How to Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

07/22/2013. This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy.

How to Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

Do you have a front load washer or are you planning to get one?  If the answer is yes, are you familiar with how to clean and maintain your washer?

If not, I would encourage you to take a moment and read this post.  Cleaning a front load washer is a topic I have heard of before- you can find instructions on You Tube and on Pinterest and from Google.  It is one of those things I have pinned in the past and then promptly forgot about and boy do I wish I had done this proces LONG ago!

So short story short, we have had a Whirlpool Duet for about 3 years.  I bought it because front load washers are prettier in my opinion but I really didn’t realize that this is a pretty lady that is fairly high maintenance.

We ran a load of laundry last week (one of the hundreds of loads I seem to do each week) and suddenly water started pouring out everywhere- like flooding the laundry room.  Since my husband just put in new hardwood floors I thought he might have a heart attack and every single towel in the house later, we moved the washing machine into the garage to try and figure out what happened.

So fast forward to load #2 and again with the flooding everywhere in the garage.  Now fast forward to the repairman from Sears who basically told us “I have no idea what is wrong.  That will be $65 please.”

Awesome.  So my husband and I figured out what the heck happened with the washer on our own and finally had the epiphany that we really needed to take much better care of our washer.

So you might want to get the manual out for your machine (or look it up online) but to make it easy- here are the steps we took to clean this bad boy.

If you have had one of these for awhile and haven’t taken the time to properly clean it, you are going to be really grossed out.  Your clothes may be sitting in a big pool of sludge and filth and mold and unspeakable general grodiness.  (Just call me sunshine.)

The good news is this is actually an easy process and I will walk you through it below.

step 1

To start with just give your washer a nice quick outside rub down.  I used a cloth and a regular all purpose cleaner (half vinegar and half water works great) and cleaned the dials and the outside. (I am sure it goes without saying you want to remove all the clothes from inside the washer before you start to clean).

step 2

Next you want to look for the tray where the detergent goes.  Most will have a little tab to pop them right out.  Can you see mine was super grody?  Once I popped mine out I just took the same vinegar and water solution and wiped everything down.  I took the tray into the sink and used hot water and dish soap to clean it up and then popped it back in.  If your tray does not pop out, you can just wipe it down on the sides and inside and that should do the trick.

how to clean a front load washer

step 3

Now for the super grody part 2.  This isn’t the worst of it I am sorry to say but get those rubber gloves on and open up the machine.  Check the rubber lining on the inside.

how to clean an HE machine

I will just come clean here (badampbump!) and tell you ours is nasty.  Since HE machines use less water to clean your clothes and they have a super tight locking seal when shut, they are very susceptible to mold issues.

Ours had some disgusting black yuckiness all over it.  To (hopefully) get rid of this problem you can use warm water and bleach in a cup and apply to the spots that are yucky.  Let that sit for a few minutes and then wipe down.  You might also try scrubbers for stubborn stains and make sure you lift up the rubber part to really get inside the rubber ring and get it all cleaned up all the way around the rings.

how to clean a washing machine

See on our machine above- you want to be really thorough on this rubber part- not just the outside where you can see I sprinkled the baking soda.  Get all up in there the best you can.

Now ours was nasty so I used part vinegar and water and I also used baking soda to try and really scrub.  I gave up and used the bleach and warm water solution and although it is cleaner, sadly there is still some I just could not get off for the life of me.

One last thing you can do is take an old rag and fold it into a long strip.  Dribble a little bleach on it and let it sit on the rubber overnight with the door open.

Just do your best on this and hopefully your machine won’t get to the state ours is in (hanging head in shame).  I have wiped this rubber part off in the past but never gave it regular, deep cleans and now I really regret that.

The Sears guy quoted $275 to replace that rubber ring (no thanks) but we are actually going to do it ourselves because I couldn’t get all the yucky stuff off.

step 4

Now this is the gross part (read: part where I left and had my husband take over.) This is a super important thing to get into the regular habit of cleaning.

how to clean an HE washing Machine

You want to find the filter for your machine.  In older ones (like ours) you actually need to remove the bottom panel of the washer.  In the brand new models it is sitting right there to make it easier.

washing machine

This is called the washer pump and it will be super gross.  It gets full of all the junk that might be in pockets- lint, change, bobby pins, scraps of paper… and then it sits there marinading in dirty water.  Yummy right?

