How to Clean a Front-Load Washing Machine

By Lyle Weischwill | Jan. 10, 2024 7:14 am PST

Image of woman enjoying a clean front load washer

Cleaning a front-loading washer regularly is essential to the performance of the machine. It will also prevent the washer, the laundry room and your clothes from smelling musty.

Because of the horizontal design of a front-load washer, the rubber door seal traps warm water in its folds where mold and mildew begin growing within days. The mold and mildew cause the musty odor prominent in many front-load washers. Cleaning this area is crucial to keeping the washer smelling fresh. See the procedure for cleaning the rubber door boot seal in the cleaning steps below.

Leaving the washer door cracked open or completely open when the washer isn’t in use will help minimize the odor problem. Some washer models now have a ventilation fan and antimicrobial door seals and components to help prevent odors inside the drum.

Even if you have a washer with a ventilation fan or you leave the door open between cycles, you’ll still need to clean the washer regularly prevent odors and keep the machine in top shape.

Follow these steps to clean your front-load washing machine.

1. Use a Washer Cleaner Such as Affresh

If your washer has a cleaning cycle, run it with an Affresh tablet added to the washer drum to clean and freshen the inside of the washer tub and spin basket. If your washer doesn’t have a clean cycle, add an Affresh tablet to the drum and run a normal wash cycle using the hot water setting.

The washer cleaner will remove residue and odor that build up inside the front-load washing machine. Use a washer cleaner monthly to keep your machine clean and your clothes smelling fresh.

You can also clean the inside of the washer by running an empty hot-water cycle or clean cycle with 2 cups of white vinegar added to the drum. You could also use a cup of chlorine bleach to clean the inside of the washer but you’ll need to run a second empty cycle with nothing added to rinse out bleach residue. Whichever method you choose to clean the inside of the washer, repeat the process monthly to keep everything smelling fresh in your laundry room.

Image of homeowner cleaning the rubber door boot

2. Clean the Rubber Door Boot

The rubber door boot on a front-load washer often holds water and builds up mold and mildew that begin to smell if you don’t clean it. Follow these steps to clean the door boot:

  1. Empty all garments from the washer.
  2. Mix 3/4 cup of liquid chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of warm water.
  3. Put on protective gloves.
  4. Wipe the rubber door boot with the bleach solution. Be sure to wipe behind the door boot and inside all folds.
  5. Let the bleach solution stay on the door boot for 5 minutes to help eliminate all mold and mildew.
  6. Rinse the area thoroughly with plain water.
  7. Run an empty cycle in the washer with no detergent added to rinse out bleach residue.
  8. Open the door wide and let the seal air dry.

Repeat this procedure monthly to keep the door boot clean and smelling fresh.

Note: If you have a front-load washer with a antimicrobial door seal and vent fan system, you’ll need to remove residue from the door seal monthly but you’ll likely only need to clean the door boot with bleach yearly.

3. Clean the Washer Drain Pump Filter

Many front-load washers have a drain pump filter that you can access from the front of the washer. You’ll see a small hinged access door at the bottom left corner of the front cabinet panel if you have a front-load washer with an accessible pump filter. Follow the directions in your owner’s manual to clean out the drain pump filter. Here’s an image that shows how to clean the drain pump filter in common front-load washers.

Image of how to clean the washer drain pump filter

Cleaning out the drain pump filter will help prevent odors coming from your front-load washer.

4. Clean the End of the Washer Drain Hose

Pull the drain hose out of the stand pipe or drain sink and check for residue in the hose opening. Clear any lint or debris clogging the hose. Reinstall the hose in the stand pipe or drain sink.

5. Clean the Dispenser

The dispenser drawer is removable so it’s easy to clean. Open the dispenser drawer and press the release. Pull the dispenser drawer out and wash it thoroughly under running tap water. Pull out all inserts and clean them thoroughly to remove residue in all sections of the dispenser. Use a brush if needed to clear out residue.

Reassemble the dispenser and reinstall it in the washer. Clean the dispenser drawer every 6 months or as needed.

Image of homeowner wiping down the washer cabinet

6. Clean the Outer Cabinet

Wipe down the washer cabinet with a moist cloth to remove dirt and residue. Use mild detergent if necessary to remove stubborn stains. Rinse the cabinet thoroughly using a cloth moistened with plain water if you used detergent for cleaning.

Have Your Front-Load Washer Professionally Maintained Yearly

To keep your front-load washing machine in top condition and avoid unexpected breakdowns, schedule professional Cleaning & Maintenance through Sears Home Services every year.

During washer service, the technician will:

  • Inspect water fill hoses. The technician will inspect fill hoses for cracks and wear that can indicate potential failure. The tech will recommend fill hose replacement when it’s likely that a fill hose is at the end of its useful life. This maintenance step is often the most important one that the technician performs.
  • Check the washer tub and internal hoses for wear and leaks. Some internal washer leaks begin as small drips you may not even notice. Small leaks can eventually turn into large ones that damage walls and flooring. During washer maintenance, the technician will check internal fill hoses, dispenser hoses and drain hoses for leaks and wear that need addressing.
  • Test the washer drain system. The washer won’t clean and spin clothes if the drain system doesn’t fully remove water during the drain portion of the cycle. The technician will check drain pump operation and the complete drain path through your home’s drain system. The tech can clear obstructions and let you know if your house drain needs clearing.
  • Check water fill level and water temperature. To keep your washer working efficiently and avoid garment damage, the technician check water fill levels and the water temperature. The washing machine won’t clean the clothes well if water level is too low. Too much water can cause leaks and damage suspension components. Water also needs to be at the right temperature to clean clothes properly. When water temperature isn’t hot enough, detergent won’t dissolve and clothes won’t get clean. You might even see detergent residue can on clothes when water temperature is too low. Water that’s too hot can shrink delicate garments and damage certain fabrics. Hot water also can cause bright colors to fade or run.
  • Check the suspension system and spin cycle operation. Excessive vibration or banging during the spin will often result in clothes being too wet when the cycle ends. While banging during the spin cycle can be caused by an unbalanced load, it can also be caused by tub suspension problems. The technician will test the spin cycle and make sure that suspension components such as shock absorbers and springs are intact and working properly. The tech also will check washer leveling and stability and adjust leveling legs as needed to minimize vibration during the spin cycle.
  • Run a cleaning cycle. The technician will typically run a cleaning cycle using a washer cleaner to remove deposits and detergent residue from the washer.

By incorporating regular professional maintenance into your washing machine care routine, you can enjoy the peace of mind that your washer is in top shape.

Image of kitchen and laundry appliance bundle page

Bundle appliance maintenance to save money and keep all of your home appliances in top shape. A Sears Home Services tech can clean and maintain your dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher and stove at the same time as your washer.

You can trust Sears Home Services to help you keep all your home appliances working more efficiently and lasting longer.

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