Skip to Content


How to Clean a Front-Load Washing Machine

how to clean your front loader

You’d think that your laundry machine, an appliance made for cleaning, would be able to clean itself, right? Sadly, this is not the case. While your clothes are being washed, all the water going through your machine may not drain out fully, which can lead to a mold or mildew smelling odor.

If, like the best of us, you’ve neglected to clean your washing machine in recent months or never knew that this was something you were supposed to be cleaning, you might have noticed a damp scent lingering on your clothes from time to time, even if you whip them out of the machine right after the cycle is done. This mildew smell may be coming from stagnant water that doesn’t fully spin out of your machine. This is especially common for front-loader machines.

This smell and the subsequent unclean feeling you’ll get when you put your clothing on after it comes out of the machine can be frustrating (we know the feeling), especially because you’re using a washing machine to, well…wash your clothes. Knowing how to properly clean a front-load washing machine and giving it a good scrub down is easier said than done, but once you’ve tackled it the first time, you’ll realize that it only takes a matter of minutes. Then, you can work this into your regular home cleaning schedule and will no longer have to worry about that  mildewy scent transferring to your clothes.

Cleaning your front-load washer from the inside out

Cleaning a front-load washing machine’s outer housing is probably already part of your regular cleaning routine. Your machine may pick up muddy smudges from soccer clothing or paw marks from the dog’s rainy walks, but what you may not know is that the same thing can be happening on the inside of your machine. But before you grab a front-load washing machine cleaner, you’ll have to put in some elbow grease and give the inside of the machine a good scrub to see the full effects of the cleaner at work.

1. Clean and remove any objects from the gasket.

The gasket is the rubber seal that runs along the door of your washing machine. It keeps the water in during a wash cycle, even when it’s time for the soapy suds to drain away from the inner and outer tubs. What a lot of people may not realize is that this rubber seal is very flexible, which allows dirt and small items such as sand, rocks, dirt and even food particles to get wedged in its nooks and crannies. Bigger items such as tissues, baby socks, and yes, even that novelty tiny teddy bear from the fairground can all get stuck, too. Remember to follow common pre-wash laundry tips and check pockets for foreign objects before washing to avoid clogging the gasket.

After you’ve finished cleaning all of the items and gunk out of the rubber lining or its plastic casing, make sure you’ve given the seal itself a good clean by scraping out any build-up both between and behind the sealing — it may sound a bit icky, but, trust us, your laundry will be so much fresher for it!

2. Use washing machine cleaner to remove any build-up or mildew stains

The inside of your washer can sometimes get a little grubby too, which can also lead to a smell developing and potentially transferring to your clothes. Take your preferred washing machine cleaner and scrub the drum a little to remove any build-up caked onto the surface. Lots of guides on how to clean your front-load washing machine will give you store-bought solutions for this task, but it may not be necessary – it is really up to you whether you want to buy a brand product or make your own. In this situation, our tip would be to purchase a professional cleaner that can get the job done well and will not damage your washing machine.

3. Clean out detergent tray.

One place where you may have already noticed your machine getting a bit grimy is in your detergent tray. It may seem ironic for a cleaning product to make something dirty, but it will not take too much work to remedy a product buildup in your machine’s detergent tray. Warm water can be used to flush the product out of the detergent tray and it will drain out through the machine’s main drain, or for tougher muck, you can use some diluted washing machine cleaner and scrub the tray to clean it out, followed by a quick wipe with a rag.

Some brands of washing machine cleaners are designed to be poured directly into the detergent tray, cleaning this spot before reaching the pipes of the machine itself. When you are cleaning your machine, give the inside of each tray a wipe with a paper towel, and, if the dirt won’t budge, remove the tray and soak it in warm water for a bit before proceeding with the cleaning products.

4. Run an empty wash cycle on the hottest setting.

By this step in your cleaning process, you're almost finished! The easiest step comes last, which is to set up a wash cycle on the hottest setting to clean your machine and ensure that any gunk that had formerly been living inside it is destroyed. Follow the instructions on your washing machine cleaning product, and away you go!

Regular Maintenance can help keep mildewy odors at bay

Cleaning your front-load washing machine isn’t the most glamorous chore (although, now that we think about it, are any chores ever really glam?). However, doing this deep clean for the first time is the best foundation you can give yourself and your laundry when it comes to keeping your clothes, sheets and towels looking and smelling fresh and clean.

Once you’ve finished the full cleaning process for the first time, you can get into the habit of just giving your front-load washing machine a quick wipe down and a clean roughly once a month. If you have time, running the machine on a quick, empty hot wash (without any detergent!) from time to time can also ensure that smells and gunk aren’t building up inside your front-loader.

Keeping your detergent tray and washer door open when the machine is not in use can also stop moisture from building up, and lets your machine fully dry out between loads.

For more laundry tips on how to keep both your clothing and washing machine fresh and clean, follow Ask Team Clean on social media.