So according to my husband, he nearly lost his lunch cleaning this filter out because we hadn’t done it in… ahem… 3 years.  So it was GROSS.

Be prepared for grossness and lots of water to come out- so grab the biggest bowl you can fit underneath and protect your floors with old towels or whatever.  It is normal to lose a quart of water but if your washing machine doors stay locked or you have other problems (like we did) you may see a lot more water come out.

You might take a peek at your manual about how to empty the water because we just unscrewed the cap and had water everywhere :). Some machines have a tiny hose that makes the process easier.  (This is the video from GE that we watched to figure this out.)

Once it is drained of water go ahead and open the little twisty handle thing and inside you will find a filter.  It is similar to your lint trap in the dryer and it needs to be cleaned regularly.

Can you see ours on the yellow towel above?  My husband cleaned out the filter and then we ran one load of laundry and opened that filter again and it was already yucky.  So I cleaned the filter again and also gave a good wiping to the inside of the drain there.  You probably want to do this process once a month but again just refer to your manual.

last but not least

And last but not least you want to do one more step. Per the instructions on my manual I added 2/3 cup of bleach to the detergent tray (there is a section on mine to add bleach) and I turned the washer to the clean washer mode.

how to clean a front load washing machine

And start the cycle.  And that is it!!

You are done cleaning your washing machine.  So you can see it is all fairly easy and basic but just a matter of actually getting into a regular routine of cleaning it well.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I will share a few tips on how to maintain the washing machine between cleaning.

Oh and PS- wanna know the cause of the problem we had?

laundry soap pouches

Yup these little laundry soap pouches!  I always use the HE laundry soap but my darling husband was putting these pouches in the laundry soap tray and not in the actual machine like you are supposed to.

I do the laundry 99% of the time (he is chief folder and put away-er) but I put on a fresh pair of workout clothes straight from the dryer and raced off to the gym and 5 minutes into my class I noticed I smelled disgusting.  The clothes had this gross smell to them- mortifying. So I came home and lectured the poor hubs about not letting loads of laundry sit in the washer endlessly or you get a gross musty odor.  Turns out the issue wasn’t having the laundry sit too long- it was the fact that he wasn’t really using soap since it was going into the wrong spot on the machine.

Now our lovely lady is working perfectly once again.

You can find lots more easy cleaning tips and homemade cleaner recipes on my DIY Pinterest Board.

Pin It

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Julianne July 22, 2013 at 4:05 PM

Holy cow. I have done steps 1-3, but had no idea about step 4. My machine has been a little funky lately and backing up with water. I am terrified to see what I will find! I have 4 boys so I regularly wash Legos, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, etc.

Thanks for the info :)

Charlene July 22, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Julianne- let me know if we are especially gross people or if you find the same yuckiness in your machine :). I watched some videos from Sears and from GE and there are lots of issues you can have if that trap isn’t cleaned out.

Tiffany July 22, 2013 at 4:40 PM

I usually use vinegar as my fabric softener and it tends to keep the washer a little bit cleaner. I have cleaned out the washer pump and it wasn’t too bad. I think the vinegar just gives the insides a little cleaning each time I use it

Stefanie July 22, 2013 at 4:49 PM

Oh man, I had no idea about that front clean out- I’m scared to see mine… I never have any luck getting that rubber part cleaned either, it’s so gross!! I use that tide washing machine cleaner but that only cleans the drum part. Thanks for the instructions, I’m doing this tomorrow!

Melissa July 22, 2013 at 4:57 PM

I will share this with my mom as she has an HE machine. I love that I’m not the only one that sill uses the word grody!

Sophie July 22, 2013 at 5:04 PM

We bought a Maytag frontloader a year ago and I cleaned out the filter after 6 months per the manual and it was gross already (mostly mud/sand like stuff), need to do it again soon (thanks for reminder!). When I was reading the manual I also noticed that it has a “pure cycle”, it uses very very hot water and runs for 3 hrs, you dont put any clothes in nor soap, this cycle takes care off mold issues in drum etc. Only done it once but it’s time for another I think. I also wipe the rubber seal with a paper towel after every couple of loads.

