Cleaning 101: The Laundry Room

Hello Readers!  You know, nothing says clean like a fresh load of laundry straight off the clothesline in your backyard in the summertime!  The fresh and crisp scent of the warm sun permeates your clothes and warms your skin no matter how long it’s been since they were out on the line.  I love that scent!  It takes me back to my childhood summers spent helping my grandmother with her laundry and with the clothes on the line every summer day.

Sadly, the clothesline is about to become unusable as our days become colder and shorter in the Fall and Winter.  So, we need to resort to using our dryer full time once again.  Right now, we need to turn our focus to the laundry room and the facilities.  Trust me; if you have had your machines for at least a year and you haven’t cleaned them, it is time to get out the products and start cleaning.  Your washing machine is a hotbed for mildew action, and that dryer is a fire just waiting to happen!  If you don’t take care of it now, then you can look forward to a future full of funky smells and long drying times.  Of mildew-scented and constantly damp clothes with every load.

If that headache isn’t enough to jump start your cleaning frenzy, then maybe the scary thought of a house fire will.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 357,000 house fires from 2009 to 2013.  In 2010 alone, there were 16,800 fires caused by washers and dryers.  It’s a scary thought, especially when you can do something to prevent these fires.  So, what causes these types of fires?

Of course, with dryers it’s the lint.  Even if you thoroughly clean the lint trap every time you dry your clothes (every single particle of lint, that is), the lint trap does not catch all of it.  It catches the majority, about 90 percent of the lint, but over time that 10 percent not caught gets trapped in your dryer vent, builds up into a mass, overheats with the dryer usage, and catches on fire.  If you use fabric softening sheets in your dryer or other fabric softening products in your dryer, your statistics are worse.  Those products are great for softening your clothes and ridding you of static electricity; even I use them for that, especially because we live in a very dry region and deal with static electricity all day long.  But the softeners in those products cling to the lint, which gets caught in your lint trap.  And then it clings to your dryer, especially when everything is hot.  And when it cools down, it clings to the lint trap like wax to linens.  And no matter how diligent you are in removing the clothes (and cleaning the trap) as soon as the dryer is done, you still have to worry about the fabric softeners clogging up your lint trap.

So, how do you fix that?  Well, you can relax in knowing that you can still use your fabric softeners.  Regardless, you will still have to clean the vents and remove the excess lint routinely.  For an average household of four people, the dryer should be cleaned once per year. To clean your dryer properly, you will need the following cleaning tools and products:

  1. Dryer vent brush-try to find a flexible one.  The one I have looks like a giant gray pipe cleaner with a handle.  Make sure it has a long handle, too.
  2. Toothbrush or dish-scrubbing brush.  This needs to have bristles, so no Brillo or SOS pads; keep those for scrubbing out your pots and the coffee pot.
  3. Dish soap-Your favorite brand should work just fine.
  4. Bucket-Like your mop bucket or your household cleaning bucket.  I use the same bucket for my household needs: walls, baseboards, window tracks, mopping, etc.
  5. Rags or sponges, whatever you would use to clean your walls, although I recommend rags.
  6. Gloves-I recommend two pair: your dish gloves and your yardwork gloves.

To begin, fill your bucket with hot, soapy water.  I usually shoot for the temperature I would use when washing my dishes every day or a little hotter.  Then, remove as much of the residual lint on your lint trap with your hands.  Next, scrub your lint trap with the toothbrush or dish-scrubbing brush (especially the screen) and the hot soapy water; I recommend submerging it in the hot water and scrubbing, so use your dish gloves while cleaning your screen.  Rinse off with water and make sure that water flows easily through the screen of your lint trap; if it pools on top of the screen then you will need to scrub it some more.  That’s a sign that you still have fabric softener trapped on the trap.  Once it’s clean, dry it off and put it aside.

Next, take your dryer vent brush and clean out the lint trap slot of your dryer.  Keep running the brush through each area of the slot, removing the lint that comes out the entire time.  Try to wipe the lint away from the area with each time to ensure that you get as much of the lint as possible.

Now, pull the dryer out from the wall and remove the hose from the back of the dryer.  Wipe down the back of the dryer with a damp (not dripping or completely wet) cloth.  Then, use your vent brush to clean out the hose and the back of the dryer.  Just like before, clean out the brush and the area each time you use the brush.  Next, clean up the floor and clear it of all lint.  Return the hose and the dryer to the wall.  Lastly, wearing your outside gloves, check your outside dryer vent duct and clean out any animal nests or twigs/brush from the vent.  And now, your dryer is clean.

So, let’s turn our attention to the washing machine.  No matter how clean you keep your home, keep in mind that your washing machine contains mildew.  It’s a breeding ground for mildew.  Imagine, if you can, never cleaning your bathroom and never ventilating the room.  After every shower-hot and cold-you just leave it as is.  What would happen?  Chances are, it would start to smell like mildew and have soap scum (as well as residual dirt) on its surfaces after awhile.  It would start to smell musty and mildewy, and then it would stink of it.  And then, it would be nearly impossible to get it back to normal.  It’s the same as your washing machine.  The difference is that your washing machine doesn’t contain a vent or a clear way to ventilate it.  Even keeping the basin open doesn’t change that fact.  So, what do you need to clean it?  Here are your tools:

  1. 1 qt. of bleach
  2. 1 qt. of vinegar
  3. household bucket
  4. dish soap
  5. tooth brush or dish-scrubbing brush
  6. washrags

First, run your washing machine through its longest cycle with hot water and add the bleach to the agitator (the basin).  Let it soak for one hour before letting it run through the entire cycle.  Immediately after it finishes that cycle, run a second cycle with the same settings and add vinegar to the agitator.  Don’t let it soak this time, just run a regular cycle.  Once that’s done, wipe down your agitator and the edges of your basin with the rag and hot soapy water (in your bucket).  Don’t forget the sides of the agitator (if using a front loading machine) or the top of the agitator between the machine and the basin (if using a top loading machine.  And don’t be surprised when you pull out some nasty-looking clumps; it’s a mix of lint and detergent, and it can cause mildew and mold in your machine.

Once you’ve done that, use your rag and your brush, along with the hot soapy water, to scrub the dispensers for your machine.  This is where you add your bleach, your detergent (for front loaders), and your liquid fabric softener.  Scrub them really well until there is no dirt or residual scum.  And you’re done!  I would recommend running a quick cycle of plain hot water in order to ensure that any residual hot, soapy water runs through.  But after that, just wipe down your machines with a warm rag thoroughly and your machines are properly clean.

Happy cleaning!

Until next time,




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