Back when we moved into the house, I arranged for a maintenance visit for a number of our appliances. We had someone come out and make sure the refrigerator had been set up correctly (a concern, since they let the door swing open when carrying it in and we then ended up cleaning leaves and other interesting items out of the fridge for days afterwards). We also had someone come in to check out the washing machine and dryer - make sure they were leveled correctly, and that the water hookups were correctly installed. At that time, the maintenance guy recommended that we yank out the little doohickey in the middle of the washing machine where the fabric softener goes, and run it through the dishwasher since it had been building up a rather impressive layer of sludge.
That was nearly two years ago. Today I finally got around to yanking out the doohickey. This is because after being gone for several weeks and eating out every single meal, the vegetable drawer in the fridge had become some sort of ghastly science experiment and there were black slimy things in there I was just not willing to scrub off with my bare hands. So I plopped that in the bottom rack of the dishwasher and then suddenly remembered that I needed to wash the fabric softener dohicky, so Richard helpfully removed that, I set the dishwasher to 'Heavy' and away they went on their merry journey from sludge-encrusted to sparkly clean.
Once done, I popped the doohickey back into the washing machine and then ran a load of laundry. Luckily it was a very small load. I say 'luckily' because apparently I forgot to push down the little locking ring. So when the load had completed, I opened the lid to discover that the small load of laundry was now liberally coated with…well…slime.
Richard attacked the washing machine drum with a great wad of paper towels and managed to remove all the obvious gunk. I grabbed the fabric softener doohickey and set to it with a sponge and lots of hot water, and thoroughly grossed myself out by dislodging great quantities of nasty slimy goo that kept coming out as if it was never going to stop.
Per my mom's suggestion (after we bemoaned the possibly ruined washing machine), after church we ran the machine empty, with only a large quantity of bleach inside. Once done, I opened the lid and heaved a sigh of relief. No sign of nasty sludge anymore. Phew.