How to Sanitize and Disinfect a Washer and Dryer

person loading a washer

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $20

Routine upkeep and sometimes extensive cleaning of your washer and dryer are necessary to ensure that the laundry appliances are sanitary and safe. Read on to learn how to sanitize these appliances, especially after your clothes have come in contact with a bacterial or viral illness, poison ivy, pesticides, or chemicals.

Warning

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 it.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Rubber gloves
  • Scrub brush
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Old towels
  • Bucket or other container for mixing

Materials

  • Chlorine bleach, pine oil, phenolic disinfectant, or quaternary disinfectant
  • Water

Instructions

materials for disinfecting a washer and dryer

The Spruce / Michele Lee

How to Sanitize a Washer With Chlorine Bleach

The buildup of contaminants, residual detergent, and fabric softener can trap bacteria and other debris in a washing machine. This can transfer back to your clothes, causing odor and potentially spreading disease. But you can get rid of it with a special cleaning using chlorine bleach.

  1. Set the Washer Water Temperature

    Set the water temperature for the washer to the hottest setting. Be sure the washer is empty.

    setting the water temperature

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  2. Add Chlorine Bleach

    Add 1 cup of chlorine bleach to the empty washer drum (both front-load and top-load models). Do not add any clothes.

    adding bleach to the washer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  3. 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.

    setting the washer cycle

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  4. 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 buildup or mold. Also, check any detergent or fabric softener dispensers. Mix a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach and 1 quart of water. Dip a cloth or soft-bristled brush in the solution, and scrub these areas to remove any buildup.

    disinfecting the interior components

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  5. 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.

    setting the rinse cycle

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  6. Clean the Exterior of the Washer

    Finally, clean the exterior of the washer—top, front, and sides—by wiping it down with a solution of a mild cleanser and hot water. Rinse with clean water, and dry with a soft cloth.

    cleaning the exterior of the washer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

How to Sanitize a Washer Without Chlorine Bleach

If you don't want to use chlorine bleach, you can use pine oil, phenolic disinfectants, or quaternary disinfectants to clean your washer. Pay attention to the usage directions on product labels, and follow the same steps for cleaning with chlorine bleach as listed above.

Warning

Choose one method of cleaning and disinfecting a washer and dryer. Never mix cleaning chemicals.

How to Sanitize a Dryer

If contaminated laundry has been placed in a clothes dryer on the low heat or air-only cycle, there is the possibility of cross-contamination with the next load of laundry. Plus, if certain chemicals or petroleum products were involved, there is even the possibility of fire. The dryer should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

  1. Remove Lint From the Dryer Screen

    Wearing gloves, remove any lint from the lint screen, and safely dispose of it. The lint can be contaminated and cause skin irritation, among other issues.

    removing the lint trap

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    To clean a dryer drum, mix a solution of 1/4 cup of chlorine bleach and 1 quart of water. If you don't wish to use chlorine bleach, mix a solution of pine oil, phenolic disinfectant, or quaternary disinfectant, following label instructions.

    mixing a cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  3. Wipe Down the Interior Dryer Drum

    Dip a cloth or soft-bristled scrub brush into your cleaning solution. Then, wipe the entire surface of the dryer drum, the rubber seals and gaskets, and the interior of the dryer door.

    wiping down the dryer drum

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  4. Rinse the Interior Drum

    It is very important to rinse all surfaces with a clean cloth dipped in plain water. Then, toss in a few old towels or rags, set the dryer to high, and allow it to run for 10 minutes to remove any residual cleaning solution.

    loading the dryer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  5. Clean the Exterior of the Dryer

    Finally, wipe down the outside of the dryer with your cleaning solution, and rinse well with a cloth dipped in clean water.

    cleaning the exterior of the dryer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bockmühl, Dirk P., et al. Laundry and Textile Hygiene in Healthcare and BeyondMicrobial Cell, vol. 6, no. 7, July 2019, pp. 299–306. doi:10.15698/mic2019.07.682

  2. Selection and Use of Home Cleaning Products. New Mexico State University.

  3. Comparing Different Disinfectants. Stanford University Environmental Health & Safety.

  4. Clothes Dryer Safety. Iowa State University Extension. 

  5. House Dust and Laundry Lint – Tiny Terrors of Environmental Health: What Do They Contain and What You Can Do. Duke University.