In the last house I owned, we had a front loading washing machine. It was the first one I owned, and before the previous owners left, the elderly woman who owned the home put a post-it note on the washing machine that said, “Clean monthly.” I thought her note was odd at first, but when I neglected to clean the machine, I very quickly understood her warning as the smell became unbearable. If you have been in this same situation, I’ll show you how to clean a front load washing machine and ensure that you get all of the areas that hold odor and bacteria.
Quick Guide to Cleaning a Front Loader Washing Machine
The best way to clean a front loader washing machine is to focus on the drum and gasket (also known as the door seal) using these steps:
- Set your washing machine to the hottest temperature setting for a large wash
- Place 2 cups of distilled white vinegar into the detergent compartment (not directly in the drum)
- Run your front loading washing machine with nothing in it on a hot water cycle
- Complete the entire cycle to ensure that the acidic acid in the vinegar and the heat from the hot water fully breakdown mineral deposits and detergent residue left in the washing machine
- When the wash cycle is finished, open the washer door and spray the entire door seal down with a mixture of 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water
- Use a cloth or sponge to get into the crevices where mold and mildew may have accumulated; the acid from the vinegar will work to disinfect the gasket
- Allow the gasket and drum to air dry and complete this process once per month to avoid future issues with mold, mildew, and odor-causing bacteria
Important Tips for Cleaning Your Front Load Washing Machines
Before you start this cleaning process, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The main parts you need to clean are the drum and the gasket, don’t clean one and not the other
- Never pour bleach into the washing machine; it is a bit harsh for the seals and rubber gasket and can break them down over time
- There are ways to use chlorine bleach when cleaning your front loading machine but you must be careful about how and where it is used
- Try to have some ventilation in the laundry room when you are cleaning, especially when using commercial washing machine cleaners
- Read the owner’s manual for your individual unit to ensure you don’t use a cleaning agent that is not recommended
Can I Run Vinegar Through My Front Load Washer?
Vinegar is the best cleaning method for a front load washing machine. Vinegar is naturally acidic, and the acid in the vinegar will break down things like mold and mildew and hold your washing machine over until the next cleaning cycle.
Supplies and Tools
Depending on the area of the washing machine you are cleaning (washer door, detergent door, gasket, drum, etc.), there are different materials and supplies that you may need. They include:
- Baking soda
- Dish soap
- Clean cloth or sponge
- Dry towels
- Old toothbrush
- Dish soap
- Running water
- Small spray bottle
- Bleach (optional)
- Rubber gloves (optional)
- Affresh (optional)
Step-by-Step on Cleaning and Deodorizing Front Load Washer
The drum and the gasket are the most important parts when trying to keep your washing machine clean, but there are more parts to the washing machine. Here is the step-by-step process to clean the entire front load washing machine from top to bottom.
Preparations and Precautions
When I do a deep clean of my front load washer, I put a few towels down in my laundry room. One of the steps requires that I spray vinegar and water, and they get on the floor; a quick wipe with the towel is helpful.
Step 1: Drum Cleaning
The drum of the washing machine works hard. If you have hard water, use heavy duty detergents, let the kids throw their shoes in the washing machine, or any of the above, you must clean your drum.
Simply set your washing machine to the highest heat setting for the longest possible wash. Pour 2 cups of vinegar into the detergent dispenser or detergent tray where you normally place your laundry detergent.
Let the full cycle run so the vinegar and heat can work together to break down residue and buildup and ultimately sanitize the inside of the drum. Front load washers may still have a smell to them, even after drum cleaning.
Step 2: Gasket Cleaning
The gasket or door seal is where mold and mildew start to grow, and one of the main areas of concern when trying to get your washer clean. I’ve had issues with clothes getting stained because of dirt left behind in this gasket area.
To clean the gasket, put one part vinegar and one part water into a spray bottle. Spray the entire area, being sure to get inside and underneath all folds. Then take a microfiber cloth or sponge and wipe the entire thing down using the vinegar solution to scrub any difficult areas.
If you have a major issue with mold, you can wipe it down with a little liquid chlorine bleach. Although vinegar works to break down mold and mildew, bleach is stronger and can work on stubborn stains. Wear rubber gloves when working with bleach.
Step 3: Detergent Drawer
The detergent tray or drawer of your front loading washer may look like it has cleaning solution in the bottom of it. Although you need that cleaning solution, it could start to clog the pathway to the clothes and leave you with clothes that are not fully clean.
Check your owner’s manual to determine how to remove the detergent tray; usually, it slides out.
Take the tray and soak it in a solution of warm water and soap in your kitchen sink. Let it sit for about a half hour, and then wipe it with a damp cloth to ensure it’s completely clear of debris.
If you don’t want to wait, you can just rinse and scrub the detergent tray under warm water.
