Written by Grove Collaborative

Clean Team: How to clean your washing machine.

Last Updated: March 3, 2021

Washing machines need to be cared for just like every other appliance in your home. Discover out how to clean yours with these simple household products.

Ready to tackle the dirtiest spots in your home? Grove Collaborative has you covered with Clean Team. Each week, we’ll do a deep dive into how to clean a different place or item in your home. No spot is too small — and we’ll tell you how to conquer them all, naturally.

How to clean your washing machine: front and top loader

A washing machine, like your dishwasher, is one of those household appliances that you don’t immediately think to clean on a regular basis. After all, it’s designed to clean other things, so therefore it must be clean already, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way! Even though you use your washing machine to clean your clothing, it still needs a little TLC of its own to keep it in good working order and maintain good hygiene in your home.

Do you need to disinfect your washing machine?

Surprisingly (or perhaps not!) washing machines can be quite the breeding ground for bacteria. Not to mention the mold and mildew due to excess moisture. Once germs and mold make it their home, it can be a tad bit difficult to remove them, which can affect the cleanliness of your laundry. Ergo, the best strategy is to prevent it from happening in the first place!

Disinfecting a washing machine is especially necessary after washing clothes contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids, any allergens, harmful chemicals, or with pathogens from some kind of illness.

How to clean a front loading washing machine

Though it may seem like a daunting task, cleaning a washing machine is quite straightforward. In most cases, you won’t need anything more than products you already have at home. Of course, if your washing machine is exceptionally dirty and has been that way for a long time, you might need to use harsher chemical products to make a dent, like chlorine bleach.

How to do it:

Step 1:

Start by filling your washer with hot water. Also fill the detergent dispenser part with hot water too, to soften any mineral deposits or detergent leftovers.

Step 2:

Once the washer and dispenser are filled with hot water, add your cleaner. You can use white vinegar and baking soda one by one, or alternate using them at every cleaning session. Let the hot water and cleaner sit for some time.

Step 3:

In the meantime, you can separate any removable parts of the machine and soak them in a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water. This will thoroughly disinfect and clean these items.

Step 4:

Using a soft cloth, clean the glass plate of the washer. You can dampen the cloth with water, or with a solution of vinegar and water. Using a toothbrush, get into all the nooks and crannies with the water, including above and below the rubber seals so that you clean them thoroughly. If the dirt and grime is well set, try using baking soda mixed with water and rescrub with a toothbrush. For underparts and corners that are covered with mold, use a solution of hydrogen peroxide to kill and clean off the growth.

Step 5:

Start your washer on the hottest wash cycle, or even better, the sanitize cycle if your machine has that option. Run the cleaning cycle without adding any clothes. If the machine is exceptionally dirty or filled with odors, add baking soda instead of vinegar before running it.

Step 6:

Once you’ve drained out the cleaning drum, wipe the sides and bottom of the tub with a clean soft cloth. This will remove any leftover vinegar or baking soda residue, plus help dry the inside of the machine to keep it clean and fresh for longer.

How to clean a top loading washing machine

The methodology of cleaning a top loading washing machine is similar to a front loading one. It requires the same cleaning products and steps, just a different entry point.

Following the same steps listed previously, fill your top loading machine with hot water. Add either white vinegar or baking soda to the water to promote efficient and easy cleaning and let it stand for a while.

Meanwhile, use the time to clean the outside of the machine with a soft cloth and a toothbrush where necessary. Make a paste of baking soda with water to clean the outside grime, and use oxygen bleach where necessary to remove bacterial growth, mold, and mildew. Don’t forget to wipe the machine dry after cleaning.

Another beneficial tip to help maintain the freshness of your machine as long as possible is to leave the top or front hatch open while the machine is not in use, or at least right after using it. This will help dry the insides out and decrease the chances of mold and mildew growth.


Heat it up

One of the easiest ways to help ensure the cleanliness of your washing machine is to use hot water, which cleans the machine as well as the clothes.

Can vinegar damage your washing machine?

Vinegar is renowned for its exceptional cleaning abilities, working effectively on a wide range of things and cleaning everything from stains to germs.

For laundry, vinegar is often used to remove stains as well as eliminate odors from clothes. It is also a safe product you can use to disinfect and sanitize a washing machine. Still, overuse of vinegar can cause some problems if you aren’t careful.

Washing machines are lined with rubber seals to prevent water leakage, as well as hoses for inflow. Overuse of vinegar can damage these rubber seals, making it difficult to retain water. It can also melt the hoses, causing leaks both inside and outside your washer.

For that reason alone, we recommend not going overboard and using vinegar to clean your washing machine too frequently, lest you cause more harm than good.

Best products to naturally clean your washing machine

How often should you clean your washing machine?

Washing machines face an onslaught of clothing fibers, food bits, dirt, germs, and other yucky gunk. All these things can get stuck anywhere and everywhere inside your beloved machine. Apart from that, mineral deposits from your water source can create additional buildup and clog the mechanisms of your machine. Not to mention, the almost-constant wetness often gives rise to the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria, especially in those dark, dank corners.

These problems can significantly downgrade the quality of cleaning your washing machine provides, resulting in dull clothes and even white streaks on darker colors.

How often you should clean your washing machine really depends on how much you use it, the quality of your water, plus it’s type — a front loader or top loader.

It’s good to clean high-efficiency top loading and front loading washers every month, and clean regular top loading washers at least twice a year. If you live somewhere with hard water, your washer needs to be cleaned every three months to prevent mineral buildup.

The frequency of cleaning should also increase if your laundry load is heavily soiled, or if your washer sees heavy use everyday. In newer washing machine models, there are also separate dispensers for laundry detergent and fabric softener. These dispensers should be cleaned at least once every two months to keep the mechanism working properly.

Washing machine-cleaning products

Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on germs, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.

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