How to Clean Your Washing Machine

How to Clean Your Washing Machine

With all that water and detergent, you’d think that a washing machine would clean itself every time you did a load of laundry. Sadly, that isn’t so.  Grime can build up inside your washing machine over time. Without regular cleaning, the appliance might also accumulate leftover detergent, fabric softener, hard-water deposits, and mold or mildew around the lid. This can leave residue, stains or marks on laundry or cause items to emerge from the wash with a peculiar smell.  

The owner’s manual for some machines will give specific instructions for cleaning the machine, including which cleaning products are safe to use.  Be sure to consult your manual and follow the instructions.

If your washing machine has a self-clean function, choose that cycle and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean the inside of the machine. Even if your washing machine does not have a self-clean function, washing machines are easy to clean.

White vinegar is a great disinfectant and helps fight odor, bacteria and viruses. Because vinegar is slightly acidic, it is important to thoroughly rinse with clear water after using it and to wipe down gaskets and other rubber parts.

Some Materials You Will Need:

White vinegar
Spray bottle
Microfiber cloth(s)
Bucket or sink

Cleaning a Top Loading Washing Machine

Step 1: Run a Hot Cycle with Vinegar

  • Set your washer on the hottest setting for the largest load without clothes or detergent.
  • Add 3 cups of vinegar into the drum or the detergent dispenser. 
  • Start the machine. Once it is full, let it agitate for a couple of minutes. 
  • Then stop the machine so the vinegar can react with the hot water. Let it sit for 1 to 2 hours.  The hot water-vinegar combo removes and prevents bacteria growth. Vinegar can also act as a deodorizer and cut through mildew.
  • After 1-2 hours finish running the cycle.

Step 2: Scrub the Inside and Outside of the Washing Machine

Mix about 1/4 cup vinegar with a quart of warm water in a bucket. Using a sponge and a soft toothbrush, use the mixture to clean the inside of the machine. Pay attention to dispensers for fabric softener or soap, the inside of the door, and around the door opening. If the soap dispenser is removable, soak it in the vinegar water before scrubbing. Wipe down the exterior of the machine as well. 

Step 3: Run a Water Only Hot Cycle

  • After applying the vinegar and water solution once or twice, run a cycle using hot water, without detergent or vinegar. 
  • After the cycle is complete, wipe out the inside of the drum with a microfiber cloth to remove any remaining residue.

Cleaning a Front-Loading Washing Machine

HE (high efficiency) front loading washing machines use less water and less energy which is great for your pocketbook and the environment but which can result in more mildew, mold, detergent residue and buildup. 

Mold and mildew may occur if the wrong detergent, or too much detergent, or too much fabric softener is used. A wet drum and gaskets between loads may also cause mildew and mold to grow in your washer. This can lead to unpleasant odors in your machine and in your laundry. 

Some front loaders have a separate cleaning cycle. Follow instructions in your manufacturer’s manual if this is the case. Otherwise, you can: 

  • Run a long wash cycle with the hot setting, using only water and adding one to two cups of white vinegar. Add this to the bleach dispenser.  To ensure that no vinegar remains in your washer, select the extra rinse option or manually select an additional rinse cycle if your washer does not have a second rinse option.
  • Allow the cycle to run to completion. Carefully pull back the rubber gasket and inspect to see if you have mold or mildew. Carefully wipe down the area with a 50/50 water and vinegar mixture. Then using another clean cloth, wipe down the seals, and door interior with the 50/50 mixture.
  • Thoroughly rinse the door gasket and seals with plain water after cleaning them with the vinegar solution to prevent any deterioration and damage to the seal.
  • Wipe the inside of the door, including the gasket and seals to prevent any moisture buildup.
  • Clean the bleach and fabric softener dispensers (these can get moldy too) by removing and washing in warm, soapy water to remove any residue or by wiping them down with white vinegar with a cleaning cloth. Rinse and dry them thoroughly before reinserting them.
  • Keep the washer door ajar between loads to give the washer’s interior a chance to dry out. 
  • Repeat monthly.

A Word About Pet Hair

After a day’s washing is done, leave the door open until the pet hair and drum are thoroughly dry (overnight is best).  Then, using your vacuum’s soft brush attachment, vacuum out the fur.

A Few More Tips to Follow After Each Wash

  • Take out clean clothes promptly. As soon as a cycle ends, empty the machine to prevent a musty odor in the washtub.
  • Wipe out the door and gasket between every use to lessen the chance of odor buildup. This is especially important with front loaders.
  • Prevent mildew and mold by leaving the lid or door open when not in use.

Call C&W Appliance Service at (855) 358-1496 for all your appliance repair and maintenance needs or submit our online service request form for prompt, reliable service.


For the very best in appliance repair and maintenance, you can count on C&W Appliance Service.