disinfecting your washer and Dryer

Gloved hand cleaning washing machine exterior.

Before you gather up those dirty duds and head to the laundry room, take a moment to sanitize the space. 

The condition of your washer and dryer plays a significant role in the cleanliness of your clothing.

Disinfecting your washer and dryer is essential to maintaining your clothing investment and your family's health.

Here's how to sanitize your washing machine and dryer.

Disinfecting Your Washer

Clean your washer weekly with an easy vinegar treatment. Then call out the heavier arsenal to disinfect your washing machine monthly - or at least semi-annually - to kill germs that may have taken up residence there.

If a virus cycles through your home, jump in with some ASAP disinfection.

The Cleaning Routine for Washers

To control germs in your washer, run a full cycle using hot water at the maximum fill setting once a week. Add two cups of distilled white vinegar after the machine fills. Do not launder any clothing or add detergent during this cycle.

Its purpose is to dissolve residue and kill germs in the machine and drain.

Steps to Disinfecting Your Washer 

Disinfecting your washer monthly or immediately after washing the clothes of someone who is sick. A surprising number of hardy germs can survive a warm-water swim.

You should also be disinfecting your washer after running a load of clothes contaminated with poison oak or poison ivy, pesticides, or petroleum chemicals.

Disinfecting is especially important if you regularly wash in cold water. Washing machines collect dirt, grime, and bacteria from your clothes, towels, and bedding.

If you only use cold water, the laundry detergent and fabric softener's residual buildup can trap and hold germs and bacteria in a washing machine.

These buggers can transfer back to your clothes, causing odor and potentially spreading disease.

Here's how to sanitize your washing machine using chlorine bleach.

  • Set the washer's water temperature to hot. If your washing machine has a sanitizing cycle, use it. Otherwise, choose a heavy-duty or cotton setting.
  • Add 1 cup of bleach to the washer drum (both front-load and top-load models.) Do not add any clothes.
  • Run a full cycle.
  • When the cycle is complete, check inside the washer and especially under the lid and her rubber seals for signs of mold or residual detergent. If you find any grime scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush and a diluted bleach solution (i.e., 4 teaspoons of bleach added to 1 quart of water).

Cleaning Washing Machine Drawers

Remove all dispensers (detergent, bleach, and fabric softener) and filters, and wash them in the sink in warm soapy water. Rinse, dry completely, and replace. Run another rinse cycle to ensure that all bleach is removed before doing a load of laundry.

Clean the exterior. Wipe the top, front, and side clean with a solution of chlorine bleach and hot water. Don't forget any knobs. Rinse and dry with a soft cloth. 

Dryer Duty

To control germs in your dryer, clean the drum's inside with a disinfecting wipe or bleach solution once a week. Also disinfect it after running a load of clothes contaminated with poison oak or poison ivy, pesticides, or petroleum chemicals. 

Routine maintenance should include emptying the lint screen after each load.

But even if you consistently clear the lint screen, particles can accumulate at other places along the exhaust system - as fine as your lint screen is, some lint particles will still be finer.

One tip-off to a clogged vent: your clothes don't seem to dry in one cycle. Rather than risk a fire, plan to check the venting system every six months. 

Be sure to wait until the dryer is completely cool to follow these disinfecting steps.

1.  Remove the lint screen. Clear it of any lint buildup, then soak the filter in the sink in warm soapy water.

2. Ready a cleaning solution. Add 4 teaspoons of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water. Or use pine oil, phenolic disinfectant, or quaternary disinfectant following label instructions.

3.  Wipe the dryer drum. Dip a soft cloth into the cleaning solution. Wipe the dryer drum's surface, the rubber seals and gaskets, and the interior of the dryer door, using enough solution to make surfaces visibly wet. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.

4. Return to the lint screen. While your disinfectant solution is doing its work on the dryer drum, go back to your soaking lint screen. Rinse it, shake off excess moisture, then allow it to air-dry.

5.  Rinse the drum well with a cloth dipped in water. Then wipe the drum dry with a clean cloth or allow it to air-dry.

6.  Clean the exterior. Wipe down the outside of the dryer, including any knobs, handles, and the door with the cleaning solution. Use an electronics disinfecting wipe on any control panels. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Rinse well with a cloth dipped in water. Allow it to air-dry or buff dry.

7.  Replace the lint screen once dry. 

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