Should You Wash Your Washing Machine?

August 16, 2011

Washing Cloth Diapers

My friend Emi of The Cloth Diaper Report got me thinking about this with her How To Clean Your Washing Machine series.

I own a Samsung Steam washer and dryer and while it does have a Pure Clean cycle I can’t say I’ve used it as often as I should.

After reading Emi’s “Daily Routine” points I realized I am failing miserably at keeping my washer clean.

A clean washer means cleaner, fresher clothes and diapers so it is definitely something you should definitely start or (if you’re better than me) continue. I promise the daily routine items should only take you two minutes total each day you do laundry and it will help prevent a huge scrub down and odor issues later.

Daily Routine

1. Remove the load right away. I know this can be a hard one with long to-do lists and kids to chase after, but make the effort and it will help. This will prevent the dampness from causing musty odors and residue in the washer. My daughter likes to help me switch loads, so get the kids involved, or if you have older children add this other other daily maintenance tasks to their chore list!

2. Leave the lid open or ajar. This will help the remaining moisture in the washer to dry and evaporate. Adding this to your routine won’t add any time to your chores (heck, it’ll even save you the 2 seconds it would take to close the lid). Researching for this article had me looking at washing machine reviews and the new Whirlpool Duet even has a FanFresh button that airs out loads to fight mustiness. Cool!

3. Wipe down your washer with a damp towelonce a week to keep dried on detergents or other debris off the exterior of the washer. Use a little vinegar or non-abrasive cleaner to the routine to make sure you get all the germs off.

4. Using the same towel, wipe the inside door and rubber lip out to prevent visible mildew or build up. I find that in my front loader the bottom portion on the inner plastic door is where mildew likes to creep up on me and I am trying to make an effort to wipe it down on a regular basis before I see that film that makes me think yuck, I’d better wipe that down. Consequently, this is my biggest challenge that I can avoid by following steps 1 and 2, and doing a weekly wipe down.

Now that I am aware my washer is probably full of gunk, I click on over to part 2 where Emi explains “Monthly Maintenance”. I am fully convinced that I need the product she is reviewing :) I think that means she did her job well!

This product is called Affresh.  Have you tried it?

Here are the 4 Monthly Routine tips:

Monthly Routine

1. Clean the interior drum and hosing of the washer. A product will need to be used to reach all of the un-reachable places, so although bleach, vinegar or similar products may be used, keep in mind that these will be drained early in the wash cycle so won’t reach all of the parts of the washer. Affresh tablets are a product specifically made in a tablet form so that it lasts through the duration of the cycle and has the opportunity to produce oxygenating bubbles that foam up to clean throughout the hosing as well.

You can clean the interior drum with a couple cups of vinegar or lemon juice, but whatever product you use, you will want to use the hottest temperature setting when cleaning your washing machine to ensure build up stains and odors have a chance to be zapped away.  

Note: if you use cold cycles on a regular basis you may need to do more frequent drum maintenance, because although cold water can wash clothing just fine with the right detergent, residue will not dissolve as well on a cold setting.

2. Wipe down the inside drum, rubber lip and door to get all of the remaining residue off of the reachable places after the cleaning cycle is complete. Affresh Grit Grabbers are a product made specifically for this task in front-loading HE machines, but a textured or microfiber cloth may also do the trick. Remember you should be wiping down the rubber lip and door during the week, so this is a step specifically recommended to get the remaining residue that may be lifted up after a monthly cleaning regimen.

3. Remove and scrub down the detergent and fabric softener dispensers in the sink then dry thoroughly before putting them back in place. While these are drying and the cleaning cycle is running, you can make sure your hosing is snugly in place so you don’t have any leaks or other issues and check to see if your washer feet are properly balanced to avoid unnecessary jiggling during a cycle.

4. Repeat once a month. I personally believe that even cloth diaper users can limit their monthly maintenance to once a month with a products like Affresh if they follow the daily and weekly maintenance. If you choose to use vinegar, bleach or another product approved by your manufacturer, you may want to clean your washer twice a month and keep in mind if any odor issues evolve over time, it may be coming from the hosing you cannot reach.

To read Emi’s full post click on the banner below.

If you have an HE machine have you noticed any problems from not washing your machine?  I have occasionally noticed  an odor when I remove clothes.

