Your washing machine cleans your clothes and gives everything that much-loved “fresh feeling.” However, all that grime and dirt your clothes collect does a number on your machine. Over time, your machine will play host to leftover detergent, grime, hard-water deposits, and possibly mold and mildew.
To make sure you keep your washing machine clean, and to ensure all your clothes and fabrics get truly clean, we’re sharing our best tips for how to clean a washing machine. We’re even breaking it down by front-loading and top-loading models, so you know exactly how to clean your washing machine.
How to clean a washing machine: Front-loading style
A front loader washing machine offers a ton of benefits, including increased capacity. However, it also has more places to hide mold and mildew. That’s why you’ll need to follow a few more steps to ensure a truly clean machine.
Step one: Clean door and exterior
The first step in washing your washing machine: clean the door and the exterior of your front loader machine. Mix a two-to-one mixture of water and vinegar into a spray bottle or into a bowl.
To wipe down the glass/plastic on the door, use a cloth or soft sponge. Be gentle so you don’t scratch its surface. When you’re through, wipe it down with a clean cloth.
The rubber gasket in your door is trickier to clean. It is the biggest culprit for mold because it holds excess water. A scrub brush can help you get your vinegar-and-water mixture deep in there, or you may need to consider dedicating a toothbrush to do this dirty work.
If the mold is excessive, or if you haven’t cleaned it in a long time, you may have to remove the band to loosen the rubber gasket. Bleach can be your friend here, but make sure you’re using safe, non-chlorine oxygen bleach.
After the door is clean, wipe down the exterior of the machine with your cloth and mixture. Take any removable non-metal parts — like the detergent, softener, and bleach trays — and soak them in your vinegar-water solution.
Step two: Run with hot water and vinegar
Now that you’ve cleaned the exterior, it is time to conquer the drum.
Fill your detergent tray with two cups of vinegar, and run your machine on a full, hot setting. Some machines have a setting for cleaning the drum. If yours has that, use it.
If your drum is prone to water deposits because you have hard water, consider adding a hard water booster to your laundry routine. This can be used while cleaning or in a load of clothes.
Bonus step: Cut through the grime
Need a little extra help washing your washing machine, because the vinegar isn’t quite doing the trick? Spray Charlie’s Kitchen and Bath Cleaner in your washing machine’s drum, and around the places where gunk has built up. Let it soak for a few minutes and then scrub!
Step three: Wipe down leftover residue
After you’ve run the vinegar (or our Kitchen & Bath Cleaner) through with hot water, you should search for any excess dirt and lint that remains, and wipe down the drum with a clean cloth.
Step four: Do a load of towels
Find a few of your “cleaning rags” or ratty old towels and run your newly cleaned washer with them. This is the perfect time to use a clean-rinsing laundry detergent, as well as to add an appropriate measurement of hard water booster to the load. Run your machine on the hot, allowing the detergent to rinse away any remaining debris from your cleaning. Plus, you have a load of clean, softer-than-ever towels!
Use a high-quality, clean-rinsing laundry detergent for all future loads, too. You’ll notice that you suddenly have a cleaner machine — without all the stink.
We have a large family (10 kids) and do a lot of laundry, like about 300 loads in 2 months. I can’t speak highly enough of Charlie’s Soap. It gets things clean without leaving a smelly residue in my front-loading washing machine. I used to clean the seal out every few months to keep it from getting yucky, so it must have been the soap! Thank you Charlie’s for a quality product. – Sheila
Steps to washing a top-loader washing machine
A top-loader machine has a similar cleaning process as a front loader, but has a few other pieces you’ll need to clean. There are also a few other trouble spots you should pay attention to.
Step one: Let it soak
Fill the drum of your top-loading washer with hot water, and keep the lid open so that the machine does not run.
Once full, add three or four cups of vinegar to the drum. Let it run for about one minute to agitate the machine. This allows the vinegar to mix with the hot water. Then open the lid again, and keep it open for one hour to allow the vinegar mix to work its magic.
Step two: Clean the door and exterior
While you are waiting, take the opportunity to clean the outside of the door and the exterior of the machine.
Similar to the front loader, use a two-to-one mix of water and vinegar to wipe down the door and exterior. Use a toothbrush to scrub around curves, screws, and other places where dirt and debris collect.
If the machine has removable non-metal parts, soak them in a bowl of the vinegar-water mix. Take a cloth and wipe down the rest of the machine. This keeps dirt and lint from finding its way into the drum.
Bonus step: Cut through the grime
Inside your top-loading washer, you can also spray Charlie’s Kitchen and Bath Cleaner. Let it soak for a few minutes and then scrub with a cloth or scrub brush.
Step three: Let it rinse
Once the hour is up and you’ve wiped down the buttons, door, and exterior, it is time to let the machine run its cycle. Pour a bit of vinegar into the bleach tray if it is still grimy. Then close the lid and let it run. Don’t forget to take out the softener divot in the top of the agitator and rinse it out with soap and water!
After its completion, use a clean cloth to wipe out any residue from the drum, , especially above the waterline where water never gets.
Step four: Do a load of towels
Just like the front-loading machine, the final step is to run a regular load of laundry after your initial cleaning. Find a few of your “cleaning rags” or ratty old towels — something that needs cleaned but that can handle any vinegar left in your drum.
Don’t forget to use a clean-rinsing laundry detergent after washing your washing machine, and to add a hard water booster to your machine if there is still some scale built up in it. Run your machine on the hottest setting, and feel free to scrub the scale from your drum if there’s any left. Feel free to set your washing machine to the “rinse cycle” after you’ve completed additional scrubbing.
Things to keep in mind as you wash a washing machine
Deep cleaning a washing machine is not fun, but it’s a necessary step in maintaining the health of your much-needed washing machine. To ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible, here are some other tips for keeping your washing machine clean:
- Every time you use your washing machine, keep the door open for a few hours. This will help dry it out and keep mildew from building up.
- Don’t leave damp clothes in the washer. Move them to the dryer immediately after their wash cycle.
- Use a hard water booster during regular loads to avoid water deposits in the drum, especially if you have hard water stains in your machine, your sink, your shower, etc.
- If you used chlorine bleach to clean out your machine, run an empty cycle afterward to avoid staining clothes with any remaining bleach. If you’re worried about water waste and unwanted bleaching, switch to an oxygen bleach that won’t ruin colored clothes!
- Use an environmentally safe detergent to keep your clothes and machine fresh! The cleaner your detergent rinses, the less build-up you will have in your machine, your clothes, and even your pipes.
Clean your washing machine — and your clothes — with Charlie’s Soap
Charlie’s Soap was designed to get your clothes and household items clean safely. Most other detergents contain perfumes that give fabrics a “clean” smell, or that have ingredients that build up in your clothes and your wash over time. All of this leads to that “funky smell” and scale you see when you open your washing machine.
Unlike those products, Charlie’s Soap products contain only biodegradable, hypoallergenic ingredients that are safe for your washing machine and your family. In fact, our users tell us that they don’t even have to clean their washer after using our laundry detergents regularly!
This is the ONLY soap that doesn’t leave my old washer stinking and actually cleans the toughest of messes with minimal effort. – JHiker
After about 5 washes there was NO MORE SMELL in the WASHER!!!! I was shocked. Thought I was crazy. I have had to rewash every item, but all the smells are gone!! I do not know what miracle is in your detergent (or not in your detergent!). I can not thank you all enough!! – Melanie Mitchell
These happy customers know that our products are designed to do one thing: get things clean, no trade-offs. Shop our full line of laundry products here.