When was the last time you deep cleaned your washing machine? Truthfully, I went 34 years without knowing this was a thing—and then my husband and I bought a house. On move-in day we found everything in perfect, move-in ready condition except for the washer and dryer. I kid you not, when I opened the lid to take a gander at my “new” washing machine I found cobwebs. Cobwebs! Plus an entire load of crunchy clothes left for what appears to have been months.
After debating between burning the house down and buying a new machine, I eventually decided that washing it with vinegar was the best, cheapest option. And, thankfully, it worked. Here’s how to clean your washing machine quickly and easily with vinegar.
How to clean a washing machine with vinegar
You know that smell clothes get if they’re left in the washing machine for too long? Turns out your machine will also smell like that if it’s not cleaned periodically. Stagnant water and debris get trapped in your washing machine, encouraging bacteria growth and strange smells (this happens in some models more easily than others). And a dirty washing machine won’t do a very good job of cleaning your clothes—so it’s vital that you keep it clean and bacteria-free.
All you need to restore your washing machine to its former glory is white vinegar. Thanks to a high concentration of acetic acid (source), white vinegar makes a powerful cleaning agent that kills germs, gets rid of odors and rinses away dirt and grease. And it does most of the cleaning for you: simply pour it into your machine, turn on the wash cycle and let it do the rest.
Although you can clean both top-loading and front-loading washers with vinegar, make sure to check your manufacturer’s recommendations first. Some models should only be cleaned with chlorine bleach, in which case, skip the vinegar entirely and follow these instructions using 1/2 cup bleach.
How to naturally clean a washing machine
- White vinegar
- Microfiber towel
1. Select the hot water setting if your machine has it. If not, use your machine’s “white”/”heavy” cycle option. (You should also select “extra rinse” if your machine has the option).
2. For top-loading washers, add 4 cups white vinegar to the water. For front-loading washers, add 2 cups white vinegar to the bleach dispenser
3. Close the door and allow the machine to agitate. If you have a top-loading machine, it helps if you open the lid after about 5 minutes and let the vinegar sit for an hour (at which point you should close the lid and let the cycle finish). The longer it sits, the more thoroughly it can disinfect your machine.
For a front-loading washer, simply let the cycle run to completion.
4. While the machine works, use a microfiber cloth to clean the outside of the machine and wipe down the control panel.
5. Follow up with an additional hot water rinse, either by setting it manually or by pre-programming your machine from the start.
6. After it’s done, dip your microfiber towel in white vinegar and wipe down the bleach and fabric softener reservoirs as well as the inside of the lid and the hinges. Take extra care to get rid of any detergent residue in the nooks and crannies.
From here on out, it’s best to leave the door open in between loads to prevent moisture build-up and to give your machine a thorough cleaning every month.
Photos by Ana Stanciu70