Your washing machine is one of your priciest home appliances. It’s also one of the first items you’d miss if it broke – as soon as you ran out of clean socks. But what do you do to look after it it? Absolutely nothing. Oh, come on. You know it’s true.
Just a general note of caution to kick things off: before you go digging around into hoses and filters and wandering feet, unplug your machine from the electrical supply. It’s safer that way.
Between washes, open the door and keep it that way to allow air to circulate inside. This will prevent the damp conditions that can encourage mould.
Check the detergent
How much detergent do you use per wash? If you tend to slop some in, unthinkingly, it may be a good idea to dig out your instruction manual – or look for one online – and find out how much detergent you should actually add to your wash. Too much can be bad for both your clothes and the lifespan of your machine.
Give it a regular clean
Who will watch the watchmen? Who will wash the washing machine? The answer in both cases is, unfortunately, you. There are several stages to this enterprise, so buckle up.
One: Take out the detergent drawer. It’s probably encrusted with dried cleaning products and limescale. Put it in a sink full of warm water and then give it a scrub with a sponge scourer or an old toothbrush. Don’t forget to clean the drawer chamber as well.
Two: It’s time for the door seal. Remove any hair or fluff from the rubber seal inside the door. Don’t forget to gag while doing this. If there are any marks or stains on the rubber that could indicate mould, get that toothbrush out again and give them a gentle going-over. Finally, clean the inside of the washing machine window if the detergent has left a grainy residue on the glass.
Three: Let the machine clean itself. Add two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda to the detergent drawer and pour half a cup of white vinegar into the drum, then run the machine on a hot wash.
You should follow this cleaning procedure every two to three months.
Check its position
With every spin cycle, your washing machine edges closer to the door and sweet, sweet freedom. It’s your job to coax it back into place. If your washing machine has wobbled too close to the wall, the hoses can become kinked. If it's moved too far away, they can be put under strain. Your washing machine should ideally be located about four inches from the wall. Keep it there.
Is it on the level?
If your washing machine is wandering about too much, it’s probably not properly balanced. Other signs that this is the case are clothes that are still wet after the final spin, longer cycle times and the washing machine pausing during operation. A small movement by the machine of about one-quarter of an inch to and fro is fine. Any further movement signals trouble.
You should be able to adjust the legs so that they provide a solid, non-wobbly base. To check for wobbliness, hold onto opposite corners of your washing machine and see if it rocks. If it does, you need to adjust the height of its legs. The legs should also be calibrated so that the top of the machine is level, even if your floor is wonky. A good tip is to place a spirit level on the top of your machine and adjust the feet until the bubble is centred in the spirit level tube.
Here's how to do that. Locate the feet on the front of the machine. At the top of each one should be a locking nut, securing it in place. Use a wrench to loosen the locking nut. Again using the wrench, turn the leg itself clockwise to lower the washing machine or anti-clockwise to raise it. At the end, make sure you tighten the locking nut, to lock the legs in place.
If the machine itself is properly balanced but it’s still walking across the room ('walking' is – incredibly – the technical term for an overly-mobile washing machine. What imagination!) then it’s time to look at the way you fill it. You should try to distribute the load of washing evenly inside the drum.
If you have a particularly heavy item, like a towel that’s going to soak up a lot of water, you should try to balance it out with another item of washing. It’s a good idea to try to wash the same type of fabrics together to prevent the load from becoming unbalanced.
For example, don’t put a single pair of heavy jeans in with a few t-shirts. While most people are aware that they shouldn’t overload a washing machine, it’s not as commonly known that you shouldn’t wash just a single, heavy item.
Clean the filter
Do you know where the filter is? Could you identify it if it were standing in front of you, doing the robot? As you can probably guess, the filter is there to collect fluff, hair, tissues, coins and other things that, mixed together, would make the world’s worst stew.
If your filter is a bit clogged, things could get messy, so step one is to get a deep tray (like a baking tray) and an old towel before you do anything else. The filter will probably be behind a small door, low down on the front of your washing machine. Place the tray underneath it. You may need to use a flat-head screwdriver to pop open the door. Inside, you’ll see a small, circular filter, the lid of which can be unscrewed. If there’s a tiny hose that crosses in front of the filter, then gently pull this free and allow it to drain into the tray before you do anything else.
Then, simply unscrew the filter and remove any debris trapped inside. Easy! (Okay, this bit may be more disgusting than I’m letting on.)
Check the hoses
Is the machine unplugged from the electrical supply? Yes? Then we’ll begin. Move your machine out from the wall and examine the hoses. There should be two. The narrower one is the water-in hose: it connects at the top of your machine to your water supply. If you follow this from the machine to the wall, you should see a valve (it’ll probably be blue). You can turn this to shut off the water supply to the machine. That may be a good idea before any further messing around.
The wider hose will run from the back of the machine. It will end up in one of two places. The first is under your sink, where it will connect to an offshoot that drains into the u-bend. The second is hooked into a waste pipe.
Start at the top of each hose and check the connection to the machine. Is it secure? Then feel along the length of the hose, looking for leaking water or damage that could turn into a split. At the other end, check that the hose clip is tight and the hose is securely fastened. If the hose drains into a pipe, ensure that the connection is not blocked.
And that’s it. You’re all done. Reward yourself with a cup of tea to block out the memories of the disgusting matter you found in the filter.