How to Sanitize and Disinfect a Washer and Dryer

Laundry Room

JazzIRT/Getty Images

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:

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.

What You Need

Supplies

Tools

  • 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.

Instructions

  1. Set the Washer Water Temperature

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

  2. 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.

  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.

  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 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.

  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.

  6. 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.

Warning

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.

Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.