Photo By Arina P Habich at Shutterstock
If there’s one appliance that you take for granted, it’s probably your washing machine. You count on it every week to clean your school and work clothes, your linens and those fur-laden pet beds. While some Americans depend on their local laundromats to keep their clothing fresh, many folks are lucky enough to have washer/dryer hookups in their apartment, condo or a dedicated laundry room.
According to federal data, the average family washes 300 loads of laundry per year, which equates to five or six cycles per week. With proper care, your washing machine can meet or exceed its expected 11-year lifespan. However, many units develop leaks, especially around the supply lines, that require assistance from a professional plumber. To prevent water damage and ensure reliable, worry-free performance, follow these simple maintenance and care recommendations. If you’re unsure about your machine’s needs, consult your owner’s manual, or ask a licensed plumberwith bluefrog Plumbing + Drain for recommendations.
Plumber-Recommended Tips for Optimal Washer Performance
Washing machines are durable, long-lasting appliances that can serve your family for a decade or more when properly maintained. With franchises across the country, our plumbers know what it takes to help consumers experience optimal performance from their water-using appliances. Based on our national and regional experience, here are some of our top recommendations.
- To prevent caking, avoid mixing liquid and powder detergents.
- Purchase detergent and additives in bulk to reduce packaging.
- For efficiency, wash full loads only while separating lights, darks and bulky items.
- Make sure that your washing machine is level and loads are properly balanced.
- To prevent tangles, wash similar items together, and use mesh bags for delicates.
- Wash towels, sweatpants and other lint producers separately.
- Turn lint-attracting items inside-out to prevent unsightly buildup.
Deep Cleaning and Maintenance Cycles for High-Efficiency Machines
High-efficiency washing machines use specially formulated detergents and low-friction impellers to deliver the same cleaning power while using 80% less water and 65% less energy. With normal use, oils and certain types of soil may build up inside the machine where they can feed bacteria. To prevent odors related to microbial growth, use the washing machine’s self-cleaning cycle monthly. If your machine doesn’t have a deep cleaning setting, follow the steps below to achieve the same results.
- Choose the hottest water setting and highest water level. If unavailable, use the whites or stain removal cycle instead.
- Select the extra rinse and heavy soil options if possible.
- Add detergent to the machine without adding laundry or rags.
- Fill the bleach dispenser to the maximum level, usually 1 to 2 cups.
- If needed, complete the above steps to control persistent odors.
- To complete the deep cleaning and remove residual products, run a secondary wash cycle without adding any detergent.
Take a moment to clean removable detergent, bleach and fabric softener dispensers. Soak the parts in warm water for 10 minutes. Then, apply dishwashing liquid or an all-purpose cleaner using paper towels, rags or an old toothbrush. Allow these parts to dry thoroughly before returning them to the machine.
Preventing Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew can affect nearly any washer if damp clothing is left in the machine or if the lid is closed between cycles. However, these problems are more common on high-efficiency models. Approximately 17% of front-loading machine owners reported problems with mold and mildew compared to 3% of those with top-loaders.
In most cases, mold develops in the crevices of gaskets and seals around the door opening. To prevent microbial growth, wipe down these surfaces with a mild 10-to-1 solution of water and bleach. Alternatively, use equal parts of water and distilled vinegar to achieve the same results. After cleaning, rinse the surfaces with clean water, and dry them with a soft cloth. Repeat the process monthly or as needed.
Washing Machine Do’s from Our Plumbers
- Do vacuum around and behind the washing machine periodically to remove lint and debris. Look out for stray socks and lost buttons as you clean.
- Do have a plumber install a drip pan to prevent water leaks, especially if your laundry room is located in your main living areas or on a second floor.
- Do inspect the water supply hoses regularly. Look for corrosion, bulging, cracking, fraying or signs of leaks.
- Do have a plumber replace the water supply hoses every three to five years to prevent leaks and possible water damage.
- Do clean the lint filter regularly. This device may be located in the agitator tube or near the top of the washtub. Regular cleaning helps your washer run more efficiently.
- Do level the machine. Excessive vibrations and walking can damage the floor or the machine. Twist the legs clockwise to lower the unit or ask your plumber for assistance.
Washing Machine Don’ts from Our Plumbers
- Don’t allow damp laundry to sit inside the machine. Microbe-related odors can develop in just 4 to 5 hours, especially during warm weather.
- Don’t close the washing machine door. Let the machine to air out between cycles to prevent odors and to allow the interior surfaces to dry.
- Don’t overload the machine, especially when washing comforters, pet bedding, coats and bulky items. Excessive loads can strain the motor and shorten the machine’s lifespan.
- Don’t use more or less detergent than recommended. If soap buildup or excessive ‘sudsing’ is a problem, make sure that you’re using the right type of detergent, or ask your plumber about water-softening systems.
- Don’t push the machine against the wall. To prevent kinked hoses and ensure proper airflow, keep the unit at least 4 inches away from surrounding surfaces.
Need Help from a Licensed Plumber?
With proper care, your washing machine can meet or exceed its expected lifespan while providing years of reliable, worry-free performance. If you’re having trouble with your washer, experiencing leaks or looking to have washer/dryer hookups installed in your home or condo, contact bluefrog Plumbing + Drain. We also offer water testing, filtration systems and softening equipment that can help your appliances last longer and perform more efficiently.