Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to Clean Your {Top-Loader} Washing Machine

clean-your-washer-1.22.13 Clean your Washer? Sounds kind of unnecessary doesn’t it? Yes, it SOUNDS that way…but when you think about all the dirt and grime that cycles through your washer on a day-to-day basis…it actually makes perfect sense! Washers need washing too!

Back on February 20th of this year, I posted about how to clean your front-loader washer at the request of my niece Ashley (even though I don’t own a front-loader).  She was complaining about a funky smell and didn’t know what to do about it.  That led me on an odyssey of sorts where I learned more than I ever thought there was to know about front-loader washing machines.  It was definitely an eye-opening experience. So if you have a FRONT-LOADER, you can find out how to clean it here: How To Clean Your Washing Machine.

For the rest of us…I promised back then I would do a subsequent post about how to clean top-loaders, but haven’t lived up to my promise! Yet.  Crystal gave me a gentle reminder via email the other day, saying she was patiently waiting the aforementioned promised post.  So this one’s for you Crystal!  And me….and the rest of us “low-efficiency” clothes washer owners. I personally think the HE (high efficiency) washers have some significant kinks to be worked out before I will consider buying one.  But that’s just my .02 cents.

One of the reasons I’ve been dragging my feet about this post is because my washer is actually almost new. I bought it “used” 6 months ago from someone who had it in storage and had only used it a handful of times. So I figured it would be kind of silly to “clean” it at this point.  hahaha. Silly is the word allright. Silly ME. Upon close inspection I realized the washer could definitely use a cleaning…especially after I started “looking under the hood”.  OY!

So let’s get to it, shall we?

As usual, there are a myriad of “How To Clean Your Washer” articles out there…each with their own spin, but after reading about a thousand of them, this is the simple method I went with:

  • Fill the washer with HOT water. Add 1 quart of chlorine bleach - no detergent – and let the machine agitate for a minute, then let it sit for one hour.

  • After one hour, allow the washer to run through its longest wash and spin cycle.
  • Immediately fill the washer with HOT water again and add 1 quart distilled white vinegar. Let agitate for a minute, and again, let it sit for one hour.

Using the bleach and vinegar will clean away bacteria, soap scum and mineral deposits from the wash basket and hoses. This is especially important if you live in a hard water area and should be done every three months. Every washer should be cleaned at least twice per year.

  • While it is soaking, dip a scrubber sponge in the vinegar water and detail all the nooks and crannies of your washer, including the knobs, the lid and the exterior.

I used my microfiber cloths to wipe down and then buff the exterior.  Look at that SHINE! :-)

  • If your machine has built-in dispensers, clean those too. I was fairly shocked at how grimy mine were! The fabric softener dispenser was all slimy feeling…and the bleach dispenser was just plain icky! If your dispensers aren’t removable, warm 1 cup of white vinegar in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Pour it into the dispenser and allow it to sit for a few minutes to loosen any build up.
  • After an hour, run the longest wash and spin cycle again.

Your trusty washing machine should now be shiny clean and ready for more abuse. :-)





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619 thoughts on “How to Clean Your {Top-Loader} Washing Machine

      1. Robin

        Can I add that some folks’ HOT may not be quite that hot, if they’ve turned it down for little children in the home. We upped ours when we were washing my daughter’s oily Massage sheets – and it’s good to do your towels and bedding REALLY hot sometimes, to get out residues. So turn up your water heater really hot for this, you can turn it back down later.

        Reply
        1. Anne Marie

          In lieu of washing your towels and bedding in really hot water to remove residue, I found a tip on pinterest that suggested adding a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle to remove residue. My husband is a chef and we really struggled with getting his uniforms clean because so often they come out of the dryer still feeling greasy. Now when I wash his uniforms with I add a cup of borax to the wash and a cup of vinegar to the rinse and they finally feel clean!
          The only thing we have that is gas-powered is our hot water, and we have a gas tank for that. It is really expensive to fill up so I wash everything in cold water so that we don’t use up the gas any faster than absolutely necessary and the vinegar trick gets all those residues out.

          Reply
          1. Kelly

            That’s the method I always used to wash my cloth diapers – hot water, borax and ‘free’ detergent for the wash and cold water and white vinegar for the first rinse and a plain water second rinse. Never any stains or odors and nothing to irritate baby’s skin.

            Reply
          2. Sabrina

            Something I found really useful for greasy clothes is 1/2 cup pinesol. the stains came out with only one wash and were much cleaner than ever before. My husband works in a warehouse with metal and gets his clothes very dirty.

            Reply
            1. Nancy

              Pine Sol works great on greasy stains. You’re so right! On any color fabric Pine Sol does the trick. For those who want a more natural alternative and have the time… soaking a stain in lemon juice works well too. I’ve even used the 1/2 of a lemon to hold the fabric under the level of the lemon juice, to make sure to get the stain out. Plan to do this ahead of doing your laundry as it can take time. As much as an entire day depending on the stain. My mother got hair dye out of material using this method though! (maybe she was lucky or just plain stubborn. lol)

              Reply
            2. Sue

              I only use Dawn for any grease stain. Wet area, rub in the Dawn. Let set for a while, wash as usual and the grease is gone. Works great for ring around the collar.

