All Hail the Queen of Clean. Day after day, she loads and unloads, fluffs, folds and then re-loads the next day.

The only thing that works harder than the Queen of Clean? The washer and dryer.

Those poor machines. Working like peasants to keep up with the endless cycle of laundry. The warning signs are there, but they go unnoticed: Clothes emerge from the washer with a fuzzy coating. A drying cycle seems to take longer and longer.

A revolt is near.

We abuse our washers and dryers, loading them with muddy jeans, soiled cleaning rags, and heavy jeans.

These hard-working machines need a little TLC in order to boost performance and prevent breakdowns.  Without regular maintenance, these appliances perform poorly, increase the utility bill, burn out the motors, and can cause a fire from excess lint.

Set aside time each month to clean them, and reap significant savings and extend the life of these household heavy-lifters.

Washer and Dryer Maintenance Tips for Top Performance

Washing Machines

Front Load Machines: High-efficiency and front load machines use less water and energy, and that can cause build-up from detergent residue, dirt, grime, and pet fur, reducing performance and making them stinky.

There are two areas to maintain: The drain hose and rubber molding inside the door.

Drain Hose: Most front loading washers have a drain hose that needs to be maintained monthly. Overlook this, and water can back up into the washer’s drum and cause a leak. That’s a $150 repair at the very least. Maintain by following these steps:

  • Locate the access panel (it is usually on the front of the washer in either the lower right or left side).
  • Pop off the access panel and locate a small black hose with a cap.
  • Before cleaning the hose, grab a small bucket or container to catch and hold the water that will be located inside, plus an old towel to mop up any spills.
  • Open the access door, gently unclip the hose and remove the cap.
  • Hold a finger over the tip of the hose and aim the hose down into the bucket.
  • Remove your finger and let the water flush out (Don’t panic if a lot of soapy water comes out! This is normal).
  • Once all the water has emptied, replace the cap, re-clip the hose and replace the access cover.

Rubber Molding: Inspect the rubber door seal for mold and mildew.

  • Pull back the seal and look inside every crevice.
  • If there is mildew, mix ½ cup of bleach with a liter of warm water. Moisten a clean cloth and wipe the rubber collar to remove the mildew.
  • If there is no mildew, use a warm wet cloth to wipe out any gunk. Then wipe out the detergent, bleach and fabric softener dispensers.
  • Clean the top, sides and front of the washer, then leave the washer door open to dry.

Top Load Machines: Some top loading machines have lint traps. It can be located in the agitator, at the top of the washer on the rim of the tub, or attached to the washing machine’s drainage hose. Once it has been located:

  • Remove the lint screen (if possible) or simply peel any loose lint from the filter and scrub away any extra lint with a paper towel or sponge.
  • If the screen is removed, soak it in a sink or bucket filled with hot water for a few minutes before replacing it (hot water helps to dissolve any leftover detergent or fabric softener residue).
  • Use an old toothbrush to gently scrape the screen to ensure any remaining residue is removed.
  • Dry with a soft cloth and return to the machine. Check for any loose lint that may have dropped into the wash basin and remove.
  • Wipe out the detergent, bleach and fabric softener dispensers.
  • Clean the top, sides and front of the washer, then leave the washer door open to dry.

Front loading and top loading machines: Clean the tub once a month using one box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda.

  • Fill the washing machine with hot water on the largest setting with no laundry.
  • Add one box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda.
  • Set to the longest soak cycle, then allow the washing machine to run a complete soak, wash and rinse cycle.
  • Run one last rinse cycle to completely clean the machine (if there are strong odors, run an additional cycle with 2 cups vinegar using the same directions above).
  • When finished, allow the washer to dry by leaving the door open.


Like the washer, there are many new energy efficient models that use less energy, remove wrinkles and gently steam clean clothes, saving many trips to the dry cleaners.

This section does not discuss how to clean the dryer vent hose. Remember it is important to clean it at least twice a year to remove lint buildup and avoid fires!

In addition, the lint vent and trap need to be cleaned. Dryer sheets leave a film on the lint screen that can lead to problems because it blocks the airflow, making the dryer run longer, use more energy, and burn out the heating unit sooner. Keeping the dryer lint screen clean can help double the life of a dryer.

  • Remove the screen and pull off all visible lint.
  • Fill a sink or bucket with hot water.
  • Add dish detergent to the water and agitate it to mix in the detergent.
  • Place the lint trap into the water and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Use an old toothbrush to gently scrape the screen to remove any remaining residue. Dry with a soft towel and set aside while cleaning the trap.

DIY Lint Trap Cleaner

For less than a dime, it is possible to create a lint trap cleaner that makes it easier to get into this hard-to-access area and remove excess lint not captured by the lint screen. Beware: What you find may disgust you!


  • One wire hanger
  • Several Sheets of Paper Towels
  • Rubber Bands, Binder Clips or Tape


  • Take apart a wire hanger and extend it. Curve the bottom portion back onto itself and leave the top curved portion as your “handle.”
  • Wrap a paper towel tightly around the bottom of the hanger and secure the bottom and top with either rubber bands, tape, or a binder clip (Tip: make this narrow enough that it will fit inside the dryer’s lint trap).
  • Dampen the paper towel slightly so the lint will adhere. Place the paper towel end of the hanger into the trap and begin to turn it around and around (Just pretend like you are making cotton candy!)
  • If the trap is located inside the drum, peer inside the trap to see how much lint has fallen to the bottom (Yikes!) Use the hanger/towel to scoop up the lint from the bottom of the trap.
  • As the lint comes out, grab it and throw it into a nearby trash can. Repeat this process, replacing the damp towels when they are soiled until all the lint is removed.
  • If the lint trap is located on top of the machine, scoop the lint up the trap and remove and throw away. It may be necessary to bend the hanger to curve it into the trap.
  • Replace the lint screen. Use clean paper towels to wipe up any excess lint that may have fallen into the dryer or on the floor, remove and throw away the dirty paper towels from the hanger, and hang your new tool on a hook for the next cleaning.

A DIY lint trap cleaner costs less than $0.10, and that’s a bargain! To purchase the same product from a store, expect to pay the following:

  • Lint Lizard: $10.99
  • Dryer Max Lint Removal Kit: $16.95
  • Home Smart Dryer Maid Ball $13.00

 This is a guest post by Deborah from San Diego, CA
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Perform Washer and Dryer Maintenance to Maximize Savings