Many people think of their washing machine as a self-cleaning appliance. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. You may notice after a few months of use that the rubber rings in you washing machine appear to have stains and that your clothes smell a little funky. This is a sign that your appliance may be contaminated with mold.
This is the same humidity-loving mold that can plague your bathroom and kitchen over time.
Why You Should Clean Your Washing Machine
Molds are fungi that can cause inflammation in your respiratory tract.
Allergic reactions are the most common health effects of mold.
Common symptoms include (1) :
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Red eyes
Mold exposure has also been linked to the onset of asthma in children. Spores also have the ability to penetrate into the lungs and cause infection (2).
Front loading washing machine are more prone to mold. In fact, there have been many complaints of chronic mold contamination in popular front-loaders built until the late 2000s by Whirlpool, Kenmore, Bosch and LG (3).
How To Clean Your Washing Machine
There have been a few websites suggesting the use of potassium hydrogen oxalate (salt of lemon) and bleach as a non-toxic way to clean your washing machine.
However, the substance is very toxic. Inhalation of the dust causes irritation of nose and throat. Ingestion causes burning pain in throat, esophagus, and stomach. It can also cause eye and skin irritation (4).
Anyone exposed to it should get fresh air immediately and seek medical treatment in the case of contact with the eyes or ingestion.
Bleach is highly irritating and corrosive to the skin, lungs, and eyes (6). Its fumes alone can cause poisoning and accidental swallowing may result in death (7).
Instead, use vinegar, a mild acid which can kill 82% of mold species (5) and baking soda, a natural substance that fight even more mold species.
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- Tea tree essential oil (optional)
- A sponge
Vinegar is acidic, so it may burn slightly if it comes in contact with sensitive skin. It also goes without saying that you should avoid breathing in baking soda.
- Sprinkle no more than 1 tablespoon of baking soda on the mold.
- Dilute vinegar with water in a 2-1 or 3-1 ratio and pour into a spray bottle.
- If the vinegar smell bothers you, add a few drops of essential oil, like tea tree oil, lavender or citrus fruit (orange smells wonderful!).
- Spray directly on affected area and leave on for a few hours.
- Then, scrub the mold with a brush and wipe clean.
- Leave your washing machine door open to let it dry completely.
- Run a quick rinse cycle before use to get rid of the vinegar smell.
Repeat this step every month to avoid mold exposure in your home. You might also want to keep a dehumidifier in your laundry room to avoid future contamination.