              Reply
        2. Hannah

          I know my washing machine levels the water temperature out to 100* F regardless of water heater temperature. I’ve tested for washing cloth diapers. Another great way to get your water to a super-high temp is to throw in some pots of boiling water. I’ve done this for dying textiles at home, too =)

          Reply
        3. Anna

          How do you turn your water heater up and down..?! I had NO idea there were settings.. silly me! -does it make a difference that ours is an electric heater (I KNOOOOW.. SUCH a waste..! but, it’s what came in our apartment!) I notice that our “hot” on the hot cycle is NOT very hot at all! Thanks!

          Reply
    1. Jessica

      Have you lived under a rock for your whole life??? You can get bleach from a freakin’ gas station… You can get it literally ANYWHERE! To think you have never used bleach for anything in your life makes my brain hurt.

      Reply
      1. Erin

        That’s just being nasty. Would you really be that brutal to someone’s face? It was totally unnecessary. Besides, please remember that the Internet is global. In many countries bleach is very hard to find, because it is pretty nasty stuff.

        Reply
      2. Andrea

        How totally rude and unnecessary. You should be ashamed and I KNOW that you have never asked a question that someone else found trivial. Perhaps they have never used bleach and was unsure of where to get it and to be belittled by someone was horrible.

        Reply
      3. Kevin

        Jessica,

        It is a bit disconcerting that this person has never used bleach before, but saying something like that really is uncalled for. I would love see you in a gas station or supermarket talking to someone else like that. Mainly because I would love to see your face when they gave it right back to you. Oh and on the off chance they were too nice to say something I would relish any opportunity to put someone in their place. Kudos on your attitude problem, and here’s hoping you see a behavioral therapist soon to discuss your online rage.

        Sincerely,
        Kevin

        Reply
      4. Whatsyourdeal

        Considering that bleach is pretty freaking toxic and most people who don’t live in their own imagination land would rather use vinegar than bleach… I think you need to be knocked off your high horse. Vinegar does the exact same thing bleach does, without all the toxic fumes and issues. Sorry you don’t do the research before you act like a dickwad.

        Reply
        1. Manuka

          “Vinegar does the exact same thing bleach does” ???? Not even remotely close.

          Sodium Hypochlorite (a 5% aqueous solution of which is commonly known as “household bleach”) is an alkaline chemical that is sodium chloride (commonly known as “table salt” with an extra oxygen atom. The oxygen atom is easily released, and that oxygen is the bleaching agent (the free oxygen is what kills germs, it’s very toxic to them). Non-chlorine bleaches such as oxyclean use peroxides to release free oxygen.

          Acetic Acid (a 5% aqueous solution of which is commonly known as “distilled white vinegar”) is weak organic acid (also known as ethanoic acid) that has no bleaching properties whatsoever. As an acid, it effectively dissolves deposited alkaline minerals like calcium that are found in hard water, something bleach cannot do because it too is alkaline. In the example of cleaning your washer, the vinegar is meant to neutralize any remaining alkaline components such as sodium hydroxide left behind by the bleach.

          Reply
      5. Carls-Bad

        Jessica, I live in the country and the only store we have for miles is the local”gas station/grocery*hardware store/laundrymat” for several miles. I have pleaded with the owner to get clorox and he says he hasn’t the space. What do you suggest??????? Help!

        Reply
        1. denise murphy

          Ask the owner to order you a case and then purchase it by the case. When you are on your last bottle ask him to order another. He doesnt need to put it on the shelf, just keep in box in stock room. He may ask that you prepay to guarantee pick up. Most store owners will do this for customer satisfaction and a sale

          Reply
          1. Margaret

            Bulk buying is a good solution for anyone living some distance from “quick shopping”. (I order from a restaurant each year a case of green beans to add when canning garden soup, & for communal dinners.) Cases are a lot cheaper than cost per family size item…if you have the room (to store it in the dry and it won’t freeze) and it will be used in a couple or three years. (Expiration and “best used by” dates are for stores to rotate merchandise. Most things are quite usable for sometime after that date.) However, I have been told that liquid clorox will lose its effectiveness after a period of time (but the clorox cubes used in swimming pools retain their effectiveness)…perhaps ChemTeacher would know the answer to that I only use about 1 gallon of liquid bleach per year and it is still effective.

            Reply
      6. Jill Crawford

        It’s quite possible that the person questioning where to get bleach was thrown by the word chlorine. I know a LOT of people who don’t read all the words on a bottle. OR maybe this person doesn’t do the grocery shopping, and was trying to get as much information as possible for the person who does. Maybe this person is just now moving out on their own. Which makes it completely possible they have never used bleach before. My brain hurts just thinking there are such rude people in this world that would make such assumptions without having all the facts.

        Reply
          1. Stephanie

            Actually, when you combine Bleach and Vinegar, it creates Chlorine Gas, which is highly toxic and can be fatal to breathe in. PLEASE DO NOT MIX!

            Reply
        1. Jackie

          Bleach and Ammonia are extremely dangerous, you must NEVER!! NEVER!! NEVER!! combine the two. I know a lady that did it by accident and the fumes burned her throat so badly that the doctors weren’t sure if she’d ever be able to speak again. Fortunately she recovered but it was a very long and painful recovery.

