The One Thing You Should Be Cleaning for *Way* Better Laundry

Yes, your washing machine has a filter. Yes, you should clean it.

June 24, 2021
Photo by Ty Mecham

Anyone who does their own laundry likely knows that dryers have lint traps that should be cleaned regularly (ideally, after each use). All this requires is peeling off the layer of purple-grey lint that has accumulated on the trap to prevent pesky pieces of lint from sticking to your freshly washed clothing. What you probably didn't know is that your washing machine has a filter that you should be cleaning, too. Don't feel bad if this is the first time you're hearing of this...I wasn't exactly aware of it until recently, either.

Pump filters provide a similar service to the lint trap in a dryer, collecting (you guessed it!) lint, in addition to stray hairs, crumbs, rogue clothing threads, and more. Sounds pretty gross, right? If you're anxious to start cleaning, there's a step before that! You first need to find where the washing machine filter is located! According to Readers' Digest, any owner's manual is your best bet for locating it, but if you've misplaced that (haven't we all!), there are a few likely places where you'll find the filter: in the front of the machine behind a small latch, at the very bottom of the drainage hose, or under the cover of the agitator (the tall spindle in the middle of the machine that helps to move your laundry through the soapy water).

Once you've located it, TikTok user speedcleaningqueen recommends draining the hose of any old, stinky water before removing the trap. "You'll thank me later," she says. Once the hose has been drained, discard the water, pull out the trap, and soak it thoroughly in hot water for at least 10 minutes in order to remove every bit of dust, dirt, and grime—and then scrub it clean. If it's not possible to remove the filter, which may be the case for some top-loading models, scrub it hard with a brush (an old toothbrush works great!) and use a wet cloth or damp paper towels to ensure that you're cleaning every nook and cranny. Soon, your filter will look shiny and new again and you're back on track to getting cleaner-than-ever laundry.

Cleaning the filter will help to get rid of any pesky smells (we all know the ones) so that your washing machine actually smells like a basket of fresh laundry. Experts also recommend running your washing machine with hot water every four to six weeks to rid it of excess soap and scum left lingering after dozens of washes. Deep-cleaning your washing machine (think: wiping down the exterior, scrubbing the gasket, and running empty cycles with bleach and vinegar) is also key for maintaining your model's efficacy. However, some newer models may have a self-cleaning function that requires no bleach or vinegar at all and can be run effortlessly on a monthly basis.

Do you know where your filter is located? How often do you clean it?

Now for the rest of the machine...

Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Georgia Laoagan
    Georgia Laoagan
  • sammylotsoflove
  • Anne Jarman
    Anne Jarman
  • Allison McCarroll
    Allison McCarroll
  • piggledy


Georgia L. June 24, 2022
Great blog! Everyone should be considering this to improve their laundry day and to lessen the risks of incidents.
sammylotsoflove March 25, 2022
When the clothing tumbles inside a machine, it generates a lot of lint. Sometimes, this lint escapes filters and piles up in the dryer ductwork, further restricting air passage, heating the machine, and further igniting the lint itself. Make an appointment in cleaning your dryer duct. Try
Anne J. January 13, 2022
Clearly I meant bacteria not bacon, how great would that be? Even I would have a front loader if that were the case! The last time I used a front loader regularly was over 58 years ago in Wales at my grandmother’s house when my uncle bought one for her to make her life easier as it was the only automatic washing machine available then. And don’t defend them, I have friends who have them and the same disgusting problems still exist which is why I have an impeller.
Anne J. January 13, 2022
Well that’s all well and good if you have one of those filthy front loader washing machines that have water constantly sitting in the bottom that can be breeding bacons matter what one does, but how does one clean a top loader? There is a cleaning cycle with Oxy. And cleaning the gasket is not difficult nor are the trays hard to remove and clean. Is there something else I should be doing?
Allison M. January 11, 2022
I am a little concerned by the “running empty cycles with bleach and vinegar” comment in the last paragraph, lest anyone use that as an instruction in lieu of looking up how to clean their washing machine. Bleach and vinegar should NEVER be used together, as they will form a very toxic gas that can be deadly. Please update that phrase to include that warning!
piggledy September 16, 2021
It would help enormously if the manufacturers would make this area more accessible. We own a Maytag stackable front loading machine. In order to reach the filter, one must first remove the front panel, which is SCREWED to the frame. For us, this is daunting, as our laundry pair is installed in a closet, and reaching the screws from the sides of the machine is a real challenge. Please, engineers, THINK when you design machines. It should be far easier to reach this area. We could clean this area far more frequently if we didn’t have to stand on our heads to do so.
emily June 25, 2021
Can someone send this to my property managers? lol
Arati M. June 26, 2021
hahaha, same Emily, same.