How to clean washing machine filter

If your washing machine isn’t draining properly or you’re noticing excess lint and debris after cycles, it may be time to clean the filter. Over time, lint, hair, coins, and other small items can accumulate in the filter, causing drainage issues and potential damage to your washer. Cleaning this filter regularly is an important part of washing machine maintenance.

This guide will walk you through the simple steps to locate, remove, and clean your washing machine’s filter. By following these tips, you can keep your washer running smoothly and extend its lifespan. Let’s get started!

clean washing machine filter

Why You Should Clean Your Washer Filter Regularly

Before we dive into the cleaning process, it’s helpful to understand why maintaining a clean filter is so crucial. A clogged or dirty filter can lead to several potential problems:

  • Drainage issues – If the filter is blocked, water won’t be able to properly drain from the wash tub after a cycle. This can cause leaks, odors, and longer cycle times.
  • Excessive lint and debris – A blocked filter allows lint, hair, and other particles to recirculate back into the wash load rather than being flushed away.
  • Possible damage – When large debris gets stuck, it can potentially damage the drain pump or prevent the tub from draining fully between cycles. This added strain can shorten your washer’s lifespan.
  • Poor cleaning performance – Clogged filters restrict water flow and inhibit your washer’s cleaning capability, leaving clothes dingy or with soap residue.

By taking a few minutes every few months to clean out the filter, you can avoid these headaches and keep your washing machine operating at peak performance.

How to Access Your Washing Machine’s Filter

The location of the filter can vary depending on the type and model of your washing machine. Here are some common placements to check:

  • Front-load washers typically have the filter housing located either on the lower front panel behind a small door or on the upper section near where the door seals.
  • Top-load washers with no agitator often have the filter on the front lower panel near the base.
  • Top-load agitator models sometimes have the filter accessible from the pull-out drawer beneath the wash tub.

Consult your owner’s manual if you’re having trouble locating your specific filter housing. Once you find it, you’re ready to begin the cleaning process!

Common Filter Locations by Washer Type

Washer TypeFilter Location
Front-LoadLower front panel or upper door seal area
Top-Load (No Agitator)Front lower panel near base
Top-Load (With Agitator)Pull-out drawer beneath wash tub

Step 1: Gather Cleaning Supplies

To properly clean out the filter area, you’ll need a few basic tools and supplies:

  • A towel or shallow pan to catch any drained water
  • A flashlight if lighting is poor
  • A small brush or old toothbrush
  • All-purpose cleaner or washing machine cleaner (optional)
  • Gloves (optional)

Having everything ready beforehand will allow you to work efficiently.

Step 2: Drain Remaining Water

The first step is to drain any lingering water in the machine before removing the filter. Locate the drain filter housing and place your towel or shallow pan beneath the opening to catch water.

For front-load washers, you may need to run the drain or spin cycle until the tub is completely drained. Consult your manual for model-specific instructions.

Top-load washers often have a drain pump filter accessed from a small door or pull-out compartment at the lower front. Simply unscrew this compartment to allow any standing water to drain out.

Step 3: Remove Filter Carefully

With the area drained, you can now locate and remove the actual filter itself. This part will likely screw off or pull straight out from the housing area.

Go slowly and have your towel ready, as more water may come out once the filter is released. Set the filter safely aside to inspect the open drain area next.

Step 4: Remove Any Visible Debris

Take a flashlight and look inside the empty filter housing area to check for any built-up lint, coins, clothing items, or other debris. Use a small brush or your fingers to carefully remove anything you find.

Be thorough but gentle during this step to avoid accidentally pushing debris further into the drain lines where it could cause a more serious clog.

Common Debris Found in Washing Machine Filters

  • Lint and hair
  • Coins
  • Buttons or small clothing items
  • Paperclips
  • Jewelry pieces

Step 5: Clean Filter Thoroughly

With the filter removed, you can now focus your efforts on cleaning it well. First, remove any large debris like hair, lint clumps or clothing fibers wrapped around the filter itself.

Next, prepare a solution of warm water mixed with a small amount of all-purpose cleaner or washing machine cleaner. If using just water, add a splash of vinegar to help break up residue.

Submerge the filter and use the brush to gently scrub all sides and any mesh screens. Swish it around in the cleaning solution until you’ve released any built-up residue.

Rinse the filter thoroughly with clean water when finished scrubbing to remove all cleaning solution before replacing it.

