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Whenever we think back a period or two in history, the image of people washing clothes in a river is iconic. Washers – for as much trouble as they give us – are responsible for saving hours of hard labour in almost every household across the country.
As much time as they save us, though, washers sure can give us trouble!
From leaking water, to loud bangs and noises, to smelly clothes – a malfunctioning washer can make you consider going down to the river and just washing your clothes by hand.
Thankfully, by following the tips in this article you’ll be able to make sure your washer is operating well and lasting a full lifespan of up to 15 years. Not to mention monthly cost savings from making sure your washer is working efficiently and racking up a big electric bill.
We worked out that these annual cost savings – plus the savings from not needing to buy a new washer for years longer – can be up to $540! And all from just following the tips in this article.
If that sounds good, then let’s dive in.
Grab Your Gear
Just like a chef needs their mise en place, any good DIY job starts with gathering the tools we need.
The most important tool here is your washer’s manual. No idea where yours is? Don’t worry! Appliance manuals go missing easier than cookies in a jar. Thankfully, everything’s online these days.
To find your refrigerator’s manual, just do a google search for:
–> “[Brand] Washer [Model #] Manual PDF”
Just replace [Brand] with the washer’s brand and [Model #] with the model #. Not sure what yours is? You should be able to find the model number printed on a label on the inside of the door, behind the kickplate, or at the rear of the appliance.
When it comes to tools, you’ll need:
- A bubble / spirit level
- A brush/vacuum
- A positive attitude!
All set? Then let’s get started!
Washer Health Check – Essentials
When you regularly inspect your washer, you extend its lifespan, protect your clothes, and prevent water leaks.
This is why we’ve prepared a list of 5 things you should check to keep your washer operating safely and effectively:
#1 Make Sure It Is Level
Now, it’s time for us to make sure your washing machine is level.
By doing this, you’ll limit its movement during the spin cycle and will keep it from damaging itself and your floor. It also helps make sure the components are under normal stresses, and aren’t getting more wear and tear due to vibrating at an angle.
Follow this quick guide to level your washer:
- Make sure there’s no water or clothes in the drum.
- Unplug the washing machine from the wall outlet.
- Use spirit level / carpenter’s bubble.
- Check the level of your washer side to side and front to back. If the bubble isn’t centered, you’ll have to level your machine.
- Carefully tilt your washing machine back to access the adjustable feet. If possible, ask a friend for help, since the appliance can be heavy.
- Turn the front leveling feet counterclockwise to lower the washer feet, or clockwise to raise them. You can do this by hand or with pliers.
- Use the spirit level again to check if the washing machine is now level again.
- If your washer is level, tighten the lock nuts above each foot.
#2 Give Your Washer Some Personal Space
Most modern washers have a heating element that is responsible for heating the water to the desired temperature. This component is usually located on the back of the machine.
By making sure there are at least 4 inches (10.16 cm) of space between your washer and the wall, you’ll prevent heat buildup, and you’ll keep the hoses from bending or kinking.
Moreover, washers can move around the room during the spin cycle. So, if you make sure yours has enough “breathing room”, you’ll keep it from damaging the appliances that are next to it.
Don’t forget to make sure you have comfortable access to your machine. You should be able to fully open the lid and remove the laundry.
#3 Clean Filters
Washing machines have a filter designed to trap lint and other debris released during the wash cycle.
By cleaning this filter regularly – once a quarter or so – you’ll make sure your washer leaves your clothes clean.
Follow these simple instructions to clean the filter:
- Find the filter. It is usually located inside the agitator, near the water pump, at the end of the drain hose, or at the top rim of the drum. Check your manual for detailed instructions.
- Remove the filter and use a cloth to gently wipe away any lint or debris.
- Fill a large bowl with hot water and 1 tsp of dish soap or laundry liquid detergent. Then, soak the filter in the soapy water.
- Use a soft brush to scrub the filter and rinse with water.
- Put the filter back in place.
Bear in mind that new high-efficiency washing machines have a self-cleaning pump that traps lint. If you have a HE washer, check the pump regularly and if needed, clean it.
#5 Use High-Efficiency Detergent
On average, traditional washers use more than 40 gallons (ca. 151 liters) of water per load, whereas high-efficiency washers use about 10 gallons (37.85 liters).
Having a high-efficient washer can help you save up to 25% on your utility bills!*
*The amount of water used on the wash cycle can vary depending on the brand and model you own.
If you have a High-Efficiency washer, you’ll need to use a HE detergent, since this is formulated to be low sudsing (ideal for washers that use less water).
You can use a High-Efficiency detergent on a traditional washer, but I don’t recommend using a traditional detergent in a HE washer, because you may end up with too many suds. This can affect the cleaning performance.
You can easily know if you have a HE detergent by checking the container or packing. You’ll see a “HE” symbol.
