Know Your Tools: The Washer and Dryer

Maintenance is cheaper than repair or replacement
by Sheri Wallace

Washers and dryers are designed to be fairly simple to maintain. There are a few tips however, that will prolong the use of the machines and reduce service calls. After interviewing several service centers, and talking to Maytag's Customer Service hotline, I have developed a list of tips that will help you maintain your washer and dryer properly.

Your Washer
[washer graphic]

  • Turn off the water faucets after finishing the day's washing. This will shut off the water supply to the washer and prevent the unlikely possibility of damage from escaping water.
  • Use a soft cloth to wipe up all detergent, bleach or other spills as they occur. This prevents the buildup of detergent or fabric softener where they may cause a blockage of water flow or possibly damage a future load of clothes.
  • Every 2 weeks, you should run a cycle of hot water with 2 cups of chlorine bleach or white vinegar and 1/2 cup of detergent through the washer. Add the bleach at the beginning of the cycle, directly to the wash tub. This will remove any detergent buildup and also keep germs from accumulating in the airtight parts of the washer. This is especially important if you do a lot of cloth diapers in your machine, as buildup from previous loads can damage the diapers or leave a residue that could cause a rash.
  • Hard water deposits can be removed from the inside of the washer using a product that is labeled safe for clothes washers. You can find these products at your local appliance part store.
  • If you plan to store your washer for a long length of time, you should run it through a special cycle to prepare the washer for storage. Run it through a complete cycle with 1 cup of bleach or vinegar in the water, with no clothes or detergent in the cycle. Make sure to empty all the water out of the drain hose as well as the intake hoses. Then make sure that air can circulate in the tub of the washer to prevent mold and mildew.

Your Dryer
[dryer graphic]

  • You can clean any stains such as crayon, ink pen or fabric dye from the tumbler by using an all-purpose cleaner. Then tumble old towels or rags (make sure they are clean and not soiled with a flammable substance) in the dryer for a cycle to remove any residue or excess stain from the tumbler.
  • Once a year, disconnect your dryer from the vent hose and wall and thoroughly vacuum and clean the lint pipe. This will improve your drying efficiency and remove any potentially flammable buildup from the system. You should also take this opportunity to clean the rooftop vents if you have them, as it will decrease the amount of time it takes clothes to dry. You can buy a special tool for this at your local Home Depot or other home maintenance store.
  • If you have a buildup of lint that has escaped your lint tray, use a narrow brush or the crevice tool of your vacuum to clean the area around the lint tray. You might even take a wire clothes hanger, wrap it in a clean, damp cloth and gently wipe the hard to reach spots. If you do a load of clothes, such as rugs or new diapers, which contains an excess of lint, you can easily remove the front of the dryer and clean out any excess that may have overpowered the lint tray.

It is also a good idea to disconnect the washer and dryer once a year and clean under them. "Stuff" tends to build up under them and it is good to check for any leaks or maintenance problems before you have a flood or fire.

Following the manufacturer's directions is also recommended. In case of a specific question, you can usually request more information from a toll free service number. Call your local Sears or other appliance store for the list of numbers.

Following these simple tips can extend the life of your machines and give you many loads of trouble free washing and drying.

Sheri Wallace is editor of ePregnancy Magazine, living in Tucson, Arizona. She has written non-fiction, information and travel articles for magazines and newsletters. Visit her website at

By the way: You might want to check out Troubleshooting and Repairing Major Appliances.


Tammy Gaede's picture

Fabric Dryer Sheets have an uncanny way of causing an invisible barrier in your lint dryer. If you wish to prolong the life of your dryer, every 4-6 months take your lint catcher out of the dryer and run it under the faucet, gently use soapy water and clean it. This should prolong the life of your dryer! Thought I would share this with you!

Tammy S. Gaede
Greenwood, MS

Nannie's picture

I need the same help with a Maytag portable dishwasher. HELP!

Lynn's picture

The main reason I don't use softener sheets in my Maytag dryer is that my repairman told me not to. The Maytags have a sensor that turns them off when the clothes are dry, and the sheets get stuff all over the sensor and wreck them. I imagine this may be true for more than just Maytag.

Lynn Siprelle, Editor's picture

I am and have always (3 years) had trouble getting sour clothes and towels and washcloths fresh in my Whirlpool Duet front load washing machine. I sometimes use Arm and Hammer Washing baking soda and sometimes vinegar to get items to freshen up. It doesn't always work. I frequently wash these items many times to get them clean. I have used ALL kinds of detergents. I do not use chlorine bleach. I never had this issue with my top loader. Otherwise, love the machine, but the water saving feature isn't something I can say I am benefitting from at this point! Does anyone know why or have a solution?

