Hidden washing machine compartments: How and when to clean them

Cleaning our washing machine isn’t something most of us spend much, if any, time on. Its very purpose may be to de-stain, wash and refresh our clothes, but the machine itself isn’t something that gets the same treatment.

But a TikTok trend has suddenly made this question a hot topic – do our washing machines need to be cleaned? If so, which sections need cleaning, how often, and how can you prevent dirt accumulating?

At 393 million views and counting, videos of ‘hidden washing machine compartments’ are proving a hit on TikTok. The videos reveal unknown sections of the washing machine that could, should, and apparently need to be cleaned.

@cleaningwithdanielled SPRING CLEAN- day 6.. clean washing machine ☑️ I’ve only just recently done mine so this is a repost! 💗 #cleaningwithdanielle #springclean ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show

The rush to view these videos reveals the high level of fascination we have with the inner workings of this appliance.

And the thousands of comments discussing and debating if and how to clean the different parts show the lack of awareness and maintenance knowledge many of us have about these hidden compartments.

Laundry expert Vivien Fodor shares her advice on which elements of your washing machine you actually need to clean, and how to do this efficiently and correctly.

“Washing machines accumulate dirt and bacteria over time. Surprisingly, one in five Brits never clean their washing machine – this is often a result of a lack in education and awareness, with people not knowing how,” says Vivien Fodor, Laundry Category Manager at Hotpoint.

“Whilst it may seem counterintuitive, cleaning your washing machine is key to avoiding bacteria build up and growth.”

The average washing machine has three areas that need maintenance, and they’re all specifically designed to be accessible so they can be cleaned.

The filter

Often located in the corner of the washing machine below the door, the filter is designed to remove debris from laundry by capturing it directly from the wash water. This avoids dirt and bacteria going back onto clothes or clogging up the machine.

washing machine filter
Image Credit: Madeline Bennett

The filter doesn’t dry out debris, so it gets collected with some residue water. To avoid it spilling on the floor during a clean, place a tray underneath before opening. Twist the filter cover until it comes away to drain the water and check for any visible lint or debris that has accumulated.

Fodor recommends inspecting the filter every month, to help keep your clothes smelling fresh and prolong your machine’s lifespan.

Surface maintenance

Wipe the rubber seal and drum barrel with a damp cloth once a month. This will help maintain the look of the machine.

If your washing machine has an auto-clean cycle, Fodor recommends using this feature alongside washing machine cleaner. 

washing machine cleaning tabs
Image Credit: WPro/Amazon

Detergent drawer 

Typically situated at the top of the washing machine, soap and detergent builds up in the detergent drawer over time. If you use fabric softener regularly, this will be a particular problem. 

Fodor recommends cleaning the drawer every five cycles to avoid any build-up.