How to Clean a Top Load Washing Machine

how to clean washing machine

I didn’t want to share these pictures with you at first.

I was scared what you’d think.

Would you judge me?

Would my inbox be full of comments condemning my lack of attention to my home?

But here they are…in their full glory-my absolutely filthy washing machine.

cleaning washer

How can something whose entire purpose is to CLEAN be so very dirty?

{hanging head in shame}

I spend an enormous amount of time doing laundry.  Between my husband and kids I do way more laundry than I ever thought a family of five could produce. (Hubby goes through three sets of clothes a day-workout gear, Army uniform, regular clothes and my oldest wears a uniform to school and then play cloths after not to mention the general normal baby mess requiring clothes changes!) Every time I put a load in the washer I would see this horror:

gross washing machine

and make a mental note to do something about it but I obviously never quite got around to it.

Until this week.

Determined to break this cycle of yuck I researched and researched the best way to clean washing machines and here’s what I came up with.

1. Fill washer all the way up with HOT water.  Add one quart of bleach, set it on the longest cycle (for me this was the “whitest whites” cycle) and let the washer agitate for a few minutes, then let it sit one hour.  Complete the cycle.

2. Again fill the washer with HOT water but this time add one quart of white vinegar.  Same routine-set on the longest cycle and let it agitate a few minutes then sit for one hour.  Complete the cycle.

3. Wipe down the entire inside and outside of the machine with 1 cup hot water and 1 cup vinegar mixture.  Don’t forget to wipe the blades of the agitator inside the drum. If your detergent and fabric softeners have gunk built up like mine did and they are removable soak in hot water with vinegar for ten minutes then wipe down.  If they aren’t removable pour a cup of white vinegar (warmed in microwave) in them and then wipe clean after a few moments.

clean washing machine after

And there you have it-a sparkly, clean washing machine, free of build up and grime!

So spill it-when is the last time you cleaned your washing machine? Did you know you’re supposed to do this at least twice a year, more if you have hard water?? Learn something new everyday!


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  1. says

    I have never cleaned my washing machine! Well, I wipe down the dust off of the edges, but that’s about it. Mine’s still fairly new and I’ve been waiting for it to start stinking or something to tell me it’s time. Since I’m on well water though, I probably shouldn’t wait that long. Thanks for the tip!

    • Melissa Riker says

      I did not want to post the pics of how grimy mine had gotten but it had to be done. You’re a good friend for not making fun!

  2. says

    I totally need to get in my laundry room and clean up my machine! I try to do it every so often, but it’s gotten kinda yucky!

    Great tips, Melissa!

  3. says

    The washing machines for our apartment building are shared, and they’re super icky! I wish I had my own, at least right now I feel like having to clean the thing is a small price to pay for being able to do my own laundry in my home whenever I want! Probably will change my mind pretty quick once I actually have one and have to do maintenance like this on it though. :-)

    • Melissa Riker says

      It’s the first time I’d cleaned it in three years! I definitely won’t wait that long next time though-it was super easy!

  4. J says

    This is amazing. I was just scraping at that gunk in my washer today and went searching on pinterest for info on how to clean it! I will definitely be trying this. Pinning now!

      • J says

        It’s been a busy summer, but I finally had time to do this today — and it TOTALLY WORKED. I did have to do a little bit of elbow grease on it with a paper towel, but this sequence really helped loosen up the gunk and the soap scum. I thought I would be scraping that stuff off for hours and it only took about 15-20 minutes with a paper towel to really get it cleaned off to my satisfaction after I did a the bleach load and then the vinegar load. I scrubbed it using the water with vinegar in it from the 2nd load of putting vinegar in the water.

        It was astonishing to me when I scrubbed under the agitator blades — there was actual brownish-looking, crusty dirt/scum, and this washing machine is only about three years old! I am glad I got this cleaned. I have a feeling this will help my washer rinse much more cleanly and quickly. Thanks again!

  5. Tiffany says

    Love this – thank you!
    Question – it looks like I have the exact same washer as you – but my detergent and fabric softener holders seem pretty well in place. Did yours come our easily? I don’t want to yank mine out and break them :) Thanks!

  6. says

    Iam going to go do mine right now!!Jessi maybe you could suggest to the manager of the apartment’s.Thanks for the info!!

  7. Jamie says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I just cleaned mine out according to your instructions and it worked beautifully! Our washer/dryer is about 9 years old now and it sure needed it! Thank you, thank you! :)

  8. Teresa says

    you should see mine my husband works on and around tar and grease and all kinds of black greasy stuff. I spray it down with greased lightin and wipe it with paper towels them wash is out

  9. Angie says

    Good article, but allow me to add one thing. For those of you with hard water, put a couple packs of Kool-Aid brand lemonade into your washer and run it through a cycle. It will clean hard water deposits, lime and rust. This will also work in your dishwasher.

  10. Kamiko says

    Thank you for the tip. i didn’t know we ever had to clean them out. i dont have the bleach, but i do have a gallon of vinegar! Then again there are only 2 people in my home, so i only do about 5 loads max a week.

  11. Monica says

    I laugh at your reluctance to share your before picture…. you have not seen my machine!!! LOL
    I am definitely going to try this as mine is…definitely far, far worse. I have tried other things and nothing has worked thus far.