Charlene July 22, 2013 at 6:28 PM

Lol no other way to describe it Melissa :)

Charlene July 22, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Stefanie, I have been wondering if the Tide stuff is worth buying. Do you notice a big difference? I am not a fan of bleach but that seemed to clean the drum really well.

Charlene July 22, 2013 at 6:30 PM

Tiffany, just vinegar and nothing else or do you add it to another fabric softener?

Kathy July 22, 2013 at 8:04 PM

One thing that I was cautioned about was not using liquid fabric softener because of the residual buildup it leaves behind. Also, we had trouble when I tried some of those “Color Catchers.” I recommend you avoid those all together with a front loader.

Cindy July 22, 2013 at 8:07 PM

When I bought my first house at age 21 (1988) I bought a Maytag Washer & Dryer from Montgomery Ward in Indianapolis, In. I remember I paid $200 extra for the “bigger” dryer bin. It was $1400 for the pair and the biggest purchase of my life at that point. 25 years later, 3 states, and 18 moves, I still have that washer and dryer. I have added a husband, 4 kids and a dog since then too. Financially we are in a secure place and live in a beautiful 10,000 sf paid off home. In twenty-five years I have only had 2 repairs and that was in the last 3 years. After the last repair my husband suggested we look at the new models. I told him he was crazy. I LOVE my washer and dryer. It is the best. I never have mold, never need to clean it (except wipe the outside now and then) and there is nothing gross. Is it the latest, greatest, beauty? No . . . . absolutely not. But it is the smartest purchase I ever made and it gets the 21 loads of laundry I do a week squeeky clean! Thanks Charlene for sharing this article. Even though I don’t have a fancy, dancy, HE machine, reading this makes me appreciate my old Maytag all the more!! :-)

Joy July 22, 2013 at 8:18 PM

This is why I told my hubs no front loader washing machine. Instead we got a top loader HE washing machine. The only problem with that is you just have to make sure you lay the clothes in the drum right – not too loose nor too tight. Also, sometimes black heavy clothes like jeans need an extra rinse. But sure beats the nasty mold build up.

susan July 22, 2013 at 9:17 PM

I too have a front loader and we have hard water (when we forget to put the salt in the softener). The vinegar does help a lot for the softener. I really like soft clothes, so we do a half a fabric softener sheet too, but not for towels or sheets. You can do anything with vinegar!! I also set myself reminders on my calendar when it is time to clean out the washer. And don’t forget to wash the lint trap in the dryer!

Jessica July 22, 2013 at 9:18 PM

Oh dear. We’ve had our front-loader for a little less than 2 years, but other than running the clean tub cycle and a quick rub-down of the rubber seal, I’ve never cleaned it. I’m scared.

Charlene July 22, 2013 at 9:38 PM

LOL- Cindy my husband was saying how the washing machine his parents had was the same one his entire life. Like 20 years of the same washing machine- no thought was ever given to it. Funny how technology improves over time yet things become more disposable. :)

Sara July 23, 2013 at 8:06 AM

We also us the vinegar as a fabric softener and it works great! Just add 1/2 cup per load of vinegar and it keeps the washing machine clean and clothes soft. Also static free!!!

Barbie July 23, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Sara…just curious, does using vinegar as your fabric softner make your clothes smell like vinegar or does whatever laundry detergent you use trump that smell? I am all for using vinegar to clean things (and I have some major mold issues with my front loader like Charlene), but I really don’t love the smell. Thanks!

Tatyana July 23, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Where do you put vinegar? Just with clothes or in the fabric softener cup?

Jessica July 23, 2013 at 12:40 PM

This is why I still have a Top Loader and have no desire to change !!

Julianne July 23, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Charlene- Just cleaned ours out. Had to remove 3 screws and the lower front panel. The filter is open- like a small drawer so not much room for muck. I did find marbles, legos, a couple plastic turtles, a chain, and the blade from a pencil sharpener- all covered in a grey sludge.

