How to Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

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.


  1. Karen Mockler says

    When we first got our front loader, I noticed a smell after about a month. It took several “clean washer” cycles and lots of internet research to get rid of it. We were leaving the door open like we knew to do, but apparently I have to take out the little drawer where you put the soap after EVERY wash, dry out the compartment with a cloth, and leave the drawer out until I’m ready to do the next load. I’m used to it, so it’s worth it, but I worry if I’m not home and someone else might do laundry and not “complete” the job. (Confession: I hate smells so that experience has made me just a little obsessive about my washer now.)

  2. V. says

    With the washer door closed it will breed mold. I always leave the washer door open, allowing the washer to air-dry so I never had a problem with mold on the rubber part or needed to clean it. Did this for over 4 years at one house and now 2 years at our new house.

    Didn’t know about cleaning the filter trap – I’ll go do this right now
    Thank you for the tip and video link!

  3. Mary says

    I always make my last wash of the week my whites. I add bleach to the laundry and when it is done, the inside of the front loader smells like bleach which is a good disinfectant. I have had my front loader for 11 years and have never had a problem with smell or mold. (The motherboard burned out and had to be replaced, but no cleaning issues.)

  4. Raenel Stull says

    my washer doesn’t have the washer pump on the front side, but I can use the other hints that was made in this.

  5. K says

    Remember top-loading washers that didn’t need any of this effort, never grew mold, and actually got clothes clean!?!?!?

    They just don’t make things like they used to …

  6. Laura Ann says

    Help! I knew to clean out the filter but washing blankets, older rugs and dog bedding after our recent appreciated California rain produced the dreaded clogged filter after some washes so the machine quit draining. Out came the water, I cleaned out the filter. This is the problem: the little drain hose popped back behind the housing. Tried pliers and tweezers. The tube is out of my reach behind the metal frame. Any ideas? Or is it call the $$$ repairman? Thanks.

  7. Kristine E. Morrison says

    This is really interesting review regarding cleanliness f washing machine from front.. It has solved many of my problems.. Thanks for sharing it..!!

  8. Tara says

    Don’t use bleach it can deteriorate the rubber. Vinegar and an old toothbrush on the door ring is fine. Don’t use scrubbies, too harsh on the rubber also.
    Always leave your washer door open when not in use.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>