I mentioned that I sanitize my washing machine on the first of the month, and I got several emails about how to do that. And why you would do that. And who has the time to do that.
I’m so happy you asked.
Honestly, I am blessed to own a washer in which I can run a ‘Clean Washer Cycle.’ I literally put in bleach, turn the dial, and then push start. It’s so simple.
But how do you sanitize if your machine doesn’t offer that feature? Let’s first start with why you need to occasionally clean your machine.
Why do I need to sanitize my machine?
- You know the ‘ring around the tub’? (I’m sure this is never in your tub as it is in mine…). This is often the case with a top-loader. Water only goes so high in the tub of a top-loader (as in a bathtub) and often a soap scummy substance can build up there. And soap scum does not lead to clean clothes in my opinion. Front loaders rarely have this issue since the drum continuously turns and water does not just sit at one level.
- If your house has endured the stomach bug and you have little kids that can’t hit a bucket. This produces a lot of gross laundry.
- You have some type of varmint issue: lice, red bugs, fleas, bed bugs
- Machine maintenance. It is so much easier to maintain something than fix it.
The only product needed to sanitize a washer is bleach. Bleach is the only product that can adequately kill viruses, germs and bacteria. There is a reason the hospitals rely on a 10:1 concentration of bleach. It’s extremely effective when used in the correct concentration.
When diluting bleach, wear gloves and dilute it in a well-ventilated area. Bleach may seem harmless since it’s a product all of us have on our shelves at home. But be extremely careful – it can be caustic and can seriously hurt your airways, skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Don’t ever use bleach casually – always be extremely cautious and alert.
Bleach must be in a 10:1 concentration to be effective in killing germs. 10 parts water to 1 part bleach. In a well-ventilated area while donning gloves, measure 10 Tablespoons of water to 1 Tablespoon of bleach or 10 cups of water to 1 cup of bleach, or 5 cups of water to 1/2 cup of bleach. The concentration is important here, so be careful when measuring. You can store this in a spray bottle that is clearly marked with the solution concentration. Don’t assume everyone knows what’s in the bottle or that you’ll remember what solution is in there. Even if you live alone it is necessary to label hand-mixed solutions.
How to sanitize a top-loader:
- Using your newly mixed solution, heavily spray down the inside of the washer’s tub, ensuring you spray down the agitator also. Let the solution sit a few minutes to loosen the grimy areas.
- Use a lightly abrasive substance to scrub and remove the grime build-up. I would use a dishcloth that has a mesh backing to scrub or a Scotchbrite pad that is extremely mild. Your top-loader either has a stainless-steel drum or one coated in enamel. If it is coated in enamel, be extremely careful not to scratch it. Once scratched it will rust and rust on clothes is a whole other post.
- Scrub every surface of the inside tub and agitator and respray your bleach solution as needed. Scrub up under the lip of tub as it is usually pretty gunky.
- When you are satisfied with your scrubbing job, move onto the lid of the machine. Spray down and wipe everything – inside, outside, lip of the lid.
- Close the lid. Spray your solution on the entire outside of the machine surface that is accessible and then wipe down with your cloth or scrubber. If you are able to remove the knobs, you can rinse those in warm, soapy water. Once you look at it closely, you’ll see that there is probably more gunk on there than you realized. It’s easy to spill a drop or two of detergent and those few drops make things sticky in a hurry.
- Finally, you need to run a regular wash cycle in your machine using a cup of bleach using hot water. It may seem wasteful, but set the water level on the highest setting. You want as much of the inside drum to be ‘washed’ as possible. You can even throw in your rag/scrubber that you used to clean your machine.
How to sanitize a front-loader:
- Using your newly mixed bleach solution, heavily spray down the inside of the washing drum and let the solution sit a few minutes. While the drums of front-loaders usually don’t have grimy build-up, they still need to be washed out.
- Using a rag, wipe out the entire interior of the drum, including the fins (agitator paddles) that are molded to the drum.
- Heavily spray down the rubber seal around the door – the inside and outside portion – and again let the solution sit a few minutes. Using a slightly abrasive scrubber, scrub down every portion of the rubber seal especially if there is mildew or mold there. You might need to spray several more times and repeat. If there is mold on your seal, bleach is the only substance that will kill it.
- Move onto the door of the washer and spray down the inside with your bleach solution. There is often a grimy substance on the door, so be thorough.
- Close the door and spray every available surface of the outer part of the machine and wipe down with a soft cloth.
- Lastly, throw in your cleaning rags and run a normal wash using hot water with 1/4-1/2 cup bleach in your dispenser. Remember that most front loaders adjust the amount of water based on how full the drum is, so throw in all of your dirty rags – not just one or two.
I use a bleach solution to clean out the inside of my washer on the first day of the month. It’s an easy time to remember and I wrote it on my calendar until it became a habit (that may or may not have taken 9+ months to form…).
I only use a bleach solution on the outside of my washer if I think it has had gross things touch it such as little kid vomit bedding, etc. Otherwise I use soapy water. I don’t like to use something more harsh when a milder solution will do a fine job.
Do you have specific questions about how to sanitize your washer? Feel free to leave a comment.