Your clothes will only be clean if the machine you clean them in is clean. Taking the time to clean your washing machine often is especially important when everything from church clothes to towels used to clean a calf go through it. Let’s discuss the multiple methods I use to do just that!
Let’s start with the fact that just because wash your clothes in your washing machine, that doesn’t mean your machine is actually clean. Soap scum, grime, hard water minerals can all build up in the drum. Not to mention some other undesirables from the farm like mud, manure, grease, and more.
We have one washing machine that get’s everything sent through it. Our church clothes? Yup. A load of towels used to clean off that newborn calf born in a snowstorm? Also yes. The machine get’s used and abused to put it lightly.
But, washing machines aren’t cheap either! That’s why I make an extra effort to keep my machine cleaned up and in good shape.
There are several methods available to clean your washing machine and I would argue that all of them should have a place in your cleaning routine.
Washing Machine Cleaner
Probably the best and most thorough method of cleaning the machine is using a specially made cleaner for washing machines. These types of cleaners usually are in powder form and are formulated to clean up soap scum and other undesirables hiding in places you can’t see. There are several brands out there but I do have a couple of favorites that I think do a fantastic job.
My personal favorite cleaner is the Tide Washing Machine cleaner. It’s a powder that comes packaged in little packets. To use the cleaner, you pour the packet in your washer and run a load as normal. I like to run the load using hot water to hopefully really go after soap scums and other build up.
My second favorite cleaner is the the OxiClean Washing Machine Cleaner. This product, just like many other OxiClean products, does a fantastic job. This product also won’t harm your septic system like bleach could and it’s recommended to use with hot water. This is no surprise as I’ve mentioned already hot water is the best way to get a good clean on your machine.
The last specific washing machine cleaner that I prefer to use is LemiShine Washing Machine cleaner. It comes packaged very similarly to the Tide cleaner but relies on more natural ingredients like citric acid. However, the biggest downside to this product is that it does run a little pricier. A very great product though again if you struggle with bleach in your septic system. Like the last two, I run this in a normal large load with hot water.
Bleach is another good way to clean your washing machine however, I recommend using a good amount of caution. If you have a septic system, using a large amount of bleach can kill off the bacteria in your septic and end up causing problems that are difficult to reverse.
Personally, I try to avoid using this method. However, there are some instances where it’s the only product I have on hand. I think this method works best with top loaders as you can pause the cycle and still have the solution in full contact with all parts of the drum.
If I do use bleach, I’ll put about 3-4 cups of bleach in the drum of the washer and run a hot load like normal. From here, I modify the cycle.
Once the water is done running water initially, I will let it agitate normally for a few minutes and then I’ll pause the cycle. On older machines, this simply means pushing the nob in. On my newer machine, I have a pause button that I can press that will stop the cycle. From there, I just let the full load of hot water and bleach sit for around 45 minutes to an hour. Intermittently during this time, I’ll come back several times and let the washer run and agitate for a few minutes before pausing it again. This allows the bleach still act and clean.
The key is that during this time, it allows the bleach to break down more. This means that when the washing goes to drain the bleach water, the concentration of active bleach will be lower and therefore cause less harm to your septic system.
After an hour of intermittent agitating and sitting, I’ll let the washer complete the cycle completely. From here, you can either call it good or you can follow with vinegar cycle.
Vinegar is also a great washing machine cleaner and there are less concerns than with bleach. It also helps remove any hard water residues that may have built up and that bleach might not have cleared away.
The process is pretty much identical to the bleach cleaning process. Add 3-4 cups of vinegar and run a hot cycle. After the first few minutes of agitation, pause the cycle and within the next hour or so return several times to let the machine agitate for a few minutes. Resume the cycle and done!
A final precaution to be aware of, especially is you use bleach, is that you may want to run another quick rinse cycle before you wash any clothes just to be sure all the cleaner has been rinsed out. If you don’t follow up with this, you do possibly risk bleaching part of your clothes in the next load. The most I have ever had is a spot here or there. To avoid wasting an extra load of water, I usually just follow my next load with dish rags or a full load of towels that I don’t care if a small bleach spot occurs.
You also want to make sure you wipe off the exterior of the machine, clean in the fabric softener area, on top of the drum, and any other areas you can get to. This helps remove scum in areas the water in the basin might not reach.
Most of the time to do this, even with the washing machine cleaners, I will pause my top loader machine and use a small scrub brush to clean these spots using the cleaner and water mixture in the drum. I’ve found that this is more effective than removing these parts and trying to clean them separate. It only takes a few minutes of light scrubbing and usually results in a cleaner machine.
How often to clean your washing machine
I like to clean my washing machine regularly about once a month with a specific washing machine cleaner. However, I regularly do farm clothes as my last load of a washing cycle. If I have an especially dirty load of farm clothes, I will go ahead and clean my washer after the last load of farm clothes.
Is this absolutely necessary? Probably not. But I think it helps clear away any possible left over grime and make my next load through cleaner.
How often do you wash your washing machine? What’s your favorite machine cleaner or method? Let me know!