How to Clean Your Washing Machine with Vinegar

January 23, 2014

How to Clean Your Washing Machine with Vinegar via Clean Mama

Cleaning your washing machine may seem like one of those cleaning tasks that doesn’t make sense. The whole point of a washing machine is to clean your clothing and washables, so it can’t be all that dirty, right? Wrong. The truth is that your beloved washing machine can be a perfect hiding spot for mildew and mold. So, let’s clean it up!

You can clean a top loading or front loading machine with white vinegar, but they need different amounts of vinegar and require a slightly different process. Follow the process for your specific machine.

Top Load:

Cleaning your top loading washing machine is simple, all you need is white vinegar and some cleaning cloths.

  • Start by setting your washer to its hottest temperature, highest capacity and longest cycle.
  • Add four cups of white vinegar to the hot water, close the lid and allow it to agitate for several minutes.
  • Open the lid (so the machine stops) and allow it to sit for an hour so that the vinegar can do its job to get rid of the bacteria hiding in all those nooks and crannies and the hoses of your machine.

After you have run a complete cycle with the vinegar solution, you can stop or repeat the process if your washing machine is extra dirty. The vinegar does a fantastic job of removing any mineral buildup that has accumulated, not to mention softening any soap scum and other residue that may be building up within the washer and hoses. Let your machine agitate the solution for several minutes and open the lid.

While you allow this solution to sit for an hour, it’s time to tackle the exterior of the washer as well as the fabric softener and bleach reservoirs. Using a cleaning rag or microfiber cloth, dip it in the vinegar solution and wring it out. Wipe down the exterior, lid and control panel, taking care to not get it too wet. Carefully remove the bleach reservoir and wipe down around this area where scum and dirt tends to collect. Rinse your cloth and remove the softener reservoir from the agitator and wipe the exterior and interior of it as well. Close the lid and allow the washer to complete its cycle.

Front Load:

Front load washing machines are relatively new on the home appliance market and have quickly gained popularity for their efficiency and cleaning abilities. Despite all of the benefits they have to offer consumers, there is one common complaint that seems to plague owners: stinky laundry. Wiping down the interior of the washer with cleaner, using extra detergent or running everything on the longest, hottest cycle does nothing to help dissipate the scent. However, one simple cleaning task will not only eliminate the issue, it will keep your washer in tip-top condition.

HE washers use less water and less energy which in turn results in more mildew, mold, detergent residue and buildup in your washer. Some washers have a separate cleaning cycle as an option, so use that if yours fall in to that category. If not, all you need is some white vinegar and a little time.

The best way to clean your top loading washer is simple:

  • Select the hot water setting. If your machine does not have a hot water setting, then select a “white” or a “stain” cycle setting.
  • Select the “extra rinse” option if your washer has that choice.
  • Add ¾ cup of white vinegar to the bleach dispenser or fill to its max level.
  • Allow the cycle to run until it has completed.
  • To ensure that no vinegar remains in your washer, manually select an additional rinse cycle if your washer does not have a 2nd rinse cycle selection

After you have finished washing the interior of the washer, it’s time to clean the bleach and fabric softener dispensers. These can be easily cleaned by simply removing and washing in warm, soapy water to remove any residue. Dry them thoroughly before reinserting them.

Next up? The rubber seal on the door is a perfect hiding place for mold and mildew. Carefully pull back the gasket and inspect to see if you have mold, mildew or socks (as is the case with mine). Carefully wipe down the area with white vinegar and a soft, white cleaning cloth. Dry thoroughly with a clean cloth to prevent any moisture build-up.

After cleaning these three zones, you can wipe down the exterior and control panel with a gentle all-purpose cleaning spray to remove any dust and dirt buildup. Maintaining a clean washer and eliminating the stinky laundry issue is easy – be sure to leave the door open to prevent moisture build-up in between loads and clean it inside and out every month.

Add cleaning your washer to your cleaning schedule and your washer and laundry will thank you for it!

For more cleaning tips and free printables, come visit!







Becky (Clean Mama) writes a cleaning and organizing lifestyle blog all about simplifying everyday life and making daily cleaning tasks more fun. You'll find her with a printable checklist and a cup of coffee while running around with her three little ones. Clean Mama is also the housekeeping expert on, and has been featured in HGTV magazine,,, iVillage and has written cleaning and organizing content for companies like 3M, Peapod, and Reckitt. Look for Becky's first book to be published in the Spring of 2014! Learn more about Becky at

24 comments on “How to Clean Your Washing Machine with Vinegar

  1. Jessica says:

    I know you can also use vinegar to remove the musty smell from your towels. My question is this, I have a top loader High Efficiency washing machine, which uses less water and the lid locks while it is running. How would I go about using the vinegar to clean with this type of washer? I cannot watch the water level fill as it will not run or fill water with the lid open.

