When we clean our washing machines, we usually pay the most attention to the drum, lid, and exterior. But one important part we might overlook is the washing machine filter.
The filter traps lint, hair, and other debris as the water drains from the washer tub. Over time, this builds up, which can affect your washing machine’s efficiency and even lead to health hazards.
How to clean a washing machine filter? It’ll depend on what type of filter your washer has.
- Removable filters can be soaked in hot soapy water, then scrubbed clean
- Fixed filters can be wiped, then scrubbed with a soft-bristle brush
Regularly cleaning the washing machine filter keeps your clothes clean and your washing machine happy. (Otherwise, it’ll eat even more socks!)
Do I Need to Clean a Washing Machine Filter?
When your clothes get tumbled in a washing machine, the agitation removes lint, dirt, hair, and other debris. That then gets carried by the water when the tub drains.
Washing machine filters trap that debris, alongside any excess detergent and even some microplastics so they don’t enter your plumbing system.
However, over time, the lint and debris will lead to a clogged filter. That affects your washing machine’s efficiency, causing it to use more water and energy.
Moreover, dirt and lint buildup can lead to a funky smell in your washer. The dirt can even float back into the tub, so your clothes are less clean.
And lastly, lint trapped in an enclosed, moist environment may become mouldy, which is a health hazard.
How Often to Clean the Washing Machine Filter
A good rule of thumb is to clean a washing machine filter once every 3 months. If you use your washer frequently, you can shorten this to once a month.
Your user manual may indicate how often you’ll need to clean the washing machine filter.
However, if you notice a funky smell or dirt on your laundry, it’s best to clean the filter immediately.
For those who hire professional home cleaners, ask them to help clean the filter if they tackle your wash!
Where is the Washing Machine’s Filter?
For top-loading machines, the filter is usually under the central agitator. You may need to unscrew the agitator before you can access the filter. Alternatively, the filter may be at the back near the drainage hose.
On the other hand, for front-loading machines, it’s likely under the drum or a cover in the front-bottom corner.
Your best bet is to check your owner’s manual. This will tell you what kind of filter you have and where to find it. If you live in a rental with a washing machine provided, try Googling the washer model.
However, many modern front-loading machines have a self-cleaning pump instead of a filter.
How to Clean a Washing Machine Filter
Most washing machines have either a removable or fixed filter, which will each have a different cleaning process.
It’s best to clean a few hours after you’ve run your last wash cycle, so that the machine has cooled down and drained.
Always unplug your washing machine before cleaning it.
Cleaning a removable washing machine filter
If your washer has a removable filter, that makes it easier to clean.
Start by opening the filter housing and removing the filter. Consult your owner’s manual if possible so there’s less risk of you damaging the parts.
There may be water left in the filter, so keep some towels on hand to mop up.
Wipe any lint or debris from the housing using a damp cloth. You can use a flashlight to check any nooks and crannies for further residue.
For machines that feature rubber seals, you can spray them with white vinegar to disinfect the seals and deter mould.
If you can, remove lint and other debris from the filter. This will make it easier to clean later on.
Detach the filter screen and soak it in some hot water with a few drops of dish soap. Let it sit for around 10 minutes.
Once that’s done, use a soft-bristle brush (like an old toothbrush) to gently scrub the screen. This will clean off any soap scum, lint, and other dirt.
Rinse the screen with clean water, then replace it in its housing. There’s no need to dry a washing machine filter since it gets wet during use.
Run the shortest cycle on your washer to flush the filter and ensure it’s secure.
NOTE: If your filter doesn’t have a removable screen, you can just place the filter under hot running water to clean it.
Cleaning a fixed washing machine filter
Some older washers have a fixed filter, meaning you cannot remove them from the machine. This will make cleaning a bit trickier, but still doable.
Open the filter housing and check the filter inside. Watch out for any leftover water that might spill out – you’ll want to keep some old towels handy.
Use a soft cloth or paper towel to wipe any lint deposits and debris from the filter housing. Then use a soft-bristle brush to gently scrub the filter itself and clean off any soap scum or dirt.
You can dampen the brush with a little dish soap and water for a more thorough clean.
Close the filter housing, then run the shortest cleaning cycle on your washer to rinse and flush out the filter.
Lint Trap vs Washing Machine Filter
In a washing machine, the lint trap is the same thing as the filter!
We’re just more familiar with our dryer’s lint trap, but it’s also present in the washing machine.
What If My Washing Machine Has No Filter?
Many newer machines (also known as “high-efficiency” washing machines) will have self-cleaning filters or pumps instead of a lint trap.
These pumps will filter out the lint deposits and other debris – so it’s doing the work for you! However, it’s still good to run an empty cycle every 2-3 months to flush any build-up from the pumps.
Proper Maintenance for a Washing Machine
Our washing machines sadly don’t clean themselves, so it’s important to maintain them. This lets your washer function properly and extends its lifespan.
Cleaning a top loader is a different process from cleaning a front loader, since front-load machines have gaskets or seals that could develop mould over time. Make sure you follow the appropriate cleaning process!
If the trapped lint has caused a funk in your machine, it’s best to clean the washer as well as the filter. You can clean a smelly washing machine by adding vinegar to an empty wash cycle.
And about the filter – if you notice any damage to the mesh or casing, check if it’s possible to replace the filter with a new one!