Laundry 101: How to Clean Your Washing Machine

Somewhere along the way, I failed to pick up on the fact that cleaning your washing machine should be done with some regularity—not, like, never. I figured that the soap in the detergents kept it squeaky clean, and why wouldn’t anyone? Oops.

The thing is, soap residue and minerals in commonly used detergents are apt to build up in the washing machine, and over time, you might notice that your clothes just don’t seem to get as clean as they used to. My washer had just started to feel icky. And here I was just thinking that maybe I had been cramming too many garments in the same load and not letting the rinse cycle perform as efficiently.

I searched around and found about as many different approaches for cleaning a top-loading washer, but one tutorial, a two-step approach, seemed easy, inexpensive and do-able.

a top-loading washing machine being cleaned

Getting your laundry back on track starts with just two items*:
• 1 quart of bleach (many tutorials went without the bleach step, if you’re concerned about using harsh agents in your laundry)
• 1 quart of white vinegar

* Some of you might be thinking: But wait, isn’t it dangerous to mix bleach and vinegar? The answer is yes, but we will not be mixing the two here. Read on …

Fill the empty washer with hot water, as if you’re doing a large load of laundry. Add the quart of bleach, and let the full machine run for one minute to mix up the bleach with the water. Open the top of the machine and let it sit, all bleach-y and full, for an hour. At the end of the hour, shut the cover and let the machine run a complete cycle. (The water will drain out all the bleach, so it won’t have a chance to mix with the vinegar.)

When it’s done, start again. This time, when you fill the washer with hot water, add the quart of white vinegar to the water and down the bleach channel and let the machine run for a minute to agitate the water and vinegar. After that minute, open the top of the machine and again, let the hot water sit in the basin for an hour before you let the cycle complete.

cleaned washing machine

Not only did the process make the basement smell so fresh, but I noticed a big difference in how the inside of the basin felt. Smooth and clean, like after you exfoliate your face, no longer rough to the touch with the hard water spots and soap build-ups. It also only took about 2 hours and less than $3.

I’ve never had a front-loading machine, but there is a different way of cleaning those. Check out this tutorial if necessary. Now you’ve got laundry on the brain, don’t you? Here’s some more inspiration for your laundry …

Update a Laundry Room

Building a Laundry Table

How to Build a Laundry Caddy

66 Responses

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  2. free signals says:

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  3. I searched around and found about as many different approaches for cleaning a top-loading washer, but one tutorial, a two-step approach, seemed easy, inexpensive and do-able

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  6. @elizadonna says:

    House cleaning typically involves scrubbing and the toilet bowl is no exception. Toilet bowls stains are often caused by hard water. We have hard water in the Sacramento Valley and it can cause rings in the toilet bowl. This has nothing to do with if or if not the toilet is clean. http://bit.ly/1pMLmWX

  7. @elizadonna says:

    House cleaning typically involves scrubbing and the toilet bowl is no exception. Toilet bowls stains are often caused by hard water. We have hard water in the Sacramento Valley and it can cause rings in the toilet bowl. This has nothing to do with if or if not the toilet is clean. http://bit.ly/1pMLmWX

  8. Tracy says:

    Any ideas on how to get all lint out of washing machine like lint filters? Where is that in the washer? It's frustrating to see all lint on the clothes after wash them..

  9. Dessy Anaiwan says:

    Washing machines take the dirt and germs out of our clothes, but a lot of that grime just ends up trapped in the machine itself. It's pretty easy to clean your top-loader though with a few basic supplies. Be sure to check the source link for the step-by-step guide.

  10. RAG626 says:

    You need to add a warning to this article – if people do mix the two thinking it would work as well they could be killed.

  11. Set the apparatus to run max time for approved wash. Add 1qt. white vinegar, 1 qt. achromatize and a "small load" amopunt of detergent. Set the controls to max baptize akin and let it run. Added than about 15 – 20 account does nothing.

    Make abiding the aboriginal ablution afterwards this charwoman is bleachable and use commonly with a abounding amount of water

  12. washing machine says:

    great post i am using this washing machine from last few months i never face any kind of problem from the date of the purchase it

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  14. Laura says:

    I'm not exactly the a cleaning fanatic, but I work for http://www.maid2clean.co.uk/westlondon – speaking to cleaners and clients all day and have never had any requests to clean a washing machine! Does this mean the dirt will be circulating back into the clothes?! Will definitely be looking into cleaning mine!

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  16. Heather says:

    I used the "self cleaning" program monthly. It doesn't remove the detergent inside the back of the machine, behind the drum. The part of the washer that you can't see. I used to run empty loads of bleach and hot water through the machine trying to "clean the washer". The most important part of the front load washer is the HE detergent. I learned the hard way with my LG Tromm front loader. I used to use any kind of liquid detergent that was on sale. My 4 year old front loader broker due to using non HE detergents. The detergents accumulate in the back of the washer on the drum support.One day my washer started to spin off balance and the machine started smoking. I took my washer apart (thank you youtube) and found 4 inches of detergent and mold caked on the drum support. My drum support was also snapped in half. The drum support is a cheap, crappy piece of metal that cannot handle the accumulation of soap. LG Wanted to charge me $500 to tear my washer apart and replace the drum support. The part is also called "the spider". I bought the part and fixed the washer for $80. I too though that all of the extra cleaning cycles were really doing something. Not the case. –

  17. margaretsales says:

    Fill the washing machine with hot water.Add a quart of chlorine bleach.Finish the washing cycle.Clean the dispensers.Fill the machine with again hot water. Add a quart of bleach for stain removal.Add 3 cups of white vinegar for odor removal.Clean the rubber seal on the door.Clean the dispensers.Do it once in a month to keep your washing machine clean.
    Source: http://www.mollymaid.co.uk/cleaning-tips/blog.asp

  18. Jerry says:

    If you want to see some crud in a washer —–take it apart and look at the ring of Dirt/detergent around the top of outer tub—especially on whirlpool -/ Kenmore —-They are good washers though —

  19. J. Morris says:

    What about the water bill running all that water to clean the machine out. Water is expensive

  20. Boo says:

    *adds to the 'to get dun' list*

  21. phil says:

    I have a Stacked GE front load washer and dryer 8 years old. never had any problems. batcheler so just pack it with clothes and things. $1500.00 bucks new. should i use this bleach.vinegar technique? I always leave the doors slightly ajar too. and always clean lint filter …amazing how much lint accumulates. thoughts?

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About Emily Fazio 

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I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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