DIY Safe Washing Machine Cleaning Routine

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When you wash your clothes, you expect them to be clean. However, if you’re using a dirty washing machine, you’re just swishing your clothes around in whatever lurks behind the spin basket. Cleaning your washing machine should be something you do on your seasonal cleaning routine to help ward off mold growth that can harm your and your family’s health.

DIY Instructions for Cleaning Your Washing Machine

In your empty washing machine, add 2 cups of baking soda directly into the machine. The baking soda will gently scrub the inside of your washer, naturally removing any mold, bacteria, or old detergent residue that causes stale, moldy odors. Run a large, long hot water cycle (or “tub clean cycle” if your machine has that option), and leave it be.

Next, add in 2 cups of plain white vinegar and 10 drops of an essential oil like tea tree, Purification, lemongrass, or lavender (my personal favorite is blending lavender with lemongrass). You can also use 2 oz of Thieves Cleaner, if you have it on hand. Any of these oils will help with removing mildew and mineral deposits, and will purify the inside of your machine. Run your washer on another cycle using the longest, hottest, largest load setting you can. The vinegar with oils will continue to help break down any deposits and further remove moldy smells, and react to any residual baking soda left from the last cycle.

Once both cycles are complete, wipe down the drum (and agitator if you have one) using a cotton cloth sprayed with white vinegar. If you have any stains, try rubbing them with a paste of baking soda, lemon essential oil, and water and a soft sponge or cloth.

Front-load washers have a rubber seal reaching along the edge of the machine that traps mildew, dog fur, dirt, and anything else possible. Dip a cotton cloth into plain white vinegar or diluted Thieves Cleaner mixed with 10 drops of an essential oil of your choice, and wipe it down.

Be sure to check the exterior parts of the machine, including your machine’s detergent dispensers, all cracks and crevices, and the door frame. Even if they all look fine, it’s beneficial to wipe them down.

Clean the inside and outside of the door with a cotton cloth and a solution of vinegar diluted with water, and essential oils. Thieves Cleaner is also good to use.

Scrub grimy areas where necessary with a cleaning toothbrush, and wipe everything clean with a cotton cloth. For extra scrubbing power, mix together a cap full of Thieves Cleaner, a cup of baking soda, and just enough water to make a paste. If you don’t have Thieves Cleaner, you can also use 10 drops of Thieves Essential Oil Blend (recipe here) or lemon essential oil.

If your washer dispensing trays are removable, you may soak them in vinegar or Thieves Cleaner, and then wipe them clean.

Please keep in mind… If you’re cleaning out a used machine with gunk stuck in from conventional detergents (like Tide or Gain) or fabric softeners, you may need to go through this cycle a few times.

Tips for maintaining your clean washing machine:

  • Leave the washer’s door slightly open when it’s not in use. This will keep the air inside from getting stale or too humid, which encourages mold growth.
  • Don’t use too much detergent. Many people use way more than necessary, especially when using concentrated detergents. If you regularly use too much, it may cling to the walls of your machine and cause germs and funky odors.
  • Use a natural detergent. Naturally made detergents (like this one) are far more gentle when it comes to ingredients used, which makes them less likely to stick to your clothes or to the walls of your machine.
  • Remember to clean it before it gets gross.

Nicole Graber, team leader, author, and editor to EssentialOils.Life and blog websites.

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