Look, I know it’s not the most glamorous of household chores (is there any such thing?) but cleaning your washing machine has to be done. It might seem counter-intuitive to have to clean something than cleans, but unfortunately it is very necessary as the amount of scum that can build up inside the machine can be surprising. And gross. I usually do it once or twice a year, and it’s a must for anyone who rents a property with white goods included – do you have any idea how much grunge and gunk from other peoples’ clothes you are doing your laundry in otherwise?? A LOT.
This method is good for cleaning out top loading washing machines that are starting to cover your clothes in lint (as not all models are built with a lint catcher these days for reasons unknown – probably because they are cheaper, and these are the machines you usually end up with in a rental property); as well as any that are starting to emit a damp or unpleasant odour, and just for a regular clean out a couple of times a year. Best of all this method costs mere pennies!
You will need:
- 3 cups of regular white household vinegar (a large bottle of this will last for ages and can be used for a number of household cleaning purposes)
- Half a cup of bicarbonate of soda (also called baking soda in the US, and also an oldie but a goodie when it comes to household cleaning)
- Rubber gloves (trust me… unless you have a very strong disposition)
- Paper towels
- Make sure the machine is empty. Set it to the largest load setting and hottest water setting. Run the programme until your hear the machine finish filling with water and starting to churn.
- Pause the programme and open the lid. Add the 3 cups of vinegar to the water. Restart and allow the machine to begin agitating the water for a couple of minutes to mix the vinegar through.
- Pause the programme and open the lid. This time add the bicarbonate of soda. Restart and allow the machine to agitate the mixture for another five minutes or so.
- Pause the programme and open the lid. Now you will need your rubber gloves and paper towels. The hot water will have steamed up the insides of the top of the machine, loosening the grime. Using the paper towels clean away all the scum that builds up underneath the top lip of the machine and in all the little nooks and crannies, around the opening of the machine, inside the fabric softener central tube, and at the back where the lid connects. It will be gross. Don’t let the scum drop into the water if you can help it, keep it in the paper towels and dispose of them. Continue until the insides of your machine are crystal clean. Notice that the water in the machine is filled with fibres, bits of dust, hair and lint. Be revolted. All this would otherwise be going on your clothes!
- Restart the programme and allow it to run through to the end.
- Now run the cycle again (empty) from start to finish, on the biggest load setting and hottest water temperature.
- Open your machine and wipe out the drum with a dry lint-free cloth. Leave the lid open so the machine dries completely. Notice how it sparkles and is completely odour free!
- Make yourself a cup of tea and feel smug for being such a domestic goddess. Return to machine and admire it at will.
- If your washing machine has no lint catcher and you are finding fibres on your clothes even after carrying out the above cleaning programme, make sure that the water pressure on the machine is not set too high, as this will be increasing the amount of lint blasted from your clothes. Also make sure that the drainage hose at the back does not have any kinks in it or blockages.
- Always wash your delicates on a delicate cycle, always use the stipulated amount of detergent, and don’t use fabric softener. Laundry mechanics will tell you what a disaster fabric softener is for washing machines – it is a cause of a lot of faults as it can get into the mechanism and damage the machine. I don’t use fabric softener and have never noticed any difference to the quality of my clothing; it’s completely superfluous to the laundry process! Not to mention: the more products you use during the washing cycle the more quickly your clothes will wear out.
- Always separate your towels from the rest of your clothing. Not only should these be washed on a hotter cycle than your clothes, but they will leave lint on your clothing if you put them all in together.