We Found Your New Weekend Project—Here's How to Clean Your Washing Machine

A laundry room with wooden cabinets and cat wallpaper

Cathie Hong

Cleaning your washing machine is probably one of those chores that never makes it onto your to-do list. Why? Washing machines clean things for us—so they don’t seem to be a place that is particularly dirty. But, the truth is that even your washing machine needs a little love every now and then. 

Because detergent residue, hard water deposits, and even mold and mildew can build up over time, your washing machine can be less effective than it might otherwise be if left untreated. Luckily, cleaning your washing machine is a pretty simple process—one you can knock out using items you most likely already have.

How Often Should You Clean Your Washing Machine?

You need to clean your washing machine more often than you think. If you have a top-loading washing machine, you should clean your machine every six months (or every three months if you live in a hard water area). Front-loading washing machines tend to use less water than top-loading washing machines and seem to collect bacteria faster. If you’re working with a high-efficiency top-loading washing machine, you should consider cleaning your washing machine once a month.

If you’re living in a humid area or dealing with extremely dirty clothes, you might want to clean your washing machine even more frequently. Pay attention to what the interior of your washing machine looks like and how clean your clothes are getting. If either seems dirty, your washing machine is probably in need of a clean.

Things You'll Need

  • White vinegar
  • Sponge
  • Toothbrush
  • Baking soda
  • Microfiber cloth

How to Clean a Front-Loading Washing Machine 

Laundry room with front-loading washing machine.

Amber Pierce Designs

Step 1: Run a Hot Cycle With Vinegar

The first step is easy: Run a normal wash cycle—without any clothes inside, of course. Choose the hottest water setting and the longest cycle setting, and instead of adding detergent, add two cups of white vinegar. Vinegar might not be your go-to cleaning product, but it can prevent bacteria growth and cut down on odor—so it’s a great option for cleaning your washing machine.

You may be tempted to add bleach and vinegar to make sure your washing machine gets really clean, but do not do this. Bleach and vinegar can actually produce toxic chlorine gas when combined.

Step 2: Scrub the Inside of Your Washing Machine

Once your hot vinegar cycle is finished, make full use of your sponge and toothbrush. Start by dipping your sponge in a mixture of water and vinegar. The vinegar can be really diluted here. Try combining four cups of water with 1/4 cup of vinegar. Then, use the sponge to scrub the inside of your washing machine. 

If you come across any particularly pesky dirt or residue, you can use your toothbrush to get it out. Be sure to pay attention to your soap dispenser—it tends to harbor a lot of gunk.

Step 3: Run a Hot Cycle With Baking Soda

Once you’re done scrubbing, run another empty wash cycle—this time, with baking soda. Choose the hottest water setting, the longest cycle setting, and add ½ cup baking soda in the place of detergent. 

Step 4: Wipe Down Your Washing Machine

Once your baking soda cycle is finished, use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe out the inside of your washing machine. This will make sure all the gunk is gone before you wash your next load of laundry. If you’re really in the mood to clean, you can wipe down the outside of your washing machine, too.

How to Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine 

Laundry room with top loading washing machine.

Hannah Taylor Designs

Step 1: Fill Your Washing Machine With Hot Water

Start by running an empty hot water cycle. Choose the hottest water setting and the longest cycle setting, and let it run until your washing machine is full of hot water. Then, pause the cycle.

Step 2: Add Vinegar and Let Your Washing Machine Sit for One Hour

Once your washing machine is full of hot water—and once your wash cycle is paused—add four cups of white vinegar. Let this mixture of hot water and vinegar sit for one hour.

While you’re waiting, dip your sponge in the mixture and use it to clean out the top of your washing machine. Use your toothbrush to clean out your washing machine’s soap dispenser.

Step 3: Finish the Wash Cycle

Once your machine has soaked for one hour, close the lid and continue the wash cycle. Let it run all the way through.

Step 4: Run a Second Hot Cycle With Baking Soda

Once your vinegar cycle is done, get ready to run another wash cycle—this time, with one cup of baking soda. Again, choose the hottest water setting and the longest cycle setting. 

Step 5: Wipe Down Your Washing Machine 

Congratulations—you’re finished! Be sure to wipe out the inside of your washing machine with a damp microfiber cloth. This will make sure all the residue is gone before you put in your next load of laundry.

Tips to Keep Your Washing Machine Clean Longer

Calimia Home

Calimia Home

Once you're done cleaning your washing machine, ensure proper daily use to keep it fresh until it's time for another deep clean. Since your washer uses water during every cycle (unlike the dryer), it's important to let the machine dry out entirely between loads of laundry. Make sure your washing machine is level on the floor of your laundry room for proper drainage, and leave the door cracked after each cycle.

Large loads of clothes, towels, or bedding can also contribute to bacteria inside your washing machine. Be sure to use plenty of water for each size of load to drain dirt, excess soap, and lint fully after each cycle.

How to Get Rid of Streaks on Your Washing Machine

House Sprucing

House Sprucing

Step 1: Clean the Exterior

If your washing machine has glass doors, it's likely that soap and smudges will build up on the glass. To get rid of streaks, use a simple glass cleaner like Windex on the outer side of the door, and create a new vinegar solution for the inside.

Step 2: Create a Solution With Vinegar and Detergent

Since vinegar fights bacteria, this solution will help prevent streaks from building up in the near future. Mix one part vinegar with one part detergent, then spread the mixture around the glass with a soft sponge. Avoid abrasive brushes to ensure the glass doesn't scratch.

Step 3: Scrub Gently to Remove Streaks

Once the solution is on the glass, scrub until all streaks and soap marks are removed. If you're dealing with particularly resistant smudges, leave the solution on the glass for ten to fifteen minutes before scrubbing.

Step 4: Run a Hot Water Cycle

After you're done cleaning all streaks from the interior and exterior of your washing machine doors, remove the mixture from the machine. Run your washing machine on a hot water cycle when finished to clear excess detergent and vinegar before your next load of laundry.

Article Sources
MyDomaine uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Mixing Bleach and Vinegar – Here’s What Happens. Science Notes. December 1, 2020

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