Tide Washing Machine Cleaner in front of a washing machine

How to Clean a Washing Machine and Other Washer Care Tips

It’s not just your detergent that gives your clothes their fresh, clean smell. Your washer plays a part, too, so it’s important to keep it clean and give it the care it deserves.

Ultimately, if your washer drum is dirty, it doesn’t matter how good your detergent is. Caring for your washer will not just give you a more efficient clean, but also an increased longevity. So, we’re sharing our best washing machine care tips, including how to clean your washer and how to clean a smelly washing machine to help you get the most from your laundry.

Why is Regularly Cleaning My Washing Machine Important?

If your washer starts to smell, it’s probably due to a buildup of odor-causing residues left behind from laundry soils, detergents, and hard-water minerals stuck in the drum. Dirt removed from clothes can stick around in the drum after washing and create a bacterial breeding ground.

In this dark, warm and damp environment, these residues not only make your washer smell unpleasant, but also can transfer these odors onto your clothes. So, if you notice your clothes starting to come out of your washer a little dingy and smelling off, it’s a sign that you should stop asking questions like “What happens if I don't clean my washer?” and start looking for solutions on how to remove odors from your washing machine.

Want to see how it’s done? Watch our short video guide!

Are you relatively new to the world of washing machines? Then take a look at our Washing Machine 101, where we cover everything from common washing machine problems to how to use a washing machine correctly.

How to Clean a Front-Loading Washer with Tide

When it comes to removing unpleasant odors and lifting away soil, mineral, and detergent residue from your washer, nothing beats the power of Tide Washing Machine Cleaner. For a front-loading washing machine, pour one pouch of Tide Washing Machine Cleaner into your detergent dispenser drawer, then run the washer on normal cycle with the hot water setting, without any clothes inside the drum.

How to Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine with Tide

Cleaning your top-loading washing machine is very similar to the process laid out above: You remove every clothing article from your washer’s drum, set it to normal cycle and the highest water temperature, then pour one pouch of Tide Washing Machine Cleaner directly into your washer tub, and let the cycle run its course.

For more tips on how to disinfect your washing machine, read our laundry hygiene tips.

How to Clean a Washing Machine with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Although cleaning your washing machine with vinegar and baking soda is more hassle than it’s worth, some people swear by this DIY method.

If you have a front-loading washing machine, what you need to do first is to clean the gasket by spraying it with white vinegar and wiping it with a damp microfiber cloth. Next, add two cups of white vinegar to the detergent drawer, set the washer to the hottest water temperature, and run an empty cycle. After the cycle is completed, add one and a half cups of baking soda directly to the drum, and run it through another hot wash. When the second cycle is done, give the drum a thorough wiping and let it air out.

Do you have a top-loader? Again, you’ll want to set your washer to the highest level and hottest water temperature. Add four cups of white vinegar to the washer tub and start the cycle. Wait a few minutes, then hit pause, and allow the mixture of water and vinegar to sit for an hour. You can use this time to wipe the top of your machine clean with a microfiber cloth dipped in hot vinegar water, and to scrub the fabric softener and bleach compartments with an old toothbrush. After the one hour has elapsed, continue the cycle, then run another wash, this time adding one cup of baking soda to the washer tub.

Read our article on vinegar and baking soda in laundry for more info on this topic.

How Often Should You Clean Your Washing Machine?

It’s generally recommended to clean your washing machine once a month, especially if you want to prevent musty odors from forming inside the drum and keep your clothes smelling great. Sometimes, however, you need to pay your machine a bit more attention, and it may be necessary to thoroughly clean the washer.

There are a few other things you should look out for. The rubber door seal can easily pick up residues in your washer from laundry soils, detergents and hard water minerals, so give it a good wipe down every now and then. It's also a good idea to check the filter, water-supply hose and other parts for any buildup. Remove these deposits and residues, and you can give your washer a new life.

How to Keep your Washing Machine Smelling Great

Learn how to keep your machine smelling sweet and fresh with these three simple tricks from Tide:

Leave the Door Open

In addition to giving your washing machine a monthly maintenance clean, another great way of preventing mildew and bad smells is leaving the door and dispenser drawer slightly open after each use, so that any remaining moisture will be dried out.

Take Laundry out of the Washer or Dryer Promptly

Remove your clothes from the machine immediately after the wash. If they’re left to sit in the damp drum, then unwanted smells could start to appear. If you cannot take them out immediately, try to do so within two hours for the best results. Many washers come with a timer or delay switch, so you can time it to start automatically and end when you’re due home.

Get Freshness that Lasts. And Lasts. And Lasts

For garments that smell nice and fresh all day long, use Tide Plus A Touch of Downy Liquid or Tide Plus A Touch of Downy Powder in your washer. It not only rids your laundry of lingering odors, but also helps tackle difficult stains and leaves your garments with a gorgeous, subtle fragrance.

Other Washing Machine Protection Tips

Here’s a number of ways you can look after your washing machine, resulting in a more efficient laundry and a longer lifespan.

Clean Out Your Drawers

Rinse out any traces of detergent and softener in the dispenser drawer. Softener or detergent can cause blockages that can damage your machine and prevent your clothes from being properly and thoroughly cleaned. Some washers allow you remove the drawer completely, so you can clean it out more easily.

Keep it Naturally Clean

Never use chemicals or scourers to clean your machine, because they can damage the paintwork or the plastic surfaces. Instead, clean your washer gently with warm, soapy water.

Lighten the Load

If you put too much laundry in your machine, then you could throw the drum off balance, leading to costly repairs. So, make sure you leave a space at the top of the drum about the size of a hand’s width to give it enough space to tumble the clothes for the most effective cleaning. Overfilling can also cause garment residues.

Stay on the Level

Make sure your washer is level—if not, it won’t work efficiently, and you can increase the risk of it breaking down. If your machine hops around while it’s washing, then it probably isn’t balanced correctly. The easiest way to check this is to use a spirit level, and then adjust the feet as necessary until it’s straight.

Dial Down and Save Energy

Who said that you can’t protect the environment while giving your clothes a great clean? Did you know that heating the water takes up 80% of the energy used during a wash? That’s just one reason why we’ve given Tide outstanding cleaning powers at low temperatures. Tide Cold Water Clean cleans thoroughly at cold settings, which reduces the energy used in your wash by up to 40% (compared with washing at a normal setting).

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