Just about everything in a house needs to be cleaned at least once in a while, and your washing machine is no exception to that. (And I’m not talking about just wiping down the exterior of the machine and calling it a day.)

Here you’ll learn exactly how to clean a front loading washing machine with natural ingredients (and why you should NEVER use bleach to clean your machine).

Did you know your washing machine collects dirt, builds up gunk, and can even start to mold if not cleaned regularly – or correctly? 

When you think about it, it makes sense. You put dirt clothes in there and they come out clean. So, obviously that dirt goes somewhere. But, up until now you always thought that dirt got washed away with the water – which most of it does.

However, a good amount of that dirt and detergent stays behind and gets stuck in the crevices of your washing machine, and if it gets left unattended, it can start to mold, smell, and won’t wash your clothes like it used to.

(I know – I was shocked when I learned this, too.)

The good news is that cleaning a washing machine isn’t very hard at all, all you have to do is learn how to clean a front loading washing machine the RIGHT way, so you aren’t wasting your time and you’re actually attacking the dirt and grime that needs to get gone.

(Do you have a top loading washing machine? Click here to learn how to clean a top loading washing machine naturally.)

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Ready to dive in and learn how to clean a washing machine? First, you’ll need to make sure you have your ingredients on hand. You’ll want: 

Have you ever noticed your clothes coming out of the wash smelling a bit funky?

Or, maybe you can smell a slight odor when you open the washing machine door, but can’t narrow down where it’s coming from.

Or maybe you dared to look under the rubber seal in your washing machine and found mold growing in there (you know – the stuff that no matter how hard you scrub at it it just DOESN’T budge).

Whether you know your washing machine is due for a cleaning, or you don’t really know why you’re doing it – you’ve just heard from other people that you should clean it, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know when it comes to learning how to clean a front loading washing machine – the natural way.

That’s right – we aren’t using any harsh chemicals, just two simple ingredients that you probably have in your pantry (some people say you should use bleach to clean your washing machine, but I’ll explain below why that’s a BIG mistake).

If you’re worried about using chemicals and getting toxins in your home, worry no more, we will clean your front loading washing machine completely toxin free.

Before we get to the goods, how to clean a front loading washing machine, I want to give a quick rundown of why we are only using natural products to clean your washing machine (besides the fact that we want to do this naturally), rather than using harsh chemicals that some people suggest, like bleach.

CAN I USE BLEACH TO CLEAN MY WASHING MACHINE?

If you do any amount of research on how to clean a front loading washing machine (or any kind of washing machine, for that matter), you will come across many people who suggest using bleach to clean your washing machine.

People like to use bleach because it works exceptionally well to sterilize, it gets rid of mold and mildew, it removes stains, disinfects, kills bacteria, and much more.

So, why don’t we use bleach to clean our washing machines since it works for… everything?

After reading the list of things that bleach can do, you might be wondering why on earth you wouldn’t use it to clean your washing machine, and here’s why…

As I mentioned, bleach works exceptionally well in many things, as well as killing bacteria. While this might sound like a good thing, don’t we want to get rid of the bacteria in our washing machines?, it can actually be very harmful to your septic system.

When you use bleach to clean your washing machine, you are then sending that bacteria-killing solution down the pipes and into your septic tank, which then kills the bacteria in your septic tank.

While at first, this might sound good, it’s really not, and here’s why…

Septic tanks rely on bacteria to break down the solids in the tank and keep everything flowing and moving like it’s supposed to be. So, when you flush a good amount of bleach down the pipes, the bleach will kill the bacteria in your septic tank, and then bad things start to happen (blockages, backups… the things you never want to have gone wrong, go wrong). 

Without bacteria in your septic tank you can experience sewage backups and septic failures.

Small amounts of bleach here and there shouldn’t be enough to harm your septic system, but I would personally err on the side of caution and, if at all possible, find a natural solution rather than sending large amounts of bleach down the drain.

“But wait! I didn’t know this and I’ve already sent cups of bleach down the drain. What do I do now?!?”

If you’ve already bleached your washer or sent bleach down the drain, you can try to encourage bacteria to start growing again by flushing a quarter cup of dry baking yeast down the toilet to help rebuild and grow the bacteria your septic tank needs to keep running smoothly.

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WHY DOES YOUR WASHING MACHINE NEED TO BE CLEANED?

Now that we have got the bleach situation out of the way, let’s talk for a minute about why your washing machine needs to be cleaned – or if it even does at all.

I always had the mentality that the machine was cleaning my clothes, so shouldn’t it be cleaning itself at the same time?

And because I believed that, it actually wasn’t until just recently that I ever washed a washing machine on the inside.

It was when my husband and I moved into our new place, and the washing machine was a disaster, that I realized, hey – maybe these machines do need to be cleaned from time to time.

(If you want to see some before and after photos of our washing machine, you can find them here.)

If you aren’t sure why you’re cleaning your washing machine, or if yours even needs to be cleaned, let’s look at why we clean them here:

  • Washing machines hold a lot of moisture in them, even while not in use, and can quickly become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
  • When a washing machine isn’t cleaned regularly it can start to let off unpleasant odors.
  • These odors can then be transferred to your clothes (the clothes that are supposed to be getting cleaned).
  • Build up from your water and detergent can occur over time in the pipes, causing your machine to work harder and wear out faster.

Okay – now that you know your washing machine should be washed (even if it isn’t letting any odd odors off yet), let’s learn how to do it.

