How To Clean a Washing Machine

Apartment Therapy Tutorials

When using appliances like washing machines and dishwashers — putting soap in and taking clean things out — one can sometimes forget that the appliance itself needs a good cleaning now and then. And boy, did my top-loading workhorse need it. To tell you how much, I'll just say two words: Cloth. Diapers.

It had been two years since my washing machine was cleaned well, so it was the perfect opportunity to share some nasty before pics as I illustrate the cleaning step by step. (I honestly cannot believe I am publicly sharing photos of the inside of my dirty washing machine, but here goes).

What You Need


  • White Vinegar or Bleach (I used vinegar, as I try to avoid bleach in household cleaning)
  • Baking Soda


  • Toothbrush
  • Microfiber Cloth


1. Fill the washer using the highest load size, hottest water setting, and longest wash.

2. Open the lid and as the washer tub fills, add a quart of white vinegar (or bleach).
I used vinegar, as it will disinfect the washer without the toxins in bleach.

3. Next, add a cup of baking soda.
Close the lid and allow the washer to agitate for about a minute. Open the lid again and allow the water, vinegar, and baking soda to soak in the washer tub for an hour.

4. Meanwhile, remove any parts you can and soak them and clean nooks and crannies under the lid.
Soak and scrub removable parts like the bleach and fabric softener wells. Dry them thoroughly and replace. Using a toothbrush, clean the upper portion of the agitator and hard-to-reach areas under the lid and around the rim of the tub. You can also use this time to clean the front and sides of the machine, but don't close the lid yet!

5. After an hour, close the lid and allow the cycle to complete.
During this time, you can clean the top of the washing machine, the dials, and console with vinegar solution.

6. Repeat.
Run one more hot wash with a quart of vinegar in it to clean away any residue loosened and left behind by the first cycle.

7. Once the washer has drained, wipe the sides and bottom of the tub with vinegar solution to remove any last residue.
You can prolong the cleanliness of a fresh washing machine by leaving the lid open between uses. This allows the interior to dry out thoroughly and prevents mildew.

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Re-edited from a post originally published on 2.19.13 - AB

(Images: Regina Yunghans)