How Long Can a Washing Machine Sit Unused?
Since your washing machine is a major appliance, you want to protect that investment when you have to store it for a time. When you properly prepare the washing machine for storage, it can sit unused for several months or even years. When the machine is not prepared for storage, permanent damage can set in quickly.
What Happens If a Washing Machine Is Not Used for a Long Time?
If you do not use your washing machine for a long time and do not properly prepare it for storage, then damage will set in rather quickly. Water left in the drum and water supply lines will rust. Rusting weakens the metal and is nearly impossible to reverse.
Temperature also plays a role. If the machine is exposed to freezing temperatures, then water in the lines will freeze and burst the hoses. Warm temperatures will cause mold and mildew which can be impossible to scrub out later. It is best to prepare your washing machine for storage if you will not use it for more than a few months.
How Do You Store an Unused Washing Machine?
Here are step-by-step instructions to ensure that your washing machine is ready for storage. The main things you need to do are clean the machine, disconnect the power, then drain and dry it.
Clean the Washing Machine
First, you need to clean the machine. During regular use, detergent residue will build up inside the basket and the detergent hoses. You want to clear this residue so it will not be a place for mold or mildew to grow later.
Run a wash cycle of hot water and vinegar. Do not use detergent for this step because the detergent residue is what you are trying to eliminate.
After the cleaning cycle, wipe down the outside and inside, the lid or door, and the agitator. Clean out any detergent or fabric softener trays. It is also good to put some vinegar in these trays for the cleaning cycle to flush out the tubes.
Disconnect the Power
Next, make sure that the electrical power is disconnected from the machine. Find the correct switch on your circuit breaker and turn it to the off position. Then unplug the machine from the wall socket. You may want to take the extra step of removing the power cord also.
Drain and Dry the Machine
The most crucial step is to ensure that your washing machine is completely drained and dry. Any water left inside can be a source of rust, mold, or mildew.
Sitting water is what will damage your machine while it is in storage. Here are the basic steps for preparing a washing machine for storage:
- Turn off the hot and cold water supply to the machine. There should be valves on the pipes where the washing machine is connected.
- Next, disconnect the supply hoses from the mains. You will need a bucket for this step to catch the water still in the hoses.
- Now disconnect the water supply hoses and the drainage hose from the machine. Hang them to dry if you can.
You may need a second pair of hands to help you tilt the machine to drain any water in the pump. Have some towels and your bucket handy for this step as well.
Last, wipe down the inside and outside of the washing machine. If you have a front loading machine, be sure to try the seal around the inside of the door.
This is a place where water can hide and cause mold. Front loading and top loading machines should be stored with the door or lid slightly open.
If you have any questions or doubts, always consult the owner’s manual for your machine. They often include instructions for storage preparation.
Additional Long-Term Storage Tips
- Start preparations for storing your washing machine at least two days before you need to store it. You will need at least that much time to dry the machine thoroughly.
- If you are using a storage unit, plan to put the machine on a pallet. Most storage units are not climate controlled and experience condensation with the temperature changes. Condensation on the floor can cause rust on the bottom of the machine.
- Leave a few inches of clearance around the machine while it is in storage to reduce dents outside the machine.
- If you decide to cover the machine, use a breathable fabric that will not keep moisture on the machine.
- Remember to leave the door or lid slightly open.
How to Winterize a Washing Machine
Preparing a washing machine for storage is not quite the same thing as winterizing. You will first follow all the steps above up to the point of disconnecting the inlet hoses. Then, to winterize your washing machine, you will pour a small amount of antifreeze into the basket. Run a rinse cycle for about a minute to bring the antifreeze down into the hoses and water pump.
How Do You Clean a Washing Machine That Hasn’t Been Used in Years?
Perhaps you are on the other side of storing your machine, and you are ready to put it back into use. Here are the steps for thoroughly cleaning your washing machine. If it was stored correctly, cleaning should not be too difficult.
Choose the longest wash cycle and the hottest water setting. Let the basket fill, then add 2-4 cups of white vinegar. Let the vinegar solution sit for about 30 minutes. You can use bleach if you wish but be sure never to mix bleach and vinegar. It will produce toxic fumes.
Also, pour either bleach or vinegar into the detergent and fabric softener trays. Halfway through the wash cycle, if using vinegar, stop the machine and add a cup of baking soda. Let it sit for another 30 minutes. Finish the wash cycle.
Lastly, run one more regular wash cycle to wash out the dirt and grime that the first wash loosened up. Add vinegar or another cleaning solution to this cycle also. Now the machine is ready to use.