How Often Should You Really Be Cleaning Your Washing Machine?

It can be easy to take your washer for granted, especially when dryers get all the attention. However, it's important to give your washing machine a regular bath of its own. Unlike turning clocks forward or back twice annually, cleaning your washer should be done more often. Martha Stewart says that caring for your washing machine on a monthly basis can help keep it in good working order and smelling fresh.

Washing machines are time-saving genies that make life a lot easier for busy people. Fill the metal tank with water, add detergent, drop in your dirty, smelly clothes, and in a short time, they come out clean. Magical, isn't it? Doing laundry might seem like a chore in our modern world, but being able to use a washboard as décor instead of as a manual scrubbing aid reminds us that washing clothes wasn't always this easy. But no matter the bells and whistles on your 21st century washing machine (like connecting to your smartphone, per The Spruce), caring for it and keeping it clean can be the difference between clean clothes and what's-that-smell.

When and how to clean your washing machine

Before you wonder how often you need to clean your washing machine, you might be asking yourself why it's necessary to clean something that is in a perpetual state of cleaning other things. Just like your shower, the water running through your washing machine has minerals in it that don't just run down the drain. Add residual detergent residue, clothing lint, and general crud accumulating around the seals, gaskets, lid, and edges, and you can see why a monthly cleaning is worth the time. Larger households with more laundry might find that once a month isn't enough; Family Handyman recommends twice the frequency if the washer is working overtime.

There are products on the market made just for cleaning your washing machine and other appliances, like your dishwasher. Some people swear by simply running an empty load with hot water and baking soda, white vinegar, or bleach. Your water quality may dictate the best method and product(s) for you.

Whether you have a front-load washer or a top-load washer, don't neglect all the parts surrounding the washer drum. The lid, edges, and seals, as well as any parts like a fabric softener dispenser, can collect grime and require attention. Hot water and most any soap can do the trick, but Melissa Maker of Clean My Space claims using a damp microfiber cloth for regular wipes can keep the grime under control.

The scary reason to keep your washing machine clean

It's great to see a shiny, squeaky clean washing machine. After all, you want it to clean your clothes, so naturally, you want what's cleaning those items to be clean itself. But there is a less obvious reason to make sure you thoroughly wipe down that washer: bacteria. Just the mention of the word is enough to make one a bit squeamish. After all, who wants swarms of microorganisms coating their garments? To that end, The Spruce offers a thorough guide to getting those unwanted guests out of your appliance. In an age where the mere mention of the word "virus" is enough to induce panic attacks, sanitizing your washer is just as necessary as frequent surface cleaning.

One final tip on washing machine cleaning: Don't let clothes sit in the washer. Home Revolution reminds readers to take the clothes out within a short time (don't leave them in the washer for hours), keep the lid open to air it out, and –- like your mother used to tell you -– don't overload the washer!