Updated: Apr 17
Updated Aug 13, 2022 By Kristi Kellogg
Alexey Gold Dvoryadkin
It’s easier than you think
Over time, washing machines get dirty—soap scum builds up, leaving you with a washer that’s in serious need of a refresh. Learning how to clean a washing machine is essential for keeping smells, mold, and grime at bay. Here, we’ll walk you through how to deep clean both front-load washers and top-loading washers using vinegar and baking soda (the process is a little different for each one). Do these deep cleans once every six months, and your washing machine will stay fresh and clean.
How to Clean a Front-Loading Washing Machine With Vinegar and Baking Soda
1. Gather Your Cleaning Supplies
Distilled white vinegar
2. Spray the Washer Drum With White Vinegar
Add your white vinegar to a spray bottle and spritz the inside of the drum. Wipe all around it with a microfiber cloth, leaving no surface untouched. (White vinegar is one of nature’s best cleaning products—it cuts through residue, buildup, hard water stains, and even grease effortlessly.)
3. Wipe Around the Rubber Gaskets
Next up, the rubber gaskets (the seals around the door) need some serious TLC. As you wipe around them, you’ll probably find scum, mildew, and even hair. Wipe it all away!
4. Pour Distilled White Vinegar Into the Detergent Dispenser and Run the Washing Machine With Hot Water
Measure out two cups of distilled white vinegar and pour it directly into your washing machine’s detergent dispenser. Set the washer to run on its longest cycle with the hottest water.
5. Add Baking Soda Directly Into the Drum and Run the Washing Machine Again
Sprinkle half a cup of baking soda directly into the drum of the washing machine and run it on the same settings (highest and hottest).
6. Wipe Down the Door and Front of the Washing Machine
Spritz your vinegar onto a microfiber cloth and clean the outside and inside of the door until it shines. Run it along the entire front of the machine, making sure to get the knobs and control panel.
7. Leave the Door Ajar and Let the Washing Machine Dry Out
Keep mold and mildew at bay by leaving the door ajar and letting the machine air dry (or wipe it with a dry microfiber cloth).
How to Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine With Vinegar and Baking Soda
1. Add Vinegar to the Washing Machine and Start a Cycle
Set your washing machine to run on its highest and hottest setting. Add in four cups of white vinegar, and turn it on. Once it’s filled up and barely started, however, pause the washing machine and just let the water and vinegar sit for an hour.
2. Wipe Down the Lid and the Rest of the Washing Machine
While you wait, you can tackle the rest of the washing machine’s surfaces. Spritz vinegar onto a microfiber cloth and run it along the top and bottom of the lid, the sides, and the front of the washer. Rub along every square inch of your appliance.
3. Focus In on the Detergent and Fabric Softener Dispenser
The washing machine’s detergent and fabric softener dispensers require extra attention. A toothbrush will come in handy to really scrub their openings and get them fresh and clean.
4. Run Another Cycle With Baking Soda
Once the first cycle has ended, pour in a cup of baking soda and turn your washing machine back on for one more powerful cycle (still on those hottest/highest settings).
5. Leave the Lid Open and Let It Air Dry Out
As with a front-loader, you want to give your top-loader a chance to dry. The easiest way is to just keep the lid up until it’s nice and dry, or you can wipe it out with a dry microfiber cloth.
Keeping Your Washing Machine Clean and Well Cared For
Now that you know how to clean a washing machine, here are a few bonus cleaning tips on how to keep your washing machine fresh in between deep cleans.
In between super deep cleans, you can do a monthly clean with Affresh. Affresh is a slow-dissolving tablet made of oxygen-based bleach and sodium carbonate. To use it, select the “tub clean” cycle (or a normal cycle if your washer doesn’t have a cleaning cycle built-in) and pop in an Affresh without any clothes. As the cycle runs, Affresh will get suds up into a foam that gets inside all the nooks, crannies, and crevices before automatically rinsing away.
Affresh Washer Cleaner, 3 ct. Pouch: $7.97
Leave the lid up or the door open immediately after a wash cycle to give it a chance to dry out and prevent mildew from forming. This applies every time you run a load.
You might be tempted to add extra laundry detergent to a particularly dirty load of clothes. Resist the urge! Adding extra detergent does more harm than good, since it can actually leave soapy residue on your clothes and cause unnecessary wear to the washing machine. Check out your washer’s instructional manual and heed its rules for how much laundry detergent to use. If you need an extra cleaning on your clothes, use the sanitize cycle instead of adding extra detergent—the sanitize cycle washes clothes in the hottest water in an extended cycle that is designed to kill heavy-duty bacteria.
Every few washes, take a look at washing machine components like the rubber seal or the agitator and give them a wipe-down. If your washing machine has a lint filter (only some do), make sure to clean it every few washes, as well.
And lastly, never overload the washing machine! Overloading a machine is hard on it, and can cause it to wear down more quickly (plus, your laundry won’t get as clean if the unit is overloaded).