Cleaning your washing machine might seem like the ultimate oxymoron, but every small, damp space is prone to mold, mildew and other unfortunate kinds of scum (not to mention a slew of nasty smells). Giving your washing machine a wash of its own will get rid of all these things and make your clothes cleaner. It's a win-win. How you clean your washer will depend on two things: if it's a front-loading or top-loading machine, and if you'd like to use bleach or opt for something a bit more gentle.
For the top-loading machine
For this example, we'll use the bleach version, though either cleansing concoction will work. Start by setting your washing machine on the hottest setting for the largest load, letting it fill entirely with water. Pour in two cups of bleach, then close the lid to let the water circulate for about a minute. After you reopen it, let it hang out for an hour so it can get rid of all the gross things that have accumulated. Run the washer through a cycle when the hour is over, and it's on to step two.
Fill the washer with water a second time, but this time pour in two cups of white vinegar. Repeat the process of letting the water mix around for a minute and then lifting the lid to let it sit for an hour. After you've run the washer through one more cycle, dip a sponge in vinegar and wipe down everything, from the dials to the bleach compartment. If a sponge just isn't doing the trick, try a microfiber cloth instead.
For the front-loading machine
This example is sans-bleach, instead employing a combo of baking soda and water. Before you start the machine, mix up a quarter cup of baking soda with a quarter cup of water and pour it in the detergent compartment. Fill a measuring cup with two cups of vinegar, and pour it directly into the drum. Setting the machine to the hottest, largest setting once again, go ahead and run it through a cycle.
Use the sponge-and-vinegar technique from the top-loading directions to get the gook around the opening of the machine clean. With front-loading machines in particular, mold and dirt can get trapped inside the rubber gaskets, making this an area that needs a little extra TLC. Soaking a towel in bleach (or baking soda and water) and stuffing it directly into the gasket will usually do the trick.
Regardless of what kind of washer you have, be sure to clean the inside of the door as well. Both the bleach and the baking soda will put a stop to mold growth and break up any existing mineral deposits, making your washer as good as new. To minimize mold and gross smells in the future, leave the door open after every load of laundry that you do, and set timers to remind you to remove wet clothing as soon as it's done being washed.
Maintaining a squeaky clean washer is just one way to keep your laundry or utility room on it's A-game. The next step? Investing in a superior wall storage system.