Trusted Reviews is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How to clean a washing machine

It’s an irony of life that as a washing machine cleans your clothes, it gets dirtier itself. Maintaining and cleaning your machine regularly will help keep it in the best condition and make it more efficient. Here’s how to clean a washing machine.

Tools that we used

Most of the tools you need you’ll have at home, but you might want to buy some washing machine cleaner or descaler. Here’s what we used.

  • Microfibre cloth
  • Washing machine descaler
  • Washing machine cleaner

Short version

  • Wipe down the surface
  • Clean the seal
  • Drain the washing machine
  • Clean the filter
  • Clean the detergent drawer
  • Clean under the detergent drawer
  • Run a cleaning cycle
  • Use washing machine descaler
  1. Step

    Wipe down the surface

    Dirt and fibres tend to collate around the door and frame. After you’ve used your washing machine a few times, open the door and look at it from the side and you’ll see that there’ll be dust on it. A microfibre cloth can be used to clean this out, using some water spray if you need it.

    Rub down the front of the machine, and all of the metal around the door. It shouldn’t take too much effort to pick up all of the mess and leave you with a clean-looking washing machine from the outside.
    Washing Machine dirty door

  2. Step

    Clean the seal

    Inside the door is a rubber seal that stops water from running out. This can collate dirt. Again, a microfibre cloth can be used to wipe the dirt out and to pick up any leftover water that has pooled there.

    You should leave your washing machine door open after a cleaning cycle, as this lets water evaporate and prevents mould growth. If you haven’t done this, then the seal may already have mould on it.

    You don’t want to use anything too harsh on the seal. A solution made of one part vinegar and four parts water should be enough to wipe down and clean any mould on this rubber seal.
    Washing machine dirty seal

  3. Step

    Drain the washing machine

    As hair, fibres and other dirt is drained out, it can get caught in the filter at the bottom of the machine. If the filter gets too clogged, it can smell and your washing machine may not be able to drain properly. Our guide on how to fix a washing machine that won’t drain goes into more detail on this; however, you should regularly check and clean the filter to prevent issues.

    To do this, you need to open the flap at the front of your washing machine (usually at the bottom right). There’s then a screw cap that you can remove. Water will be behind this, so you need something to catch the water with. Some machines have a hose to help direct the water, mine has a handy chute for directing water into a small container, and others have nothing at all.

    Having some spare towels around to mop up in all cases is useful.

    You can slowly let the water out, screwing the cap back into place if your container is full or you’re mopping up water. Once no more is coming out, pull out the cap and filter.Washing machine draining

  4. Step

    Clean the filter

    Take any mess off the filter and throw it in the bin. You should run the filter under a tap to remove everything else. Before you put it back into place, take a look into the hole at the bottom of your washing machine.

    If you see anything trapped in there, pull out the mess and give the inside a nice wipe down. Now, insert the filter and screw it back into place. Close the hatch on your washing machine.Washing machine dirty filter

  5. Step

    Clean the detergent drawer

    Most detergent drawers can be removed. There’s usually a catch at the top or side that lets the drawer come all of the way out. Once it’s out, you can run it under a tap and use a cloth to remove any built-up washing detergent and fabric softener.Washing machine cleaning detergent drawer

  6. Step

    Clean under the detergent drawer

    Washing detergent can congeal under the drawer, particularly powder, which can set hard. You can remove the worst of this with a cloth, wiping out the inside. If you can’t quite get to all of the mess, then run the washing machine on a cycle with high-ish temperature (40C should do it), to clean out what you’ve missed.

  7. Step

    Run a cleaning cycle

    Some washing machines have a special drum cleaning cycle, while others don’t. No fear, as this cycle is basically a high-heat cycle designed to clean out the inside, killing off bacteria. You can replicate the experience by running your machine empty on a Cotton wash, set to the highest temperature it supports.

    Add about 25% of the normal washing powder you’d use and then leave the machine to finish. You can also buy proper washing machine cleaner to do the same job. Follow the instructions on the packet carefully.Washing machine high temperature wash

  8. Step

    Use washing machine descaler

    If you live in a hard water area, limescale can build up in your washing machine. Washing machine descaler sorts this out and should be used every six months or so. Again, follow the instructions on the packet carefully to get the best results.Adding descaler to a washing machine drum


Do these steps apply to a washer/dryer?

Yes, you should take the same steps with a washer/dryer as it operates in a very similar way.

Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2003, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have millions of users a month from around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

author icon

Editorial independence

Editorial independence means being able to give an unbiased verdict about a product or company, with the avoidance of conflicts of interest. To ensure this is possible, every member of the editorial staff follows a clear code of conduct.

author icon

Professional conduct

We also expect our journalists to follow clear ethical standards in their work. Our staff members must strive for honesty and accuracy in everything they do. We follow the IPSO Editors’ code of practice to underpin these standards.