Please advise with how to clean this washing machine out. Thanks

xhappyxSeptember 24, 2011

First the back story: My next door neighbors are moving and they had a washer and dryer that they wanted to give away as they will not be needing them where they are moving to. So I found someone to come take them. With this, I swapped out our washer for theirs because they were about the same age and their washer was bigger and had more features on it. I have always been good about keeping our washer clean and careful not to overdose with detergent, etc. They were not so good about this at all. It is a really big commercial style top loader with a stainless drum, etc. The fabric softener dispenser on the top of the washer I don't think had ever been cleaned... EVER. It was filled with dog hair, and someone had dumped liquid detergent in it as various points and it was a big gooped up mess. It was gross enough to make you want to lose your lunch when you looked at it. I went online and found out how to remove this to clean it out. The inside of the agitator was all gunked up too with lots of very gross stuff, so I cleaned that out too. I cleaned around the top of the drum as it was caked with dog hair. The machine looks clean but I know it isn't. I can smell that detergent overdose build up when I smell the machine with the lid opened. I am worried what is sitting on the outside of the drum.

I am thinking I should fill it up with really hot water and let it soak with something to clean it.

I have a 5 gallon bucket of citric acid sitting here, as well as vinegar, bleach, washing soda, baking soda and borax. Which one of these products should I use to clean it? I know a lot of the washing machine cleaners are citric based so citric acid might work, but then will that kill any possible mold sitting in the machine that I can't see? Should I just use bleach instead and let it just sit in the machine overnight and run it with a super hot load to clean it? Or should I just do 2 cleanings? One with citric acid and then another one following with bleach?

Do you think just using a bleach soaking will be sufficient to ensure this machine is removed of all build up? I ran a small load with some throw rugs and the machine had lots of suds despite not adding any detergent.

Please advise and help me out here. Thanks in advance for any advice with cleaning this thing out, since I have never had to do any sort of cleaning like this before on any of our machines as I don't overdose on detergents and I always keep the lid open to let the washer dry out between loads and I have never had a problem before. I wipe down our washer when I am running a load of whites and just take a towel out and wipe down the washer with the bleach/detergent water on a regular basis and our machines have always remained very clean. So this is all new to me :)

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It is a really big commercial style top loader with a stainless drum, etc.That's equivalent to calling an auto mechanic shop and telling them you need help with a white car.

Brand and model number are needed to identify the machine.

If it's as neglected and abused as you say, there's surely grime, gunk, mold, scrud, smutz, etc. stuck to the outer tub and under the inner basket and disassembly may be required to access and scrub those areas for proper cleaning.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 12:18PM
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It is an Amana washer ALW480DAW.

I just filled it up with really hot water and put some bleach in there. Even though I cleaned the inside of the agitator and fabric softener dispenser yesterday, I went ahead and scrubbed them out with the bleach water that I filled the washer with. I took a scrub brush (bottle brush) and cleaned around the top of the drum and all crevices again with the bleach water. While the tub was filling, there were again some suds but nothing like there was yesterday. With the smell in the washer, it smelled like detergent build up, it did not have a musty moldy or mildew type smell to it. I have the bleach soaking in the tub right now and in a few hours will let it run through it's empty cycle.

Hopefully I don't have to take it apart to clean it.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 12:35PM
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Add a 1/2 gallon or so more water to raise the water level higher, above the normal level at which there's likely a scum line.

Soaking is good to loosen the gunk, but agitation & water currents after soaking will help flush it away. Chlorine bleach can damage stainless steel so a very strong dose of it or extended soaking time should be avoided. Washer cleaners (Afresh or others, LemiShine, etc.) are also appropriate.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 12:58PM
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Thanks! I added more hot water as suggested :) I am using 1 1/2 cups of bleach to soak it. I will wait another hour or so and then let it complete it's cycle to see if it takes care of the problem. So the bleach isn't super strong in that washer but hopefully strong enough to cut through whatever is in there. I figure the hot water soaking will dissolve any detergent build up in the machine. The true test will be when I let it agitate and finish it's cycle. I will report back after it has ran it's cycle. I will fill the washer again after it is done and see if there are any more soap suds, but I think this probably should take care of it. Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 1:16PM
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I am happy to announce that the machine seems to be clean now :) Hooray!!! No suds while filling, no suds while the cycle is running, no junk floating in the water, no funky smells and the drum looks much brighter too. Now in a week or so I can test the machine out on actual laundry. (I just did laundry the night before last so it is going to take about a week before I get a full load to fill this machine, and detergent dosing learning curve will start as this machine has a much bigger drum than our last washer.) But at least now it is a washer that I would not feel nervous putting my clothing into anymore :)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 2:06PM
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I am happy to announce that the machine seems to be clean now :) Hooray!!! No suds while filling, no suds while the cycle is running, no junk floating in the water, no funky smells and the drum looks much brighter too.That's good. But trust me on this ... you may have gotten the "loose" debris cleared and enough of the gunk that it's not causing obvious suds residue, but detergent/softener scrud is a waxy, sticky mess that needs direct scrubbing to fully remove. Same for mineral deposits. Even chemical treatments can't fully remove it without scrubbing. Lots of people would be truly appalled to see what's hiding in their washers, LOL.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 2:23PM
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Yeah... I hope it is not all gunky in there where I can't see. The good news is that we live in a very soft water area so I am not too worried about mineral deposits. But it is the other funky stuff that makes me nervous. I don't know if I am up to the task of taking apart the machine to peek inside and see if that is clean or not. I have the service manual downloaded already for this machine, but it looks like a lot of work to pull apart the machine to even look.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 3:00PM
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Unfortunately, bleach may disinfect but it does absolutely nothing to remove scum and residue. Here is my suggestion using the longest and hottest cycle... raise the water level as described above and use a full dose of sodium carbonate for your size and type of machine. Sodium carbonate, a major ingredient in Charlie's Soap, is a good degreaser and will start to cut the buildup. After you run one or more such loads, run another empty HOT load with a cup of citric acid. You can buy this at the grocery store dishwasher/detergent section under the brand name Lemi Shine. This will rid your machine of any hard water mineral deposits.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 1:37PM
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Removing just two screws will give you good access to the exterior of the drum etc.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 8:11PM
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Not even!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 9:12PM
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@shrivastava I happen to have both Sodium Carbonate and Citric Acid on hand. I will run an empty load with one or the other with really hot water and let soak. I have the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (a.k.a Sodium Carbonate) sitting here from when I made my own laundry soap (which I later abandoned as I didn't think it was all that great) and I have a 50 lb bucket of Citric Acid from making Bath Fizzies sitting in my basement. I will try using the Sodium Carbonate first. Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 10:14PM
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@worthy, According to the service manual it shows that I have to do a lot more than that and it looks like a lot of work. I will link to the service manual for your viewing pleasure.

Here is a link that might be useful: Service manual for the machine I am talking about.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 10:25PM
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