How to Clean a Washing Machine

By Melissa
Last updated 17th August 2021 - Reading time: 8 mins

Want to know the steps required to clean a washing machine?

In this article, we'll not only break down the approach required but also look at the tools, safety equipment, and materials. We'll also briefly discuss ways to prepare prior to cleaning a washing machine.

Without further ado, let's discuss what cleaning a washing machine entails.

Woman with pink gloves cleaning washing machine

What Does Cleaning a Washing Machine Involve?

This process involves performing steps such as running a service wash and cleaning the filter. Cleaning a washing machine will deal with bacteria, mould, and rid it of bad smells, while also providing additional benefits.

While you should put your washing machine through a cleaning cycle every week or two, a more thorough clean should be completed every three to six months. How often it should be cleaned will depend on the type of cleaning.

What Tools Do I Need to Clean a Washing Machine?

There are a range of tools required to clean a washing machine properly, and the tools described in this section will apply to different types of cleaning.

Here are the tools you'll need, depending on the job:

  • Damp cloth
  • Shallow tray or towel

Other tools may prove necessary per the manufacturer's guidance (if applicable) for certain methods of cleaning a washing machine. However, more than likely, one or both of the above tools will be all you need.

What Safety Equipment Do I Need to Create a Washing Machine?

You may or may not require safety equipment for this work. It goes without saying that it's important to avoid accidental ingestion of any substances from the washing machine.

You may want to consider the following equipment:

  • Safety gloves

Even if you choose against wearing safety gloves, it's important to wash your hands with soap after dealing with the different surfaces and substances required to clean a washing machine. This will protect you against germs or ingesting a toxic substance.

What Materials Do I Need to Clean a Washing Machine?

There are also some materials you'd need to clean a washing machine. Let's take a look at this.

Here are the materials you might need:

  • Drain unblocker

Again, as with tools, this list could be expanded if specific materials are needed in accordance with the instructions of the manufacturer.

Preparing to Clean Your Washing Machine

There are a few measures worth taking before you actually get to cleaning the washing machine. Let's have a look at these steps in a short amount of detail.

Removing Clothes

Obviously, any clothes in the washing machine should be removed. Spin the drum to check for any extra clothing items like socks that may be stuck at the top, for instance.

Inspecting the Washing Machine

It's also worth briefly inspecting the washing machine to check for any issues that stand out, such as a broken part of the drum. After all, you don't want to clean a washing machine only to find you need to have it replaced.

Inspecting the washing machine will also help you narrow down the potential source of the bad smell (if applicable). It's also possible that there are no particular issues with bad odours coming from the washing machine, but you should still give it a good clean regardless.

How to Clean a Washing Machine Yourself

In this section, we will describe the different steps/jobs involved in cleaning a washing machine. You may prefer to undertake one, a few, or all of these tasks. As mentioned earlier, how often you should perform these jobs will vary.

Step 1 - Service Wash

This first step is to prevent odours accumulating in the drum and should be performed once a month. A service wash is a particularly hot wash that must be undertaken without any clothes inside.

The washing machine manual will provide the exact details of what a service wash should entail, including the exact temperature. The right level of heat is needed to rid it of mould or bacteria correctly.

how to clean a washing machine step 1

Step 2 - Clean the Door Seal

Next, you'll want to check for mould that has grown in the door's rubber seal. Wipe it briefly using a damp cloth once per week. The issue with mould accumulation is that it can result in seal damage over time. In this case, you should consider hiring a professional for a seal replacement.

how to clean a washing machine step 2

Step 3 - Washing the Detergent Drawer

Another important part of the cleaning process is to remove the drawer and wipe it clean after performing a service wash. It would help if you also cleaned the surrounding area of the drawer, as this can also give off an unpleasant smell.

how to clean a washing machine step 3

Step 4 - Filter Cleaning

You may also find that the filter itself is giving off a bad smell. You'll generally find the filter at the front of your washing machine and, more specifically, along the bottom right section.

You should flip off the cover before draining excess water with a hose. A towel or even a shallow tray will be needed to catch the emerging water.

Next, remove the filter by unscrewing it, quickly clean it. Gunk will probably be found inside, and this can be especially smelly. Using some warm water to clean it should suffice. Screw it back into place. Flip the cover back up.

how to clean a washing machine step 4

Step 5 - Leaving the Door and Draw Open

You should also try leaving the machine door open following a wash. This gives a chance for sufficient air circulation. This can, in turn, prevent mould and bacteria from growing. You should also consider leaving the machine's detergent drawer partly open for this same purpose.

how to clean a washing machine step 5

Step 6 - Take at the Look at the Waste Pipe

If the smell remains after all of the previous steps, it's possible that it's coming from the waste pipe. This is the point at which waste water is emptied from the washing machine. If you suspect there's a blockage, use a drain unblocker.

If the issue still remains even after step six, you should hire a professional to take a closer look at the machine. Hopefully, though, by now, you have a clean washing machine.

how to clean a washing machine step 6

Types of Washing Machine Cleaning Methods

We'll now take a closer look at the methods used to clean a washing machine. We'll discuss their pros & cons, as well as their costs.

Deep Clean

One approach worth considering involves adding a few cups of white vinegar to your washing machine's detergent tray. You might decide to add it to the drum instead.

Either way, you should put your washing machine on a high cycle. This step can be repeated with baking soda as a way to get rid of musty smells. There are also washing machine cleaning tablets available.


✔ Easy

✔ Low-cost

✔ You can clean a washing machine with vinegar, a household item

✔ Cleaning washing machine with bi-carbonate of soda


✖ It may not suffice to fix the issue

✖ Not as fast as some other methods

Cleaning the Lid and Machine

You may want to wipe the lip down as well as the washing machine as a whole. This, too, would be an inexpensive job since it would require minimal materials, which you'll likely already have. This method is a fairly fast job in comparison with a deep clean.


✔ A quick task that doesn't take too long


✖ Not always the solution needed to remove bad odours, etc


How do you clean a washing machine seal?

To achieve this, combine a DIY cleaning solution with a cup of baking soda and a cup of bleach. Pour this mixture into the detergent drawer. Add another cup of baking soda into the drum and surrounding the seal area.

Can you clean mould off a washing machine?

Yes, this may be achieved using a mix of a quarter of a cup of lemon juice, half a cup of hydrogen peroxide, and two cups of water.

How long do washing machines last, on average?

If looked after properly, a washing machine may last for ten years or more. The better they are maintained, the longer they should last. Sometimes it's worth repairing a washing machine, but in other cases, it's more cost-effective to simply have it replaced, which is the focus of our next FAQ.

Should I repair or replace my washing machine?

If your machine is fairly new and the cost of a repair is less than half that of a replacement, then it's worth repairing. Otherwise, you should consider paying to have your washing machine replaced instead.

How much do washing machine repair workers pay for the replacement of a door seal?

This would set you back approximately £70 to £100. It would, of course, depend on how much the tradesperson charges, which in turn will depend on where you live. This is because labour prices can vary quite significantly throughout the UK.

For example, labour prices are usually highest in London and the southeast but lower in the north of England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.


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