Washing machine a bit whiffy? Here’s our easy 5-step guide to keeping it clean

Even though it may seem contradictory to clean an appliance that’s designed with hygiene in mind – it’s a job worth doing and worth doing well

If you think your laundry smells less than line-fresh, it could be time to give your washing machine a deep clean.

Despite an endless flow of water and washing detergent running through it with each cycle, it’s as susceptible to getting dirty as any other home appliance. After all, let’s not forget it’s dealing with dirty clothes several times a week.

white washing machine with wicker laundry basket and shelves displaying cleaning materialsCredit: Shutterstock/Pixel-Shot

If, like us, you’re a fan of the smell of freshly laundered washing, you’re in the right place. With the help of experts, we’ve created a simple five-step guide to keeping your washing machine sparkling clean.

1. Degrease the detergent drawer

Don’t let it become home to black, mouldy slime

If you’ve opened the detergent drawer to find it looking less than pristine, you’ll know it doesn’t take long for traces of washing detergent or fabric softener residue to turn into black mouldy slime.

hand holding dirty washing machine drawer over sinkCredit: Shutterstock/Nadezhda Mikhalitskaia
It doesn’t take long before your washing machine drawer needs a clean

The good news is it can be prevented. You just need to regularly remove the drawer and give it a thorough clean.

Henry Paterson, cleaning expert at Housekeep, recommends soaking the drawer in hot, soapy water for a while and then scrubbing it clean. “A toothbrush can be really handy to help clean out any nooks and crannies,” he says. “Then rinse off and leave to dry before putting it back in your machine.”

He also reminds you not to forget the drawer slot. “While the drawer’s drying, wipe out the inside of the drawer slot using another clean damp microfibre cloth and a multi-surface cleaning spray,” he says.

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2. Deep clean the drum

Wipe first and then pick your preferred cleaning partner

Simply wiping the inside of the drum isn’t always enough – especially when we are all doing our bit for the environment and washing on lower temperatures than ever before.

The hundreds of tiny perforations in the drum make the perfect hiding place for germs and they need to be tackled head on.

inside of washing machine drum in motion with waterCredit: Shutterstock/Ozanuysal
Washing machine drums need a deeper clean to banish bacteria

Whether you prefer to use a natural cleaning detergent, such as white wine vinegar, or a professional washing machine cleaning product, it’s recommended you perform a deeper drum clean every few months.

Specialist products will carry their own instructions, or you can pop one cup of white vinegar directly into the drum and run it on a cycle at 60-70C (140-158F).

Paterson also recommends an alternative product to his clients. “Run an empty cycle on the hottest setting with 500g (1lb 2oz) of soda crystals. You can get these in any supermarket. Just pour the crystals straight into the drum before you run the cycle.”

3. Wipe around the seal

It’s where germs love to congregate

The rubber seal around the door, which naturally traps water and debris, is another place where germs and dirt love to hide.

If you realised it’s been a while since you last looked, now is as good a time as any to banish the bacteria.

hand cleaning washing machine seal with a blue clothCredit: Shutterstock/Photopixel
Wiping around the seal regularly is a must-do task

“Once the drum cleaning cycle has finished, thoroughly wipe around the door seal with a damp microfibre cloth and a multi-surface cleaning spray,” says Paterson.

“If there’s mould or limescale there, you can also apply some white vinegar to help remove this.”

As it doesn’t take long for the seal to become dirty, try to ensure you clean it at least once a week – don’t just save it for a spring clean.

4. Remember the filter

Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind

“The filter is commonly forgotten about,” says Jo Jackson, UK & Ireland market product manager at appliance manufacturer Fisher & Paykel, who adds: “But this should be cleaned approximately once a month.”

On a front-loading machine, the filter cover is typically found at the bottom right-hand corner of the machine. If in doubt, check your appliance’s manual.

front of washing machine with filter door open at baseCredit: Shutterstock/Elena Loginova
Flush out your filter from its hiding place and give it a refresh

Once you’ve located it, open the cover and “simply remove the plug and allow any water to drain into a shallow dish”, recommends Jackson. “Then, remove the filter and clean and rinse it in the sink.”

Paterson adds that an old toothbrush can come in handy again for the filter if there are any stubborn traces of dirt. Cleaning the filter is essential to the performance of your machine, as if it gets blocked it can cause a leak or prevent the machine from draining correctly.

It’s amazing what you can find in there too. Missing a sock? I’ve been known to find the odd one lurking in the filter.

5. Clean the exterior

Avoid the use of chemicals or abrasive cleaners

Finally, Jackson says: “Use a soft damp cloth to wipe all exterior surfaces, but avoid using chemicals or scouring cleaners, as these will damage your washer’s paint and plastic surfaces.”

Microfibre cloths and a general surface cleaner will do the trick in most cases.

picture of washing machine in situ in utility room with cream cupboards and belfast sinkCredit: Fisher & Paykel
Keeping the exterior of your washing machine clean is also important

As most machines are operated by touch, Paterson says: “Make sure to wipe all of the buttons and controls too, to ensure you start the next washing cycle as hygienically clean as you can.”

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Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her


Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

Away from work, Sarah fills her Pinterest boards with more ideas, dreams of where to travel, takes photographs and loves being by the sea. She has two sons and if she absorbed everything they said would also be a football expert. The fact is she is often more interested in the colour and design of the kit – but don’t tell them that.

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