The condition of your washer and dryer has a significant impact on the level of cleanliness of your laundry. Routine cleaning of a clothes dryer is simply removing the lint after every load and quarterly checks and cleaning of dryer vents. Routine cleaning of clothes washers, both top-loading and front-loading models is also a simple process that should be done monthly.
But some situations require more extensive cleaning to ensure that the laundry appliances are sanitary and safe to use.
How Often to Disinfect a Washer and Dryer
Washers need to be disinfected after:
- Contamination by floodwater - floodwaters carry dangerous like Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, plus mold and yeast
- A water main break - the water can contain bacteria, silt and rust bacteria
- After washing clothes of someone who is ill - some viruses can survive if not washed at high temperatures
- After washing medical scrubs
- After washing clothes contaminated by bodily fluids
- After washing clothes contaminated by poison oak or ivy oils
- After washing or drying clothes contaminated by pesticides
- After washing or drying clothes contaminated by petroleum chemicals
If a washer or dryer has been through a flood or fire, have a technician check the electronics of the appliance before cleaning or using.
What You Need
- Scrub brush
- Cleaning cloth
- Old towels
How to Sanitize and Disinfect a Washer With Chlorine Bleach
The build-up of contaminants, residual detergent, and fabric softener can trap body soil and bacteria that causes terrible odors and transfer back to your clothes.
Set the Washer Water Temperature
Set the water temperature for the washer to the hottest setting. Be sure the washer is empty.
Add the Chlorine Bleach
Add one cup of chlorine bleach to the empty washer drum (both front load and top load models). Do not add any clothes.
Set the Washer Cycle
Set the washer to a full cycle with hot water rinse if available. Allow it to run through the entire cycle.
Scrub the Interior Components
When the cycle is complete, inspect the interior of the washer. Carefully check the rubber seals and gaskets and the inside of the appliance door or lid for signs of residue build-up or mold. Mix a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach and one quart of water. Dip a cloth or soft-bristled brush in the solution and scrub these areas to remove any build-up.
While inspecting, always check any detergent/fabric softener dispensers and give them a thorough cleaning.
Do a Final Rinse
Set the washer to the rinse/spin cycle and allow it to run to ensure all of the bleach is removed before doing a load of laundry.
Clean the Exterior of the Washer
Finally, clean the exterior of the washer—top, front, and sides—by wiping them down with a solution of chlorine bleach and hot water. Rinse with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.
How to Sanitize and Disinfect a Washer Without Chlorine Bleach
If you do not have or do not wish to use chlorine bleach, you can use pine oil, phenolic disinfectants (Lysol), or quaternary disinfectants to clean your washer.
Follow the usage directions on each product label and follow the same steps as listed above. Oxygen-based bleaches (OxiClean, Clorox 2, OXO Brite are brand names) do not provide disinfectant qualities.
Choose one method of cleaning and disinfecting a washer. Never mix cleaning chemicals.
How to Sanitize and Disinfect a Dryer
If laundry contaminated by bodily fluids, poison oak or ivy, pesticides or any type of chemicals has been placed in a clothes dryer on low heat or the air-only cycle, there is the possibility of cross-contamination with the next load of laundry. If chemicals or petroleum products were involved, there is even the possibility of fire. The dryer should be cleaned and disinfected.
Remove Lint From Dryer Screen
Wearing gloves, remove any lint from the lint screen. The lint can be contaminated and cause skin irritation. Dispose of properly.
Mix a Cleaning Solution
To clean a dryer drum, mix a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach and one-quart water.
If you don't wish to use chlorine bleach, follow the label directions and mix a solution of pine oil, phenolic disinfectant (Lysol), or quaternary disinfectant.
Wipe Down the Interior Dryer Drum
Wearing protective gloves, wipe down the entire surface of the dryer drum, the rubber seals and gaskets and the interior of the dryer door.
Rinse the Interior Drum
It is very important to then rinse all surfaces with a clean cloth dipped in plain water. Then, toss in a few old towels or rags and set the dryer to high and allow it to run for ten minutes to remove any residual cleaning solution.
Clean the Exterior of the Dryer
Finally, wipe down the outside of the dryer with a disinfect solution and rinse well with a cloth dipped in clear water.