          Reply
      7. Cindy

        Awww come on. You don’t have to be so mean. Those comments should have been kept to yourself. What good did writing that really do? None, just got rid of pent up frustration on your part. Maybe you need to find a hobby.

        Reply
      8. Jeanette

        Wow, you are surely one spiteful woman. Who do you think you are? I would hate to be your neighbor. Someone needs the love of God in her life maybe? Lighten up and stop judging and insulting just because she is not a bleach user. I am not either. It is bad for my sewage treatment plant. So there!

        Reply
        1. Carol P

          I don’t use bleach either. I am highly allergic to it and if I use it I can’t rinse my clothes enough times to be wearable. I have had to throw away underwear because someone used bleach in the white clothes. I can and do however use the non chlorine kind..

          Reply
      9. Julie

        Why does your brain hurt because they have never used bleach? That’s really rude. Lots of people (myself included) are giving up on bleach and switching to less harsh chemicals, that are just as effective. For one, when puppy training, or potty training a child. Bleach would be worse than using vinegar. Vinegar is a great, natural disinfectant and you can mask the smell with essential oils if need be.

        Reply
      10. Nancy

        No need to be testy or insult others just because they haven’t used the same products you have! Not everyone has been exposed to the same options and choices as everyone else. Especially if they have been in another country or in a very rural area. Please think of others possible situations and feelings before you post!

        Reply
      11. mountainmanmike

        I haven’t been able to find bleach around either. Out in the country we use good old timey products like washing soda and vinegar, and for things we want to disinfect we use boiling water. There is a city about 8 hours drive, I might try to find bleach, I hear good things about it.

        Reply
    2. amanda

      diandra isn’t from the US. germany, somewhere in scandinavia maybe? even if she lives here now, bleach might still be an unfamiliar product. a quick click on her name and her blog gave hint of that. and her last sentence even seemed like it might have been rhetorical…

      in some european countries chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) bleach is only available for commercial use. it might also be stronger. the non-chlorine bleach that’s widely available doesn’t have the same cleaning power. where chlorine bleach is available it’s as a cleaning product, not marketed as a laundry product the way it is here. i’ve heard it might be in small volume “for tough stains”. european laundry techniques have been a bit different than ours, the machines heat the water hotter, have longer wash cycles etc.

      at any rate, just some things i’ve picked up along the way in my travels and from family. i know her post was over a year ago, but diandra doesn’t live under a rock.

      Reply
            1. Brandy

              I don’t know much, but I’m pretty sure that bleach is corrosive to metal, and most front load washers have a metal drum. So I think soaking it with javex might be a bad idea.

              Reply
              1. lauren

                Yeah, bleach/javex is pretty potent stuff I totally agree but when diluted with that much water it really won’t do anything to your machine. I’ve always used bleach to clean my whites when they get really nasty or off colored .. and my towels. As long as you don’t over do it and use it too often, you should be fine.

                Reply
              2. Manuka

                Correct. You don’t want concentrated bleach anywhere near stainless steel for very long. Bleach is highly corrosive stuff, and stainless steel won’t stop it. Only reason you can get away with it in top-load washers is that the metal drums are usually coated in a porcelain enamel that resists darn near everything.

                Reply
        1. Bridget Burgess Thorne

          My top-loading HE won’t allow water filling when empty–I can’t choose a load size, the machine does this based on the volume of clothing inside the machine (husband who wants all the bells & whistles, won’t listen when I point out that there is just more to break AND don’t get me started on the refrigerator!). I’ve tried several times. I specifically have the newest Whirlpool H2Low top loader–anyone have suggestions? Husband is going to be banned from appliance purchasing after this!

          Reply
          1. Jenn

            I use a generic Mr. Clean Eraser to “scrub” the inside of mine. It takes the layers of gunk right off and with very little effort. I wipe the inside and out with a Mr. Clean about once a month and it keeps my washer in check. It even does the nasty layers on my agitator with very little effort.

            If you wish to do Jillee’s method with your type of washer, you can fill your washer with any sort of rag or towels you don’t mind bleaching and vinegaring (old men’s undershirts are good). Use those in the “cleaning” load that Jillee describes.

            Reply
            1. bugrussell

              Jenn, that only cleans the inside of the drum, where you put your clothes. Isn’t the problem with HE washers the build up on the drum on the outside? Where we can’t get to it with a sponge? Jillee’s post I thought was to handle that.

              Reply
          2. Sallly B

            I found that I can get my top loader HE washer to fill with more water if I use the cotton blanket setting. I haven’t tried doing it when empty, but I have for just a few items and it filled all the way up. I use that setting for most things now. Who thought that less water would really get things clean? NOT!

            Reply
          3. Scott

            @ Bridget Burgess Thorne

            For those of you who have modern electronic load “sensing” machines, simply fill a bucket with HOT water from your hot tap (or boil some hot water in a pot), then pour into your washing machine. This may create enough weight for the sensors to allow HOT filling from the machine. If not, simply fill your bowl manually as described.

            Reply
          4. Misty

            Check the owner’s guide, mine also has all the bells and whistles that I don’t use but there is a CLEAN cycle. I will be using it later today.

