How to clean a washing machine filter
Most people know to clean the dryer lint filter between loads. But did you know that some washing machine filters need to be cleaned too?
If you have an older washer, this advice might just be for you.
“Top loaders tend to have filters on the valves,” said Amber Peabody, Service Manager at Dunnett Inc. The valve filters sift the water going in and out of the pump and hoses.
If you do happen to have a removable filter, consult your owner’s manual on how to properly remove it.
“On older washers, the screens aren’t removable,” said Peabody. “You can take a Q-tip, or a wire brush, and scrub at it through the port. If the screen is removable, you can use some needle nose pliers to pull the little tab on the side, and pop the screen right out. Rinse it under the sink, and pop it back in.”
What does the washing machine filter do?
Like other filters, the washing machine filter siphons out the things you don’t want to collect in your washer — like dirt and lint.
“The filter collects detergent, bits of dirt and soil from your clothes,” said Allan Elkin, owner of General Appliance Service in Brewer, Maine. “Generally hot water and a scrub brush will take care of it. It can look disagreeable, but generally everything is water soluble. The exception would be hard water issues — some CLR would be good for that.”
If your machine doesn’t have a filter though, there’s still hope.
“If your machine doesn’t have a filter, you can change the washing temperature or detergent to prevent lint on your clothes,” said Elkin.
How to clean a washing machine filter
First, you need to locate the filter.
“Front loaders can have a trap door on the front of the machine, usually bottom right,” said Peabody.
Have a towel or basin ready in case some water comes out before you remove trap door. This is totally normal if it does. It’s a trap, with tiny holes that catch bigger things, like baby socks or small underwear, said Peabody. If too much gets in there, the water won’t drain as well. “It stinks after a while,” said Peabody.
Don’t forget to clean the compartment of any leftover debris, then replace the cleaned trap inside its compartment.
“If your machine doesn’t have a drawer on the front, you’d have to lean the washer against the wall and do the cleaning process from underneath,” said Peabody.
What else should be cleaned in a washing machine?
To keep your washing machine in tip top shape, there are other places in the washer that should be cleaned. Cleaning the drum and the inside of the washing machine helps prevent bacteria, bad smells, mold and mildew.
“How often you clean your washer depends on how often you do laundry, and how much sediment is in your water,” said Peabody.
Most machines have a tub clean cycle. Add some washer cleaner, Affresh works well, and let it run, Peabody said. The cycle and the cleaner take care of soap build up and cleans up the hoses, which extends the life of the washer.
“You can use vinegar, but it’s not as effective,” said Peabody.
Leave the washer door open after use to keep it fresher for longer; it gives the door seal a chance to dry out and prevents any bacteria from breeding inside the drum.
The detergent drawer is another part of the washing machine that doesn’t get cleaned as often as it should. Consult your owner’s manual on how to remove the drawer. If it has a plastic insert, remove it and clean it separately.
“Most detergent drawers are removable, and should be washed,” said Peabody. “They can get pretty nasty.”
While you’re cleaning the detergent drawer, don’t forget to clean the compartment. Take a scrub brush and get the residue off, then put the cleaned drawer back in.
What if I have a newer washing machine?
Every washing machine model is built differently, and newer models tend to have coin traps instead of actual filters. A quick read of your owner’s manual will let you know how your washer works, and what kind of filter system it has.
“Some top loaders have no filters,” said Allan Elkin, owner of General Appliance Service in Brewer, Maine. “Front loaders generally have a filter in the drain pump, which is external to the machine. You’d have to take it all apart to get to the filter. You don’t see washing machine filters very often now.”
Maintaining a clean washer extends its life, and keeps it working at top capacity. If you use it often, you should clean it more often, but usually cleaning a washing machine once every 3 to 4 months is sufficient.