Washer Health Check – Habits
Now that we’ve touched on the essentials, let’s cover some healthy habits. These are often simple changes you can make in your routine, but over the years they can add up to really keeping your washer healthier (and your clothes fresher!)
Follow these 9 simple tips to ensure you’re giving your washer and clothes the care they deserve:
#1 Read the Care Labels on Clothing
Sometimes people tend to ignore the care labels on their clothes and wash them in the wrong cycle.
Unfortunately, doing this can damage your clothes. They may shrink, the colors may fade, and the material can wrinkle and pull.
Please make sure you read the care labels on your clothes before putting them in the washing machine. This way, you’ll avoid damaging them.
Care labels have different symbols, take a look at the following image to learn what they mean.
#2 Check the Pockets
It’s common to forget to check and empty our pockets before washing our clothes.
Unfortunately, any metal objects, such as keys or coins, can damage the outer tub and inner drum of the washer. They can also shatter the machine’s glass or clog the drain pipe.
Moreover, these objects can damage your clothes.
This is why I recommend doing a quick check of all your pockets before you throw them into the washing machine.
Tip: Make sure there are no tissues or paper towels in your pockets. Otherwise, your clothes will end up with little bits of torn-up tissue.
#3 Put Detergent in the Right Place
It’s important you put the laundry detergent in the right place, otherwise, you may damage your clothes and machine.
You see, the detergent, bleach, and fabric softener are dispensed at different times during the washing cycle to ensure that your clothes come out clean and soft.
So, if you put, for example, bleach on the fabric softener dispenser, your clothes will be stained.
This is why you should always check your manual and make sure you’re putting the laundry detergent in the correct dispenser.
If you use laundry pods, you’ll need to put them in the bottom or back of your washing machine’s drum before adding your clothes
#4 Add the Right Amount of Detergent
Although using a large amount of laundry detergent may seem like it may clean your clothes better, it can affect your washer’s cleaning and rinsing performance.
If you use more detergent than needed, you’ll end up with too many suds that will make your machine work harder and trigger extra wash cycles. Too much detergent can also leave your clothes feeling stiff or scratchy.
As a general rule, you should add 1 tablespoon of detergent for small loads and about 1.5 or 2 tablespoons for medium loads.
But, please note that the amount of laundry detergent required may vary depending on the size of the load, your washer’s model (HE or traditional), and the soil level of your clothes.
#5 Put Delicate Clothes in Laundry Bags
Although most washers offer “Delicate” settings, sometimes the agitator or impeller mechanism can be rough on fine washables, such as silk, lace, or wool.
Try putting your delicate clothes in mesh laundry bags to wash them. This way, you’ll keep your machine from damaging them.
If you don’t have a mesh laundry bag, don’t worry. You can buy one on Amazon for less than $10 USD, or you can use a pillowcase!
#6 Don’t Overload or Under-Load It
If you’re short on time and want to wash your clothes in just one load, you might want to reconsider it.
Clothes won’t move freely and get evenly clean if you overload your washer. Moreover, you can damage the drum and affect your machine’s performance.
Underloading your washer isn’t good either. It’s a huge waste of electricity, water, and money. Moreover, this can cause your washer to become off-balance.
When putting your clothes in the washer, make sure they have enough room to move. Try filling 3/4 of the drum for the best washing results.
#7 Select the Appropriate Cycle
As you have probably noticed, washers offer different washing cycles and settings.
Most modern washing machines allow you to select the water temperature, size of the load, and type of fabrics. This way, you can ensure your washer’s effectiveness and prevent damaging your clothes.
You should always make sure you’re selecting the appropriate cycle before washing your clothes. For example, if you’re going to wash fragile items, you should select the “Delicate” cycle with cold water.
Tip: Don’t forget to read the care labels on your clothes. This way, you’ll make sure you’ve selected the correct cycle.
#8 Don’t Leave Wet Clothes in the Washer
We’ve all forgotten to take out the clothes from the washing machine. Unfortunately, mold and bacteria can easily grow in wet environments.
Mold can damage your clothes and cause bad odors, so you may need to wash them again. This can increase your electricity bill.
Moreover, mold buildup will result in needing to deep clean your washer more often or even call a professional to repair it.
So, if you tend to forget to take out the clothes from the washer, I recommend setting a timer on your phone.
#9 Leave the Door Open After Every Use
After the washing cycle finishes, moisture can be trapped in your machine and lead to mold.
This is why you should always leave the washer door open for at least 30 minutes after every use.
If leaving the door open after every use is not an option for you, try using a cloth or a paper towel to dry your washer.
Washer Health Check – Maintenance
Washing machine maintenance will help you avoid breakdowns that could permanently damage your appliance. It will also help you save money, water, and energy.
These tips require a bit more elbow grease, but they’re the secret to preventing longer-term problems with your washer.
