DIY Tips to Effectively Clean Your Washing Machine

DIY Tips to Effectively Clean Your Washing Machine

Just because it cleans your clothes doesn’t mean your washing machine doesn’t get dirty, too. After all, this appliance hums away to clean everything from funky towels to sweat-stained workout gear. No surprise then that along the way, it can collect gunk, dirt, and debris just like any other machine that’s been neglected. So, don’t wait until you’re fending off a foul stench, or worse, discovering mold. Understanding how to clean a washing machine yourself is a must-know cleaning hack. Luckily, we have a rundown of simple, DIY, eco-friendly methods that will effectively maintain and clean your washing machine and help make your weekly laundry routine a breeze.

Step 1: Cleaning Supplies 

To get the job done, you’ll need the necessary tools. So, before you begin cleaning your washing machine, gather these supplies for the best result:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Microfiber cloth or sponge
  • Old toothbrush
  • Hot water

Step 2: Clean Washing Machine Exterior

Ensure your washing machine is empty. Then, start cleaning the exterior. Wipe down the surface with a damp microfiber cloth or sponge to remove any dust, dirt, or grime. Pay special attention to knobs, buttons, and handles, as these areas can harbor bacteria and germs. You might need a long, thin cleaning brush or an old toothbrush to get to any tough-to-reach spots.

Step 3: Remove Build-Up from the Dispenser Drawer

If your washing machine has a detergent dispenser drawer, remove it and soak it in a solution of hot water and vinegar for about 30 minutes. Use an old toothbrush to scrub away any build-up or residue, then rinse the drawer thoroughly before placing it back.

Step 4: Clean the Lid Seal

The seal of your washing machine can often trap dirt, lint, and mildew. To clean it, mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray the solution onto the seal. Use an old toothbrush to scrub away any dirt or grime, then wipe the seal dry with a clean cloth.

Step 5: Clean the Drum

Next up: the drum of your washing machine. This part is easy — all you need to do is fill the detergent drawer with white vinegar and run a warm or hot water cycle without any clothes. The vinegar works to dissolve any old detergent residue, mineral deposits, and mildew that may have accumulated inside the drum. You can also add baking soda around the drum for an extra powerful cleaning solution, removing any lingering odors.

To avoid detergent residue, try not to overdo the amount you put in each wash. If you want to skip the math of measuring out liquid or powder, make the switch to SaltyLama’s eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets. Not only are these easy-to-use sheets plant-based and free of toxins, they come pre-measured, which means you never have to think about how much detergent to put in with your clothes again. For a regular load of laundry, rip a strip (two strips to a sheet) and place it either in the drum or detergent drawer. For a larger load, toss in an entire sheet. This will help you avoid any residue build-up on either your clothes or in your machine.

Step 6: Wipe Down the Door and Control Panel

The last thing you need to do to effectively clean your washing machine is wipe down the door and control panel with a damp microfiber cloth or sponge. You can use the old toothbrush to get into any hard-to-reach spots around any buttons or controls. If you have a stainless steel washing machine, dry the surfaces thoroughly with a clean cloth to prevent water spots.

FAQ: Cleaning Your Washing Machine

When tackling how to clean a washing machine yourself, here are the answers to a few of the most frequently-asked questions:

How often do I need to clean my washing machine?

It’s recommended you clean your washing machine once a month, or once you’ve reached 30 laundry cycles. This will help prevent build-up and keep your machine in top condition.

Is bleach or vinegar better to clean the washing machine? 

Bleach can be very harsh and can potentially damage your clothes if any lingering bleach remains in your machine. That’s why vinegar, which is highly acidic, is the best option for cleaning your washing machine. It’s free of chemicals and effective at killing mold and mildew.

How do I clean a smelly washing machine?

You’ll need white vinegar and baking soda. You can run an empty load of laundry with baking soda dusted inside the drum and white vinegar in the detergent drawer. 

How do I clean a front-loading washer?

Spray vinegar inside the drum and wipe it down along with the door's rubber seals. Run a full cycle with one cup of vinegar at the hottest water setting.

How do I clean a top-loading washer?

For these units, add three to four cups of vinegar and run a cycle at the hottest setting. One crucial tip? Once the machine is filled with water, pause it to let the drum soak for about an hour, then restart the cycle. Once you’re done, dry the interior by leaving the lid open so it can air out.


Regular cleaning and maintenance will keep your washing machine running smoothly and efficiently for years to come. Just follow these simple DIY cleaning steps to ensure your machine is clean, fresh, and odor-free.

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