When I notice it I either kick myself for leaving the laundry in there too long or run the Pure Clean cycle.  But, after reading Emi’s posts I’m thinking just running the cycle won’t get the machine really clean.

I clean sinks, tubs and floors so why do I neglect a machine I am so dependent on??


About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at

View all posts by Autumn Beck

21 Responses to “Should You Wash Your Washing Machine?”

  1. joannapaul Says:

    Washers do require the cleaning process. They may stagnate some of dirt, germs or any such kind which may not be naked to the eyes. Hence taking some time to clean and make them tidy can make your washing experience more pleasurable and trouble-less.


  2. deb walsh Says:

    Hello mother of 6 and grandmother of 8, I used cloth diapers and am come to by friends and family as the laundry expert. My oldest is 32 youngest 16 the key is to pre- wash the diapers and do an extra rinse. As for front loader I must disagree with Kevin, my husband takes apart our front loader to retrieve legos & socks from the filter and our tub looks and smells great. I always wondered when people would complain. This is my 2 nd in 10 years (front loader) and I use vinegar for the dark loads, the real problem is liquid fabric softened, that’s the part you will find gets nasty so Sorry but the extra rinse has been my answer to clean soft towels, diapers back in the day and my husband, horticulture sweat & dirt removal. I sure hope this helps, I still remember as a young bride going to a laundermat with my “new” husband and saying eeewww we aren’t washing our clothes in that washer, that lady just washed diapers in it. God has an incredible sense of humor, and he must have been chuckling when I decided on the whole home birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapers for my family. God bless each of you with your precious babies.


    • kevin Says:

      Hi Deb
      it’s actually inside the drum etc. that the soap accumulates. most people use way to much soap so it builds up. the service guys get called out usually when someone has gone on vacation and the bacteria has had time to really grow. when they return the house smells to high heaven. a vinegar wash is a really good idea as it does kill the bacteria, yet will have limited effect on breaking up the built up soap. in order to actually disinfect something you need to remove the food source. this is why spraying disinfectant around the house is stupid, your only poisoning yourself etc. the same applies in the washing machine. to really do green cleaning you need to get the contamination removed. hope this helps. Kevin


  3. Samantha Cuhel Says:

    This makes me wish even more that I had my own washer and wasn’t using the community washer in my apartment lol


  4. Marie Says:

    Several years back I received a FL washer and dryer from friends who were moving away. I loved it at first, but then the smell really started to bug me. They always used a heavily perfumed liquid detergent, and the smell of their house and their clothes used to get on my nerves. After a time, I put my finger on the smell in MY house, and it was this icky, mouldy smell + their perfume that I was smelling in the washer! I set out to cure the washing machine. I had to wipe and scrub and took off yucky smelling brown gunk! I ran some hot bleach cycles and the problem was solved. I only had to do a bleach load (did my towels then) per week, and again wipe it down from time to time. However I have since replaced it with a new top loader. The icky thing is I can smell that same mouldy smell permeating my friend’s new home now. They also have mysterious ailments, I wonder if mould could be causing some of their sickness.


  5. Jessica Says:

    We just had to have our washer serviced recently and when the repair man took the washer apart there was tons of build up on the inside of the barrel. He tried to wipe it down with a towel but a lot of it just stayed there. Yuck. He said that they recommend using powdered detergents because liquid ones have oils in them to keep them suspended in solution which doesn’t wash out as well and builds up in the machine. He also told me that I need to clean the machine once a month using a powdered detergent on the “cleaning’ cycle. I had no idea but after seeing that nastiness, I’m sold!


  6. Kristin P. Says:

    Thanks for the blog!! I am relitivly new to cloth (about 2 months now) and am having horrible issues. Im sticking in there though just trying to figure it all out. But this blog hit close to home. I have had my washer for 4 years now and I have never had a complaint about it. We moved to Iowa where my husband now farms. Since we moved here my washer has been smelling very ekk.. at first it was mold… eww.. we think we got that figured out but it still smells musty and gross and I have done just about everything I can think of beside calling in the professionals. I am also having a horrible stink issue which i think we have come to that its ammonia issue in my diapers and I cant fix it if my washer is stinking to… BUT im def going to try out that AFFRESH. See what that’s all about.


