It seems like a given. Machines that are designed to make our lives easier by cleaning things for us should also clean themselves, right? Unfortunately, with most appliances, the answer is no. While newer high efficiency washing machines do a great job cleaning fabrics while using less detergent and water, the machines themselves require a little TLC from time to time to ensure that they are giving your clothes the treatment that they deserve.
In fact, many high efficiency washing machines can be a breeding ground for bacteria, mold and mildew growth due to the very nature of their design. There are a few key areas of the washing machine that require regular cleaning – the detergent tray and the wash basin itself.
The detergent and fabric softener tray has become a big convenience in newer model washing machines as it allows the correct dose of the various cleaning detergents and fabric softeners to be added at just the right time during cleaning cycles. However, these trays also offer a compartment with little ventilation and lots of places for spilled detergents to accumulate. The result is a potential breeding ground for bacteria and a repository for general gunk. That means, of course, that the tray needs to be cleaned from time to time. A good rule of thumb for frequency is when the seasons change – once in the fall and once in the spring.
Cleaning the tray is relatively easy. Simply slide it out and look for tabs on either the top, sides or bottom to press and release the tray. In most models, after pressing the tabs the tray will slide all the way out of the machine. Scrub the tray clean in the sink and wipe out the inside of the washing machine compartment that holds the tray. We recommend using a bit of a gentle sanitizer on both.
The wash basin is another trouble spot for bacteria growth. If you have ever opened the washer door and noticed a musty, mildew smell you know what we are talking about. Managing bacteria in the washer basin is a two step process – prevention and cleaning. With the proper prevention, cleaning can really be minimized.
Bacteria, mold and mildew are able to thrive inside of the washing machine if it is left wet. In high efficiency models, the washer is designed to have a water and air tight seal to prevent water from leaking onto the floor during the wash cycle. Between uses, the wash basin must be allowed to air dry – to do this, the washer door should always be left slightly ajar when the machine is not in use. This step is really the best thing you can do to best maintain your high efficiency front loading washing machine.
The second step in maintaining a clean wash basin in your machine is to run a washer cleaning cycle and clean the door seal from time to time. We recommend doing so just after you clean the detergent tray in the fall and spring.
When running a cleaning cycle, set your washing machine to a hot water wash mode, add a cup of bleach and allow the machine to run empty. Once the cycle has completed, open the door and clean the seal around the door (and the door itself) with a mild disinfectant cleaner. Be sure to get all around and under the seal. You will likely find that water collects in crevices around the bottom and allows a bit of slimy buildup to accumulate. After cleaning, leave the washer door ajar and allow it to dry out completely.
It takes a little extra work a few times a year, but by ensuring that you have a clean washing machine, your clothes, towels and sheets will be brighter, cleaner and healthier for your entire family!