Knowing how to clean a washing machine naturally, specifically a top loader, requires only vinegar, baking soda, and a little elbow grease!
Tip: learn to make homemade laundry detergent.
How to Clean Your Washer Naturally
First, these instructions are for a top-loading washer. However, if you have a front loader, you can find directions for cleaning your front load washer naturally here.
The other day I received this request from a DIY Natural community member:
“I am looking for a way to make the Affresh washing machine tablets or a recipe to clean my new top load washer. The tablets smell of vinegar and baking soda. Any ideas would be helpful. THANKS!”
So I quickly thought of my own dirty washing machine and took this as an opportunity to write a post that would hopefully help many others.
Do You Want A Clean Washing Machine?
If the idea of learning how to clean a washing machine sounds odd to you, let’s talk about some reasons it might be helpful:
- Some washers have the tendency to smell bad due to their design. HE washers tend to hold water in certain components, becoming a breeding ground for mold and mildew and causing unpleasant odors.
- Odors in a washing machine can eventually come off on clean clothing.
- Hard water causes a lime buildup in components and pipes, causing things to run slower. Washing machines and pipes are more efficient when lime is removed.
- You may live in a humid climate. Constant moisture in the air prevents the washer from completely drying in between loads, causing stale odors and mildew.
- Often times soap and dirt splash up, leaving grime on parts of the agitator and wash bin that is above the waterline.
Our Drum, Gaskets, and Seals Needed a Good Scrub
My current washer is a normal (non-HE) top loader, but it definitely needed a good cleaning. We recently moved to a very humid climate and the washer is constantly damp.
Strike #1 to having a nice-smelling and clean washing machine.
We live in a rental house and the previous renters allowed gunk to build up in parts of the machine.
When we moved in 7 months ago, I only cleaned the surface of the gross washing machine, leaving the inside for a day when I had more energy.
Strike #3 for this poor appliance.
I’m somewhat embarrassed, but I’m showing pictures anyway. Lucky for you I’m not sending this out as a scratch ‘n sniff article. Don’t worry, the washing machine will be clean soon!
How to Clean It Naturally
I’ve seen other tutorials on cleaning top loaders, but many times the directions will recommend using bleach. Not only is bleach a toxic cleaner, but it is also bad for septic systems, which need a certain amount of bacteria present to break down matter.
The following instructions will allow you to kill mold, mildew, keep odors at bay, and clean your washing machine using only natural ingredients. This process is safe for septic tanks and safe for all washer components!
Two common household ingredients are needed for this project. White vinegar and baking soda to the rescue! The vinegar will disinfect, helping kill mold and mildew. The acidity of the vinegar will also help dissolve soap residue in the washtub and dissolve lime deposits in pipes (if you have hard water). The baking soda cleans soap scum and deodorizes if you have SWS (stinky washer syndrome).
Steps for Cleaning Your Washing Machine
1. Set your washer to run on hot water with the largest load setting. Do not add clothes or detergent. Add 3-4 cups of white vinegar to the water and allow the machine to agitate for a minute to incorporate the vinegar.
2. Add about ½ cup of baking soda. Allow the machine to run again to mix in the baking soda. Stop the washer at this point and allow the water to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
3. While the hot water, vinegar, and baking soda are penetrating the grime and odors, use a clean cloth dipped in the vinegar water to wipe down your washer. Give attention to the top of the washer, the knobs, the top of the wash bin, and any bleach or fabric softener dispensers. (I had to bust out an old toothbrush to detail all the grime that was residing in my washer! Ew!)
4. Allow the washing cycle to resume until the water begins draining. If your washer will allow it, turn the knob so the tub will drain while spinning. This helps clean loosened gunk by pushing vinegar water through the wash bin holes. If your washer doesn’t allow this, start another hot wash cycle now and allow it to run through completely.
5. The scum around the top of the wash bin was wiped off very easily with a sponge at this point. (Remember, the water doesn’t reach this part, so it may need a little extra attention.)
Naturally Clean Washing Machine. Yay!
I knew my washer smelled bad, but after cleaning it, my entire laundry room smells completely different! Apparently, I was just accustomed to the stale odor. 🙂
If your top load washer is susceptible to getting mold, mildew, or odors, keep the lid open after use. Clean your washer using this method every few months or as needed.
Again, keep in mind these instructions are for a top loader washing machine only. If you have a front loader, you can find directions for cleaning your front load washer naturally here.
Now that you know how to clean a washing machine naturally, share this with your friends and family!
- Living Green: Keeping Your Home Healthy, Safe, and Clean. Vermont Department of Health. June 2017.