Nicole July 23, 2013 at 8:35 PM

I only use soap nuts and vinegar for washing so my Whirlpool Duet Steam front loader is pretty clean from what I can see (although I do sometimes find baby socks in that rubber seal and wipe it down regularly), but I’ve read my “Use & Care Guide” front to back and can’t find anything about a filter. Its about a year old. The “Washer Care” section basically ends at Step 3. What am I missing? Do some of them not have them?

Annye July 24, 2013 at 10:09 AM

So the real lesson here is, “Don’t let your husband do the laundry,” right? Mine will be so disappointed….

cathy July 24, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Charlene, I have had a Maytag stackable washer and dryer for 9 years. HE washer is front loader. I do step 1 about once a week. I do step 2 about 2 times a year. For my washer, you add the detergent inside the drum and use drawer for bleach and softener but I rarely add these. I am considering adding vinegar as softener after reading these posts. For step 3, I have used a paper towel soaked in bleach and let several sit on affected areas for 10 minutes and then rinse, plus some scrubbing. My rubber gasket is pale gray and the mildew black spots would fade to mid-dark gray but I can rarely rid of them totally. I have never heard of step 4, so I dragged out my manual. In the troubleshooting part for certain situations, it said to disconnect hoses and clean the “hose filter screens.” I called Maytag to ask about these because I could not find them on a parts explosion diagram. The guy talked about a screen being present on either end of inlet hoses (you can easily buy these $5 rubber hoses at Lowe’s
and they DO NOT have a screen on either end, so I don’t know what the guy was talking about. I pulled my washer away from the wall and looked at the plastic drain hose. I looked at the end that goes into the pipe in the wall (very easy to pull out and view) and there is no screen on it. The other end is bolted on the back of the washing machine and looked much harder to remove so I didn’t touch it. The drain hose looks like a vacuum cleaner hose and I highly suspect there is no screen on either end.
So I think these filters are present on newer models of HE washing machines (<4 years old) but not old on older machines).
I'm just going to try to remember to keep doing steps 1-3.
Have fun creating happy memories doing step 4.

I do suggest cleaning the filter on a dishwasher. That can get yucky too.
I had to purchase a 2 special torx 8/10 wrenches online (about $10 each, ends look like hexagons) to access this part of my dishwasher, but it much cheaper than paying repairman to take apart and use paper towels to wipe it up.
Maybe you could create a post about that.

Thank you for this cleaning reminder. I was not expecting to this activity this afternoon but "it's a good thing" (martha stewart).

Marie July 26, 2013 at 6:55 AM

Thanks for this tip! I have been having a nasty smelling Kenmore HE2 washer for years and have searched for tips on cleaning for years and this the first I’ve heard of the filter. It is 7 years old and it has smelled for the last 3 or 4 years. We replaced the bellow (the rubber seal around the opening), it was not fun to do, but much cleaner than the old one. We now wipe ours out after I finish laundry for the day. I cleaned the filter per your instructions and it was DISGUSTING!!!!!! Lots of coins, a corroded paper clip, a piece of plastic wrap and my daughters bracelet. I searched the owners manual for instructions on cleaning the filter and it doesn’t mention it any where! I ran bleach thru it after and I could smell the funky smell as it cleaned, but the water and filter were clean after. Hopefully if I do this monthly it will help with the smell.

MichelleM July 26, 2013 at 7:38 AM

Ours was gross too. Noticed it when our bath towels were musty smelling. Ewh Ewh Ewh. Thanks for remixer to clean again!

Kristina July 30, 2013 at 11:28 PM

Thanks for posting this. My husband and I have been noticing a mildewy smell in the bathroom even after throughly bleaching every inch. Come to find out it was in the towels and the surfaces…. Good machine cleaning will hopefully do the trick.

Amy August 11, 2013 at 2:40 PM

I also use vinegar in the fabric softener cup. It is a great deodorizer and there is no vinegar smell on my clothes at all. I have 4 stinky men in my house so I have tried a lot of cleaners.
I also make my own powder laundry soap and I have found that I have much less smell and funk in the drum since I started using it. I do still have to clean the drum but it seems to be cleaner using the homemade soap and vinegar.

