The combination of warmth and damp inside and the fact that they’re difficult to air means washing machines can be prone to mould, bad odours and general disgustingness (a technical appliance term). Plus, a blocked filter can render your washing machine ineffective, and even dangerous.
That’s why you need to clean your washing machine regularly. You should give it a quick going over every month or so, or when you notice any discolouration or build-up on the door seal, or if you find that your washing is coming out less than fragrant.
How to clean the filter
Do you know where the filter is? Could you identify it if it were standing in front of you, doing the robot? As you can probably guess, the filter is there to collect fluff, hair, tissues, coins and other things that, mixed together, would make the world’s worst stew.
If your filter is a bit clogged, things can get messy, so step one is to get a deep tray (like a baking tray) and an old towel before you do anything else. You'll need these as some water will inevitably run out when you remove the filter. If your filter is very blocked, or your washing machine hasn't been draining properly, it could be quite a lot of water.
If you're in the UK, the filter will probably be behind a small door, low down on the front of your washing machine. Place the tray underneath it. You may need to use a flat-head screwdriver to pop open the door.
Inside, you’ll see a small, circular filter, the lid of which can be unscrewed. If there’s a tiny hose that crosses in front of the filter, then gently pull this free and allow it to drain into the tray before you do anything else.
Then, simply unscrew the filter and remove any debris trapped inside. Easy! (Okay, this bit may be more disgusting than I’m letting on.)
Don't forget to reattach the filter and close up properly before you use your machine again.
...And the rest of the machine
The detergent drawer
Take out the detergent drawer. It’s probably encrusted with dried cleaning products and limescale. Put it in a sink full of warm water and then give it a scrub with a sponge scourer or an old toothbrush. Don’t forget to clean the drawer chamber as well.
If it can't be removed entirely, use a long handled washing-up brush or old toothbrush to scrub inside the drawer.
The door seal
It’s time for the door seal. Remove any hair or fluff from the rubber seal inside the door. Don’t forget to gag while doing this. If there are any marks or stains on the rubber that could indicate mould, get that toothbrush out again and give them a gentle going-over. Finally, clean the inside of the washing machine window if the detergent has left a grainy residue on the glass.
Only use washing-up liquid and warm water on the rubber seal. Harsher cleaning products and vinegar can damage the rubber and cause the seal to shrink. That means a leaky machine.
If there are visible marks, use a toothbrush or scourer to remove them. If not, let the machine clean itself. Add two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda to the detergent drawer and pour half a cup of white vinegar into the drum, then run the machine on a hot wash.
Once again, don't overdo the vinegar, or use it too often, as it can damage rubber components.
Easy part now. Wipe down the outside of the machine with a soapy sponge or soft, damp cloth.
Finished! Leave the door open to air the inside of the machine. Reward yourself with a cup of tea to block out the memories of the disgusting matter you found in the filter.
For more appliances advice, have a look at our article on how to maintain your washing machine.