How To Clean Your Washing Machine

Date Published: August 1, 2021
Author: Kylee Smith

Regularly cleaning your washing machine prevents foul odors and the buildup of soap residue and mineral deposits inside your washing machine. The cleaning process for both top-loading and front-loading washing machines is essentially the same. With a few supplies and a little time, your washing machine will be once again producing fresh, clean clothes.

Washing Machine Cleaning Supplies

Run your hands along the inside of the basin of your washing machine. If it is rough, it is a sign that the washer is dirty and caked with soap scum. Thankfully, the supplies needed to perform this cleaning task are likely sitting around your home.

After cleaning your washing machine, you are going to notice a huge difference. Your clothes will come out cleaner and smelling better once you have cleaned your washing machine.

Bleach

The cleaning process begins with bleach.

Clorox Concentrated Splash-Less Bleach, Clean Linen Scent, 40 Ounces, Pack of Two (80 Ounces Total)
  • SPLASH-LESS CLEAN: Concentrated, scented, splash-less bleach bleach in a thicker formula delivers a more controlled pour with less spills and splashes so you can get some serious cleaning done; Package may vary
  • CONCENTRATED BLEACH: Concentrated laundry bleach delivers more cleaning power per drop with a 33% more compact dose reducing the amount of bleach required for cleaning (compared to previous Clorox Splash-less Bleach)
  • EASIER TO POUR: More concentrated bleach with the same trusted Clorox clean in a smaller bottle making it easier to handle easier to pour and easier to use in HE machines with smaller dispensers
  • STAIN REMOVER: Whitens, brightens, deodorizes and provides 10X deep cleaning benefits while fighting tough stains on white clothes or use it as a cleaning bleach for cleaning hard non-porous household surfaces
  • AMERICA’S #1 BLEACH*: This laundry bleach with long-lasting fragrance is perfect for everyday cleaning and safe for use in standard or HE washers, so you can keep whites at their whitest and your home smelling fresh; *Based on IRI MULO unit sales 52 weeks ending 12/29/19

White Vinegar

White vinegar is also needed to clean the washing machine.  

2-PK AVO Pure Natural Distilled White Vinegar – 5% Acidity For Cooking and Cleaning Purposes (2 bottles, 1 gallon each)
  • WHY DO CUSTOMERS LOVE THE AVO VINEGAR? It’s simple. AVO has been a market leader for two decades providing Retail, Foodservice and B2B customers with vegetable oils and vinegars that are produced with the highest USA food grade quality standards. AVO’s white distilled vinegar is NON-Toxic, chemical free and contains no potentially cancer-causing additives. You will receive 2 bottles (1 gallon each). Our vinegar raw material supply chain is fully traceable.
  • COOKING AND CLEANING – AVO’s multipurpose 5% vinegar is the perfect choice for your cooking and cleaning tasks. Cooking use: Baking, general cooking, marinades, tenderizing, sauces, salads, dressings, canned food, Asian/ethnic cuisines. AVO’s 5% vinegar is a premium cleaning solution that is safe and natural. Mix with baking soda for added strength.
  • BUY WITH PURPOSE – ENVIRONMENT: Besides producing healthy vegetable oils & vinegars, AVO is committed to make continuous improvements by reducing the environmental impact of our products & facilities. Our dedication goes beyond compliance with the law and includes environmental practices into our business decisions. CHARITABLE PRODUCT: AVO’s community commitment: a portion of your purchase helps us make donations on a monthly basis to families in need and people without a home in our community.
  • MADE IN USA: Because we understand that 80% of American shoppers say they prefer to buy goods made in the United States - by CR (Consumer Reports); AVO’s vinegar is proudly produced, packaged, and inspected here in the USA. We support made in USA products.
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Baking Soda

Baking soda is used along with white vinegar to clean your washing machine.

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda Shaker 12 Oz (Pack of 2)
  • Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda Shaker 12 Oz (Pack of 2)

Gloves

A pair of gloves will protect your hands when cleaning your washing machine.

