How to Sanitize Your Washing Machine

It's time to clean that washing machine, so it can better clean your clothes.
It's time to clean that washing machine, so it can better clean your clothes.
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Seeing as how the job of a washing machine is to keep water and detergent running through it when it's in use, it may seem counterintuitive that you need to sanitize it. But sometimes, your laundry has more than everyday dirt and grime on it.

If you live in a house whose occupants create dirty diapers or have just run through the cycle of a stomach bug, your machine could probably use a once over with some bleach. If you run a natural household, then you may have some issues with using bleach, so be assured that the only time it's necessary to use is when you're dealing with an outbreak of germy proportions. Any other time, plain old soap and water will suffice.

Bleach should be diluted to one part bleach to 10 parts water and it can be stored in a heavy-duty plastic spray bottle. You can start the sanitizing process by spraying the inside of your machine and use a cloth or sponge with some mild abrasion to wipe out any built up grime. Then, spray down the inside and outside of the lid and wipe clean, moving onto the outside of the washer. If you have a front loader, be sure to wipe down the rubber seal well. Then, just run a regular wash cycle on the hottest setting with a cup of bleach. You can throw your rags that you just used in there to avoid a completely empty cycle.

Tips for Sanitizing Your Washing Machine

The main thing you need to be careful of when sanitizing your machine with bleach is handling the bleach. You may not be too excited about working with bleach, but know that it's regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and it's deemed one of the only effective germ killers on the market. When you're diluting the bleach, be sure to wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. If you don't have a window or a door to open, wear a face mask that's rated for bleach fumes. You should treat bleach like the chemical that it is. It's caustic, meaning it will corrode metal and burn your skin in its undiluted form. It's also incredibly irritating to eyes, airways and mucus membranes.

It's not a bad idea to get into the habit of cleaning your washing machine once a month, or at least once a season. Top loaders are more prone to build-up because the water sits at one level, whereas the drum of a front-loader turns through the water so they don't tend to get quite as grimy. If you haven't had any major run-ins with germs, you can substitute vinegar for bleach to cut down on your chemical exposure. You can use the cheap white distilled vinegar and mix a solution of half vinegar, half water to keep in a spray bottle and then use a cup of undiluted vinegar to run through your wash cycle.

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Sources

  • Main, Emily. "This or That: Bleach vs Vinegar to Kill Germs." Rodale.com. July 9, 2012. http://www.rodale.com/natural-disinfectant
  • "Sanitizing Your Washing Machine." Mamaslaundrytalk.com. March 9, 2010. http://www.mamaslaundrytalk.com/2010/03/09/sanitizing-your-washing-machine/