empty washing machine. Add in about two cups of baking soda directly into the washing machine. This is going to gently scrub the inside and combat those stale, moldy odors that are left behind via old soap and fabric softener deposits. Next, run a large, long, hot water cycle and leave it be. If your machine has a self-clean cycle, use it.

Cycle Two – Vinegar

After that, you want to add 2 cups of plain white vinegar and 10 drops of essential oil like tea tree or lavender. The reason being that these EOs help with mildew and mineral deposits and act as a mild disinfectant. Then, run another cycle through and set it to the longest, hottest and biggest setting you can find. The vinegar will help break down any deposits and further remove moldy smells.

After both cycles are complete, you can give a quick wipe down to the drum and agitator using a microfiber cloth and vinegar. If you have any stains, try rubbing them with a paste of baking soda and water and a non-scratching sponge. That should remove just about everything.

Furthermore, on front load washers, that rubber seal clings on to all kinds of bad stuff. So, for this area, dip a cloth into plain white vinegar and 10 drops of tea tree oil or lavender oil and give it a good wipe down. You’ve got to get rid of all that mildew.

Clean Machine Exterior, Door, and Dispensing Trays

Next, we’ll tackle the exterior parts of the machine including your detergent dispensers, all cracks and crevices, door frame and all exterior surfaces. First, clean the inside and outside of the door with vinegar and water using a microfiber cloth. You might really need to scrub well! Secondly, use an all-purpose cleaner and pre-soak really dirty areas around the washer. Finally, scrub grimy areas where necessary with a cleaning toothbrush (and baking soda, if needed) and wipe everything clean with a cotton cloth. You can also soak your dispensing trays and then wipe clean. They can get really grotty and moldy.

Extra Care Tips

Always leave the door open when you are done with your washing – always. This lets the remaining moisture evaporate and avoids mold and mildew growth. If smelly laundry is a problem, this will solve it.

Remove your clothes from the washing machine ASAP for the same reason as the last point.

And try to avoid store-bought fabric softeners. They leave a residue, not only on your clothes but also in your washing machine. As we now know this causes odors. We have some easy homemade fabric softener alternatives available.

Finally, use the correct amount of detergent, always. Too much detergent will cling to the walls of your machine and lead to odors and dull clothes. These detergents are designed to be used in small quantities, especially in HE machines.

How to Clean a Dryer

Cleaning the dryer is a little more difficult than cleaning the washing machine. However, it’s very important to clean your dryer, because dirty dryers can lead to fiery dryers. Lint is flammable stuff and if it touches a heating coil, well, you know what happens. You can do this every 6-12 months depending on usage. So brace yourself and get a screwdriver, we kinda have to take it apart.

  • Start by unplugging your dryer and emptying the lint trap.
  • You can also take the discharge hose out from the back of the dryer (the silver elephant trunk thing). Then give it a good shake to remove any debris.

Now all dryers are created differently. I would strongly recommend consulting your manufacturer’s instructions for the exact directives on these next steps.

  • Firstly, you want to unscrew the back panel and then pop it off. After you remove that, you’ll likely see a TON of lint on the base, in the canal leading to your discharge line and throughout the innards of your machine. Vacuum this up and use a brush attachment or a crevice tool to get into any difficult areas.
  • Secondly, vacuum the lint trap itself. If you can, remove part of the lint trap by unscrewing it to get to the inside; you’ll find a freakish amount of dust. Make sure you keep those screws separate as you don’t want to vacuum those up! Some people use a specialty vacuum part or a brush to do this, which is totally acceptable.
  • Next, vacuum anything left behind in the drum. However, be warned that you might find a zoo full of dust bunnies down there.
  • Finally, give it a quick wipedown using an all-purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Then put everything back together including panels, hoses and plug it back in.

You’ll notice your dryer will do much hotter and more effective cycles, not to mention, your machine will be safer to use.

