Having to clean a washing machine may seem ironic, but once in a while, a washer itself needs washing. Over time, a washing machine can accumulate debris and soap residue that microorganisms can act on to create musty or foul smells. Taking out all that dirt may seem like a lot of work, but when you’re armed with some bleach, getting it done is an easy task!

You can clean a washing machine with bleach by running an empty wash cycle in it. The wash cycle should run for a while and its hot water should contain bleach and detergent. The water helps to soak and loosen up the dirt, while the bleach takes out tough, impacted stains like mold or dried scum.

Each step of this cleaning process has its peculiarity, and it’s best to understand them before diving headfirst into cleaning. Keep reading for an in-depth explanation detailing how to make the most of every stage of your cleaning process!

Is It OK to Use Bleach to Clean Washing Machines?

It is okay to use bleach to clean your washing machine. Household bleach offers a great combination of essential cleaning elements. It provides chemical strength to remove dirt and scum that regular cleaners wouldn’t work for and provides disinfectant power to take out germs.

As long as you follow the proper instructions for using bleach, you’ll get a gleaming, dirt-free washing machine with minimal stress and zero harm.

Steps for Using Bleach to Clean a Washing Machine

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean your washer with bleach:

1. Wear Protective Gloves and Ventilate the Washroom

The lower concentrations of household bleach have much less potential harm, but they still have some toxic effects on your body. This is why you must be extra cautious while cleaning your washing machine with bleach.

To prevent irritation from skin contact with bleach, wear extensive clothing to cover your exposed skin. Your hands will come in contact with the bleach frequently while cleaning, so you should also wear protective gloves.

Most brands of household bleach do not fume when used as directed, but they can react with other substances to release gas. If the residue of a cleaning mix or some acidic substance is left in your washing machine by mistake, it can cause your bleach to release chlorine gas.

To stay safe while using the bleach, you should open all the doors and windows in the room to allow proper ventilation. If you have a fan, you should also turn it on to improve air circulation.

2. Make a Bleach Solution With Warm Water

After setting up the proper safety measures, you can take out your bleach and start the cleaning phase. Most people tend to focus on the drum of the washing machine because it’s the most prominent part and your clothes go in there.

Actually, you should clean other parts of the machine as thoroughly as the drum. If your machine has one clean drum and many dirty accessories, the drum won’t stay clean for long!

The first accessory you should clean is the detergent drawer that feeds the machine’s washing cycles and any other removable accessories of your machine.

You should get some hot water to dissolve household bleach in a 5:1 ratio, then use a stirrer or your glove-covered hand to thoroughly mix them.

After preparing this solution, take the detergent drawer and any other removable drawers feeding into the washing machine’s drum and soak them in the bleach solution.

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3. Wash the Detergent Drawer and Other Removable Accessories

Now that your washing machine accessories are ready to be cleaned, you can dive into the work headfirst or make the task easier by soaking them first. If any of these accessories has some dried residue, you’ll need to soak it in the warm cleaning solution for at least 15 minutes.

During the soaking, prepare a hard-bristled brush or old toothbrush for the cleaning. When the scum on the drawer soaks to a satisfactory level, use the brush to thoroughly scrub it off. The worst of the dirt is usually lodged in the tiny corners, so you should focus most on these areas.

After the cleaning, you can rinse the bleach off the drawer with some cold water.

4. Add Bleach and Run an Empty Hot-Water Wash Cycle

When all the drawers feeding your washing machine are clean, you can start with cleaning the drum. With clean drawers, you can rest assured that you won’t be dumping more dirt into the washing machine while trying to clean it!

Set your washing machine to the hottest water setting available, or manually fill it with hot water. If you’re running most of the process manually, you should add 1 cup of bleach into that water before closing the machine. If you’d prefer an automated process, pour the bleach into the detergent drawer instead.

The bleach will need some time to work on the washing machine, so you should choose a one-hour wash cycle. If you don’t have that option, choose the longest cycle available, then set your washing machine to the “White” or “Stain” cleaning mode.

5. Pause the Cycle Halfway and Let the Bleach Sit In

Like the drawers you washed earlier, the washing machine drum may also need to soak. Soaking helps to loosen the strong bonds between dirt, making it easier for bleach to penetrate and dislodge these pieces.

It’s best to run the bleach wash cycle for about five minutes so all its components can mix properly. After the mixing, pause the wash cycle machine and let the bleach sit in the washing machine drum while it takes out nasty scum!

You can resume the watch cycle about 20 minutes later and run it to the end.

6. Run an Empty Rinse Cycle to Flush Out Leftover Bleach

If you were dealing with any shifty smells from your washing machine, the bleach wash cycle should get rid of them by now. You can look into the drum to confirm that the odors, mold, and dirt are all gone.

If there’s any bits remaining, you can give it a harder scrape with the brush you used to clean the drawers. When all the dirt is gone, the last step for cleaning the drum area is taking out the bleach residue.

To do this, you’ll run an empty rinse cycle similar to the earlier bleach wash. The difference in the rinse cycle is that you’ll run pure hot water for only 5 minutes.

7. Clean the Rubber Gasket With a Cloth and Bleach

When the drum of your washing machine is clean and rinsed, there’s one last part to take care of – the rubber gasket. The gasket is the circle of rubber inlaid at the loading door of the washing machine.

The gasket is essential for keeping water locked in the machine during your wash cycles, but it is very prone to trapping different forms of dirt. Examples of this dirt include:

  • Soap scum
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Tiny items forgotten in your laundry

Cleaning the gasket is a straightforward process because it’s made of rubber and is quite accessible. You’ll need to make another bleach solution with a 5:1 water-to-bleach ratio. Since you’ll need to apply this mixture on the gasket itself, a smart hack is to transfer the solution into a spray bottle or use a readymade bleach spray.

Wipe the gasket with a cloth soaked in this bleach mixture, then re-apply a bit of the mixture directly on the gasket. Leave the bleach to sit for five minutes and return to wipe it again.

8. Wipe Down the Exterior With a Warm Soap Solution

Voila! Your washing machine’s drum and gasket are all clean. One more optional cleaning step is to wipe down the machine’s exterior. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s great for hygiene and helps you visualize your cleaning even better.

For cleaning the exterior, there’s no need to use bleach. All you have to do is mix some laundry detergent in warm water, dip a cloth in it, and wipe down the machine. After the soapy wipe, you can have an extra rinse with a cloth dipped in pure warm water.

What Happens if You Put Too Much Bleach in a Washing Machine?

Considering the harshness of bleach, it’s smart to find out what could happen to your washing machine if you go overboard with it while cleaning!

If you put too much pure bleach in your washing machine, none of its vital parts will be affected. Household bleach is strong enough to affect delicate objects like the human skin, but dilute enough to have little effect on the strong materials of a washing machine.

However, you can clog up your washing machine by putting too much bleach with other cleaning products in it. This mixture can cause a reaction that releases different gases, including chlorine. These gases are toxic and can damage your washing machine.

Is Bleach or Vinegar Better to Clean Washing Machines?

Bleach is better than vinegar for cleaning a washing machine. Vinegar is effective for dissolving soap scum and other hard-water deposits, but has little effect on disinfection. Bleach, on the other hand, is effective for both dissolving and disinfection.

For best results, you can use both cleaners at different times. This involves running a bleach wash cycle first, then rinsing it out and running a vinegar cycle. Ensure you don’t use both products at the same time to avoid releasing chlorine fumes.

Final Words

Despite its fantastic cleaning properties, bleach has harsh components that may have you skeptical about using it on your washing machine. However, with these tips, you’ve learned how to do it right. You’re all set to clean your washing machine!

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