It may seem counterintuitive given that a washing machine is always filled with water and soap, but having your washing machine cleaned is essential, and right now, it is more important than ever. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all trying to practise better hygiene to stay safe, but it’s not just our hands and gadgets that need extra disinfecting, but our clothes too. There isn’t definitive research on this yet. Still, certain materials could harbour the virus for extended periods, so it is essential to not only wash our clothes properly but also vital to keep the machine clean.
On this note, we have some good news and some bad news about your washing machine. Bad news first — switching your laundry cycle to a lower temperature probably means you aren’t killing off germs, even if your clothes look clean. According to a study, after a 40°C wash cycle, one in four freshly laundered articles contain traces of faecal bacteria. However, we all know the cost of washing at 60°C and above — it is not suitable for the environment, uses more energy, leads to more expensive bills, and can ruin your clothes.
Now, for some good news —you can improve the functioning of your machine, without needing to raise the wash temperature, by cleaning your washing machine regularly. This not only leads to fresher, cleaner clothes, but it will also help to preserve the functional lifespan of your washing machine.
If your current cleaning service isn’t already carrying out regular deep cleans on your washing machine, then we are here to help. At Helpling our part-time cleaners are more than happy to take on the task, but should you wish to try yourself, here’s everything you need to know about cleaning your washing machine.
The definitive guide on how to clean your washing machine
Clean the detergent tray
First up is the tray where your detergents and softeners go. Notice that build-up of gunky old detergent in there? You don’t want your newly cleaned laundry being contaminated with it. It’s best to remove the actual tray from the machine and rinse thoroughly with hot water and soap, and then let it air dry.
Keep the gasket fresh
Those of you with front loader machines, must have noticed a mildewy, slightly mouldy smell, coming from your washer? And when it gets worse, the smell is transferred on to your fresh laundry — even when you haven’t accidentally forgotten about your still-damp laundry sitting in your machine for half a day? Or perhaps you keep finding cat hair, or bits of disintegrated paper tissue from that one time you left a tissue in your jean pocket? The culprit is likely to be your machine gasket.
The gasket is the rubber seal around the drum opening. Not only can this get mildewy, but it tends to trap debris from previous washes, including hair, animal fur and that tissue from yesteryear— not to mention the invisible germs. The gasket has a few different folds and crevices, which makes it watertight — but also means you might not even notice what is caught in there until you start pulling them back. It needs to be thoroughly cleaned regularly, first by removing the debris, and then wiping it either with an antibacterial solution or with a baking soda and vinegar mix. In time, the gasket might need replacing, but you’d want to bear this expense when your machine is older, as opposed to when it gets so disgusting that it is beyond salvaging. Regular and thorough cleaning of gaskets can not only help save money but also ensures better hygiene.
Disinfect the drum
The drum needs to be thoroughly disinfected too, both to clean out any more lurking debris and to get rid of germs. Unfortunately, the warm, damp climate of a washing machine is a bacteria breeding ground.
Bonus Tip: You might want to leave the door ajar after your laundry loads so it can dry out properly.
Deep clean wash cycle
Some machines might have a standard tub-cleaning cycle, while others require running a long, hot wash. It’s best to add some antibacterial or cleaning agent, whether that is vinegar and baking soda, or using a specially designed product.
Depending on whether you have a frontloader or toploader, or according to your specific machine model, you may need to take different steps. If you have a toploader, you may need to start a cycle, and then pause it for at least an hour, so your cleaning agent can stand in the machine to work properly. Once your cleaning cycle is complete, round it off with one more rinse of just water, and finish it all off by wiping the drum down one more time.
For a frontloader, use a mixture of water, baking soda and vinegar, let the solution sit in the basin for a while then run the machine for a couple of minutes, drain and dry it with a clean cotton cloth.
Clean the filter
At least once a year, if not every six months, you will need to remove the water hoses and clean the filter. This will vary depending on the model of your machine, so make sure you keep that instruction manual handy.
Wipe down the outside
Last but not least, wipe down the outside of your machine to keep it germ-free and looking fresh.
Rinse and repeat: how often should my machine be cleaned?
Bad news: these steps, bar the filter cleaning, should be repeated once a month. Good news: it is worth it! If you take good care of your washing machine, and therefore your clothes, it means you will save a lot of money, as well as you will be doing your bit for the environment. Most importantly, it means you will be killing off hidden and invisible germs and keeping your household healthy.
We understand this takes a lot of time, but it’s also really not worth cutting corners when it comes to cleaning your washing machine. Helpling has made booking professional cleaning services easier. With just a few clicks, we can help you find the best part-time cleaner or part-time maid to meet your exact cleaning needs, including keeping your washing machine germ and bacteria-free.
Stay clean and stay healthy!