How to Clean a Top Loading Washing Machine

Top-Loading Washing Machine Agitator
It's amazing how filthy a washing machine becomes over time.  The soap scum is nasty! We bought our washing machine used right before we married eleven years ago.  If I remember correctly it was five years old at the time.  We are grateful our 16 year old washing machine is still going strong even if I had never considered cleaning the inside.  

I never looked closely at the interior of the washer.  I just assumed it was clean.  However, it took more than a little elbow grease to clean the interior of my washing machine when I was using the wrong products.  I used these directions to clean my washer, but it wasn't enough to clean the soap scum that had built up over the years.

I apologize for the lack of crisp photos.  The laundry closet is at the top of the stairs on the second floor with no natural lighting nearby.

How to Clean a Top Loading Washing Machine

 1. Bleach.**
Add 4 cups of bleach with no detergent to washer.  Set for a long soaking cycle for the largest setting, and allow it to begin with hot water.  After it begins to agitate, turn the machine off.  Let sit for 60 minutes.  After 60 minutes, finish the cycle.
2. Vinegar.
Add 4-6* cups of white vinegar no detergent to the washer when the bleach cycle has completed.  Set it for the long cycle for the largest setting with hot water.  After it begins to agitate, turn the machine off.  Let it sit for 60 minutes.  While waiting, scrub the interior and exterior of your washer using the vinegar water in the washer.
3. Soap Scum.
The soap scum cannot be removed with elbow least not my elbow grease even with a scrubby pad.  My magic Dawn and vinegar bathtub cleaner made quick work of the soap scum. I used my special scrubber especially on the agitator and the top of the drum.  (Prior to success with this I scrubbed and scrubbed.  I even combined baking soda and lemon juice which I had used to clean the brown dishwasher stains.  It didn't work.)
4. Agitator Top.
Remove the top of the agitator.  Mine twisted off without a fuss.  Let it soak in the water while you finish cleaning.
5. Bleach Dispenser.
If you are able to remove the bleach dispenser, do so.  I could not force mine off, but was still able to clean it effectively.
* We have an extra large capacity machine, so I used four cups of bleach and six cups of vinegar.
** We have not asked our septic service people how much is too much bleach for a septic tank.  Before I use this method again, I will inquire.

When I finish a load of laundry, I keep my lid open.  I think it prevents mildew AND gives me a visual reminder that I need to put the laundry in the dryer if it is closed.

I know at some point we will need to replace the washer, but we're grateful it still works.  We knew we took a chance buying a used washer/dryer pair for $400, but it's been worth it.  Within a year we did replace the dryer, but the washer has held out for us with only a minor repair once, completed by my husband.

Do you ever clean your washing machine?  Be sure to clean your dryer vent/hose and lint trap, too.  I explained the importance of cleaning the lint trap.  Be sure to check out the Dawn and vinegar bathtub cleaner, too.  I also prefer homemade laundry detergent.  How about you?

~ Annette W. {This Simple Mom}

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  1. Thanks for the cleaning tips! I didn't know these and our washer SEVERELY needs a cleaning.

  2. Thanks for sharing these tips. I use a front loading machine but it also requires cleaning from time to time :)

  3. This is on my to do list for next week - thanks for the timely tips....

  4. I use to clean my machine with citric acid time a time. We have quite hard water, so there will gather a lot of chalice. I also avoid using detergent, that has zeolite in.

  5. I did this recently. It's weird how a cleaning device can need cleaning, don't you think?

  6. I really need to clean mine, too. I was just noticing the other day...thanks for the great tips!

  7. Great tips. I never clean mine.. I'm lucky if I can find time to actually wash the clothes! ;) I have to put it on my list.

  8. I need to do this, but really don't want to. Also we've got a front loading, so I'm not quite sure how.

    Do you ever end up with bleach spots on your clothes? We had a short period where we had loads and loads of bleach spots from something, and we never figured out what.

  9. I've never thought about cleaning our washer, it's a front loader so I guess the method would be different - lol

  10. I also use Dawn and vinegar cleaner, LOVE it!!, and make my own glass cleaner and laundry detergent as well. I have not cleaned my washer and need to. I will be using your method, thank you for posting!!

  11. You mean I'm supposed to be cleaning my washing machine?! Hmmm... Our washer came with our house 11 years ago. I have NO idea how old it is. I'm guessing it was bought at least 10 years earlier. So far so good! Thanks for sharing via Family Fun Friday.

  12. We only have/use the used washers/dryers from years ago...1980s, 1990s, as they are made some much more sturdy and my husband can replace parts as needed. Belts mostly. I really like the old style washers. And thanks for the easy way to keep them clean and sparkly.


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