Picture of a typical front loader washing machine, with its door slightly open, to minimize mold and mildew growth on the rubber seal.

How to Clean Front Loading Washing Machine with Bleach

Bleach is probably the most effective agent to use to clean and disinfect a front loading washing machine.  Even in small quantities, chlorine bleach virtually guarantees the halt of bacterial growths that lead eventually to a smelly front loader.

Bleach, coupled with the regular hot water cycle (or the sanitation cycle if your washer has one), is probably about the best you can do to assure a clean laundry machine.

Bleach run through a cycle in the washer deodorizes and sanitizes as well as loosens and removes most mold and mildew stains from most components inside, including that pesky door seal on front loading machines.  It also retards new buildup of mold for weeks after application.  Bleach is cheap, and a single gallon will adequately clean a front loader (assuming monthly application) for many moths or even years.  Bleach washer cleaning is likely the cheapest yet most effective way to sterilize your machine and minimize mold and mildew buildup within.

Cautions and Warnings

If your washer manufacture forbids bleach, then don’t use it!  However, some manufacturers forbid bleach be used in their front loaders, as it can damage the valves, hoses, fittings and filters in some models.  So, as with all the advice in this blog, the manufacturer’s instructions always supersede any hints and tips given here.

For informational purposes only.  Apply our suggestions here only after you’ve followed your washer maker’s cleaning instructions, and then, always, at your own risk.  We cannot assume any responsibility for damage you may cause to your washing machine.  Do not ever use chlorine bleach in a front loader unless the manufacturer recommends it.

Provide adequate ventilation.  Avoid using bleach in poorly ventilated areas.  We suggest opening windows or turning on any exhaust fans in your laundry area, as the smell or chlorine can grow quite strong; particularly when mixed with hot water, as it is when you clean your washer with it using the hot or sanitation cycle.

Don’t use too much!  Sterilizing your washing machine with bleach is a highly effective, economical way to deodorize it.  However, too much bleach can damage some machine components and create too strong a chlorine odor.  Plus, spilling it can damage floors and clothes as well as irritate the skin.  Further the smell of chlorine can become overbearing during the cycle.  So bleach is a last resort for us in keeping our machine sparkling clean and odor free.  But some folks like the strong bleach smell during cleaning, and don’t mind the risks.  For them, we suggest reading the instruction manual for the particular washing machine, to find out if laundering with bleach is okay.  If not, then DO NOT use bleach, which could result in expensive repair bills.

Concentrated Bleach Really Cleans Up that Front Loading Washer

Picture of a bottle of Great Value brand bleach, front view.
A bottle of Great Value brand bleach, front view.

1. use more bleach for dirtier washers.  For stubborn odors or visible accumulation of smelly dirt and growths on either the tub drum or seals, use a half-cup of bleach to loosen and remove mold and mildew buildup.

2. wipe out any loose dirt from drum.  If you often wash grimy work clothes and uniforms in your washer, the ridges in the tub may accumulate dirt, lint, and so on.  If so, wipe away the loose stuff with a damp cloths.

3. Add the bleach.  To clean using the washer’s sanitation or clean cycle, drop one quarter cup directly into washer tub. Do not put in the soap dispenser.  We also suggest that immediately upon bleach application, that you start the washer a going.  You don’t want concentrated bleach sitting the washtub for any longer than necessary.

4. Run a regular wash cycle, on highest heat with extra rinse.  Close / latch the door and run the washer on the REGULAR wash cycle, using HOT water. We suggest not using the CLEAN cycle in the bleach case, because heated bleach can smell quite strong and take long periods of time to disperse.  However, if you can deal with the strong bleach smell and you have adequate ventilation present, then by all means, use the CLEAN cycle.

5. Afterwards, rinse!  After the regular wash cycle finishes, run it again through a regular cleaning cycle with just hot water.  Add no bleach or detergent this time.  This assures that any last drops of bleach inside are rinsed away, and will thus, not discolor or otherwise damage your clothing in subsequent washings.

6. Open up the front loader and allow it to dry.  Once the washer finishes the cycle, open up the door and let stand overnight to allow faster drying of the drum and door.  However, if you plan on washing laundry immediately upon cleaning completion, you need not wait for the machine to dry.

7. You’re done!

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Revision History

  • 2017-02-08: Originally published.