            Reply
          5. Tim McCoy

            Bridget…I was like your husband, wanted all the bells and whistles on my front loading HE washing machine. After 6 years, one of those bells and whistles broke and a repairman declared the machine DOA! His comment, “you are washing clothes, you are not using this machine to fly to the moon! Computer chips are not needed to wash clothes. If you are washing your clothes, why do you want to save water?” I bought a top load Kenmore from Sears and it has worked great….my parents Kenmore has lasted over 25 years!

            Reply
            1. Jill

              Tim: I agree totally. I have a Kenmore top loader that I have been using Forever. It has outlasted 3 others that my Mom has purchased! As long as you keep them clean, and have preventative maintainence by the Sears repair people every once in a while (usually to replace motor mounts), they keep going. I also feel that by using my local repair people, I am keeping someone employed, since it difficult to find appliances made here. My washer also is very well made- it has a welded (not pop-riveteed) drum that is porcelain coated. May yours last as well as mine has, and I hope I am not jinxing mine by writing this!

              Reply
            2. Momof3ms

              Lol….That is what the repairman said who came to fix my “bells and whistles” washer. He asked me if I took my laptop with me when I showered. I looked at him like he was crazy. He started laughing and said, “if you would not take your computer into the shower, why use a washer that has a computer board in it and is CONSTANTLY in a wet environment” He said the computer part of the washer cannot ever be completely sealed from the damp and after a while, something is going to give. Then you have to replace the WHOLE works. We threw that washer away since it was dead and got an old fashioned, no computerized anything washer and it works great!

              Reply
              1. Ken

                Actually the electronics are usually aealed and made waterproof. Even non modern washers the mechanical part will wear out usually the timer drum. Plus they are still electrical so even though they use hard contacts to go thru the cycles, things still wear out or corrode due to moisture. Fortuantely the parts are usually cheaper. Having more sensors however is like a modern car, more things to fail, and less ways to fix them. So tradeoff. You could have it physically wear out, timer drum, timer motor, knob breaks etc. Otoh, the electronics could fail due to motor stalling, sensor failures, display malfunctions etc.

                Reply
          6. suzie

            mine adds more water every time we open/close the lid have you tried that mine is a kenmore but doesn’t allow a load size to be selected stupidest feature ever

            Reply
          7. Doris

            Make sure you yourself pick out what you want re appliances. My friend’s son decided she should buy a side by side refrig. She always had a bottom freezer and it was to her liking. She cusses out the side by side freezer part when she goes into it. And, he didn’t pay for the refrig.– she did!

            Reply
          8. Crystal

            brigett,
            I too have top loader he washer…..however, mine has a clean with affresh cycle?? I just put it on that cycle instead of selecting a wash cycle! There, it automatically sets the water temperature to the hottest also! Hope this helps!

            Reply
  1. Rachael

    Any ideas on how to do this if you have a washer that runs its cycle all the way through even if you have the top open?? Meaning I cant let the stuff sit there for the time suggested bc it will just keep going through the cycle. HELP!

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      Is it a push pull knob to turn it on and off? or electronic? If the first? just push the knob back in to turn it off, if the second, unplug the washer after it has agitated for a minute, then plug it back in to finish the job :)

      Reply
      1. CTY

        Rachel–I had a similar problem. I turned mine off so it could set for an hour and was cleaning the other parts like Jillee said–a few minutes later it was emptying. What?? So I pulled the plug to stop it from emptying. I finished wiping the exterior and took a peek inside–all the water was gone. DH said it must have a siphon effect because standing water can pose the danger of a child drowning. Alas–I did what I could–then added another cup of bleach and ran it through every cycle. For the vinegar treatment I think I’ll just run it on the longest cycle with extra vinegar. Whew! Good thing we only do this 4x/yr.

        Reply
  2. Dana

    Rachael,
    Can you pull the knob out to stop the cycle? Then after waiting the hour push it back in to continue the cycle?

    Diandra,
    You should be able to find bleach at the grocery store or superstore near the laundry supplies and/or cleaning supplies.

    Reply
  3. Dorothy Carr

    We live in the country and have a septic tank.. It is a must to keep it working or, as we just found out, it has to be pumped out at the cost of over $300.. My question for you is, will all the vinegar and bleach hurt the working of a septic tank?
    Thank you so much for all the helpful hints.. I love getting your posts..

    Reply
        1. LanellCrowell

          Once every 3 or 4 months flush 3packs of yeast down your septic system. This will keep the tank fermenting. My father installed septic systems and advised people to do this.

          Reply
          1. Cheryl

            Does this do the same thing as Rid-ex? I heard about using regular yeast but could not verify it worked. Would be MUCH more cost effective!!

            Reply
        2. Becky

          Vinegar will not hurt a septic, but bleach can! It kills the bacteria that breaks down the “matter” in the tank. Small amounts like what is called for here shouldn’t do any damage, but I would hate septic users to think that it’s ok in larger quantities. I love using bleach to clean, but have to be careful how much goes down the drain!

          Reply
    1. lynne

      I just had a worker come clean my front loader washer, he said just bleach every couple of months, he
      stated no need for the vinegar. Thought I’d share

      Reply
      1. Christine

        Bleach kills the germs and bacteria but vinegar gets rid of hard water build up. Unless you have a water softener, you will need some vinegar as well.

