DIY washing machine cleaner with baking soda and vinegar

How to clean a top load washing machine

Pkanchana / Getty Images

To prevent detergent buildup in your washing machine, use this DIY washing machine cleaner two or three times a year.

If you have hard water, you should clean your washing machine every three months to remove mineral buildup inside the machine.

To clean your top load washing machine, follow these simple steps.

  1. Put vinegar in the washing machine

    Choose the largest load size and hottest water temperature available for your machine.

    As the washing machine fills with water, add 4 cups of white vinegar and wait for it to finish filling.

    Once the machine is completely full, just as the load begins to operate, pause the machine and let the water and vinegar sit for an hour. This allows time for the vinegar to break down the detergent buildup on the walls of the machine.

  2. Clean the exterior while you wait

    The exterior of the washing machine should not be neglected. Use an old rag to clean the exterior.

    Dampen the cloth with a little extra vinegar or use your favorite natural cleanser. You can also add diluted vinegar to a spray bottle and spray the outside of the machine before wiping it off.

  3. Remember to scrub the detergent dispenser

    The drawer that houses the detergent and fabric softener dispenser can easily be overlooked.

    While you wait for the vinegar to clean the inside of the machine, use an old toothbrush to brush off the detergent residue from inside the bin.

  4. Restart your washing machine

    After the vinegar has finished standing for an hour, restart your machine and let it continue to run. Once it drains, you are ready for the baking soda cycle.

  5. Choose your essential oil

    While you can choose the essential oil you like for the scent on its own, there are certain oils that are great for fighting mold. Oregano, thyme, clove, lavender, clary sage, and arborvitae oils have all shown antibacterial and antifungal properties and are great choices for a natural antibacterial washing machine cleanser.

  6. Running a cycle with baking soda

    After your first cycle with the vinegar is done, start a second cycle with baking soda and essential oils.

    Pour 1 cup of baking soda and a few drops of essential oils into the machine drum.

    Turn the washing machine on again, choosing the largest and hottest water cycle available. Let the washing machine cycle run completely without stopping.

  7. Air dry the inside of the washing machine

    The washing machine needs time to dry, so be sure to leave the cover open after the drain is complete. In fact, to help prevent odor build-up, you should leave the lid open as much as possible, as long as small children and pets cannot get inside.

    If you cannot leave the cover open for safety reasons, wipe down the inside of the machine with an old cloth before closing the cover.

How to clean a front loading washing machine

Home washing machine plan

George Mdivanian / Getty Images

The design of the front loading washing machine makes it slightly more difficult to clean, however, it still needs to be done regularly.

  1. Spray the inside of the washing machine with vinegar

    Using a vinegar spray bottle, thoroughly spray the inside of the front-loading machine with white vinegar. Let it sit while you move on to cleaning the rubber seals.

  2. Clean the rubber gaskets

    Spray the rubber gasket liberally with more vinegar. Using an old rag, wipe away any mold and soap scum that has built up.

    Once that’s clean, go back and wipe down the inside of the metal drum as well.

  3. Do a vinegar wash

    Close your washing machine door and choose the highest, hottest cycle setting.

    Pour 2 cups of white vinegar directly into the detergent dispenser and wait for the charge to complete.

  4. Run another load with baking soda

    Open the machine door and add 1/2 cup of baking soda and a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

    Run the machine on the same settings as before.

  5. Clean the exterior while you wait

    Spray the exterior of your machine with vinegar and wipe dry with an old cloth while the washing machine is running.

  6. Make sure the inside is dry

    After the machine has stopped, open the door and wipe the inside with a dry cloth or leave the door ajar to air dry.

Include your washing machine in your cleaning routine

The hardest part about this DIY washing machine cleaner is remembering to do it! Add it regularly to your cleaning routine and your machine will keep smelling fresh with hardly any work required. It’s a great addition to your green laundry routine.

While you can use bleach to clean the inside of your washing machine, harsh chemicals aren’t really necessary. Vinegar is an incredibly effective natural cleanser. When mixed with baking soda and essential oils, you can make a simple all-natural washing machine cleaner to keep your machine looking and smelling its best.


Be sure to consult your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website before using this or any other DIY cleaning method on your washing machine. Certain acidic substances, such as vinegar, can damage certain rubber coatings or components.