Let me tell you a story about my old washing machine.
It was an old, white, top-loading hand-me-down that had been used for many years before it belonged to us. I did a lot of laundry in that old machine–my husband’s work clothes, all the newborn clothes from both of my children, and all the other bits and pieces that come from having a four-person household.
As Betsy instructs in her post on how to clean a top-loading washing machine, I always kept the lid open on my washer. I wanted it to air out to decrease the likelihood of mold and mildew. When we moved to our new house, I kept that habit up even though we now had the washer and dryer in the garage.
One day as I was unloading a bunch of my daughters’ laundry, I felt at the bottom a very soft baby sock. I couldn’t see it, but I remember thinking that it was even softer than usual, and I tried to visualize which sock it might be. I took a good look at it as I pulled it up from the depths of the washer, at which point I discovered that it was not a sock at all. It was a small, dead, waterlogged mouse!
You can imagine the shrieking that went on–it’s one thing to find a dead mouse at the bottom of your washing machine, and completely another to find you’ve been squeezing in your hand. Needless to say, I re-washed the clothes and I ran a good cleaning cycle of the washing machine, too, and nearly scrubbed my fingers to the bone washing my hands.
I did manage to survive the encounter and it never happened again, but when my sister- and brother-in-law offered to give us a newer, high-efficiency, front-loading washing machine, we were thrilled. There are many reasons to use a front-load machine, but for me, I think my favorite thing is a pretty much non-existent chance of accidentally grabbing a dead mouse from inside it!
We’ve had our new machine for almost a year now, and one of the things I’ve learned is, like most all appliances, it must be kept clean. It was easier to ignore the grime in my top-loading machine because I couldn’t see it, but with my HE washer, it’s noticeable.
So here are a few tips for cleaning a front-load washer and keeping it fresh:
How to Clean Front Load Washers
- 2 cups of white vinegar
- 1/3 cup of baking soda
- peroxide (optional)
- cleaning rag
- old toothbrush (optional)
Your HE washer probably has a cleaning setting, but before you even begin that, you’ll need to do some detail work. The gaskets at the front of the machine (they are usually gray and rubbery) are notorious for growing mildew. I’ve also noticed they tend to be a magnet for hair, especially pet hair. The people who had the washer before we did had a few cats, and there was a lot of cat hair stuck in the gasket when we first got it.
I cleaned the gasket by spraying vinegar into the folds and then rubbing them down with a cleaning rag that I first applied baking soda to. The baking soda makes it a bit more abrasive and reacts with the vinegar once contacting the surface-to-be-cleaned. Our gasket has never had the chance to grow much mold or mildew, but if it did I would apply peroxide following the baking soda and vinegar. Peroxide kills mold. Alternatively, you could scrub the inside of the gasket with an old toothbrush.
Once you’ve cleaned the gasket, make sure to give the door a good wipe-down, too.
When you’re ready to run the cleaning cycle, sprinkle 1/3 cup of baking soda into the drum of the machine. This is just an extra odor-fighting boost. Pour two cups of white vinegar into the detergent dispenser, and turn the dial of your machine to the cleaning cycle. The cycle should take from an hour to an hour and a half.
Tips for Keeping Your Front Load Washer Clean
Make sure you leave the door open all the time. Except when you’re washing clothes, obviously. This is even more important for front-load machines than for top-loading ones, because they become smelly quickly. Every time I have shut the door to my machine, I have regretted having done so the moment I opened the door again.
Don’t let your clothes sit. I will admit that I used to have a bad habit of letting my clothes sit in the washing machine for a few hours after I washed them. It was never a problem with my old machine, but with my HE machine, the clothes get that strange smell to them quickly. It’s best to remove the clothes immediately after they’re finished washing.
Wipe your machine out regularly. You won’t want to spend the time or resources to do a full cleaning on your machine very often, but if you give it a quick wipe with a dry towel after you are finished with your laundry for the day, it will stay fresh much longer.
Keep the outside of the machine clean. I’m telling you this because I need to remember it myself. Between the dryer dust and laundry detergent residue, my washing machine can get gross pretty fast. I cleaned the outside of the machine while the cleaning cycle was running, and I’m so much happier to have a washing machine that isn’t covered in dust.
Happy cleaning, everyone!
What are your tips for cleaning a front load washer?