Taking the time to clean your washer and dryer can help make your machines more efficient and even prevent scary fires. See what you can do to keep your laundry room mildew and danger free.

We all know how to clean a load of laundry, but did you know that your washing machine itself needs to be cleaned at least once a year, if not monthly? You may be thinking, “Doesn’t the washing machine get clean while it does laundry?” Sadly, the answer is no. After each load, your machine still stays wet inside, which can turn it into a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Don’t worry—it’s simple to clean and maintain the inside of your washing machine.

If you’ve got a front-loader, you should clean it once a month, especially if your clothes aren’t coming out as fresh as you’d like. Set your washer to the hottest, longest wash setting, add two cups vinegar and a quarter-cup of baking soda and start the cycle. Once the cycle is complete, scrub around the inside of the drum with a quarter-cup of water and scrub sponge. Give it a quick dry, and you’ll be all set for at least a month.

Cleaning a top-loading machine is much the same, though it takes a little longer. Set your washer to its longest cycle and fill it with hot water. Add four cups of bleach and let it swirl around in there for a bit. Then shut the washer off and allow the bleach and water to sit for an hour. After an hour, turn your washer back on and let it complete its cycle. Once complete, repeat the process using four cups of vinegar instead of bleach. Just before the hour-long soak is over, dip a scrub sponge into the vinegar water and clean in and around all exposed surfaces, including the softener cup and the outer lip. Then start the cycle and allow it to finish. Once it’s done, dry the interior.

Next up: your dryer. It’s frightening to think about, but clothes dryers accounted for more than 90% of fires in the home in 2010. Failing to clean the dryer vent was the No. 1 source of the fires. So if you’ve never checked your lint trap or dryer duct, now’s the time to do it. The interior vent is simple to check, and most of us already know to clean it after every load. There’s usually a vent flap on or inside the dryer—simply pull that flap and clean out the screen after each load.

Now it’s time to clean the dryer duct. First, disconnect the dryer from its power source and pull the dryer away from the wall. Then you’ll need to disconnect the dryer vent from the dryer and look inside. If the walls of the dryer duct are completely coated in lint, replace the vent with a new one from your local hardware store. If you just see a little lint buildup, grab your vacuum cleaner hose and suck out as much debris as you can. You can also purchase a vent cleaning brush that will help you brush away any lint still caught inside the duct.

A clean washer and dryer can help make the laundry process much more efficient and pleasant. Be sure to take the time to clean your washer and dryer. Your clothes will thank you!

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