HOW TO CLEAN A FRONT LOADING WASHING MACHINE

What you will need

  • White vinegar for cleaning. White vinegar can be used as a disinfectant, deodorizer, and degreaser, which makes it a great, natural alternative to regular cleaning products that are full of toxins.
  • Baking soda. Baking soda, especially when used in conjunction with white vinegar,  makes an incredible natural cleaning detergent as it doesn’t mask odors, but absorbs them, fights tough stains, breaks down dirt and grime, and is an important component when it comes to learning how to clean a washing machine the natural way.
  • Microfiber cleaning cloth. While any kind of cleaning cloth will work, I use and highly recommend microfiber cleaning cloths as they, unlike other cleaning cloths that mainly push and smear dirt around, actually pick the dirt and dust up onto the cloth leaving a clean, bacteria-free surface behind it, which makes it the perfect cloth for wiping dirt and grime out of your washing machine.
  • Cleaning bucket. Go ahead and grab a cleaning bucket (I use an old ice cream pail) as we will be using this later in the process of cleaning your washing machine.
  • Sponge. You will want a cleaning sponge ready when you’re cleaning your washing machine, preferably one that is abrasive on one side, and soft on the other. 
  • An old toothbrush. I grabbed an old cleaning toothbrush to get in the nooks and crannies that my fingers couldn’t fit into.
  • Rubber gloves. This one is totally optional. Since you will be working with a homemade cleaning solution that is all natural, you don’t need to worry about wearing gloves to protect your skin, but if your washing machine is really dirty, you might want to wear gloves so you don’t have to touch all the gunk we’re about to get rid of.

 

You may notice that this tutorial on how to clean a washing machine doesn’t include photos – that is because my husband and I only have a top loading washing machine at the moment, so I created an in-depth guide for cleaning a top loading washing machine. However, I know that many people have front-loading machines so I wanted you to be able to clean your washing machine naturally, too.

For now, if you would like some pictures for reference, you can find some here.

Step 1

If there is laundry in the machine, take it out. You want to be working with an empty machine.

Step 2

Remove the detergent, bleach, and fabric softener dispensers from the washer (if your machine has extra trays or dispensers, remove them too). 

Place these pieces in a bucket or sink full of warm, soapy water and let them soak for a couple of minutes. (This specific soap will quickly remove any greasy grime that is stuck on.)

Once they have soaked for a few minutes, take them out of the water and use a cloth or an old toothbrush to scrub them until all the residue and build-up is gone.

If your trays are not removable, pour some warm soapy water straight into the dispensers and wipe with a cleaning rag or old toothbrush.

Replace the dispensers back into their correct slots in the washing machine.

Step 3

Turn the washing machine settings to the hottest wash, longest cycle, and the largest load that your machine will do.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drum of the washer, then pour 2 to 3 cups of white vinegar into the drum as well.

Step 4

Double-check that all the settings on the machine are correct, and turn it on.

Step 5

While you are waiting for the cycle to complete, take a cleaning rag and, using a vinegar/water mixture, wipe down the exterior of the machine.

Be sure to wipe all the knobs, all the buttons, the handle, the front, sides, and back of the machine – if accessible.

Now you will wait for the washer to complete the cycle.

Step 6

Once the cycle is complete, open the washer door and, using a vinegar/water mixture, take your cleaning cloth, sponge, and an old toothbrush, and wipe down the drum of the washer. Once the drum is wiped down, move on to the gasket.

(The gasket is the large – and often grey – rubber seal that keeps water from leaking out the door.) 

This is where most of the mold, mildew, and unpleasant odors harbor, so it may take you some time to scrub clean.

Give the top of the gasket a wipe then move all the way around it, then lift the flap and wipe under the rubber seal, this is where you may see some mold starting to grow.

If there is anything too stuck on, scrub at it with your toothbrush or an abrasive sponge to loosen the grime, then wipe it out with your cleaning cloth.

Step 7

Once the gasket has been scrubbed and cleaned all the way around and under the flap, take your cleaning cloth and wipe the inside of the door.

Many glass doors collect hair and dirt at the very bottom of them, so be sure to pay special attention to this area to remove it all.

Wipe around the edge of the door and be sure to wipe up any dirt that is be hiding by the hinges.

Step 8

Close the door and set your washer to the shortest cycle, but keep the hot water and large load settings selected.

This cycle is simply to rinse out any excess vinegar/baking soda that may have gotten left behind and rinse away all the grime that you knocked loose while wiping everything down.

Do not add any detergents to the washer at this time. This cycle is to rinse out all the mold, mildew, and grime that got loosened off by the previous cycle and your scrubbing.

Double-check that the “hot” setting is still selected, as hot water will help kill off any bacteria that is growing in the washing machine.

Step 9

Once the rinse cycle is complete, you are done.

Open the door up and take a sniff – doesn’t it smell much, much better?

Now you can rest assured knowing the laundry you wash is going to come out truly clean and without any unwanted odors – and you attacked any mold that was starting to grow in your machine.

Bonus tip to keep your washer clean…

Always, always, ALWAYS keep the door of your washer cracked open when its not in use. If you keep it closed, you’re trapping moisture in and promoting mold and mildew growth, and odors will start occurring much faster than if the door were to be left open.

Another thing you can do is be sure you remove laundry from the washing machine as soon as it’s finished washing. The longer you leave it in there, the quicker your washer is going to need its next cleaning. 

Plus, the smell that occurs in your clothes after they’ve been sitting, wet, in a washing machine for a few hours will slowly seep right back into your washing machine, causing the loads of laundry you do after that to have a bad smell, too.

So, as soon as possible, switch your laundry from the washer to the dryer (or you can make your laundry smell fresh with this) and leave the door of your washing machine cracked open so it has a chance to air out.

It’s a good idea to keep a cleaning rag close by your washing machine at all times, this way when you move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, you can give the gasket and door of your washing machine a quick wipe down to help keep it smelling fresh for as long as possible.

Related:
How to Clean a Washing Machine Naturally (top loading)
How to Clean Every Room in Your House
9 Ways to Clean Your House in Less Than 30 Minutes

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