Umm…Yes, You Should Clean Your Washing Machine! I’ll Show You How.

The other day I was attempting to help an All About Cloth Diapers fan with her laundry issues. I was thinking that the diapers weren’t getting clean enough in the wash and were resulting in rashes. Turns out we had similar washing machines. I took a picture of what my diapers looked like during the second rinse and sent the pic on over. Then I was getting ready to write a reply and I saw my washing machine in all its glory on my computer screen. Can you say: HOLY GROSS BATMAN!

How did it get that disgusting? I mean I cleaned it maybe six months ago.

Let me assure you, I am certain it’s not the cloth diapers making it dirty. More likely that grossness is all the dirt that gets washed off of Sophia’s clothes after she plays in the sand and mud all day. Also my husband’s work clothes that are usually covered in a fine layer of concrete dust with a crust of mud around the edges for good measure.

A while back Autumn wrote a post called: Should You Wash Your Washing Machine? The answer is yes, you should!

The easiest way to do this is if the machine has a cleaning cycle. If it does, I suggest you purchase Affresh and run it though. Affresh is a made in the USA product that is specifically designed to safely clean washing machines and is available in regular and HE versions. It is also my FAVORITE of the the several products I’ve tried. It did a great job and didn’t leave any fragrance behind. I’m a self professed scent junky, but if I stick my head in my empty washer, I want to smell…nothing! I get my Affresh on Amazon. It’s cheap and comes right to my door!

You can also make your own cleaner by using a couple cups (about 4 cups) of either vinegar or lemon juice instead.

If you don’t have a cleaning cycle and you are using a top loader you can let the washer fill with HOT water, add the Affresh, vinegar or lemon juice, let it agitate for a few minutes and then stop the cycle and let it soak for at least an hour. After the hour is up, allow the washer to finish the cycle.

In a front loader that doesn’t have a cleaning cycle, add the cleaning agent like you would normal detergent and run a normal HOT wash cycle.

Next, make a solution of equal parts water to vinegar and wipe clean any area where you see any crud. In a top loader, this includes the insides of the bleach and fabric softener dispensers. Also, move the top of the wash drum around and wipe any place you can get into. On some top loaders the top piece of the agitator where the fabric softener dispenser is located will snap off. If that comes off, check in there as well. That could be a whole other world where fuzz and built-up dirt are hiding. On a front loader, use the vinegar/water solution and wipe clean the rubber seal around the door as well as the detergent dispensers.

To help keep things clean there a few easy maintenance steps you can take both after each load and weekly (and also including a monthly full cleaning). For all the details of washing machine maintenance, please read:

Should You Wash Your Washing Machine?

Your dryer also needs to be maintained. Not only does it save $$$ by being able to dry items more efficiently it’s a fire hazard if you don’t. For all the details, check out my post:

Want to save some money? Learn how to get those cloth diapers dry faster!

How many of you plan on checking your machine to see if it looks anything like mine? No need to be embarrassed. Considering we run these every day with our filthiest things in it, washers deserve a little cleaning of their own once in a while!

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About Jennifer Reinhardt

Jenn is a WAHM to two beautiful little girls. Sophia (4.5 years old) and Norah (4 months). She closed her business, Curves, when she found out she was pregnant so she could stay home with her first daughter. Now Jenn spends her time spreading the love of fluff and sharing common sense answers that help to make cloth diapers easy for everyone.

View all posts by Jennifer Reinhardt

22 Responses to “Umm…Yes, You Should Clean Your Washing Machine! I’ll Show You How.”

  1. Kara S Says:

    I’m a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know this. I’ve been cloth diapering for years now, multiple kids in diapers at some times. I’m just about to start a new leg of the cloth diapering journey with a new washer so this will be part of my new routine.


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      And seriously, mine wasn’t even gross from the diapers…it was all the other stuff I washed!


  2. Molly Says:

    Thanks for the great article and reminder! Is there any concern with vinegar and the rubber gasket on front loaders?


  3. Chelaina Says:

    Cleaning mine right now using the vinegar. It’s homemade vinegar so we’ll see how it turns out :)


  4. Marisol Says:

    I need to wash my machine….desperately! It stinks sometimes just because the lid is closed for a whole day or two! I cloth diaper, so a clean machine is imperative. The thing is, I only have COLD water to my machine. How would I clean my machine? Every tutorial and retail cleaning agent’s directions I’ve seen state to use HOT water. Should I bucket the water in from my tub or is there another solution?

    Please help, my towels and clothes stink if I don’t get them out of the washer within a couple of hours.


  5. Meagan Says:

    I used to have to clean my top loader once in a while but my front loader seems to have less little dirt-collecting spaces. I’ve had it a year and have never cleaned it and it smells like nothing. I do have to empty out the bottom part of the rubber seal often though. It collects a ton of dog hair! Also, I never leave the door closed when it isn’t running because I worry about that tiny bit of water just sitting in there, possibly getting funky, so maybe that helps.


  6. Lauren Boyd Says:

    Hi, Jennifer! Great way to clean the washing machine. I need to keep mine clean all the time because of my kids clothes. Thanks for sharing


  7. Anastasia Says:

    Towels, sheets, spare blankets, anything you can salvage that will fool the machine.

    P.S. this is also a BIG issue for renters whose machines have unknown histories!


  8. Judy Says:

    And that is why I will not wash cloth diapers (and really try not to wash any clothes at all!) in my parents’ washing machine…on the farm…shudder!


  9. Denise Taylor-Dennis Says:

    I really need to clean my washer, thanks for the explanation on how.


  10. Krista F Says:

    Thanks for the post. I am going to clean my washing machine. I’m scared what I will find.


  11. Wanda Tracey Says:

    Thanks for posting this to help us.I am definitely going to clean min with Affresh.


  12. Heather Johnson Says:

    I really need to clean mine. I can see the residue along the top.


  13. Jill S Says:

    my newer top loader (not he) won’t allow me to just fill it with water.
    stupid machine will lock itself, even, for extra extra safety.. but it considers water in the machine a drowning hazard. if it doesn’t sense anything, it won’t run water… and I can’t see dumped gallons of boiling water in there…??


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Jill, And it has no self cleaning cycle? That’s weird! You could use the soak function instead I think and throw the cleaning agent (Affresh, vinegar, or lemon juice) in like you would detergent.


    • Amy B. Says:

      Run a load of towels and dump the vinegar in there.


  14. melissa Says:

    omg so true i literally just cleaned mine today after these brown stains that i assumed were rust were showing up on cloths and ug my diapers! after much research i took the middle agitator out of my top load and it was disgusting! the whole bottom of my washer under the agitator was covered in a think brown sludge wish i could post a comment pic because it was quite a site.


    • Megan Says:

      My parents used to have a machine with that problem. We all assumed that it was rust. I don’t think anybody considered cleaning the machine itself. They eventually replaced it. Has cleaning it fixed your brown stains?


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