Vgo 3-Pairs Reusable Household Gloves, Rubber Dishwashing gloves, Extra Thickness, Long Sleeves, Kitchen Cleaning, Working, Painting, Gardening, Pet Care (Size L, Yellow, HH4601)
  • MULTI-PURPOSE APPLICATIONS - Perfect for dishwashing, pool maintenance, logistics, cleaning (ex. pond gutter grain), car/cloth washing, kitchen/bathroom using, working, painting, gardening, fishing, pet caring, daily chores,DIY and any household duties.
  • MATERIAL - Made with highly flexible waterproof rubber for great comfort & dexterity. Anti-slip embossed palm for an excellent grip. They smelled a bit rubbery and chemical-like when you first took them out of the packaging, but after airing them out they will be fine. Allergic people or people sensitive to rubber smell should use in caution. No flocked Lining.
  • HEAT PROTECTION & COLD RESISTANT - 100g extra thickness latex gloves for better wear-resistant. Keep your hands comfortable from hot water up to 50°C/122°F and temperature down to 0°C/32°F
  • 12CM LONG SLEEVE & VALUE PACK -12cm/4.7 in. long pull on closure sleeve to safeguard users' hands up to the forearm. 3 pairs per pack to save your money
  • CA65 & REACH Approved - Tested by Intertek which is certified by ISO17025 international standard and meet CA Prop. 65 regulations, comply with the EU REACH regulation

Measuring Cup

A measuring cup is needed to ensure you add the proper amount of cleaner when cleaning your washing machine.

Measuring Cup, [Upgraded, 3 Measurement Scales, Including Cup Scale, ML Scale, Ounce Scale], Newness Stainless Steel Measuring Cup with Marking with Handle, 16 Ounces (0.5 Liter, 2 Cup)
  • [Upgraded with OZ, ML, Cup Measurement Scales] Easy to Use: The measuring scales (lines) on the inside of the cup are easy to read and have units for OZ, ML and Cup. The ounce measurement starts from 4 oz to 16 oz with 4 oz step value. The liter measurement starts from 100 ml to 500 ml with 100 ml step value. The cup measurement starts from 1/4 cup to 2 cup with 1/4 cup step value.
  • Unbreakable: Made of stainless steel, durable, unbreakable, sturdy, and strong. It will last longer than plastic and glass. No need to worry about it breaking by dropping it accidentally. Please do not use the stainless steel measuring cup with acids, salts and other corrosive chemical liquids.
  • Heavy Duty: Lighter than some heavy glass measuring cup with the same capacity. Wide mouth design of the cup, makes it so easy to clean and use.
  • Solid Grip: Great handle. The handle has great grip to hold the cup. The angled handle allows you to hold and pour liquid securely, and it is spot welded on. With closed handle, easy to store, just hang it on the wall of your kitchen.
  • Modern Look: The measuring cup has a sleek and smooth appearance and is great to use at home, restaurants, bars and parties. Whether cooking for your family or entertaining your friends, it is the perfect tool. It's also an ideal tool for measuring pet food portions (dog, cat, bird, etc.)

Spray Bottle

A spray bottle is used for mixing water with white vinegar.

Veco Spray Bottle (5 Pack,16 Oz) with Measurements and Adjustable Nozzle(Mist & Stream Mode), HDPE Plastic Spray Bottles for Cleaning Solution, Household/Commercial/Industrial Use, No Leak and Clog
  • 【ADJUSTABLE NOZZLE & THREE SPRAY MODES】Our upgrade adjustable nozzle comes with three spray modes. From a fine mist to a steady stream to off, the sprayer can be easily adjusted to suit your needs by rotating the nozzle. Extra-long suction tube enabling you to get the last of your liquid sprayed out, avoid to waste!
  • 【DURABLE HDPE BOTTLES】 The (5 pcs, 16 Oz) strong spray bottles are made from durable HDPE plastic, BPA Free, which is chemically resistant, safe for chemical solutions like Bleach, Vinegar, Rubbing Alcohol, etc. and support long-term use. Withstands drops and won't shatter easily, is an ideal solution spray bottle.
  • 【NO LEAK AND CLOG】Our spray bottle features durable polypropylene spray head (More than 50 thousand pumps test), tight and secure cap closure, internal cover cap gasket, and built in 304 stainless steel spring and precision valve and piston for 100% leak & clog free use, NO leak when turning them over or putting on its side.
  • 【MULTI-PURPOSE USE】The heavy duty spray bottles can be used for multi-purposes. Great for Household, Commercial & Industrial use for cleaning solutions around the house, car detailing, cleaning disinfect, hairdressing, misting and watering plants, ironing, laundry, BBQ, and to spray the body etc. These bottles can be safe reusable, simply wash it out and reused many times.
  • 【BETTER TRIGGER & NECK DESIGN】 Unique 2-finger trigger design makes your fingers rest easily on it and the ergonomic neck gives you a comfortable grip, eliminating hand fatigue.