    Thanks! I love your tips on cleaning!

  2. Dawn says:

    Hi Becky,
    This is great information and I’m going to do it tonight to my front loader. I have the ability to leave my washer door open when not in use, so my main area of concern is the rubber gasket itself. The surface has what appears to be “ring around the collar.” Do you know how to get rid of that? I’ve tried spraying it with pre-wash, like OxyClean spray, but it doesn’t go away. I’m afraid to use anything too harsh. Any suggestions?

    • Becky says:

      Before you ‘wash’ your machine, apply white vinegar directly to a cloth (microfiber works best in this case) and wipe the ring around the collar away. Then follow the instructions for washing your machine and the ring should be gone!
      xo, Becky

  3. Lora says:

    Becky, my new top loading washing machine has a lid that locks! Once the cycle starts, I have to unlock it to open the lid to stop the agitation. If it is too far along in the cycle (starting agitating) it then empties the tub of all water. I think I will have to use the front loading instructions. I don’t know if others have top loaders that have this annoying feature, but I thought I’d mention it in case others can’t just open the lid to stop the cycle.

  4. GinaE says:

    I have an HE washer and have never had a stinky laundry issue. Mine is an HE top loader, so it doesn’t have the rubber seal that seams to cause much of the problems. But, I do leave the lid up on mine when it’s not in use and run the vinegar ever couple of months and have never had any stinky smells in the washer or on my laundry. Good post!

  5. Yvette says:

    Hi Becky,
    Thanks so much for sharing this. My front loader has black around the glass door. I am going to do this tomorrow.
    Have a great day

  6. Thank you for sharing this great info Becky! My poor washing machine is way overdue for this sort of attention. This is now on my “To Do!”

  7. Kim says:

    I moved from a dry state to a humid state and had problems with musty laundry. It took awhile to figure out that it was mildew as I never had it before. I also had fabric softener buildup in the dispenser. I started using vinegar in the rinse in order to control the mildew, and it eventually clean the dispenser. I figure that my machine is clean and germ free. Another point: my heating element in my dishwasher was turning white, and I thought it was calcium buildup. A neighbor told me to use citric acid, but I started using vinegar as the rinse aid. Now I have no buildup. I starting to do the same thing on a toilet that won’t get clean, and already see results.

  8. Karen says:

    Thanks! Just got a brand new front-loading washing machine. This is very helpful!

  9. Stephanie says:

    I so glad I found this, I feel like I have been dealing with a stinky washer forever now!

  10. To be honest we are so thankful to you , we use your tips in our works , we are cleaning company in Dammam – Saudi Arabia , We use this vinegar technique and it works perfectly , You are #1 Becky .

  11. Danita says:

    So informative, never thouht about cleanin my washing machine . I was one of many
    who thought that adding bleach & detergent while doing the laundry automatically meant my washing machine was getting clean. I will definitely be using the vinegar method from this blog.

  12. Daniel says:

    Thank you for teaching us to clean the washing machine. Many thanks for your tips. I will continue to follow your fantastic blog. thank you very much

  13. Susan says:

    Thank you! I have a front-loader and I can’t keep the door wide open because it blocks traffic. I’ve tried to keep it slightly open and I dry off the inside after each wash, but it still smells. I’m trying this tonight!

  14. Wow, I would have never thought to clean my washer machine. Since it does exactly that, WASH! This was some really helpful information and will try it on my front loading machine. Only if you are interested I actually have a list of the top 5 front load washers over at my site. Simply click there to check it out. Thank you so much for writing this article!

  15. Gina C says:

    Does it have to be white vinegar? I have vinegar but it’s not white. Thanks for the post about to do this tonight!

  16. Great post! Been reading a lot about cleaning with vinegar. Thanks for the info here!

  17. I have a HE top loading washer and it had started to smell awful. I tried the vinegar today and it worked GREAT! I love natural, time-tested solutions.

  18. Vince N. says:

    Just FYI, Becky, on new machines, you can’t open the lid after the cycle starts. I may try using vinegar… IF I can find it at the Dollar Store.

  19. San says:

    I have to say that our washing machine (front loader) and dish washer are fine since I wipe down the rubber parts and everything every couple of months anyway, but this is a good tip to add some preventive cleaning in times when I’ll let the washer stand unused for a while (before holidays). I’m just wondering why the vinegar amount varies so much? Do top loaders have such a higher capacity (litres of water)? I’m also wondering if a dish washer would need or benefit from a vinegar wash. Lastly, I guess the white vinegar is meant to be used because it has no spices or colour (it would be pretty stupid to use dark balsamico…), but I’ve wondered why apple vinegar for example, which is relatively “white”, can’t be used. (Hypothetical question, since the white vinegar is the cheapest in the supermarket.)

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