        Reply
    2. Justin

      A quart of bleach is a lot at one time for a septic tank to handle. I would not use that much at one time. The bleach will kill bacteria in your machine at a much lower concentration. I’d only use a cup, and not very often. It would also be a good idea to add some Rid-X to your tank afterwards, but wait a few days for the bleach to be “used up”.

      It’s also better for the tank if you limit anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners.

      A tank in good working order should be pumped about every 5-7 years with typical use. Aerobic style tanks usually need to be pumped more often.

      Don’t ask what a plumber is doing on a page about washing your washer, lol.

      Reply
      1. Heidi

        Too much bleach and even too much vinegar will wear at the seals on your washer over time (you don’t want to find that your washer has leaked all over your floor). 1 cup of each is more than sufficient when cleaning your machine.

        Reply
      2. cocobear

        if you have a septic tank do not run wash water in it run it on a separate leaching container it is only gray water then bleach would not hurt your septic

        Reply
    3. Tc

      You can also get good bacteria to add to the septic tank via flushing it down the potty. There are natural ones that help to break down the stuff in the septic tank and allow it to drain into the drain feild. Small amounts of bleach won’t hurt it and vinegar is competely safe and natural to use. I have used vinegar for cleaning for years and it has never hurt the septic tank.

      Reply
    4. Crystal123181

      Our septic was pumped last summer. We rent but our landlord had it done. He said that there was a pink “film” that was really thick on top of the nasty in the tank. The septic company said it was from heavy bleach use. And our landlord advised us not to use so much bleach when washing clothes. It wasn’t from us because I only did one load of whites a week and very rarely used bleach to clean with. I’m not too worried about it because I know it wasn’t us causing this mess. I have since switched to a bleach alliterative, it works good. But yes, bleach can cause you septic issues. Vinegar, probably isn’t an issue because it’s not corrosive like bleach is.

      Reply
    1. Jillee Post author

      Audrey…does your washer have a “clean cycle”. Typically HE machines don’t fill all the way…only enough to cover clothes. The clean cycle will override this and fill the whole tub.

      Reply
    2. Audrey

      No, it doesn’t. I just pulled out the booklet that comes with it and read the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the washer. It calls for 1 cup bleach mixed with twice the amount of detergent called for in a normal sized load, and then running it through a cycle using hot water. I still don’t see how this will clean the whole machine if it’s not filled up. I will experiment, though. I know if I open the top of the washer while it is washing, and then shut it again, it adds more water. So, maybe I will just have to do that until it is full.

      Reply
  4. Casey

    Oh my! Can I *secretly* admit to NEVER cleaning my washing machine…EVER?! It’s awesome and over 10 yrs old…okokok, I’ll clean it! THANKS for the motivation ;))

    Reply
      1. Eilee

        I have never cleaned my washer either. But you can bet it will be done tomorrow. After reading these posts I’m starting to think our clothes are not getting as clean as they could be getting with a clean washing machine Thanks Everyone

        Reply
    1. Linda G.

      You are not alone Casey. We have had our washer for 4+ years and we bought it used so I have no idea when it was cleaned. I’m sure it got a little cleaning one of the times my hubby had to do some work on the inside of it, I hope… Perhaps I should wait for a nice day so the kids and I can escape to fresh unbleached air outside. ;)

      Reply
          1. Leslie W

            Frank, So did I!! I clean the outside when I was towels but have never done anything like this. Now I am grossed out and thinking this is the perfect Sunday afternoon activity…

            Reply
    2. Donna

      I have had my washer and dryer for 20 years and I have never cleaned it!!!! I have just recently noticed that my machine stinks. It has been happening for the past year since I started making my own laundry detergent!!! Thinking I will be going back to the company made stuff!! Time to go clean my washer!!!

      Reply
  5. NaDell

    My next door neighbor fixes washers and dryers and other appliances for a living and he told me once that he buffs the outside with car wax to get them all shiny and new looking to resell. Just a quick tip. =)

    Reply
  6. NaDell

    I wanted to let you know that your old posts that I was still subscribed to finally came up in my google reader after you fixed the top/front loader link. =)

    Reply
    1. Jillee Post author

      NaDell! Thank you SO much for letting me know this! I can’t tell you how happy I am about that. :-) I was getting ready to email every single former Google Friend on Blogger individually to make sure they knew how to update their reading list! I tried a few technical tweaks this afternoon and apparently they worked! yay! Thanks again for letting me know….you made my day!

      Reply
  7. Helen

    Thanks again Jillee! I will admit to cleaning my vacuum once a month which some of my friends think very odd, but it does get dirty. (OK I actually clean it every time I vacuum but the filters only once a month) I always wondered about the entire washing machine. I go at the top and obvious areas once a week but never thought to clean anything but the softener cup. Once I started reading your posts and switched to vinegar in the cup I haven’t had that disgusting buildup there once was. Since we live in a hard water area I will now try this tip. Once question though, is it necessary to use bleach the first “rinse” or could I do two doses of vinegar? We have a septic and I try to avoid anything that could mess with those lines. It seems the bleach should be diluted enough but I am still concerned.

    And as always, Thanks for the great posts!

