How to clean a washing machine properly

By Peta Boyce

Washing machines need a little loving too. How long has it been since you cleaned yours?

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We expect washing machines to pump out clean, crisp clothes at the flick of a switch or the press of a button. But when your washing machine resembles something out of a Stephen King movie, you can’t blame the machine for undesirable results.

Dirty filters, clogged inlets and outlets, pipes that have seen better days – regular maintenance keeps a machine working at its best.

If your machine is leaving stains, detergent residue, or sudden patches of colour on your clothes, it is probably screaming for a good clean.Washing machine clothes

Cleaning a washing machine is not complicated. With a few basic steps your machine will be churning out awesome results again, which will save you money on unnecessary washing machine repairs.

These cleaning tips are chemical-free, inexpensive and won’t have any detrimental effects on your appliance.

How to clean a top loading washing machine

  1. Mix ½ cup of bicarbonate (bicarb) soda with 2 cups of white vinegar.
  2. Run a washing cycle with hot water on the maximum water level setting.
  3. Once the machine is at least half full with water, add the vinegar mixture.
  4. Let the filled water sit in the machine for about 30 minutes then allow your machine to run through its usual cycle.
  5. Before all of the water drains out, use a toothbrush to scrub the holes in the washing machine barrel. The grime will come away easy after being soaked and you will be surprised at what comes out!
  6. The vinegar, bicarb and hot water will break down any grease or dirty patches and clean the hoses.
  7. Remove and clean any parts that can be washed separately, such as the fabric softener basket and lint catcher.
  8. Once the inside is squeaky clean give the outside a once over with some washing liquid and wipe away any accumulated dust.
    When scrubbing with the toothbrush, let the machine empty the water in stages so you don’t need to have your hands in hot water.

How to clean a front loading washing machine

  1. Add 2 tablespoons of bicarb soda into the detergent draw and ½ cup of white vinegar into the washing machine drum.
  2. Run a standard cycle with hot water.
  3. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to clean the filter. Filters are usually a contributing factor to poor washing results in a front loader.
  4. If applicable, remove and clean the soap and fabric softener dispensers in hot soapy water and dry them out in the sun. This will prevent mould from forming and growing.
  5. Leave the machine door ajar between washes to dry out properly and eliminate mould.
    The machine might produce suds during the wash cycle due to the build up of residue. This will happen less if you clean your machine more frequently.

How to tackle detergent residue on clothes

If you find that detergent residue is left on your clothes after a wash:

  • Do not overload your washing machine.
  • Try using less detergent in your washes.
  • Dissolve any powered detergent in hot water before adding it into the machine if you usually wash your items in cold water.
  • Store powdered detergent in an airtight container to prevent it getting clumpy. Clumps can be part of the problem with residual.
  • If you have a clothes dryer you can put the effected items into a quick cool cycle for 5 minutes. This will help to shake off the excess residue.

How to eliminate washing marks on your clothes

Blotchy, or smoky-looking marks that appear on your clothes during a wash can be created by scrud. This is a waxy build-up of fabric softener or detergents that are left behind in the drum. Scrud is more common in cold washes and when there is not enough detergent added to the wash. This can cause problems with the washing machine mechanics as well as your clothes.

To avoid getting a scrud build-up:

  • Run an empty hot machine cycle with quality detergent, letting it sit overnight.
  • If you prefer to wash in cold water, run a hot cycle wash occasionally.
  • Be cautious of over-using fabric softener. White vinegar is a good substitute.
  • Increase the amount of detergent you use.
  • Clean your washing machine regularly using our tips above.
    Whites washed in hot water will retain their brightness and help to keep scrud away.

If a machine clean does not make your clothes sparkle again – just arrange a washing machine repair with Airtasker.


Peta B

With a witty sense of humour, and an obsession for detail and nitty-gritty, Peta loves flexing her talents as a copywriter, marketer and event manager. She's put together some pretty impressive corporate shindigs in her time and now works across a variety of assignments as a freelancer, between being a full-time Mum.

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