September 8, 2016
How to Naturally Clean Any Washing Machine + Free Printable
A clean washing machine is essential to clean laundry – if you’ve had issues with sour or musty smelling ‘clean’ laundry, you probably need to add cleaning your washing machine to your routine. Cleaning your washing machine takes under a minute of active cleaning time and you’ll reap the benefits in clean laundry.
You can clean a top loading or front loading machine with white vinegar or bleach. My preference is to use either white vinegar OR non-chlorinated bleach because they are safe, all-natural solutions, but some washing machine manufacturers recommend only using chlorinated bleach. Most importantly, follow the instructions for your specific machine or try one of these natural methods.
Cleaning your top loading washing machine is simple, all you really need is white vinegar and some cleaning cloths. Worried that your laundry room will smell like a pickle? Once the rinse cycle runs you won’t smell the vinegar.
- Start by setting your washer to its hottest temperature, highest capacity and longest cycle.
- Add four cups of white vinegar to the hot water, close the lid and allow it to agitate for several minutes.
- Open the lid or pause/stop the machine and allow it to sit for an hour so that the vinegar can do its job to get rid of the bacteria, mold and mildew and the hoses of your machine.
After you have run a complete cycle with the vinegar solution, you can repeat the process if your washing machine is extra dirty. The vinegar does a great job of removing any buildup, not to mention softening any soap scum and other residue that may be in the washer and hoses. Let your machine agitate the solution for several minutes and open the lid.
While you allow this solution to sit for an hour, it’s time to tackle the exterior of the washer as well as the fabric softener and bleach reservoirs. Using a cleaning rag or microfiber cloth, dip it in the vinegar solution and wring it out. Wipe down the exterior, lid and control panel, taking care to not get it too wet. Remove the bleach reservoir and wipe down around the area where scum and dirt tends to collect. Rinse your cloth and remove the softener reservoir from the machine and wipe the exterior and interior of it as well. Close the lid and allow the washer to complete its cycle.
(HE) Front Load or (HE) Top Load
Front load washing machines are relatively new on the home appliance market and have quickly gained popularity for their efficiency and cleaning abilities. Despite all the benefits they have to offer, there is one common complaint that seems to plague owners: stinky laundry. Wiping down the interior of the washer with cleaner, using extra detergent or running everything on the longest, hottest cycle does nothing to help dissipate the scent. However, one simple cleaning task will not only eliminate the issue, it will keep your washer in tip-top condition.
HE washing machines use less water and less energy which in turn can result in more mildew, mold, detergent residue and buildup in your washer. Some washers have a separate cleaning cycle as an option – I have that on my washing machine and run that cycle after I wash cleaning rags every week. I’m pretty sure that that is the secret to a non-smelly HE washing machine.
The best way to clean your front loading washer is simple:
- Select the hot water setting. If your machine does not have a hot water setting, then select a “white” or a “stain” cycle setting.
- Select the “extra rinse” option if your washer has that choice.
- Add ¾ cup of white vinegar OR ¾ cup non-chlorinated bleach (not both!) to the bleach dispenser or fill to its max level.
- Allow the cycle to run until it has completed.
- To ensure that no vinegar remains in your washer, manually select an additional rinse cycle if your washer does not have a 2nd rinse cycle selection.
After you have finished washing the interior of the washer, take a couple minutes to clean the bleach and fabric softener dispensers. These can be easily cleaned by simply removing and washing in warm, soapy water to remove any residue or by wiping them down with white vinegar on a cleaning cloth. Rinse and dry them thoroughly before reinserting them.
Make sure you wipe down the rubber seal on the door as it is a perfect hiding spot for mold and mildew. Carefully pull back the rubber gasket and inspect to see if you have mold, mildew or socks (as is the case with mine). Carefully wipe down the area with white vinegar and a soft, white cleaning cloth. Rinse with a cloth dampened with water and dry thoroughly with a clean cloth to prevent any moisture build-up.
After cleaning these three zones, you can wipe down the exterior and control panel with a gentle all-purpose cleaning spray to remove any dust and dirt buildup. Maintaining a clean washer and eliminating the stinky laundry issue is simple.
My number one maintenance tip? Be sure to leave the door open to prevent moisture build-up in between loads and clean it inside and out every month.
Go here to grab this FREE PRINTABLE infographic and clean your washing machine!
Here are some other laundry posts you might enjoy!
4 Ways to Naturally Soften + Freshen Your Laundry
How to De-Stink Active Wear
Niki Doherty Says
Hi there Becky
Thank you for your posts. I recently purchased Soap Nuts to use in my washing machine and was wondering if you have ever used them and if so what did you think?
Becky SaysPost author
I haven’t used them Niki – sorry!
I really needed this post. My HE front loading wash machine has been leaving gross streaks on our clothes. I wiped down the inside of the machine as well as all around the door with vinegar but did not think to actually run a cycle with vinegar. I will give it a try. Thanks!
I have a front-loader washer. I have run the “clean cycle” monthly, wiped door and gasket after each cleaning, and been very careful to leave the door open between loads. But I am absolutely and completely ready to get rid of this monster and buy another top-loader. The design is so flawed they should never have been allowed on the market.
If you buy a new one, consider an HE top loader. It’s the best of both worlds! We’ve had ours for seven years and have been VERY happy with it. I could never get behind the front loader craze; they seem incredibly high maintenance. (Not to mention most of them are HUGE and would take over my whole laundry room, which is long but narrow!)
Linda DEBOER Says
Hi – This is great – thanks! Do you have any tips on getting the rubber edging of a front loader clean? – Mine has dark stains on it probably from not leaving the door open in earlier days :(.
Becky SaysPost author
Wipe clean with white vinegar or bleach to remove the mold.
Steve Hodson Says
We just moved into a new apartment, and I’m pretty sure our top loader washing machine had never been cleaned. The white vinegar did wonders for the look and smell of the inside of the machine, and it is safe for us to use right after we are done cleaning. It’s the little things like this that help our home to be REALLY clean. Thanks for the great tips, Becky!
Lisa Abrams-Misbeek Says
My husband got distilled white vinegar instead of white vinegar. It that ok to clean the HE Top Load washer?
Becky SaysPost author
It’s the same thing 🙂
I read the smell in washing machines is caused by liquid detergent. I use powder, never clean my machine and these 40 years never had any funny smell in my Miele front loaders. The hottest cycle is 90 Celsius, the machine heats the water from the tap. I mostly use cycles of 60 degrees Celsius for bedding, towels and microfibres clothes. 40 for clothes.
Hello! Is the free printable still available? I wasn’t able to print. Thanks!
b r SaysPost author
Penelope Smith Says
This is some really good information about washing machine cleaning. It is good to know that vinegar can help get your machine really clean up. As a new homeowner, this is really good for me to know.
I’m in London – front loaders have been used in Europe for 40-odd years. The bad smell is often related to washing on lower temperatures (30 to 50 degrees).
Since bedding and towels should be washed at 60 degrees, (or hotter), if you are running a couple of loads per week through the machine at these higher temperatures, your front loader shouldn’t smell at all. It’s only happened to me in one period, when new laundry liquids were being advertised for washing at thirty degrees. I found that they didn’t work at 30 degrees, fine at forty, but I tried washing bedding and towels for a while at lower temperatures and got the smellies starting.
A good clean with vinegar at 90 degrees and back to forty degrees for everything except bedding and towels at sixty degrees. Problem has never recurred.
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