    Reply
    1. Carrie Cearley

      How do you clean your vacuum? I vacuumed the bag area but it still smells dirty. I have a Kirby and I really don’t want to take it in to be serviced because it’s smelly! Any tips for my dirty little vaccum buddy?

      Reply
      1. Gma Sue

        How about stuffing a Fleecy sheet in the bag. You have several scents to select from. Might help with the smell you have when vacuuming. Replace with a new dryer sheet when you empty the bag.
        If this doesn’t work, try using a Furnace scented spray. Spray the inside of the bag. This too will have to be repeated. Gma Sue

        Reply
        1. kimberly kimberly

          hi all,
          im a personal assistant so i take care of many homes.
          I put essential oil(s)right on the vacum filter…works like a charm and my clients love it….

          Reply
  8. Sara

    Jillee, you should know that your blog has been (and still is) making me a better person, woman, wife and girl! You inspire me to no end (Yes, even with posts about how to clean my wash machine that just may not have ever had the interior cleaned after MANY years of use.). Thank you for being you. You are a jewel and I am so happy that I stumbled upon your words one random day!

    Reply
  9. Lisa

    Just thought you should know – I pinned this today, and my pin alone has been repinned 178 times and been liked 40 times. It looks like it’s been pinned almost 500 times since this morning. Thanks for the info. I think lots of us were in need of it. Keep up with posting all of the cleaning and homemade product/fixes. I love them.

    Reply
  10. Lauren

    Thanks again for some great info! Do you think there’s any way to multi-task with the two giant loads of water? I’m not a huge tree-hugger, but that seems like a TON of hot water to just let drain away.

    Reply
  11. tammie

    anything for a top loader thats an H/E machine? i’ve used the commercial cleaners, but since my machine only uses 11 gallons of water per load, you obviously can’t do a huge load of clothes. plus, as soon as the machine starts, it locks. any ideas would be appreciated!!! :D

    Reply
    1. Danielle

      Tammie, I have the same machine and I used this method yesterday. I just did one Tub Clean cycle with a cup of bleach and then another Tub Clean cycle with the vinegar (including the warmed vinegar in the bleach and detergent dispensers). So I didn’t get the hour soak time but the cycle runs for an hour so I took what I could get!

      Reply
    2. Gma Sue

      I was told to use a package of TANG to freshen up the smell in my HE front load clothes washer and also for the dishwasher. Yes, TANG…the orange drink!!! It works as a cleaner too. Amazing.
      Or try a package of GLISTEN that is made for automatic dishwashers. It made my HE front load clothes washer smell fresh and clean. I was able to purchase this at a local grocery store.
      I am warry of using bleach as if I drip it…it’s bound to get on my next load of clothes.
      I don’t know if these products kill bacteria, but I was happy with the results.

      I now wipe down the rubber ring/seal outside and and on the underside of the ring with a clean rag EVERYTIME I unload the washing machine and I leave the door ajar 1″ to air dry it until the next time I use it. Not had a ‘off’ odor since.

      Reply
      1. KDrenna

        I didn’t know Tang was still available. Where can I get THAT? My grandmother used to always have some in her house and I would love to drink some again to remind me of her. BTW it makes sense that it would clean as good as vinegar due to the fact that acetic acid (hmm, am I naming the correct acid here?) which is in vinegar, and citric acid in citrus fruits are similar (the same??). Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word ‘fact’ in my last sentence; I am not really sure of the ‘facts’ it seems:) Anyhow, if you could let me know about Tang, I would appreciate it.

        Reply
  12. renee daniels

    So, my question is the same as Dorothy C. We also have a septic tank and I believe the bleach is not good at all for the “bugs” in there. Any other ideas? I love all of your ideas, hints and helps. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Judy Ann

      My appliance repair friend told me to use Affresh tablets once a month. They sell them in some grocery stores, Amazon, Home Depot has them here in Florida where I live. My 1 year old washer with stainless steel tub started leaving a yucky smell on my clothes. He told me it needed to be cleaned. He said if I cannot find the Affresh, to put 1 quart of vinegar in the washer in HOT water and to run it through in the meantime. He said citric acid is what is in vinegar that kills mildew and fungus. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  13. Racheal

    I have been thinking my laundry room smells weird! I was just getting ready to look up a way to clean the washer. It is sitting in bleach right now!!! Thank you so much!!! I can’t wait to see the end results!!

    Reply
    1. Pat

      I would fill it with hot water via pitchers or buckets until the water reaches the desired level. Allow to soak as directed. Then when ready to agitate, you will need to move the knob past the point where it tries to fill with water.

      Reply
  14. Heather

    Jillee, you’re the best! I give my machine a good wipe-down quite often for the knobs and any place I can clean with a cloth, but doing the whole machine just went on tomorrow’s “to do” list. I think I’ll make it a “clean the cleaners” maintenance day and do the vent hose on the dryer (which also needs to be done every six months at least), and clean out the filters on the vacuum, too.

    Reply
  15. Heather O.

    I don’t have a septic tank, but I wonder if OxyClean would work for those who do. I LOVE OxyClean and use it to clean all sorts of things. Just a thought!

    Reply
  16. Jan

    Just read an article that if you have a septic tank or holding tank you shouldn’t use bleach as it kills all the bacteria that you need in the tank.

