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Do You Actually Need To Wash A Washing Machine?

Its job is just... clean.


Rachael Funnell


Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Digital Content Producer

a washing machine next to a basket of laundry

Ideally you should be giving your machine a light wash once a week.

Image credit: LumenSt /

Do you need to wash a washing machine? Its job is just… clean, so how is it getting dirty? If you’ve been forgoing the washing machine on cleaning days then it’s with a heavy heart we must tell you that yes, you should be washing the washing machine – and no, we don’t think that’s fair either.

Washing machines work by removing grime from our dirty laundry, be that clothes, bedding, or towels, but not everything it extracts makes it out of the machine. Sometimes dirt and grime can accumulate, and that’s where you should be stepping in for the occasional deep clean.


Do you need to clean your washing machine?

“If you don’t clean your washing machine regularly, you are creating the perfect environment for bacteria growth,” explained cleaning and laundry expert Joyce French of HomeHow in an email to IFLScience. “There are many things that can cause bacteria growth such as a moist environment, food residue, pet hair, faecal matter, and detergent residue. All of these things can be left behind in your washing machine after a cycle.”

If the presence of bacteria isn’t enough to convince you that it’s time to give the washing machine a bath, perhaps the risk that it may negatively affect its life expectancy will. Oh, and that it might stop doing its job properly.

“In addition to being unsanitary, the bacteria build-up can actually start to destroy the internal components of your machine. This means that your washing machine’s life will be shorter,” added French. “If you’ve noticed that your clothes have started smelling, this is a sign that you’ve likely been lacking in your washing machine maintenance.”

How to clean a washing machine

To clean a washing machine, it’s best to do a small wash once a week as well as a deeper clean once a month. For your weekly wash, you just need to run the washing machine or use the machine’s pre-set cleaning cycle with the drum empty. This can be helped along with the inclusion of a small amount of bleach, or specialty cleaner designed specifically for washing machines.


For the deeper clean, you’ll also want to venture into the dispenser draw and dislodge any stubborn dirt and grime using a cloth, sponge, or spare toothbrush (that will forevermore only be used for cleaning). The rubber seal in the drum’s doorway will also benefit from some TLC, making sure you clean under it as this is a prime spot for grime and mold build-up. Just be careful not to scrub too hard as damaging the seal can effect the machine’s function.

The inside of the drum also needs a scrub, and using a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda can be good here. When combined, these ingredients release carbon dioxide gas that can help clean surfaces, says Live Science, but you want to get the ratios right.

How not to clean a washing machine

Washing your washing machine will help it live longer and work better, but only if you’re using the right tools. The kind of soap you use on your dishes can actually be damaging, as can the ingredients in certain dishwasher tablets, so stick to laundry-specific cleaners and the products mentioned above to get great results and protect your machine.

Its job might just be clean, but we can also use a helping hand from time to time.


Oh, and while we're adding to your chores, you're probably not washing your feet properly, either.

[H/T: HomeHow]


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