Follow these maintenance tips to keep your washer in tip-top condition:
#1 Deep Clean Your Washer
Dirt and grime can build up on your washing machine over time. This can cause bad smells and could leave residues on your clothing.
To ensure your clothes are as clean as possible, you should deep clean your washer every three to six months.
Here’s how to deep clean a top–load washer:
- Make sure your washer is empty and set it to the hottest setting, longest cycle, and largest load. If your washer has a cleaning setting, please select it.
- As the washing machine fills, please add 3 cups of vinegar. Let the washer start to agitate and stop the cycle.
- Add 1/2 cup of baking soda and turn on the agitator again.
- Stop the cycle and wait for at least 30 minutes. Then, run the washer until it finishes.
- Remove the fabric softener dispenser, detergent trays, and agitator. Then, mix vinegar and baking soda and soak a soft brush in the cleaning solution. Clean these compartments.
- Clean the filter and the door gasket with an all-purpose cleaner or with equal parts of water and vinegar.
- Use a cotton swab or soft brush to scrub under the lid and around the underside of the lid.
- Clean the outside of your washing machine with an all-purpose cleaner or vinegar with a microfiber cloth.
- Leave the door open so everything dries thoroughly.
If you have a front-load washer, follow these steps to deep clean it:
- Make sure your washer is empty and select the cleaning cycle. If your washer doesn’t support this cycle, please set it to the hottest setting, longest cycle, and largest load.
- Add 2 cups of vinegar to the detergent tray and allow the washing machine to complete the wash cycle.
- Remove the bleach, fabric softener, and detergent dispensers.
- Fill a bucket with warm water and vinegar or a few drops of dish soap. Drop the trays into the bucket and let them soak.
- Pick the trays and clean them with a soft brush or sponge. Rinse them with water and use a microfiber cloth to dry them. Then, put them back in place. By cleaning these dispensers, you’ll avoid buildup and odors.
- Clean the gasket and the machine exterior with an all-purpose cleaner or with equal parts of water and vinegar.
- Leave the door open so everything dries thoroughly.
#2 Check Your Water Hoses
Water leaks are very common, and they’re normally caused by a damaged or old hose in your washing machine.
According to the North Texas Municipal Water District, a washer’s hose can leak up to 10–12 gallons per minute (more than 14,000 gallons in 24 hours).
The longer you wait to fix a leak, the more money you spend (you can lose more than $100 USD a day!)
You should check your hoses for cracks or kinks once or twice a year. By doing this, you’ll prevent water leaks, save money, and protect the environment.
Wear and tear can cause hoses to lose their flexibility over time, this is why they usually last three to five years.
If your water hoses are old or damaged, please detach them from the washer and install new ones. Don’t forget to make sure they’re properly inserted before using your appliance.
#3 Check the Door Seal
The door gasket prevents water from flowing out of your washer and keeps the door closed.
Unfortunately, if it becomes damaged or moldy, you’ll experience all sorts of issues while trying to wash your clothes.
To prevent this issue from happening, try checking the door seal.
If the gasket is dirty, please clean it. To do it, I recommend mixing equal parts of water and vinegar. Then, use a microfiber cloth and a soft brush (you can use an old toothbrush) to remove dirt.
If you notice that it is broken, you just need to replace it with a new one. This is as easy as finding a replacement part online (just type in your model number and “replacement door seal”), pop the old one off and place the new one on.
#4 Clean Behind
As you may already know, mold and mildew can easily grow in damp environments.
So, if you’d like to prevent this issue and avoid dust accumulation, you should clean behind your washing machine every three to six months.
Bear in mind that if you have a water leak, you have to immediately clean behind your machine.
To clean behind your washing machine, you’ll need to:
- Pull the machine in front.
- If the floor is wet, use clean towels to absorb the water.
- Vacuum the back of the washer and mix warm water, vinegar, and essential oils to mop the floor (you can also use a commercial floor cleaner).
- Dry the floor with a microfiber cloth.
- After the area dries up, push the washer back in place.
You’ve Done It!
You made it! If you followed along with this guide, you may have just saved yourself $500, or even more.
I hope you can agree that none of these tips were complicated. Sure, we need a bit of elbow grease and some determination, but it’s all pretty straightforward.
By following this guide, you’ve made sure:
- Your washer is level and working correctly
- It’s not smacking against anything, risking damage
- It’s not being overworked by using the wrong settings
- It’s able to exhaust warm air properly, making it need to work less
- You’re following great habits to make sure your washer isn’t working harder than it needs to
With your effort today I’m positive you’ve just made a great reduction in your energy bills, and added YEARS of good working life to your washer – delaying the need to buy a whole new one anytime soon.
If you found this guide helpful, make sure to check out the rest of our appliance challenge. In total our guides can save you over $1,000 a year by just following simple walkthroughs like this one!
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