Hunt_Mary_2018

Mary Hunt

How nasty germs survive in your washer and what to do about it

If you assume the inside of your washing machine is the cleanest place in your home because you put detergent through it with every load and occasionally wash with hot water, join the club. Most people think that.

So why is there dirty residue on the agitator? Why do washed clothes come out with stains they didn’t have before they went in? Why do towels and the washing machine stink? The answer is germs.

Experts tell us that most washing machines are teeming with bacteria that find their way back into washed clothes.

Before you panic, it’s good to know that of the more than 60,000 kinds of germs, only 1 to 2 percent of them are potentially pathogenic. But the other 98 percent, when allowed to accumulate, can produce a terrible odor in clothes, towels and linens — and inside the washer.

The solution? Clean the machine!

How to clean front-loading machine

This is a multistep process, which should be performed monthly.

Make sure the drum of the machine is completely empty. Select “Basket Clean” or “Tub Clean” on the wash settings. If your front-loader does not have such a setting, select the hottest, largest and longest load settings.

Add 2 cups of white vinegar to the detergent reservoir. This will help get rid of the odors and any mildew that has accumulated inside the machine. Allow the machine to run through an entire wash and rinse cycle.

Set the washer a second time on the same cycles as above. Pour 2 cups of liquid chlorine bleach into the detergent reservoir. This is going to kills germs and bacteria that have accumulated inside the machine. Allow the machine to run through another entire wash and rinse cycle.

Run a third cycle without adding anything to the detergent reservoir. This will rinse away any remaining residue.

Fill a bucket with hot soapy water and a clean rag. Clean the detergent reservoir. Pull back the rubber seal around the washer door, looking for mildew and other deposits. Clean them away with the rag. If there is a lot of buildup, you may need to clean this area with a solution of 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach and 1 gallon water. Dip the rag into the solution; ring it out; and then go to work. Follow with a clean, dry cloth to remove any remaining moisture from the seal area.

Repeat monthly.

How to clean top-loading machine

This process is quite similar to that of cleaning a front-loading machine. It is a multistep process, which should be performed monthly.

Making sure there are no clothes in the machine, set it to the hottest, largest and longest cycle available. Add 4 cups (1 quart) white vinegar to the tub (no detergent). Close the lid, and allow the machine to agitate for one minute or so. Open the lid so agitation stops, and allow the machine to sit for one hour. After one hour, allow the machine to complete a full cycle including rinse and spin.

Leaving the same settings, fill the machine with the hottest water available and add 4 cups (1 quart) liquid chlorine bleach. Close the lid. Allow it to agitate for 1 minute, and then open the lid to stop the agitation for one hour. After one hour, allow the machine to complete a full rinse and spin cycle again.

Run a third cycle without adding anything to the detergent reservoir. This will rinse away any remaining residue.

Finally, using a clean cloth dipped into a mixture of 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon water, clean the area under the rim of the washer — between the basket and machine housing. Next, wipe down the detergent reservoir and clean all of the nooks and crannies that you can reach easily, where bacteria and dirty may have accumulated.

Repeat monthly.

CAUTION: Be careful to not mix vinegar and bleach. Ever. The foregoing process allows for these substances to go into the machine separately, followed by complete rinse cycles to clean out the reservoir.

Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living. Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.

Load comments