    Reply
  17. Patricia @ Patricia's Particularity

    I bought my house almost 3 years ago but as a grad student I couldn’t afford a new washer set, so I was stuck with the ones the previous owners had for almost 10 years (at least). Normally I am a germaphobe but again, I couldn’t afford a new set. I clean my washer and dry twice a week – knobs, tops, sides, etc. HOWEVER, (this might gross you out – beware) I came across this post last night on Pinterest and I did not know what clean was. My washer has the drain that you can pour the detergent down (I don’t use detergent, I use the Purex sheets) which the previous owners used. I took it apart and EWWWW – it took me almost 2 hours to literally scrap 10 years worth of built up detergent and lord knows what else. So right now as I type this I am waiting for the vinegar to sit in the washer for the 1 hour and I cannot wait to do a load of laundry. But I will say I am saving my money for a new set lol.

    P.S. Now how do you clean the dryer?? lol

    Reply
  18. julanne myers

    Hi Jillee…..I am really enjoying going through your blog. I have made the laundry detergent , and think it works well. I just filled my washer with your ‘recipe’ to clean it. My laundry has been smelling sour after it’s dried when the towels, washcloths get wet again . Its not as bad, but my clothes don’t smell great either. My washer calls for the HE detergent. We have soft, well water and I didn’t have a problem with my old washer. This one has the fill sensor.

    Thanks for any help……..Julanne

    Reply
    1. Kris

      Hi Julanne!! We had the same problem a few months ago with the clothes/towels not smelling so good after they get wet again. Aroung the same time, we noticed it was taking a lot longer for our clothes to dry. So we called “the Man” and he discovered that the vent that goes from the dryer to outside was clogged. So he cleaned it out (MAN did that stuff SMELL!), and when we ran everything back through the wash we used OxyClean to get the stink out. And it got the smell out. “The Man” said that you should have that vent checked/cleaned every year or so.

      Reply
  19. Deserae

    I chose to use about 2 cups of bleach, 2 scoops of oxyclean and 1/4 cup of powder dishwasher detergent. I followed all other directions except that during the 1 hour sit period I took a scrub brush to the inside and then aggitated the water every once in a while. Part of the reason I chose to use the scrub brush is that the water didn’t fill all the way to the top where the perpetual black/dirty line was. It was minimal effort in scrubbing and my washer sparkles like new.

    Thank you Jillee! I love your blog.

    Reply
  20. Kate

    I pull double duty when I clean my washing machine. I throw my clear plastic shower curtain in for both cycles. The bleach kills the mildew and the vinegar gets the hard water off. And you simply hang it back up to dry. At the end I have a clean washer AND a clean shower curtain. I haven’t bought a new shower curtain in years.

    Reply
  21. Teresa

    So glad I found this today. Perfect timing b/c I just washed my throw rugs and was thinking I would have to clean out the washer after doing that. Thanks! I usually do a wipe down and remove the fabric softener holder, but running the two cycles with bleach and then vinegar is a great way to clean the inside. I may throw the plastic shower curtain liner in there to pull double duty like Kate suggested, too. Love it when I can multitask with cleaning chores.

    Reply
  22. RhondA

    Dont use Clorox or any bleach to a septic tank. I do use vinegar though. I would suggest flushing a packet of yeast or ridex just in case right after you clean it eleven though it’s just vinegar…

    Reply
  23. Halimah

    Hi. Funny how we all use washing machines, but we don’t clean them as oftenas perhaps we should. I used fabric softener in every load with my old washing machine. When I bought my new machine I was told that the use of fabric softener will shorten the life of my machine. White vinegar was recommended. I tried this ( 1/2 cup used the same way as fabric softener in rinse cycle) and it is brilliant. The vinegar smell disappears very quickly, and it leaves machine clean of all that gunge that softeners cause. Vinegar also helps with stain removal and acts the same as a softener.
    Once a fortnight I spray inside of machine with a clove oil spray ( 1 tsp pure clove oil in 1 liter of water shake well in spray bottle) let it sit for 10 minutes then wipe interior and exterior of machine then run machine on short cycle wash (no clothes in machine). My machine is fresh and clean.

    Reply
    1. Bethany

      I know my washer will still run even with the lid open, BUT I just push the start/stop knob to turn off the cycle so that things can soak, hopefully your machine is similar and this helps!

      Reply
    2. Pamela Fertitta

      If you have a new wash machine chances are you can’t let anything soak past ten minutes! I have a new machine and it drains after ten minutes. It does not matter if it’s on or off and or if the lid is up.
      This machine also has a temperature sensor, so I can’t get hot water because it filters in cool water to save on energy. This is so ridiculous that a machine I paid for dictates to me what is best for my washing needs! I can’t even sanitize my towels or sheets due to the lack of hot water! I now use a detergent called Persil to get my clothes clean without and residual effect left on my clothes. It’s expensive and you have to order it online – Amazon – it’s imported from Germany. Good Luck.

