How To Clean a Washing Machine

updated Sep 27, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Hero Images/Getty Images)

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. It had been two years since my washing machine was cleaned well. Pro tip: Don’t wait a long time between cleaning your washing machine.

What You Need to Clean Your Washing Machine

If your washer gets heavy use day-to-day, you should run through this cleaning cycle once weekly or bi-weekly. You can get away with cleaning less often if you’re not using your machine often, but you should set a reminder to thoroughly clean your washer, inside and out, at least every month.

Materials Needed


(Image credit: May van Millingen/Apartment Therapy)

How to Clean Your Washing Machine

1. Fill the washer using the highest load size, hottest water setting, and longest wash.
A regular, slow cycle is fine to use here.

(Image credit: May van Millingen/Apartment Therapy)

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 harsh impact of bleach.

3. Close the lid and allow the washer to agitate for about a minute.
After a minute, open the lid again and allow the water and vinegar to soak in the washer tub for an hour.

(Image credit: May van Millingen/Apartment Therapy)

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!

(Image credit: May van Millingen/Apartment Therapy)

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.

(Image credit: May van Millingen/Apartment Therapy)

6. Run one more wash, this time with a cup of baking soda
Run one more hot wash with a cup of baking soda in it to neutralize the vinegar and to help clean away any residue loosened and left behind by the first cycle.

(Image credit: May van Millingen/Apartment Therapy)

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.

• How to Clean & Organize a Refrigerator
• How to Clean & Deodorize a Wooden Cutting Board
How to Clean Your House in 20 Minutes a Day for 30 Days

Re-edited from a post originally published on 2.19.13 – TW