I realize I hadn’t written a DIY post in a while, so today is where I do just that. Today, I am going to teach you how to properly DEEP CLEAN your washing machine for mold.
Wait! I have already talked about this, right? Well, sort of. I wrote a post about laundry and about cleaning your washing machine for mold periodically as a preventative measure and to remove an surface mold or grime. (Click HERE to read that post.) BUT, this post is different. This post gets into the nitty-gritty of taking apart and cleaning your washing machine. This post details a technique that you only should have to do every other year or so, if you are using my other cleaning technique. I have actually found that since I have been using the “maintenance cleaning,” we were able to wait almost 3 years before having to do this deep cleaning again. This is a rather large job and time-consuming, but is incredibly necessary for maintaining a healthy home, especially if you are mold sensitive.
Ok. So have you ever entered your laundry room and been confronted with a musty smell? If after careful investigation, you do not find water intrusion or another source of mold, chances are, your washing machine itself is the culprit. Think about it. If you are anything like me, you use your washing machine multiple times a day. Therefore, it stays pretty wet, never fully drying out between loads. Also, debris and lint can get imbedded in the little holes in the drum of the machine. This organic material is perfect food for mold to grow on. Then, if you wash large loads, as I do, you can have a slight overflow effect, where water and sometimes detergent can spill over the drum and get trapped between the tub and inner basin of the machine. Water can sit in this cavity of sorts and cause mold growth. Any mold growing in hard-to-clean spots will get into your clothes and linens, and make everything smell musty–not to mention these mold spores can be disturbed and made airborne to get into other areas of your home by running a moldy machine. Convinced you should keep reading? If not, wait for my pictures. That will sell you.
Let’s just say, we had noticed this musty smell in the laundry room in our home. We knew that the normal washing machine cleaning wasn’t solving the problem. It had to be deeper in the machine, more internal, if you will. Luckily for me, my husband is extremely handy, and was able to disassemble our washing machine in no time. You can also call a local handyman/repair person to dismantle and clean your machine for you, if taking it apart yourself is daunting. Just make sure you have the person cleaning it follow my cleaning instructions, and make sure they use the proper products to ensure that the mold is gone. Just so you have the information, I called a couple of local handymen to price this out. I had quotes from $50-$100 to do this for me.
At this time in my post, I will caution you to wear disposable gloves and use a a breathing mask (you can buy both at Home Depot), especially if you are susceptible to sickness caused by mold exposure. You will be having direct contact with a possibly moldy area and disturbing it will release mold spores into he air. So, in my opinion, you cannot be too cautious.
We have a top-loading machine, so if you aren’t inherently handy and need specific instructions on how to dismantle it to clean it, here is a YouTube video that takes you through all of the steps:
You are not replacing the drum, like he is in the video, but you need to separate the drum from the basin to do this cleaning. Once he lifts the drum out, you are where you need to be with disassembly to properly clean the machine.
If you have a front-loading machine, here is a YouTube video that will show you how to remove your washing machine drum for deep cleaning: https://youtu.be/zjULf1lLW5U.
The most important thing to remember with these machines is to also thoroughly clean inside and around the detergent dispenser once you remove it—this is a place where detergent overflow gets trapped and creates mold. Also remember to thoroughly clean and dry out the rubber liner at the front of the machine. This is often a huge source of hidden mold for front loaders. Use the same process and products that I outline below to do this properly.
Ok. Now that you have performed surgery and have everything opened up, you will more than likely have revealed the obvious source of your musty smell. Ours was mostly from water that was trapped between the basin and the drum that had started to grow some mold. There was also some mold in the center cavity of the machine where the fabric softener reservoir is (fabric softener is food for mold) We had to get down into that and remedy the problem.
Here are the somewhat gross pictures of what we found inside our washing machine after it was dismantled:
Now, if there is standing water inside the drum, it is likely that your washing machine is not draining properly. This is an entirely different fix and will require repairing, unclogging or replacing the drain, which is NOT what this post is about. If that is your issue, get the drain fixed first. You can clean the machine later. Also, many new machines have a drain at the bottom to empty the water that accumulates in the lowest portion of the machine. This can be easily done regularly to prevent standing water from growing mold and bacteria.
Back to cleaning: You will need your cleaning products at this time. What I recommend using is a combination of tried and true mold eliminating products. The first is a hydrogen peroxide solution. Just pour 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. (You can purchase this type of hydrogen peroxide online or at a building supply store, like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Drugstore hydrogen peroxide is usually at a much lower percentage and will not be as effective.) Spray the inside of the basin and drum with this solution and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. I know it seems long, but studies have shown that for peroxide to effectively kill pathogens, bacteria and mold, it needs at least that amount of time to fully oxidize and have its wonderful “preventative” effect, in which it inhibits future mold growth. After 10 minutes, take dry paper towels and wipe everything down completely. Repeat this process until any visible mold is gone. Now spray both the drum, inner basin, and any other place where you found and cleaned mold all over with EC3 Mold Solution Spray—or, you can mix your own spray using the EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate. Allow the spray to air dry completely. Once clean and bone dry, reassemble your washing machine, so that it is ready for use.
Here are our AFTER pictures. As you can see, the cleaning made a world of difference. Our clothes and laundry smelled so much fresher and cleaner afterward.
As you see, the hard part here is really in the disassembly and reassembly of the machine. The cleaning part is quite easy.
Please let me know if you get around to doing this. It is amazing how much better your laundry will smell and how much cleaner your clothes will be with this simple fix.