      Reply
  24. Kellee

    I have a question. We currently moved into a house that included a washing machine and it looks similar to the one in the pictures. I’ve only lived in this house for 5 months and the fabric softener gets everywhere! I have started not using as much as it recommends and it’s still doing it. It will leave behind fabric softener on and around the top dispenser and it even goes down the agitator. I have taken it off and cleaned it (with just hot water) and a week or two later it was disgusting again! I can’t get clothes out of the washer without them getting fabric softener on them and then I have to rewash them. It’s so frustrating! My first washer didn’t have the fabric softener dispenser so I used the downy ball so I don’t know if this is normal and if cleaning would fix it, or if something is wrong with my washing machine.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      I was having the same problem with my fabric softener. Then one day I started taking the agitator apart because I was tired of blue streaks on my clothes. Ewwww, it was so disgusting. The fabric softener is supposed to disperse down the agitator. Turned out mine was full of gunk, slimy, black, disgusting gunk. No wonder my clothes didn’t smell clean half the time. I have gone to the downey ball just so none of that builds up again but I am definitely going to use this method and clean my washer tonight. Hopefully everything will smell better after that!

      Reply
    2. Kerri

      Just wanted to add that I stored my (13+ yo) washer for about 5 months in the last year because I was between homes. About 2-3 months after getting it out of storage, I noticed *HUGE* fabric softener deposits on my white T-shirt sheets. My machine has the center post fabric softener dispenser and after removing all the pieces to clean it, I realized it. was. disgusting. (It had been stored in North Carolina beginning in September and I suspect a fair amount of “cooking” happened to the fabric softener gunk while in the storage unit.)

      I used a plastic butter knife and toothpicks to scrap away as much gunk as possible, and repeated that process as needed. But it was a few goes of the ol’ vinegar and baking soda trick, plus an old toothbrush and hot water that really did the truck. It’s sooooo clean now and no problem at all with fabric softener stains. It took an hour or longer to do it, but totally worth it. Be sure to take all the fabric softener pieces up out of the post (if your machine does that) so you can get the non-removable part of the post clean — that’s where a lot of the gunk had built up for me. I also made sure I cleaned up the holes on the post where (I presume) the fabric softener dispenses into the wash.

      Reply
  25. Allison

    Talk about viral!! I pinned this this morning (Australia time), and within hours had a couple of hundred repins – as of now (7 hours later) I have had over 70 likes and over 370 repins!! Talk about popular – but what else would you expect from One Good Thing!!
    Hope all is well
    Allison
    PS Here’s a link to the pin:
    http://pinterest.com/pin/111112315776871139/?utm_term=likes_what&utm_content=2&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=activity-v0_digest_unpersonalized

    Reply
  26. Nancy

    Hello… I found your link from Pinterest and really enjoyed this idea! I’m trying it very soon. In the meantime, my dishwasher has a funky smell… how would you propose cleaning it? It’s only about 1 – 1/2 years old, but it just doesn’t clean my dishes very well any more. I’m thinking there is gunk somewhere, but don’t know how to clean it. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!!!

    Reply
  27. ashley

    I’m somewhat surprised no one has asked this yet, but does this have any residual effect on your next load of clothes?! ie. is there any bleach/vinegar that is still left that might stain/ruin the next load?! This was perfect timing, I just called my mom yesterday on how to clean my washer! This way sounds soooo much easier!

    Reply
    1. Vickie

      I was just reading through the comments wondering the same thing! Ashley, have you tried this yet, and did it have any residual effects on the next loads?? Jillee–any thoughts on this?? Thanks!

      Reply
      1. Rebecca B

        I had no problems with anything getting on my next load – tho I did do just towels just in case there was anything and I inspected the towels real close just to see and I didn’t see anything.

        Reply
        1. Lisa

          I would definitely run either whites or something that can be bleached for a couple loads. I left the vinegar sit time instructions with my DD and she just let it run the normal cycle without soaking. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with it or not, but like an idiot, I washed a weeks worth of work clothes this morning and had everything but one shirt trashed. I ignored the little voice that was questioning whether all the bleach was out or not. But my washer is nice and clean!! I went ahead and ran 2 extra cycles just to be sure after that. I needed some new clothes anyway….

          Reply
  28. Pingback: Liminal Moments Photography

  29. Kaylan

    .walmart also sells a very inexpensive washing machine cleaner. It’s in the laundry isle. The upside to this is it’s one step. I forgot to change my water level last time I did it and it only cleaned half my drum. Boy o boy could you tell! Lol. I can personally vouge it works!

    Reply
  30. Cheryl

    I have been using vinegar in my wash for yrs..safer than bleach and healthy for you and environment. I add a cup of vinegar to every load as well as a 1/2 cup borax, then I do not have to use recommended amounts of detergent. I actually use less!

    Reply
    1. Melissa

      Yes, it should. Mine had that same problem, a mildew sour smell. My clothes were coming out sometimes smelling like I forgot them in the wash for a day before drying. No more problems after I did just the bleach cycle. Going to try the vinegar too.

      Reply
  31. Kandy

    Thanks for all the wonderful tips!!! I almost went out and bought some washer machine cleaner, which seemed absurd. This is so much better since I already have what I need stored by the laundry soap.

    Reply
  32. Melanie

    Thank you so much for posting this! I just got done and could not believe how filthy the appliance I use to clean all of our clothes was! This was easy peasy and SOOOOO effective.

    Reply

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