This story is part of Try This, CNET's collection of simple tips to improve your life, fast.
One of the worst feelings in the world is completing a cycle of laundry only for it to come out smelling horrendous. The bad news is that your washing machine could have mold, mildew or bacteria. The good news is there's a quick fix -- regularly cleaning your washer can get you back to having that fresh laundry aroma.
Our handy dandy guide below outlines what you need to know to kill bacteria in your washer, and rid yourself of those awful smells. For more cleaning advice, here's how to get pet stains out of carpets, how to remove makeup stains from your bedding, and how to clean your mattress.
The best way to kill mold and bacteria in your washer
If you've got mold in your washer, here's how to get rid of it. Doing this monthly will help prevent mold growth.
1. Put on gloves and grab an old towel that you don't care about.
2. Mix a solution of either bleach and hot water or vinegar and hot water. (Never mix bleach and vinegar -- it creates toxic chlorine gas.)
3. Dip the towel in the mixture and start scrubbing away at any visible mold. Make sure to get the detergent dispenser and around the gaskets.
4. Front-loading machines have a gasket around the door. If you have a front loader, clean and dry it thoroughly, including all the folds.
5. Run the wash cycle on the hottest setting your machine offers with a cup of bleach or vinegar. If using bleach, pour it into the compartment designated for bleach. If using vinegar, pour it into the detergent slot.
If your machine has a self-clean cycle, you can use that setting. This should kill any hidden mold that you may have missed.
6. Use another old towel and wipe away all the moisture in your washing machine. This includes the drum, dispensers, seals and any other areas you can reach.
7. Leave the washer door open to allow airflow to dry out any parts you missed.
Leave the lid open if you're not washing clothes
Mold grows in dark, moist areas, which is what your washer becomes after you've unloaded the clothes. Keeping the lid closed traps moisture, which can lead to built-up bacteria and a bad smell.
Leaving the washing machine door open helps ventilate the area and prevents mold from growing in the first place.
Need to wash your clothes by hand? Here's how to do it rightSee all photos
Remove wet clothes right away
Damp clothes are another breeding ground for mold. If you're throwing a load of laundry in, make sure you'll be home to remove the clothes right when the timer goes off
Not only does this prevent mold from growing in your washer, but it keeps mildew out of your clean clothing, bedding and towels.
Dry damp seals and other parts after each use
After you're finished using your washing machine for the day, make sure to wipe down any part of the washer that's damp. This includes the lid, drum, door, rubber gaskets and detergent dispenser (if your machine has that feature).
Keep an old towel on hand for this purpose.
Make sure to dry the seals along with the rest of your washer to prevent moisture from sticking around. And while mold contamination can happen in any washer, it's especially common in high-efficiency (HE) front-loading washers. That's why you should regularly wash the gaskets and seals around the door and keep them dry. The gaskets make sure water doesn't leak out around the door and also do a good job of sealing in the moisture that can help mold grow.
You should also remove pet hair, crumpled paper or any other detritus from the machine right away.
If you have a high-efficiency washing machine
Liquid detergents can leave a residue in your washing machine, giving mold a food source. So if you have a high-efficiency washer, the first thing to do to keep mold in check is to make sure you're using a laundry detergent made specifically for this type of washer, which will produce fewer suds. (Look for the letters HE on the bottle.)
Better yet, steer clear of liquid detergent altogether and switch to powder detergent or pods. Whichever you choose, make sure you're only using as much as you need to wash your clothes. If you use too much, your clothes may have a smell and residue.
Once you've cleaned your washer, it's time to move on to the rest of your house. Start with the bathroom: Here's a simple one-hour hack for degunking your showerhead and how to unclog a toilet without a plunger.
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