Congratulations – you just cleaned your washer AND your dryer!

washer dryer

Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Affresh tablets come in handy. Liquid detergent, hard water and mold are the bane to my laundry existence. Having to share a washer with stupid people only compounds the problem.

  2. I also recommend to clean the lint filter in warm/hot soapy water to remove any residue build up, especially if using dryer sheets. Might need a toothbrush to scrub it if it been a while.

  3. I love your cleaning tips, but you missed one I just happened upon which has become my all time REALLY, cheap hack that seems like a joke at first.
    Here it is:

    When you washer is at the point of water starting to fill washer for any size load, add about one tablespoon of ground black pepper!! Your laundry will be softer than ever before and I have tried everything on the market THIS REALLY WORKS AND IS EXTREMELY INEXPENSIVE. I am six weeks out in my use of the pepper and I remain amazed.

  4. This was great info! Cleaned my washer and dryer out yesterday. I used lemongrass essential oil. What a difference it made! Thanks for the info! I love all of your videos!

  5. Thank you! I followed your tips and cleaned my washing machine today. However i still need help cleaning the detergent dispenser. Mine is so dirty, I just don’t know how to get it clean. Any tips on a more intensive deep clean for the detergent dispenser? Thank you!

  6. I would love to be able to do all this to my washer and dryer, but alas, starting over I live in an apartment complex with 72 other units, where we all share 6 washers and dryers in the basement. And at 1.75 per load, it adds up very quickly(don’t even bother to sort anymore). Is there a way to clean the washer at least before we use them so my stuff doesn’t end up smelling like cumin or stale smoke or others? Or getting tar stuck inside jeans back pocket and greasy oily looking marks on varies places on other clothes from the dryer. Basically do you know a quick easy way to clean/sanitize a community washer without having to put it thru a cycle, just so I can wash my stuff and feel like they actually got clean?

  7. I get build up on the inside “ring” at the back of my front loading HE dryer. It will periodically stain white shirts with streaks. I have tried cleaning it with a rag with only limited success. Any suggestions?

  8. Great video, thanks!! For the laundry series, I am wondering how “bleach” looking spots end up on my towels mostly and sometimes clothes when I don’t use bleach or a detergent with bleach or stain fighter?

  9. my husband found your site and we love it! cleaned our dishwasher filter yesterday. Didn’t even know they had filters! Going to clean the washer & dryer today – Thankyou so much. Debbie from AZ.

  10. Hi Melissa! I have a cat who sheds a lot of hair and they cling onto my wet laundry when it comes out of my washer. I prefer not to use my dryer so that my clothes can last a little longer. Do you have any tips on how to remove pet hair quickly from wet laundry?

  11. how can i get rid of a very bad drain like smell every time i use my washing machine? luckily the clothes smell fine but the whole bathroom stinks. thanks

  12. I’m paranoid about keeping my dryer and associated vents free of lint. Aside from routine removal of lint, I hire a dryer vent place and they come once a year and follow the silver elephant thing all the way up to the roof!

  13. One cleaning method that also works well on your washing machine is to sprinkle100 g of citric acid and into the empty machine and run the hottest and longest cycle. After that, run one more cycle. That gets rid of any detergent buildup, especially if you use detergents with zeolite instead of phosphate.

  14. I have Hard Water I can feel it on the back of my dishes. After a few washes my clothes began to have a more dull color. Is there anything i can do about this.

  15. What about using washing soda instead of baking soda? I make my own laundry detergent so I have a few big boxes of that stuff right next to my machine 🙂

  16. Cleaning of washing machine is one of the hectic task which people avoid to step into. These tips will definitely help such to make their best cleaning ever. Thanks for sharing this post!!!

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  18. Thanks for the cleaning tips. I never thought to do a wash cycle with baking soda and one with vinegar. I was doing them with bleach, but I wanted a healthier alternative. Thanks.

  19. It’s important to pull back the rubber seal and clean underneath it too, not just the part that comes in contact with the door. Super nasty stuff collects under there.

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