Jean January 3, 2014 at 8:59 AM

STOP All of YOU!!! When are we going to take a stand and Let these companies and our government know we are not standing for these machines that are worthless!!!! I am all for sueing the pants off these companies anyone with me????? i have a constant rash on my back ever since i started using this whirlpool front loader and my clothes smell like old baby diapers. i am a business women running three businesses and don’t feel like taking on another one fixing washers!!! i have had mine cleaned out for $150 a pop each time. is this fair. So Stop it let’s go after these companies and our govenment that allows this to happen to the consumer!!!! I paid a lot of money for my washer did you, or was it given to you! Don’t sit back and listen to these people that have nothing else to do but let you know how to fix something. I am not a Martha Stewart and don’t want to be that is why I spend good money on products and expect the best!! I am not a fixer upper!!! Let’s clean up these companies. Whirlpool promised to pay the small store in our area that i bought my waher from to fix my washer, but they never did. So i paid the $150 that last two times!!! And Guess what it still smells like septic!!!!! What are you going to do? I know what I am going to do! Jean

Susan January 6, 2014 at 4:52 PM

I live in Japan and have a J-model front load machine. Ours reminds us every 30 loads to clean out the filter, and it’s always disgusting. So in terms of frequency of cleaning, that’s about once a month for me.

Sharon Mast January 27, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Found this post and am eager to clean my washer. But I don’t know how to get the front panel off. Any help or ideas? Since we bought it used, I don’t have the manual, and the Sears man I talked to was totally unhelpful.

cathy January 27, 2014 at 3:03 PM

i suggest that you call the manufacturer. you can find the phone number on the internet. they will usually mail a manual to you for free, or send you one via email. when i bought my house, there were several appliances in the kitchen. i called each manufacturer and they mailed or send email of the manual. in addition, you can ask about removal of the front panel and may have suggestion (or just wait until they send manual).

tamara February 6, 2014 at 12:09 AM

can you please tell me how you found the problem of the clogged hode? Mine is overflowing at the soap dispenser as well but all I read here is how to clean your machine

JoAnn February 7, 2014 at 11:02 AM

I bought my LG front loader maybe six years ago and love it. The manual said to wipe down the rubber gasket and inside of the door after using the machine. If I’m doing multiple loads, I don’t, but after the last load, I certainly do. I also clean the filter and drain the little hose and run “Tub Clean” every month. I can tend to forget chores, so I set my “To Do” list on my smart phone to remind me the first of every month. The only problem I’ve had with my machine was a gushing leak one time. I called the repairman, and he couldn’t figure out the problem at first. Then he started laughing–I’d put the stopper back in the little hose backwards! That was an expensive, stupid mistake–and one I’ll never repeat! I very seldom use fabric softener, but I like the idea of using vinegar instead. Apple cider or distilled? Does it make a difference?

Charlene February 7, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Joann- I don’t know if it makes a difference but Distilled. The kind you get in huge jugs for like $3.

What app are you using for your reminders? Or just the normal calendar thing?

Angie February 9, 2014 at 12:47 PM

I noticed that someone made a comment about cleaning the screens on the inlet hoses, which yes you do need to clean them often. The inlet hoses are the ones that allow water into your washer. When you unscrew them from the back of the washer there are two screens under each hose that need to be cleaned out and put back.

April green March 19, 2014 at 6:13 PM

Omg tell me someone what can I use to get the yellow ring from around the rubber around the washing machine. THANKS !!

Becca April 22, 2014 at 7:42 PM

Love my front loading washer and thanks for these tips. I’ve never had mold or anything gross on my rubber seal but I always. Always leave my washer door open. It’s just airs everything out. :)

Charlene April 22, 2014 at 9:06 PM

Becca that is smart. Ours can’t be left open because then there wouldn’t be access to the garage door. I bet we wouldn’t have had the issues if we had a larger laundry room ;)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

©2008-2012 MyFrugalAdventures.com — All rights reserved. My Frugal Adventures

This site runs on Starbucks, Chocolate and WordPress using the Thesis Theme

Site Design and Theme Tweaking by Moritz Fine Designs and Joy @ Five J's Design