Tips for Cleaning Tough Filter Buildup

  • Soak the filter in a diluted vinegar solution for 30 minutes before scrubbing
  • Use an old toothbrush or soft-bristled brush to agitate stubborn residue
  • For really stuck-on gunk, make a baking soda paste and gently scrub with it

Step 6: Clean Housing Area

While you have access, take this opportunity to also clean out the filter housing area where the filter was seated.

Use the brush and some of your cleaning solution to gently scrub away any stuck-on lint, hair, or debris you couldn’t initially remove. A small vacuum hose can also help extract any remaining particles.

Step 7: Inspect and Replace Filter

Before replacing the cleaned filter, do one final inspection. Look for any remaining debris, cracks, or other damage that may require replacing the filter entirely.

Assuming the filter looks clean and intact, reinsert it into the housing area following your model’s instructions. Ensure it is securely reattached before moving on.

Step 8: Flush Drain Lines

To wrap up, it’s a good idea to flush your washing machine’s drain lines and pump while you have easy access.

Run a hot wash cycle without any clothes to send fresh water through the newly cleaned system. This will further clear any remaining residue from the lines and pump area.

Add a washing machine cleaner packet if you have one to give everything an extra deep cleaning flush.

Step 9: Clean Exterior Filter Areas

Don’t forget to also clean up the outer areas around where the filter housing is located. Hair, lint and spilled water can accumulate here as well.

Use a damp cloth and all-purpose cleaner to wipe down the surfaces surrounding the filter access point until clean.

And just like that, you’ve successfully cleaned your washing machine’s filter and drain areas! Close up the filter compartments and your washer should now be running fresher and draining better.

Tips for Preventing Filter Buildup

Cleaning the filter periodically is important, but you can also help reduce excessive buildup between cleanings. Here are some simple tips:

  • Use a washing machine cleaner monthly – These products help break down residue buildup in drain lines and pumps.
  • Remove clothes promptly after cycles – Leaving wet items in the washer allows excess lint to drain back inside.
  • Clean the gaskets and surfaces regularly – Wipe down all exterior gaskets and surfaces where lint and hair collects.
  • Use liquid detergent or washing balls/eggs – Powdered detergents can leave more residue behind compared to liquids or detergent alternatives.
  • Run a hot cleaning cycle monthly – Send very hot water through the system to flush drain lines and dissolve stuck-on residues.

Following a regular maintenance schedule will mean you have to do fewer heavy-duty filter cleanings over the life of your washing machine.

Washing Machine Cleaning Product Recommendations

  • Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner – Formulated to remove odor-causing residues
  • Tide Washing Machine Cleaner – Helps remove built-up residues and prevent future buildup
  • LG Tub Clean – Designed specifically for LG washing machines

Signs You Need to Clean Your Washer Filter

Even if you’re following a regular cleaning schedule, keep an eye out for these telltale signs that your filter needs attention:

  • Standing water in the tub after cycles – This indicates a drainage blockage, likely caused by a clogged filter.
  • Excessive lint or debris on clothes – If lint and hair aren’t being flushed away properly, they’ll redeposit on your laundry.
  • Foul odors from the washer – Built-up residues trapped in the filter can produce musty, mildew-like smells.
  • Longer cycle times or incomplete draining – Clogs force the machine to work harder to drain, extending cycle duration.

If you notice any of these issues, cleaning out that filter should be your first troubleshooting step.

When to Replace the Washing Machine Filter

Most washers have reusable filters meant to last the lifetime of the machine. However, they can eventually crack, warp, or simply wear out over many years of use and cleanings.

Replace the filter if you notice any of the following:

  • Cracks or holes that could allow debris to pass through
  • Warping or bending that prevents a proper seal when reinstalled
  • Excessive buildup that can’t be fully removed even after soaking and scrubbing
  • The filter is simply very old (5+ years) and may be nearing the end of its usable lifespan

Installing a fresh filter can ensure proper drainage and filtering for years to come. Check your washer’s manual for the correct replacement part.

Final Thoughts

While cleaning the filter and drain areas in your washing machine may seem like an inconvenience, it’s truly one of the most important maintenance tasks. Regularly completing this straightforward process will help:

  • Prevent drainage backups and leaks
  • Improve wash and rinse performance
  • Reduce buildup of odor-causing residues
  • Extend the overall lifespan of your machine

By taking just 10-15 minutes every few months, you can avoid costly repairs or premature replacement. Commit to adding washing machine filter cleaning to your home maintenance schedule for best results.

A clean, well-maintained washing machine will reward you with fresh, debris-free laundry and years of reliable service. So next time you notice water isn’t draining fully or excess lint in your loads, you’ll know it’s time tackle that filter!

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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