Laundry 101: How to Clean Your Washing Machine

Keeping your washing machine clean and well maintained will help keep it working for years to come.

Somewhere along the way, I failed to pick up on the fact that cleaning your washing machine should be done with some regularity—not, like, never. I figured that the soap in the detergents kept it squeaky clean, and why wouldn’t anyone? Oops.

The thing is, soap residue and minerals in commonly used detergents are apt to build up in the washing machine, and over time, you might notice that your clothes just don’t seem to get as clean as they used to. My washer had just started to feel icky. And here I was just thinking that maybe I had been cramming too many garments in the same load and not letting the rinse cycle perform as efficiently.

I searched around and found about as many different approaches for cleaning a top-loading washer, but one tutorial, a two-step approach, seemed easy, inexpensive and do-able.

Getting your laundry back on track starts with just two items*:

  • 1 quart of bleach (many tutorials went without the bleach step, if you’re concerned about using harsh agents in your laundry)
  • 1 quart of white vinegar

* Some of you might be thinking: But wait, isn’t it dangerous to mix bleach and vinegar? The answer is yes, but we will not be mixing the two here. Read on …

Fill the empty washer with hot water, as if you’re doing a large load of laundry. Add the quart of bleach, and let the full machine run for one minute to mix up the bleach with the water. Open the top of the machine and let it sit, all bleach-y and full, for an hour. At the end of the hour, shut the cover and let the machine run a complete cycle. (The water will drain out all the bleach, so it won’t have a chance to mix with the vinegar.)

When it’s done, start again. This time, when you fill the washer with hot water, add the quart of white vinegar to the water and down the bleach channel and let the machine run for a minute to agitate the water and vinegar. After that minute, open the top of the machine and again, let the hot water sit in the basin for an hour before you let the cycle complete.

Not only did the process make the basement smell so fresh, but I noticed a big difference in how the inside of the basin felt. Smooth and clean, like after you exfoliate your face, no longer rough to the touch with the hard water spots and soap build-ups. It also only took about 2 hours and less than $3.

I’ve never had a front-loading machine, but there is a different way of cleaning those. Check out this tutorial if necessary. Now you’ve got laundry on the brain, don’t you? Here’s some more inspiration for your laundry …

Clever Laundry Room Organization Tips

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Take Ideas From Other Rooms in the House

From the kitchen to the closet and garage, many of the rooms in your house have a lot to offer in terms of storage tips and tricks that can get you organized in the laundry room.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Create a Folding Station

Taller washer and dryers with raised bases can make it difficult to fold on top. Create your own workstation in the laundry room with a wall-mounted, flip-down folding table.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Consider Garage Slat Wall Storage

Create a slat wall system, like the ones common in garage organization, on the wall above your folding table to keep everything you need within arms reach. Baskets, hooks and a paper towel holder are a few useful accessories that find a home on the wall.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tired of Hangers Hanging Out?

A dedicated hanger organizer meant for the closet can hold empty hangers when not in use, keeping them off the floor. This unit can stand on a countertop or be mounted on the wall.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Park It With the Valet

Installed in open shelving near the ironing board, a telescoping valet rod holds ironed shirts in a convenient spot.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Invent Storage Space Inside Your Walls

Looking for more storage? Try inside your walls. A salvaged ironing board, mounted in the wall between the studs, saves on space. When you're done, just flip it up and it's hidden.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tag, You're It

Teach family members better laundry room habits with numbered, dedicated docking stations for their individual loads. Cute tags identify which room each basket belongs to. With this easy, grab-and-go solution, maybe they'll be more likely to come and collect their own laundry. It's worth a try.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Detergent De-mystified

Glass drink decanters are not just for backyard parties anymore! Use a beautiful drink decanter with a spout to hold your laundry detergent and fabric softener. It's a breeze to pour bulk-sized detergent – or make your own in a few simple steps. With clear glass, you'll never miss a cue when you're out of detergent.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Make Cleanup Less of A Chore

Creating an attractive cleaning supply kit can take the sting out of doing chores. Fun colors for sponges and brushes complement a sturdy repurposed vintage wood toolbox. Grommets and stick-on hooks keep cleaning gloves at hand, and are tucked away under a bench seat.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Stain Fighting Corner

A pull-out belt organizer mounted on the inside of cabinetry works to hang myriad stain treating products that come in spray bottles, leaving space below for other items.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Keep Lower Cabinetry Items Accessible

A clean baking sheet can keep things at your fingertips in lower cabinetry and catch any drips before they can damage the interior of your storage areas. Add felt furniture pads underneath for smooth sailing.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Get Sweaters Into Shape

Here's a borrowed closet trick from the professional organizing industry: a folding board can ensure that slippery sweaters, unruly t-shirts, and other items you regularly stack are the same size. Once folded, items will fit perfectly into smaller spots in your closet or drawers.

Photo By: Tony Flora/ AP Images ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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