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Did you know you should be cleaning your washing machine? An expert weighs in

How many of us throw our clothes into the washing machine, take them out to dry and don't give the appliance a second thought until the next laundry day? After all, the machine gets filled with water and soap while it's running, so that must be enough to keep it clean, right? Well, not exactly; after all, that lingering mildew smell isn't supposed to be there. Luckily, there are products that make maintaining your washer a breeze, like this top-selling Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner. Hundreds of thousands of Amazon shoppers swear by it for combatting built-up residue and odors — and ensuring their laundry is actually clean.

Musty odors and caked-on grime are no match for these cult-favorite tablets.

$10 at Amazon

To get the full scoop on washing machine cleanliness, we spoke to cleaning professional Viviana Pedroza, owner/operator of residential cleaning company Clean by Vivi. Let's just say, if you aren't currently tending to your appliance on a regular basis, you'll want to start, stat!

Washing the washer

Pedroza says this subject is "one we deal with frequently with our clients, especially those who own front-load machines." Front-load washers tend to accumulate more mold and mildew than top-loaders, but both require routine care. "Cleaning your washing machine is a necessary chore, and an often overlooked one," she adds. "Typically we recommend cleaning your machine monthly." (Oops!) "While difficult to see, there will be residue building up from the soap and dirt and oils you're removing from your clothes, as well as mineral deposits from the water that will give the residue a place to reside."

Dirty washing machine sealing rubber and drum close up, view from inside
If the inside of your washing machine looks like this, just imagine that buildup rubbing onto your clothes. (Photo: Getty) (Iuliia Mikhalitskaia via Getty Images)

A quick and easy solution

Ah, this explains a lot. The good news is, maintaining a washing machine that you'll actually want to toss your favorite garments into is easier than you'd think. Case in point? Over 157,000 Amazon shoppers swear by Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner, which consists of tablets you simply pop into the tub. From there, opt for either a "Clean Washer" cycle, or run a normal or heavy cycle with hot water. Let it do its thing, then wipe away any leftover residue — no heavy scrubbing required. (Before you clean the tub, Pedroza does recommend giving the dispenser and gasket a once-over to remove mildew, hair, etc.) Easy enough.

Affresh won't just help you achieve a glistening drum, it'll also get into those areas you can't see, like the pump, valve, agitator, filter and hose for a true deep clean. Using it between loads can help keep residue from tarnishing your "clean" clothes, in addition to preventing icky odors from creeping up over time. Sorry, that little capful of detergent just won't cut it long-term. Not to mention, it can prolong the life of your machine and save you lots of money down the line.

a hand placing an affresh cleaning tablet into a washing machine
These washing machine cleaning tablets couldn't be easier to use — you just have to remember to, you know, actually use them. (Photo: Affresh) (Amazon)

Don't just take our word for it — see what some members of Affresh's dedicated fanbase have to say.

Odors and residue, be gone

"My washer smells fresher after using this, and clothes come out smelling cleaner," wrote a satisfied shopper. "I inherited a front-loading washer for which I'm unsure of the maintenance/cleaning history, but there was visible buildup on the rubber seal. I could see that, as the cleaning cycle with Affresh was going, it was really scrubbing away dark, grimy stuff. ... There's still some dark staining on the rubber, but when I wipe it with a cloth, the cloth no longer comes away with grime on it. I'm happy with the product and results."

Functionality at its finest

"I was truly surprised [by] how my washer works/drains so much better now, and my clothes are definitely cleaner," gushed another rave reviewer. "It's an easy way to help maintain your machines. Honestly, appliances are so expensive nowadays, I'd rather take care of the machines we've got now!"

Monthly maintenance is key

"With the first use of Affresh, the washer was noticeably cleaner and smelled wonderful," shared a third content customer. "I now use it monthly and have not had problems with mustiness since. The only downside is that you need to run it in a complete wash without clothes — use of water and energy, but I guess that's a small price for a clean washer. Great product!"

While Pedroza acknowledges that life happens, and not all of us can (or will remember to) give our washers monthly cleanings, she says, "There are telltale signs that let you know it's definitely time to give it some attention: visible mildew buildup, your laundry has a mildew-y smell [or] your washing machine has a mildew-y odor emanating from it. If you notice any of these signs, it's time to clean your washing machine."

Better-smelling clothes and a highly functioning machine are just 12 bucks away!

$10 at Amazon

Psst: Did you know it's just as important to clean your dishwasher? Don't worry, Affresh makes a product for that, too:

Once a month, just pop one of these lemony-fresh cleaning tablets into the detergent tray and run a normal wash cycle. Easy breezy!

$9 at Amazon

If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.