Tips for Cleaning Washers and Dryers

Machines that clean must also be cleaned.

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It’s spring, and you want your warm-weather clothes to glisten like dew on a flower and smell like mountain air. So it’s high time to make sure your washer and dryer are clean. Believe it or not, laundry machines can build up all kinds of residue from stains, detergent, fabric softener, and more.

Fortunately, it's relatively easy to clean. Follow these tips to prolong the life of your laundry units—and the vibrancy of your clothes.

Washing Machine

You rely on your washing machine to clean up your messes, and some of the grit, grime, and other reside lingers after the spin cycle ends.

Start by lightly scrubbing away any residue with a wet cloth—this should only take a couple of minutes. Once that's done, run at least one empty cycle to completely clear the wash tub. Running a hot-water cycle with one cup of bleach will sanitize the machine, if you're worried about that kind of thing. A dose of vinegar will also be effective. If you run a cycle with either additive, run one more water-only cycle (a cold setting is fine).

Voila, you're done. At most, you've wiped down the drum with a rag, and run two empty loads. Easy! Just remember to let the machine air out, like you would after a normal load of laundry.

Washer Image

If you live in a region with hard water, you may notice mineral deposits throughout the interior of the washing machine. If that's the case, Consumer Reports recommends applying some water softener to your detergent and running an empty cold water cycle.

Dryer

Your dryer's lint trap is a fire hazard, so you absolutely need to keep it clear. Emptying it after each load is a great start, but it's wise to put some extra effort into dryer upkeep.

The trap isn't 100 percent effective, so bits of dust and lint can accumulate in other areas of the dryer. Use a vacuum to remove lint from the area surrounding the lint trap. Another good idea is to wipe down the interior of the dryer with a cloth doused in a detergent-water mixture.

Dryer Image

The other concern is your dryer’s ventilation ducts, which can accumulate a significant amount of lint over time. Wipe the duct clean and vacuum where you can. If it's torn, buy a new one—it should be less than $20.

Consult your machine’s manual to determine other maintenance procedures, and be sure to replace the filter as needed. Just a few minutes of maintenance should keep your dryer running safely.

Photos: Flickr user Lynne Behrends, Creative Commons (header); Reviewed.com (washer and dryer)

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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