    Have a lovely day…and thanks again for sharing

  12. says

    I’ve seen some that are even more neglected particularly when I do bond cleans for homes which are fully furnished.
    The one thing I would also mention is to
    *Clean out the lint filter every few days or at least weekly imo
    If your machine has some bad smells emitting from it, chances are the lint filter is the culprit.
    Good ole vinegar is a great cleaner – these instructions above suit one’s dishwasher also (though always check the instruction manual).
    Once cleaned – just take 1 minute before you start your washing to wipe down and clean out. That’s all it takes to save you the time it takes for a major clean up.

  13. Penny Lee says

    Thank You!!!

    My washing machine was starting to smell like mildew and looking pretty bad (I thought I was the only one). I did clean it today with hot water, bleach, old toothbrush, towel and scrub brush. Most of the gunk came off. Now I wish I’d have come to Pinterest first!

    I didn’t think of cleaning under the agitator blades like one poster stated – OOPS!

    I will do your method tomorrow just to make sure it’s completely clean.

  14. Charmin says

    Thank you for the post. Although I am pretty good about keeping the outside clean, I have never done a “deep clean” on the inside. My washer is 4 years old. Yep, 4 years of gunk and grime built up. When I was finishing up on the vinegar stage, I opened the lid and saw the water. YUCK! I feel like my clothes are going to be so much cleaner now. And I know my washer is thankful because it can do its job so much more efficiently. :)

    • Melissa Riker says

      Does it not have an option to stop the cycle once it starts Nicole? If not I guess the best option would be to set it on a “soak” cycle or just the longest cycle it has. I don’t think the lack of the center agitator will affect anything.

    • shandi says

      I also have the same washer. I can’t set the water level. It goes by what’s in the washer. I get the largest towel and I get it wet so it’s heavy and tricks the washer into thinking it’s more. I use vinegar, in all the places. Bleach, soap, softner. And then I let it run on the deep clean cycle, with all the options. Fabric softner, extra rinse….

  15. Lesia Higgins says

    The build-up on mine is extremely thick, and I have been wanting to clean it but didn’t know how . Can’t wait to try this. Thanks Melissa!

  16. Ale says

    I cleaned my washer about a month ago but yesterday I put some sheets with hydrogen peroxide and water to bleach them, you are supposed to leave them overnight, in the morning they smelled really bad, do you think that the washer release anything struck by inside?

  17. Terri says

    I clean my pretty regular with just the vinegar cycle. I have done bleach before also but not like this. The problem with mine is no matter how many times I run these cleaning cycles my washer smells. It smells musty like I have left wet clothes in there for days. The clothes you take out don’t smell like this though. I don’t know what it is but it drives me crazy!

    • Melissa Riker says

      Do you keep it open when not in use Terri? I know I had that problem when I used to keep it shut all the time.

  18. kacee says

    When you say to fill with hot water do you fill it up your self or let the cycle run on hot water?

  19. Bethany says

    I haf recently moved in with my boyfriend and I was afraid to use his washer cause of how disgusting it was. There was mold inside the fabric softener spot. Thank you so much for the tips on how to clean it. Now the washing machine is all sparkly clean. It pretty much looks new. :)

    • says

      I’m my experience, spray Greesed lighting all around the bowl, sides, and agitator. Run half a cycle, then wash a load of towels, problem solved. And with hard or well water use Greased Lighting and some CLR, ventilate, same, every other week. Also, world’s with dishwashers, better than jet dry.

  20. says

    Also, wipe it down every time you use, or when yor done with the last wash of the day. I wipe down my faucets in the kitchen and bathroom every time they get wet, that prevents water stains.

    • connie says

      To keep fixtures spotless, spray a cloth with furniture polish and wipe fixtures. Water beeds up for a long time. To remove built up lime deposits, use woolite. Dip a toothbrush in woolite and brush it on lime and calcium deposits and walk away. By the end of the day deposits will come off easily. Use tooth brush and water to scrub the deposits. Works wonders,

  21. says

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It’s always helpful to read articles from other authors and use a little something from other sites.

  22. Susan says

    How do I do this for a front loading washer? Once the load starts – once it fills with water – the door locks.

  23. Kristy says

    omg!!! Tried this. Washer is gleaming! I’m more than a little embarrassed, though, at how much yuck came out of it

  24. Linda J says

    I have done this in the past, but had let buildup get past me during an illness that sapped my strength. Feeling better at last & believe me my picture would have been much worse than yours in all the same places. My problem before & since the cleaning is small black flakes showing up on clothes coming out of the wash. Today I tried cleaning under the upper lip, not the top of the tub, but the frame overhanging that level. A lot of paint & rust flaked off and I am going to try another small load & see what happens, but do you have any ideas on how to prevent this residue from continuing to fall into the tub? Or anything to paint//coat it to seal off any more degradation of that area?

    While trying to rinse the top edge of the tub I think I splashed too much water into the cavity between the tub & frame causing a leak that revealed wet lint bunnies all over the floor. So whole half of laundry room is getting a cleaning now too! At least we decided it was not a machine leak, just over ambitious cleaning! Ha Ha

    Thanks for all the information. For some wondering how to let the water soak – leaving my lid up stops the [rinse] cycle. This lets the cycle sit & soak for as long as you want.

  25. says

    This is awesome! I moved into a home with a washer and dryer, and the washer is disgusting. I don’t even know how it got to that point, but I don’t feel like washing my clothes in it would yield any positive results with the state it’s in. I’ll go out and get some white vinegar today, thanks for the advice!

  26. Jessica says

    Trying this out now! Thanks for the tips!! Mine was starting to smell pretty badly so hopefully this gets rid of that!


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