Cleaning Your Front Load Washing Machine

It takes only a memory to recall the days of the “wringer washer.” Even then, customers were promised a quality machine, which used little water and thoroughly cleaned a variety of fabrics, despite the dangers in feeding the clothes through the roller. It made sense in our practical nature to want an energy efficient front load washer that used less detergent, water and electricity. In buying this “modern” appliance, the “negative attributes” were most likely discovered with shock and a look of disgust. You might have said, “How long has that been there?” Yes, machines that use water have a propensity for unpleasant odors and concealing mold. Right this moment, take the time to look inside the detergent compartment, underneath the door, and the rubber flap just inside the machine. (Gasp!) Fortunately, you can return your front load washer to its original pristine condition with a little scrubbing and less than 30 minutes of your time. The remedy is an eco-friendly “mixture” of cleaners you already have on hand. You might even remember your grandmother using the very same ingredients to clean her washer.

The Detergent Compartment: Not all front load washers have a release lever or button found in the back top center; therefore, to clean, there are two options.

  • With a fixed compartment, sprinkle baking soda into each panel and scrub using both a sponge and a tooth brush. (Rinsing with water is optional.)
  • By removing the drawer, separate each section and allow time to soak in hot soapy water. For those small challenging crevices, try using a toothbrush or even a pipe cleaner. Prior to sliding the “drawer” inside the compartment, peer inside first. You will discover the cavity is as dirty as the drawer. Take a sponge with a dab of detergent and wipe the top, bottom, sides, and even the unseen “tube” on the wall closest to you. With a spray bottle of water, try to remove as much “soap” as possible, and allow adequate time to dry.

The Gasket: The rubber band just inside the washer opening is a “gasket.” If you lift the gasket back, you may find coins, hair ties, and even hair balls lodged inside. (A tooth brush and Q-tips will make it easy to clean the inside track. Be prepared to have a small bucket of soapy water and a trash can on hand.)

Similar to cleaning out your dryer “lint trap” after every cycle, you should also check the gasket. What condition is it in? Take special notice of the lip – you may have a residual small pool of water remaining after a wash. Imagine pulling a hefty load of clean clothes over that pool of water. It may be the reason some clothes have a particular bad odor.

The solution is wiping the gasket dry after washing is complete. In addition, take a few seconds to dry off the washer door, too, and keep it open when not in use. Always remember, a washer requires air.

Run Cleaning Cycle: Even without a designated “cleaning cycle,” you will need to “run” an empty wash cycle on the longest, hottest water setting at least once a month. Just pour one cup of distilled white vinegar into your “detergent compartment,” one cup of baking soda inside the drum, and press start. Note, however, that if your gasket shows evidence of mildew and mold, replace the vinegar with bleach, and add a half cup of powdered enzymatic dishwasher detergent. Cleaning may require two cycles.

With regular monthly cleanings, maintenance will become easier, clothes and heavy-duty items cleaner, and the life of your washer will be extended – guaranteed!  (Don’t forget to clean your dryer, too!)