How to clean and maintain your washer and dryer
Few appliances play as important a role in our daily lives as the washing machine and dryer. Clothes washers allow us to keep our clothes fresh and clean with just a small amount of detergent and the start of the wash cycle, while dryers save us considerable time drying our clothes.
However, as many homeowners learn, it can be easy to take them for granted until faced with appliance repairs. Fortunately, some DIY cleaning and maintenance strategies can help keep your high-efficiency washer and dryer ready to serve for years to come. Here’s what you need to know about taking care of these appliances and minimizing dryer and washing machine repairs.
The importance of cleaning and maintaining your washer and dryer
Buying a washer and dryer is an important but expensive investment for your home, easily saving you hours throughout the week that can be spent on other household tasks. However, when something goes wrong with them, you could be faced with costly repairs or even a replacement. Even replacing basic parts, such as the agitator or rubber seal, can quickly add up.
Regularly cleaning and maintaining your washer and dryer can help keep them running for a long time without any serious issues. If these appliances break down due to normal wear and tear, though, an appliance home warranty from Cinch Home Services can help get them back up and running as quickly as possible.
How to clean your washing machine
As you regularly use your washing machine — whether you have a top-loading or front-load washer — there might be a buildup within the machine. Minerals from hard water, white deposits from fabric softener and other sources of dirt can all clump together. This buildup can then hinder the ability of your machine to fully clean your clothes and possibly give off a musty smell. Fortunately, cleaning out the machine regularly helps to hold off problems like this.
Cleaning your washing machine can take a little bit of time, but it’s not a complicated process. Begin by filling the machine with hot water. Depending on the extent of the buildup in your machine, you may repeat this process twice.
For stubborn deposits and large amounts of dirt
If you haven’t cleaned out your washing machine in a while, don’t forget this step. Once the washing machine is filled with hot water, add about three to four cups of bleach. Keep in mind that the washing machine should be empty of everything but the water, and you’ll flush the bleach out, so you don’t have to worry about your clothes in future loads.
After you’ve added the bleach, let the machine run for a few minutes to get the bleach and water mixed. Then, pause the machine and let the solution sit for 30 to 60 minutes. After this period of time, let the washing machine finish running the load to wash the bleach and water mix out of the machine.
For standard cleaning
If you stay on top of your washing machine cleaning or after you’ve done the initial bleach round, you can move to this standard level of cleaning.
Similar to the bleach cleaning, let the machine fill up with hot water. Then, add about three to four cups of white vinegar. Allow the machine to continue running for about two minutes to get the solution mixed well. Then, follow the same process described above — pausing the machine and letting the solution sit for 30 to 60 minutes before finishing the hot cycle.
Wiping the machine down
After you run the vinegar cycle, put some vinegar on a rag and wipe down the rest of the machine, such as the rim, dispensers and other areas that the solution might not have directly cleaned.
Once you have completed the entire process, if you have a front-loading machine, leave open the door of the washing machine to help it fully dry out. If you have a top loader machine, leave the lid lifted. Try to make it a habit moving forward to leave the lid to the washing machine open regularly to give the machine a chance to dry out.
How often should you clean your washing machine?
The frequency with which you clean your washing machine will depend on how often you use it. Generally, cleaning the machine about once per month works well. However, if your washing machine sees heavy, regular use, you might want to increase that frequency to once every other week.
As you wash your clothes, all types of dirt, bacteria and even fungus on your clothing can make their way into your machine. Particularly when you wash most clothes on cold, those microbes can settle on the inner, moist parts of the machine. Therefore, it’s a good idea to do a more in-depth cleaning if you plan on washing a lot of clothes to help to keep the machine clean and avoid any mildew or mold growth.
How to clean your clothes dryer
In a period of just four years, there were nearly 16,000 house fires caused by washers and dryers — and over 90% of them were caused by dryers. Clothing dryers offer homeowners incredible convenience, but making sure they remain clean and clear of things like dust and lint that can spark a fire is a necessity.
There are three main parts to cleaning your dryer:
- Clean your lint filter. Generally, inside the door of your dryer, you’ll find the lint filter, which traps dust and lint as you dry your clothes. Lift this out and clean off the lint that has accumulated. Extras like fabric softener can increase the amount of lint and cause buildup on the filter, so make sure you clean the trap well. If you’ve noticed any lint still sticking to the filter after removing the debris, take an old toothbrush to give it a gentle rub and fully dislodge any dirt.
- Wipe down the drum. You’ll also want to occasionally wipe down the drum of the dryer with a damp rag to collect any dust accumulated inside.
- Clean out the dryer duct. This requires a little more work, but periodically, you should clean out the duct that connects your dryer to the outside. This can also become clogged with lint, which can be dangerous. You will need to disconnect the dryer duct and clean it out with a rotary brush that you can get at any home improvement store. This allows you to dislodge any clogs and prevent them from starting a fire.
How often should you clean your clothes dryer?
Cleaning out your dryer helps protect you and your home from house fires. Therefore, you will need to go through this process regularly. You should:
- Clean out the lint trap every time you use the dryer. Make it part of your routine to pull it out and pull off the lint after you take clothes out.
- Wipe down the drum about once per month.
- Clean out the dryer duct about twice per year. Some people find it helpful to remember to do it when they change their fire alarm batteries and set their clocks for daylight savings time.
Keep in mind that these recommendations are for average use, which is about five to 10 loads per week. If you use your dryer more or less frequently, adjust your schedule accordingly.
Maintenance tips for your washer and dryer
Keeping your washer and dryer clean and running efficiently can help you take full advantage of them while also avoiding unnecessary repair bills.
- Clean your dryer vent regularly. Not doing so can become a serious fire hazard. Follow the steps described above to protect your home.
- Leave the washer door open after use. The design of the washer creates an airtight seal, which is necessary when the washer is in use. In between uses, however, moisture needs to escape so that mildew doesn’t form inside the washer.
- Empty your washer quickly. Wet clothes sitting in the washer can accelerate mildew and mold growth.
- Don’t overload either the washer or dryer. This helps avoid stressing the parts and makes sure the cycles work as intended.
- Inspect the hoses for leaking, cracking and other signs of damage at least twice a year to avoid them becoming bigger issues.
- Inspect the doors to make sure they seal properly to avoid accidents or further damage to the machines.
- Make sure the washer and dryer sit on level ground so that they can run through their cycles properly.
- Use the proper laundry detergent for your washing machine. High-efficiency washing machines need different detergents than other types of machines, for example.
- Check the machines for signs of chips or nicks and repair them to prevent rust.
Prevent unexpected washer and dryer repair bills with Cinch
As you take these steps to protect your washer and dryer, make sure you add an additional layer of protection with an appliance home warranty from Cinch, helping to cover the cost of repairs or replacements due to normal wear and tear. Cleaning and maintaining your major appliances is important, but a home warranty can make unexpected breakdowns more manageable.