  7. Stephanie Says:

    When I bought my FL, Maytag, it has an Affresh setting on it and came with a sample. It does seem to work, washer smelled fresher, and before it started to smell a little musty. They also told me when I bought my FL to leave the door open between loads because it seals so tight the actual seal will start to smell, so wipe that down when cleaning the machine. I also saw that Tide offers a washing machine cleaner, but I do not have experience with it, but I do like the Affresh.


  8. Jessica Says:

    We used to have a Frigidaire FLer and it was great until i started using HE detergent and washing cloth diapers. HE detergents weren’t available here in our rural community until a few years ago. Once we switched detergent we occasionally had issues with washer stinkies and off smelling clothing but nothing major. Then we switched to cloth diapers and the powdered “diaper detergents” we were told we needed to avoid problems. As time went on the stink got so bad nothing fixed it. We had constant rashes and/or detergent reactions as well. We tried all the remedies and replacing the washer was our saving grace (PTL for burnt bearings).

    Last year we replaced our broken and stinky FLer with an HE TLer (Maytag Bravos). I no longer use powdered detergents, except 1/2 the amount of regular Tide, for DH’s work clothes as we noticed immediate build-up on the drum with all other powders. My new washer has a light that reminds you it’s time to run a cleaning cycle so i don’t forget like i used to. We still get slight stinkies if we do a lot of cold loads but running a cleaning cycle every time the light comes on (i think it’s every 45 loads) fixes it each time. We finally have fresh towels again, a feat that was unattainable in our FLer. I’ve learned using the right detergents for your water supply and regular washer maintenance make all the difference.


  9. Cyndel Jones Says:

    Hmmm perhaps I should email this to my apartment manager…the mat washers could use a good cleaning…I try to keep all the lids of empty machines open when I’m in there but so many people close them!


  10. Britt Says:

    I have never cleaned my washing machine and it’s a relic from the early 80s (almond colour) … hmmm one more thing to feel guilty about (just kidding). I think I can let that one go … the machine appears clean, we’ve survived this long, and our clothes smell fresh so I can live with things as they are. :)


  11. Amy Johnson Says:

    After skimmimg through my LG FL STEAM WASHING MACHINE Handbook to or not I was using a correct setting I realized that my LG has a TUB CLEANING CYCLE! I ran that with some pure oxygem and also used the Charlies soap as directed to get rid of soap residues and now even if I forget about lsundry in the washer it doesnt smell gross. My handbook recommended monthly tub cleanses. I can only imagine mildew could get worse with CD. I need to clean,the lip of the door though. Thank you for the reminder!


  12. Nikki Says:

    It’s funny that you mention this because I was thinking I probably needed to! Recently, I did a rinse of my dipes in the DISH washer and thought to be sure to clean first. WOW! I’m so glad I did, it was disgusting, especially under the door where you can’t see. After that realization, it occurred to me that I should probably consider cleaning the washing machine as well. Thanks for the info!


  13. Kevin Daum Says:

    Sorry Autumn, I read Emi and my brain translated that to Amy.


  14. Cindi Says:

    You’ve just convinced me to hire a maid!


  15. vanysa Says:

    i’ve always wonder how to clean the washer -how other cloth diaper moms do it! thanks for the article, it is very helpful! -i’ll pass it on!


  16. Kevin Daum Says:

    Hi Amy
    I’m not trying to hijack your blog, I coined the term Skanky Laundry Syndrome and have supplied professional washing machine repair people with low foam oillift for removing all the built up soap in machines for years. I have to give the repair technicians at Sears in Ontario the credit for doing all the experimenting. The Skanky smell from your machine is from built up soap in the machine. you need a cleaner strong enough to actually go in a break up the deposits without melting rubber etc. no matter how much bleach or vinagar you use if you do not break up this soap and remove it the smell will return. the bigger problem is the bacteria actually acumulates and dries on your cloths. when it rehydrates from your sweat it grows again and this triggers allergies that are constantly misdiagnosed. your washing machine is the largest source of bacteria in your home. on my web site there is a petition to ban toxic cleaners. when people sign it they get an e-mail with the instructions for de-skankying their machine. again I must apologize if it seems I’m commandeering your blog. that was not my intent, this is a serious problem and I needed to say something. If you like I will write you an article or do a video interview to help. please feel free to contact me anytime. best regards
    Kevin Daum Founder and President, Save the Oceans Inc.


  17. Krystal Says:

    I was just looking at my washer this week and thinking that I need to clean it. Too funny that you blogged about this.


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