How to Clean Your Washing Machine

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
wiping washing machine
Cleaning your washing machine involves sanitizing the drum, as well as wiping the outside and the inside trays. Peter Carruthers/Getty Images

The washing machine does a lot for you and your dirty clothes, towels and sheets. Return the favor with a little bit of easy maintenance to keep it spic, span and smelling sweet! Doing so will not only keep it free of gunk and nasty odors; it'll also help the washing machine function better, for longer.

First, it's worth noting that many newer models come with a self-cleaning feature. If yours is one of the chosen ones, refer to your manual to find out exactly what to do, and how often. Here are some general steps on cleaning both the exterior and interior of this all-important appliance.


First up, we tackle the tub:

  • Make sure the tub is empty. If it's not, take everything out.
  • Use a washing machine cleaner tablet or liquid bleach. Most machines have a "bleach only" tray for that purpose. Fill it to the top. (If there is no bleach tray, pour a half cup [118 milliliters] of bleach in the tub after it fills up with water). If you're using the tablet, put it at the bottom of the tub.
  • Once the cleaning solvent is in place, close the washing machine door. Choose the "clean" cycle. If your machine has no "clean" cycle, set it do a rinse cycle with hot water.
  • For top-load washers, Maytag says that an extra rinse and spin cycle, after the "clean" cycle is a good idea to wash away any remaining cleansers.
  • Once it's all done, open the washer door and leave it that way to let the machine air dry.

Some purists opt instead to use 1 gallon (4 liters) of white vinegar and 1 pound (500 grams) of Borax to get the job done. Pour them into the tub, then run the longest and hottest cycle your machine offers (for front-load machines, pour the vinegar into the bleach tray, instead). Once it's finished, wipe the drum down thoroughly with a clean cloth, and leave the door ajar to fully dry out.

Next, it's time to handle the dispensers:

  • Whirlpool says to pull the dispenser drawer out, "until you feel resistance." Some washing machines have drawers that are removable, but others don't. Even the removable ones are not dishwasher safe, so don't put them in that machine.
  • Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe down the dispenser drawers. If you have a washing machine-specific cleaning wipe, even better. A gentle cleaner is fine, if needed. Dry the drawers with a towel.

Now, we tackle the exterior:

  • This part's really easy. Wipe down the outside of the machine using a cleaning wipe, sponge or damp cloth. Use mild cleaners for this purpose. Don't use anything that could scratch the machine's finish.

Lastly, don't forget the door:

  • Using a cleaning wipe or damp cloth, carefully wipe down the inside of the washing machine door.
  • If you have a front-load washing machine, be aware that moisture can build up behind the rubber seal and cause nasty mildew problems. Be sure to clean the outside of the rubber seal. Then, lift the edge of the door seal up and wipe underneath and behind it.
  • Be sure to leave the machine door open between washes so the inside can dry out (this step is particularly important if you have a front-load washing machine).