This article appears in Summer Home & Garden 2018.

Ever wonder why your washing machine smells funny?

That’s because you need to clean it, said cleaning expert Becky Rapinchuk, the blogger behind Clean Mama and author of “Simply Clean” and “The Organically Clean Home.” It’s a simple step that will get you fresh-smelling laundry and an odorless washer, she said.

Washing the washing machine is necessary “because residue from excess detergent usage, excess fabric softener usage and other laundry additives can leave a thin film on the washer tub that can be a breeding ground for bacteria,” said Taryn Brucia, director of public relations at appliance-maker LG. This film is not necessarily visible, she added.

Additionally, the rubber gasket on front loads can trap water, hair and dirt, along with excess laundry product — all of which can also lead to a breeding ground for bacteria. This buildup, and subsequent bacterial growth, can lead to musty smells. Cleaning the washer monthly can eliminate this buildup and resulting odor, Brucia said.

The method to clean a washing machine varies “by model and manufacturer, but in general you can clean and care for your washer by cleaning the top and sides of the washer with a damp cloth or mild soap and water, cracking the door open when not in use to keep the unit fresh, and shaking or brushing off excess material when washing heavily soiled items,” said Edward Crump, manager of brand and product marketing, Frigidaire Wet and Home Comfort.

Specialty cleaners aren’t necessary, said lifestyle expert Tara Aronson, whose blog is Clean Organized Family Home.

“A cup of white vinegar or bleach will get the dirty job of cleaning the drum done,” said Aronson, author of “Mrs. Clean Jeans’ Housekeeping with Kids.” “Use either the cleaning cycle or select the hottest wash temperature and largest load setting. Allow the wash to fill with water, then add either vinegar or bleach. If you don’t have vinegar on hand, two cups of lemon juice will work to remove not only dirt and grime, but also hard water deposits.”

When the water drains and the washer is empty, wipe clean all the interior surfaces with a solution of hot water and white vinegar.