Cleaning Cloth

A cloth is necessary for wiping down the gaskets and dispensers, as well as the machine’s exterior.

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Cleaning Your Washing Machine

While bleach and vinegar are both used for this cleaning task, these two substances should never be mixed. They are for two separate wash cycles.

Your washing machine will drain all the bleach before you start the second wash cycle with white vinegar and baking soda. While you need a few hours to fully complete this task, most of the work is done by the machine itself.

Step One: Fill Washer and Add Bleach

Fill up your washing machine with hot water and add one quart of bleach to the wash water. Allow the machine to run for a couple of minutes to mix the bleach with the water and stop the washer.

Let the cleaning solution sit in your washing machine for one hour. When time is up, complete the wash cycle.

  • Pro Tip: While instructions for cleaning front-load and top-load washers are the same, some front-load washers are equipped with cleaning cycles. Additionally, some manufacturers publish instructions in manuals recommending a specific cleaning agent.

Step Two: Start Second Wash Cycle

Fill the washer with hot water once again and then add a cup of white vinegar and a half-cup of baking soda. Allow the machine to run for a couple of minutes then turn the machine off.

Let the cleaning solution sit for an hour. Then, complete the wash cycle.

  • Pro Tip: Some recommendations leave out the baking soda. While it is best to use both agents, you can simply use one quart of white vinegar.

Step Three: Clean Gaskets, Dispensers, and Machine’s Exterior

For the last step, you need to mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar in the empty spray bottle. Spray the gaskets and dispensers with the vinegar solution and wipe down using a cleaning cloth. Be sure to wipe the seal on a front-load washer. Lastly, wipe down the machine’s exterior. Leave the lid open or ajar for one hour.

  • Pro Tip: This step can also be completed using a cleaning solution of water mixed with a quarter-cup of bleach.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your washing machine is easy and only requires a few supplies. You likely have the cleaning agents on hand and can get started right away. No elbow grease is required.

FAQ: How to Clean a Washing Machine

Keeping your washing machine clean and in working order ensures it will last for many years to come. Regular cleaning of a washer ensures the machine runs optimally.

How often should you clean your washing machine?

Clean your washing machine monthly using this three-step process. Regular cleaning not only prevents foul odors and soap scum buildup but also prevents mold growth.

Why does my washing machine smell like a sewer?

A musty, moldy odor is indicative of a washing machine that needs to be cleaned. A foul-smelling sewer odor, however, is indicative of plumbing problems. If your washing machine smells like a sewer, it is time to contact a professional plumber.

Can you add the vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser?

Yes, vinegar may be added to a fabric softener dispenser for the cleaning cycle. Some people even use vinegar and baking soda to regularly clean clothes. Too much vinegar and too much baking soda, however, can harm a washing machine over time.

Does white vinegar harm the rubber seal on a front-load washer?

Using vinegar too often to clean a washing machine or a load of clothes can indeed be harmful to the machine’s rubber components. While vinegar is the preferred cleaning agent, it can be substituted with an equal amount of lemon juice if you prefer to use this natural cleaning agent for a front-load washing machine.

Iberia 100% Real Lemon Juice, 32 Ounce (Pack of 3)
  • 100% LEMON JUICE: Iberia 100% lemon juice makes it easy to add delicious lemon flavor to dipping sauces, marinades, or even sodas or juice without slicing and squeezing fresh lemons.
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  • VERSATILE: Stir Iberia lemon juice to create delicious and fresh tasting salad dressings or use it to make a classic lemon meringue pie. Add a splash of Iberia 100% lemon juice to lemon drop martini, lemonade or iced tea and avoid all the mess-work.
  • A PANTRY STAPLE: Bulk supply of 3 x 32 oz bottles to keep your kitchen in good supply all the time.

What do you do if you notice mold on the rubber seal of a front-load washer?

If you notice mold on the rubber seal of a front-load washer, be sure to inspect the rest of the machine’s basin using a flashlight. While white vinegar may be used to kill most molds, it is always best to use bleach and water to kill mold. Spray the bleach solution on the rubber seal and wipe it with a cleaning cloth. Then, allow to air dry for at least an hour.

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