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Clean Your Machines: The Laundry Room

Whether your washing machine, dryer, and vacuum are housed in a closet, a nook, or a dedicated laundry or utility room, chances are that spot isn’t on your regular cleanup route. Unfortunately, such spaces can be among the dustiest and mustiest if not properly maintained. Keeping these appliances clean not only extends their lives, but in the case of the dryer, it can actually help reduce the risk of fire.

Photography by: Matthew Williams

Washing Machine

Clean the rubber seal of the door with a soft cloth and a solution of 1 cup of chlorine bleach to 2 cups of warm water (be sure to wear protective gloves); pay extra attention to the lower portion of the seal, where water tends to pool. Then fill the bleach dispenser with bleach and run the washer, without laundry, through a hot-water cycle.
Do use vinegar instead of bleach for sanitizing, if you prefer a natural alternative (but never mix the two— the combo creates toxic fumes).
Don’t close the door after each wash; keep it open to let the interior dry and to discourage mildew.

Photography by: Bryan Gardner

Editor’s Favorite: “I love my dryer vent brush. I use it to clean the lint trap and to grab dust from under the unit.”
—Kevin Sharkey, decorating director


Take out the lint screen and remove the lint. Use a dryer vent brush (or the crevice tool of your vacuum cleaner) to pick up any residual lint and dust inside the trap.
Do schedule a yearly appointment with a professional duct-and-vent cleaner. Many HVAC specialists also offer this service.
Don’t ignore signs of blockage in the ducts: Have them cleaned by a pro if your clothes take longer than normal to dry or come out hotter, if the exterior of the dryer gets very hot, if you smell burning, or if the room gets more humid than usual.

Photography by: Bryan Gardner


Not surprisingly, your vacuum gets dusty. Use a soft, damp cloth (dipped in soapy water) to wipe the exterior of the vacuum and all its attachments. If it has a bin, empty and rinse it with plain water only, then let it dry completely. Use a dry cloth or brush to clear lint buildup from interior parts; the inner workings should never get wet.
Do use scissors or a seam ripper (as shown, above) to cut and remove fibers, thread, and hair tangled and wound around the beater bar.
Don’t let the bin or bag get more than three-quarters full. Check it regularly, and empty it as needed to maintain optimum suction.


It’s common for mineral deposits to appear on the soleplate’s steam vents. To remove them, fill the reservoir with water and switch on the steam-clean setting if there is one. Or place the iron flat on a metal cooling rack over a surface that won’t be damaged by heat or water, turn the setting to steam and maximum heat, and let steam and water jet through the holes.
Do know your iron’s water requirements. Some models recommend using distilled water, others tap water, and still others a mix of the two.
Don’t use steel wool or other abrasive cleansers or tools, all of which can scratch the soleplate.


A dehumidifer can be handy in basement laundry rooms—as long as you give the machine a good scrubbing every season. Wash the water tank with soapy water. If there’s a reusable filter, remove it and soak it in soapy water too. Unscrew the cover carefully (the machine can be difficult to put back together); clean the heating and cooling coils with a narrow soft brush, and wipe the fan blades with a damp cloth.
Do use a vacuum with a brush attachment to clean the air intake and exhaust grilles.
Don’t place the unit too close to a wall, which can cause a blockage in the air intake and exhaust system.

Iron-Cleaner Kit

If your iron drags, the culprit may be a buildup of products like starch and fabric softeners on the soleplate. Put a dab of iron cleaner on an old towel and run the hot iron over it to remove any residue.


Stainless steel iron soleplate cleaning kit, by Rowenta, $13,

Replace These!

  • Hoses
  • Lint screen
  • Motor belt
  • Filter

There are times when no amount of cleaning can resuscitate a machine. Luckily, often the only thing between you and a smooth operator is a replacement part. Your washing machine’s hoses should be replaced every five years. Your dryer’s lint screen should be swapped for a new one if damaged. If you notice you have to go over a spot with your vacuum several times, replace the motor belt. As for its filter, if it’s made of paper and very dirty or torn, replace it. If it’s a HEPA filter, follow the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule.


Ultra Large Capacity Steamwasher with Coldwash, 4.0 cu. ft. (similar to shown); and Ultra Large Capacity dryer with Sensor Dry, 7.3 cu. ft. (similar to shown),
Effective Comfort iron, by Rowenta,

Did You Know

If you use hard water in your iron, you may need to clean it more often.

Bright Idea

Wipe down the exteriors of these laundry appliances with a cloth dampened with a drop of dishwashing liquid in water. Then rinse with plain water and wipe dry.