How To Clean a Washing Machine Drum

Your washing machine can become dirty, moldy, and smelly. Are you cleaning it correctly?

It may sound funny, but washers need to be cleaned regularly even though they constantly run water and soap to wash our laundry. 

Think of all the detergent, residue, hair, and dirt that gets left behind during a cycle? And what about the bacteria and mold build-up around the seals?

In this guide, you will get a step-by-step process of how you can properly wash your washing machine drum and maintain a high quality of washing.

What You Will Need to Clean Your Washing Machine Drum

Cleaning equipment you will need: 

  • Microfiber cloth
  • An old toothbrush or small scrub brush
  • Measuring cup
  • Small bowl
  • Sink or bucket
  • Hydroperoxide
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Baking soda

Cleaning A Front Loader

Cleaning the Outside of the Drum and the Surface

This includes all the groves, seals, rubber gasket (if it has one), your washer’s surface, and the glass door. 

Make sure to avoid any harmful and dangerous chemicals or solvents, as these can damage the surface of your washer. All you need is a little vinegar on a rag.

You can use a toothbrush for the rubber areas, and if you spot any mildew, be sure to use peroxide. 

If you come across any grime or stickiness, mix baking soda and vinegar and keep wiping until all the dirt and debris is gone.

Dry off the outer housing with a clean, dry cloth to finish the cleaning process.

A hand with a cleaning glove wiping a washing machine

Cleaning the Inside of the Washing Machine Drum 

Start by pouring 1 cup of vinegar into the liquid detergent dispenser and some into the fabric softener dispenser. If your dispenser can hold more than 1 cup, pour in extra until you have filled it all the way. 

This will break down the soap build-up and disinfect and kill bacteria and mold that might be growing inside. 

Select the hottest water setting and run the washer for a complete cycle. This will help loosen any dirt or grime that’s built up inside. Some washers have sanitizing settings. Feel free to use it now! 

Open the door and allow the drum to air-dry. Finally, your washing machine will be looking and smelling fresh and clean!

Important Note:

Selecting the correct water temperature and the correct cycle is essential when cleaning your washing machine drum. 

  • The ideal water temperature for most washing machine cycles is between 105-120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are using a hot water cycle, be sure to select a temperature above 120 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure effective cleaning.
  • The length of the cycle also plays a vital role in how well your drum is cleaned. Selecting a longer process will give the water more time to clean the drum effectively.

Cleaning a Top Loader

To clean a top loader washer, you will need to fill it up with water. The water will help loosen any dirt or residue stuck inside the drum. 

Allow the water to run until the washer drum is full and then add a few cups of vinegar. Dunk a scrub brush into the mixture and use it to scrub the inside of the drum. Stop and let the mixture sit for a while. Then allow the cycle to finish, and you are done. 

Optionally, you can clean the surface of the washer by dipping your rag into the vinegar mixture and wiping everything down. 

An empty washing machine top loader

Add Chlorine Bleach to the Washer

You can use bleach instead of vinegar when cleaning your top loader washer as another option. Add 1/2 cup of bleach to the water. The bleach will disinfect and clean the drum.

Note: Do not add the distilled white vinegar to the chlorine bleach. This combination of cleaning products can produce toxic chlorine gas, which is dangerous even in small amounts.

How to Get Rid of Washing Machine Odor

You’ll need to have your baking soda handy. Add half a cup to the drum and run another cycle on hot. This will rid your washer of any stubborn odors. 

You should repeat a cleaning cycle every month to ensure your washer stays clean.

Cleaning the Detergent & Fabric Softener Dispensers

If you have a dispenser for detergent and fabric softener on your washing machine, it’s essential to keep them clean. 

The detergent dispenser can become clogged with soap scum, and the fabric softener dispenser can become filled with residue from the fabric softener. 

This can cause problems with your machine, such as poor performance and mold and mildew buildup.

To clean the detergent dispenser, you’ll need to remove it from the washing machine. 

Depending on the type of detergent dispenser, it may be held in place by screws or snaps. 

Once it’s been removed, you can soak the parts in hot water mixed with a bit of dish soap. Alternatively, you can let them soak in your “vinegar and water” mixture during the sitting period. 

Afterward, use a brush to scrub away any buildup that may have formed. Rinse thoroughly and reattach to the machine.

Top load view of a washing machine and the detergent softener compartment

How Often Should You Clean Out Your Washer?

When it comes to cleaning your washing machine, you should be doing it every three to six months. If it has a bad odor or you notice mold or residue in the machine, you should do it more frequently.

Additional Tips

  • When dealing with a stained drum, you can run it through an additional hot cycle to clean it. The hot water alone can be adequate but feel free to do another “vinegar” or “bleach” cycle. Of course, you should always wipe the drum down afterward to help remove the stain. 
  • Never use too much detergent when washing clothes. Too much will damage your washing machine, trap in odors, and will leave a soapy residue in your clothing. Always measure your detergent before pouring it in and only use the necessary amount for each load side. One rule of the thumb is to use a tablespoon of laundry detergent for each load. That is generally enough!
Mary Bishop
Mary Bishop has been working in the cleaning industry for over 5 years. She has experience with both residential and commercial cleaning, and is now trying to start her own company.
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