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How To Clean a Washing Machine

If your washer gets heavy use, run through this cleaning cycle at least once every two weeks.

Apartment Therapy

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When using appliances like washing machines and dishwashers — putting soap in and taking clean things out — one can sometimes forget that the appliance itself needs a good cleaning now and then. And boy, did my top-loading workhorse need it. To tell you how much, I’ll just say two words: Cloth. Diapers.

It had been two years since my washing machine was cleaned well. Pro tip: Don’t wait that long. If your washer gets heavy use day-to-day, you should run through this cleaning cycle once weekly or bi-weekly. You can get away with cleaning less often if you’re not using your machine often, but you should set a reminder to thoroughly clean your washer, inside and out, at least every month.

What You Need



Illustrations by May van Millingen / Apartment Therapy


1. Fill the washer using the highest load size, hottest water setting, and longest wash.
A regular, slow cycle is fine to use here.

2. Open the lid and as the washer tub fills, add a quart of white vinegar (or bleach).
I used vinegar, as it will disinfect the washer without the harsh impact of bleach.

3. Close the lid and allow the washer to agitate for about a minute.
After a minute, open the lid again and allow the water and vinegar to soak in the washer tub for an hour.

4. Meanwhile, remove any parts you can and soak them and clean nooks and crannies under the lid.
Soak and scrub removable parts like the bleach and fabric softener wells. Dry them thoroughly and replace. Using a toothbrush, clean the upper portion of the agitator and hard-to-reach areas under the lid and around the rim of the tub. You can also use this time to clean the front and sides of the machine, but don’t close the lid yet!

5. After an hour, close the lid and allow the cycle to complete.
During this time, you can clean the top of the washing machine, the dials, and console with vinegar solution.

6. Run one more wash, this time with a cup of baking soda
Run one more hot wash with a cup of baking soda in it to neutralize the vinegar and to help clean away any residue loosened and left behind by the first cycle.

7. Once the washer has drained, wipe the sides and bottom of the tub with vinegar solution to remove any last residue.
You can prolong the cleanliness of a fresh washing machine by leaving the lid open between uses. This allows the interior to dry out thoroughly and prevents mildew.

Regina Yunghans is an architect who lives with her husband and children in Lawrence, KS. As a LEED Accredited Professional and longtime contributor to Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn, her focus is on healthy, sustainable living through design.

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This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy and was published February 24, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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