Step 4: Filters
While you have your owner’s manual out, make sure to look at where your filter on the washing machine is located. For most front loading models I’ve had, the filter is near the bottom. This is where the dirt, debris, hair, and lint are collected during a wash cycle.
Open the filter, and place a towel underneath the filter while you work. If you can remove the filter completely, run it under cold water to release any trapped debris. If you cannot remove it, take an old toothbrush with a little baking soda on it and scrub away any residue.
Always be sure the filter is securely returned to its position, and the filter door is closed before you complete your next wash cycle.
Step 5: Drain Pump
When your washing machine drains, all of the water exits through the drain pump. Again, find where the drain pump is located on your washing machine and how you can access it.
Your machine may have a tube or cap filled with excess water because of a backup. Start by draining the excess water and then cleaning the pump filter to ensure better flow. The pump filter should be something you can remove and rinse under cold water.
You can use the toothbrush with a little baking soda on it from the previous step if there is lint, mold, or dirt on the filter.
Place all the pump parts back together and ensure they are secure before moving on.
Post Cleaning and Additional Deodorizing
When you have finished with all the different areas of the washing machine, you may want to wipe down and dust the exterior surfaces of the washing machine. In addition, be sure to leave the washer door open after all of your cleaning.
Closing the door while the machine may still be wet could lead to more mold and mildew growth.
This mildew smell can even transfer to your clothing if left untreated.
If you feel as though the combination of vinegar, baking soda, and soap water has not fully deodorized your washing machine, you can use an Affresh Tablet. The tablet is simple to use and placed inside the drum on its own for a wash cycle. The tablet will clean the drum, wash tub, pump, agitator, filter, hose, and tub; it will not clean the seal.
How Do You Clean the Rubber Seal on a Front Load Washer?
The rubber seal on a front load washing machine must be cleaned by hand. During a wash and rinse cycle, any cleaning solution you are using to clean the interior of the washer will not work on the rubber seal.
Spray the seal with vinegar and water solution and then wipe down to remove dirt. If mold is a problem, mix one cup of water with one tablespoon of bleach, soak a cloth in this solution, and then wipe the seal down. The bleach breaks down and sanitizes the area encouraging less mildew growth in the future.
How to Maintain Your Front Load Washing Machine?
There are things I love about the front load washing machine, but more cleaning tips are necessary than with a top load washer. Here are a few things to follow for proper front load washing machine maintenance.
- When not in use, leave the door open to ensure better airflow; closing it creates the perfect environment for mold, mildew, and bacteria growth
- If you are already cleaning around your home, make your last step before the rag goes in the wash for a normal cycle a quick wipe of the interior and gaskets on your washing machine
- Use a low suds and HE (high efficiency) laundry detergent, and ensure these detergents are free of dyes; a good example would be Arm and Hammer Perfume and Dye Free Dual HE
- Consider making your own laundry detergent to avoid harsh chemicals and issues with your front load machine
- Only use the recommended amount of detergent, and put the detergent in the dispenser drawer or on the clothing, not directly in the drum; follow the same process for fabric softener
- If your washing machine continually needs an additional rinse cycle after completing a wash, proper cleaning may not be the culprit; call in a professional to make sure that your front loader is functioning properly
How Often Should You Clean?
If you live in an area where it is hot and humid, you will need to clean your washing machine more often. The official (and my) recommendation is once per month, especially for the drum and the gasket.
In environments where the chance of mold and mildew growth is considerably lower, you can complete the cleaning process once a quarter.
Importance and Benefits of Cleaning Your Front Load Washer
Now that you have the cleaning process down, here are a few things to help keep you motivated to clean your washing machine. Even though your clothes may still be coming out clean, your front load machine could still be quite dirty.
- Dirty residue, soap scum, and detergent buildup can compromise the performance of the washing machine by clogging the filters and drain pipe
- Unpleasant odors caused by bacteria, mildew, and mold growth
- For those with lung and breathing issues, mold and mildew growth is bad for your health
- Contaminated washing machines can spread germs and bacteria to the laundry
Common Issues To Look For With a Front Load Washer
As I said, I love my front load washing machine when it comes to reaching that last sock at the bottom of the drum. With my top load, I often felt like I was about to fall in! The problem, of course, is the cleaning; if you stay on top of the deep cleaning schedule and follow my cleaning hacks, your experience should be much better. Look at these issues that you often encounter with the front loader.
- Mold growth in the rubber gasket, especially the creases, and seals
- Strong negative odor even after doing a load of laundry
- Water not draining from the detergent dispenser drawer
- It’s time to call a professional when you notice the washing machine is not draining fully after the wash cycle ends, you pull out clean clothes, and they are filled with detergent or completely soaked, and the machine is making any abnormal noises