Guest's picture

I have a dryer from Sears that automatically drains the fabric softener from a little cup at the top of the agitator. This has been a great feature and we have enjoyed our washer for the passed 15 years. We have hard water and no water softener. Suddenly now the fabric softener is not releasing and just stays up in the little cup. Does anyone know the reason why this has stopped working? I might call a repairman out to fix it but if I can fix it myself, that would be great. Thanks for your responses.

harleyangel's picture

I had a situation with my washing machine one time and had to get the repairman out. He determined that the problem was what he called :"sudslock" he said it happens when you have hard water and soap builds up in the washer, or if you use too much laundry soap. He told me to prevent it from happening again to once a week run just hot water through a full cycle, and he said that usually does the trick to prevent it. And since then I have been doing that and have had no more problems.

JJ's picture

If the water seems stagnant, check the hose to see if there are obstructions. Also see if there might be a pool of water in the washer itself.

You might try the suggestion above and run one load with hot bleach water and see if the behaviour improves.

let us know how it goes,


Mom2's picture

I have had problems with the washer and sour clothes from the beginning. I unload the washer as soon as it beeps and dry the clothes right away. Once the guys in the house work up a sweat they complain that their clothes stink. I have tried vinegar, baking soda, and I run at least one load of whites a week with bleach and hot water. Not sure what to do.

Guest's picture

I've know a few people who've had this problem. The seal on the system is good enough that after the cycle is done, water sits and stagnates inside the apparatus. Easy solution is to leave the door slightly ajar between cycles. It will take a few cycles for this to work out properly...good luck...

Guest's picture

;) I just resolved that same problem with my dispenser. I completely removed and cleaned front and back unsnapped all pieces cleaned and returned to clean the opening before inserting the cleaned attached dispenser. After all this hard labor it didn't work! So once again I removed the dispenser to rinse out the built up fabric softener and noticed that one of the holes that dispenses the softener was clogged inside. I loosened the buildup with a toothpick and flushed hot water through. Surprise! It works.

tim's picture

I started using a natural based laundry detergent that uses no phosphates and it works great. I've used it for over 5 years, and I find that my clothes last longer, and there is very little lint in the lint trap after drying. It's highly concentrated so that one bottle lasts a ridiculously long time, and it's no more expensive than the other stuff I used to use. They make other natural based home & personal maintenance stuff too. People with asthma find the symptoms diminish by switching to these kinds of products.
TB -

Nellie's picture

I want to disconnect my old/nonworking Sears washer/dryer combo. I will not be installing another. Can I do this myself as I am kind of handy with tools. Can anyone tell me what are the steps to take so that I do not have to call in a plumber.

Guest's picture

I have recently noticed that my soap and fabric softener release all at once as soon as I put it in the washer is this something normal like it happens all the time and I just never noticed or I am wondering if this is new. If anyone else has been having the same issues I would like to hear. Thank you

Allie's picture

I bought a Whilrpool Duet on the weekend of Black Friday 2009. The first one, exactly after 30 days started releasing the fabric softener as soon as I put it in. The second one did the same thing, only it released the detergent too soon as well. Yesterday the store delivered the thrid and final Duet and I have yet to see if it will do it too. I'm sure it will, and then I will contact Whilrpool directly!

Dawn in Maryland 's picture

I have the same problem. you put the softner in and runs right out. anyone have ideas or sugestions.


Guest's picture

I agree with the above poster, I find if I stuff too much laundry in one load it does not get clean nor can the rinse cycle rinse out all the dirt.

Front Loader Owner's picture

A while back I was in the market for a new washer and decided to go with a front loader. I found this great site that summarized reviews that people post out on the 'net. I read through a whole lot of stuff there, and based, in part, on this LG WM2501HWA review I decided to make my purchase. I do all the extra 'little things' that front loaders require that a top loader might not. I wipe down the door seal after use, and run some cleaner through there every few loads. I've had no issues.

Anonymous's picture

Ok I just found the problem. The dispenser itself was dirty and the drain holes were clogged up with mildewy soap scum / fabric softener? It was terrible and smelled bad too. We have had this machine for 3 years and never noticed there was a problem until a couple of weeks ago. You can remove the entire dispenser to clean it and also look up inside where the dispenser slides in and you will see all the scum and dirt. We just cleaned it with a spray bottle and brush. The water and bleach drains out a little hole inside the door at the top of the gray seal.

Also if you open the door and pull the gray seal back you will find all kinds of scum and dirt there too. That's probably why the clothes haven't been coming out very clean smelling.

Also you can remove 3 screws at the bottom of the door seal and take off the bottom front panel of the machine. There is a trap there that you can clean out. Apparently requires more maintenance by the homeowner than our previous machines. But overall it does a good job.

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