How often should you clean your washing machine?

Here's how often to schedule a deep clean if you want to keep laundry day running smoothly, according to cleaning pros

pink laundry room with washing machines and shelving
(Image credit: Armac Martin)

Having a clean washing machine is essential if you want to avoid grime and dirt build-up from transferring onto your freshly washed clothes. 

Some areas in a washing machine are more prone to trapping mold and bacteria than others, so understanding how to remove mold from the rubber seal of your washing machine and cleaning the drum of the machine are essential steps for overall cleanliness.

Knowing when and how to clean your washing machine will also contribute to maximizing the lifespan of the appliance. The best washing machines come with different lifespan guarantees, giving them a regular clean will ensure that yours performs well for many years to come.

Experts share their top tips on how often to clean a washing machine

Understanding how often you should clean your machine comes down to a few different factors – how often it is used, what you wash in it, and the age of the machine. 

A laundry room with mint green cabinets, glossy tile backsplash and a patterned floor.

(Image credit: Carrier & Company/Tim Lenz)

How often should you clean a washing machine?

Families and households doing laundry frequently should aim to clean their washing machines at least once a month, says Ralph Abundo, director of Canberra Bond Cleaning. This frequency keeps laundry clean and odor-free. 

For singles or households with less laundry, cleaning the washing machine every two to three months is the standard amount of time you should leave between cleaning, Ralph Abundo advises.

Since high-efficiency machines use less water, residues may build up over time, requiring more regular cleaning. If in doubt the 'every 40 loads' rule is a good standard to set, whereby you aim to clean the interior of your washing machine around about the time it has been through 40 loads of laundry. 

One tip: after you have cleaned the interior of your machine, leave the door open so that the drum can dry fully, this will prevent the growth of mold on the inner seal.   

Ralph Abundo
Ralph Abundo

Ralph Abundo is the Director of Canberra Bond Cleaning. They understand the importance of clean, working appliances. Their bond-back cleaning services include deep degreasing and sanitizing ovens to meet lease-end inspection standards.

Which factors influence how often you should clean your washing machine?

Your water quality: This has a significant impact on how frequently your washing machine needs to be cleaned. Mineral build-up can occur more quickly in places with hard water, leading to more frequent cleaning.

Usage rate: How often you use your washing machine directly impacts its cleaning needs. The more you use your machine the more attention it requires in terms of cleaning and general maintenance.  

Laundry habits: Consistently washing heavily soiled items, large loads, or using fabric softener and bleach may require more frequent cleaning to counter excessive residue building up in the drum. Karina Toner, cleaning expert at Spekless Cleaning, says if you are using these products continuously, you should at least aim to rinse out the drum every week. You can do this by putting the machine on a quick warm wash for 15 minutes without any clothes in the machine.

Maintenance routine: This is possibly the most important factor. The better you maintain your machine on a regular basis, the less frequently you will have to perform a more thorough, in-depth clean. Proper maintenance sets the foundation for an efficient washing machine and ensures deeper cleaning sessions become less frequent and more manageable over time.

Karina Toner adds that if you notice an unpleasant odor or visible mold inside your washing machine, you should clean it immediately, regardless of the regular cleaning schedule.  

Karina Toner
Karina Toner

Karina Toner is a cleaning expert at Spekless Cleaning a house cleaning service based in Arlington or Washington D.C.

How can you tell it’s time to clean your washing machine?

Bifold laundry room door ideas in a small neutral space with a butler sink below a window, a washing machine and pale gray stone flooring.

(Image credit: Martin Moore)

Normally, it is quite easy to tell if your washing machine needs cleaning. Parveen Garg manager of Ola Clean shares that there are many signs your machine is due a clean, such as unpleasant odors, visible mold or mildew, excessive lint on clothes or a decline in washing performance. If any of these signs occur, it is advisable that you clean your machine promptly.

Parveen recommends using a laundry machine cleaner like Truly Free’s Laundry Machine Cleaner, available from Truly Free Home as it uses natural ingredients to clean the cracks and crevices in your machine, breaking apart detergent residues and stuck-on material.

When cleaning your machine, it is a good idea to use a sponge like this heavy-duty non-scratch microfiber sponge from Amazon as it is tough enough to cut through grease but gentle so that you do not scratch your appliance.

Parveen Garg
Parveen Garg

Parveen Garg is the Manager at Ola Clean a successful cleaning services business. 

What are the benefits of having a washing machine cleaning routine?

Regular cleaning removes detergent residue and other debris that can block your machine, resulting in increased efficiency and performance, says Angela Rubin, cleaning expert from Hellamaid. ‘A clean machine is also more likely to last longer, it’s a simple procedure that can save money and time by avoiding costly repairs and replacements,’ says Angela.

Setting a date once every month to clean your machine is a good practice as this ensures you are checking and cleaning it regularly.

Angela Rubin
Angela Rubin

Hellamaid is an award-winning cleaning company in Canada that's been featured on multiple global media brands.

What happens if you don’t clean your washing machine?

If your washing machine is dirty because you are not cleaning it regularly or effectively you may find that you have to use a higher and longer wash cycle to get the items clean and smelling nice. If your laundry is coming out smelling bad or covered in mold stains this is a strong indication that you are not cleaning the machine frequently enough.

It is just as important to thoroughly clean your machine as it is to clean your clothes inside it. For a deep clean we recommend adding 4 cups of white vinegar to the drum and then putting the machine on for a long hot cycle – this process will sterilize and kill germs, too.

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.