How to clean your washing machine with bleach

The best way to keep the inside of your washing machine fresh and clean is to give it a little TLC every two to three months. All you need is a cloth wipe, a toothbrush, some water and a bottle of bleach!

The potent disinfectant is the best way to kill bacteria and mould that might be lurking inside your machine.  

We love front loaders for their water and energy efficiency, but they can be prone to mould due to their watertight front doors. These doors seal with rubber gaskets that collect moisture and harbour mould when they aren’t regularly cleaned. Top loader washing machines can also collect mould inside the drum, though this is a little less common, because it’s easier for the moisture to evaporate through the unsealed top door.

Fortunately, it doesn’t matter what kind of washing machine you own – bleach will kill mould and neutralise odours with minimal effort on your part. Here’s how to get started.

Cleaning a front loader washing machine with bleach

Remember when handling bleach that you must wear protective gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Bleach is extremely effective on surfaces because of its hospital-grade ingredients, so it should be used with care.

When cleaning a front loader washing machine, there are four areas to focus on:

  • The detergent drawer
  • The drum
  • The rubber gasket
  • The exterior

Step one: Start by cleaning the detergent drawer. To remove soap residue that might have dried in hidden crevices underneath the plastic, pull it out completely and let it soak in half a bucket of hot water diluted with a fifth a cup of bleach for about an hour. Scrub away stubborn limescale or mould with an old toothbrush before rinsing the drawer off and returning it to the washing machine.

Step two: Next, run an empty laundry cycle with bleach to clean out the drum. Often, there won’t be any visible signs of dirt or mould inside your machine, but you might be able to smell something whiffy, which suggests that bacteria is present. Just add half a cup of bleach to your detergent drawer and run a normal wash cycle with hot water to kill germs and eliminate smells. Run an extra rinse cycle to flush out any remaining bleach.

Step three: Open the door and press down on the rubber gasket to remove items like hair clips or coins that might have become wedged underneath. You’ll also want to wipe away dirt and soap scum before disinfecting the area with a bleach spray (we recommend White King Bleach Spray). If you have mould here, bleach is the only thing that will kill it. Use a toothbrush to scrub hard-to-reach areas and rinse everything thoroughly with a clean cloth and warm water when you’re done.

Step four: Clean the exterior surface of the machine as well. Warm, soapy water will be fine here, because bleach can be too abrasive on this surface, especially if you have a stainless-steel machine.

Tip: To prevent mould from forming underneath the rubber gasket around the door, allow the door to dry by keeping it slightly ajar after every load of laundry. You can also wipe the area down with a towel to stop mould spores gathering in the grooves.    


Cleaning a top loader washing machine with bleach

While top loader washing machines aren’t as susceptible to mould around the door, they can still attract germs and bacteria. Water tends to sit at a set level in top loaders, causing a build-up of soap scum in that area (kind of like the dirty ring you see in a bathtub). Plus, if people in your household have been sick, it’s probably a good idea to sanitise the washing drum with bleach just in case.  

Cleaning a top loader washing machine is a little easier, because you only need to focus on three areas:

  • The detergent drawer
  • The drum
  • The exterior

Step one: If your top loader has a removable detergent drawer, soak and clean it as above. If you don’t have a drawer, you can skip this step.

Step two: Fill the drum with hot water and half a cup a bleach. Let it soak for an hour to remove all traces of mould, soap scum and dirt, before running a hot wash cycle to disinfect the hoses. Run a final rinse cycle to remove all traces of bleach from the drum (you don’t want it to stain your clothing).

Step three: When the cycle is done, wipe down the exterior of the machine with warm, soapy water, paying attention to the knobs, buttons, lid and sides. Don’t forget to wipe inside the lip of the lid as well, because your washing cycle misses this area and grime often accumulates here. And you’re done!

Tip: Most of your laundry cycles use cold or warm water, which is better for your clothes, but ineffective at eliminating bacteria. Running a long hot cycle once a week will help keep your machine sanitised.

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