How to Clean a Front-Load Washer

January 4, 2022
Washer Repair

Perhaps the biggest problem with a front-load washer is how easy it is for mold and mildew to form in the rubber door gasket. Along with the gasket, the washer also requires a deep clean to remove detergent and fabric softener residue and to clean the washer of debris that can affect the washer’s performance.

Many washing machine manufacturers recommend cleaning a front loader washer at least once a month. If you have the time, some manufacturers recommend weekly or bi-weekly cleaning.

What to clean the washer with?

If you are wondering what to use to clean the washer, there are a few different options, such as distilled white vinegar, bleach, or a store-bought washer cleaning product.

Distilled white vinegar has a high concentration of acetic acid, which is great for cleaning the washer, killing germs, and getting rid of bad odors. White vinegar can damage your washer if used too frequently or in large amounts (discussed below).

Bleach is best for killing germs and cleaning mold, mildew, and bacteria, but vinegar is better at dissolving soap scum or tough mineral deposits. For the best results, consider running a cycle with vinegar and then another cycle with bleach. However, you should never mix bleach with another cleaning product, especially vinegar, as it will produce potentially lethal chlorine gas.

Store-bought washing machine cleaner products are another great alternative. The benefit of using a washer cleaning product, such as Affresh washing machine cleaner, is that the product has been specially formulated to clean the washer, remove mold and mildew, kill germs, and remove odors without damaging your washer.

Will vinegar damage the washer?

If you have looked around online, you have probably seen that vinegar can be harmful to the washer. While it is true that vinegar damages rubber components, which can cause leaks and other washer problems, vinegar can be used, just not frequently or in large quantities (like pouring the bottle into the washer).

Cleaning the gasket with vinegar should not cause any damage because you can monitor how much vinegar you use and whether it is causing any damage. However, if you are concerned, avoid running a cleaning cycle with vinegar. A washer cleaning product or bleach can be used instead.

How to clean a front-load washer

What you will need:

  • A cleaning product
  • An empty spray bottle
  • A scouring sponge
  • A soft sponge
  • An old toothbrush (optional)
  • Paper towels or a dry cloth

Step 1: Pour some distilled white vinegar or bleach into a spray bottle

If you are using vinegar, pour the vinegar straight into the spray bottle. You will be using vinegar to clean the gasket, so you will not need a lot of it.

If you are using bleach, combine water and bleach to make a 70/30 mixture inside the spray bottle. Like using vinegar, you should not require too much bleach to clean the gasket.

Step 2: Open the washer and pull the gasket out

You should not be able to pull the gasket out of the washer, but you should be able to unfold it, where if you have not cleaned for a while, you will likely discover mold and mildew.

Step 3: Spray the vinegar on the gasket and inside the drum

After you have sprayed the vinegar (or bleach), leave it to sit for 10-20 minutes.

Step 4: Clean the gasket

After you have let the vinegar or bleach sit, any mold, mildew, or other debris should be easier to clean. Use a scouring sponge to clean the gasket and the inside of the drum. An old toothbrush can be used to clean hard-to-reach areas or remove tough stains or debris. The area can be cleaned up with paper towels or a cloth after you have finished cleaning.

Step 5: Remove any lint traps or filters

If your washer has a lint trap or filter, remove it (if possible) and clean it with soap and water, and with a brush if necessary. The lint trap can be returned to the washer or left to soak while you continue with the next steps.

Step 6: Add a cleaning product to the washer

If you have a store-bought washer cleaning product, follow the product’s instructions. If you are using distilled white vinegar or bleach, pour the vinegar or bleach into the washer’s detergent dispenser until it is filled (½ cup to 2 cups).

Two cups should be enough to clean the washer, but you can add another 1 or 2 cups if it is particularly dirty. If you have filled the dispenser with 1 cup of vinegar or bleach, add another cup to the washer drum.

Step 7: Run a cleaning cycle

If your washer has a cycle especially for cleaning the washer, close the washer door and run the cycle. If you do not have this function, run a long, hot cycle instead. Make sure to put the gasket back in place and check that the washer is empty before starting the cycle.

Step 8: Clean the outside of the washer

While the washer is running, you can take the time to clean the outside of it. The spray bottle mixture, or soap and water, with a cloth, paper towel, or soft sponge can be used to clean the exterior surfaces.

Step 9: Rinse the washer

After the cleaning cycle has finished, if the smell of vinegar or bleach lingers, or to make sure all the residue is removed, a rinse and spin cycle can be run to finish off the job.

Step 10: Clean the detergent dispenser

The above cleaning cycle should have cleaned the dispenser; however, there is likely still some residue remaining. Clean the detergent dispenser with soap and water, or apply some vinegar if needed. Make sure to clean the roof of the detergent dispenser as hidden mold and mildew are often found there.

In summary

If you have followed the instructions above, your front-load washer should now be looking as clean as new. If the washer is still looking dirty, repeat the cleaning process, perhaps adding more white vinegar or bleach. Running a cleaning cycle with baking soda and water combined and poured into the detergent dispenser, with two cups of white vinegar in the drum, can also be tried to get better results.

To keep the washer free of mold and mildew, keep the gasket area dry. If you do not have kids or pets that may get into the washer, leaving the washer door slightly open when it is not being used is recommended to keep the area dry.


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