How To Clean A Top Loading Washing Machine With Vinegar And Bleach!

How to clean your washing machine – even if it’s not visibly dirty and grungy, this will help clean soap scum and mineral deposits in the pipes and hoses.

Did you know you need to clean your washing machine? Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Washing machines are what you use to clean your clothes. Don’t they just keep themselves clean every time you do a load of laundry? No they don’t! Washing machines get dirty just like anything else, so today I’m going to show you a simple, step by step tutorial on how to clean a washing machine with vinegar and bleach. It’s simple to do and it works wonders!

(By the way, cleaning your washing machine is a MUST after someone in your home has been sick! Here are 9 other ways to disinfect your home after flu season!)

How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach

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How To Clean A Top Loading Washing Machine With Vinegar And Bleach

  • 20 minutes (time spent doing stuff)
  • 3 hours (time spent waiting around)
  • 3 hours and 20 minutes (total project time)



We just bought our first house, and check out what was waiting for us in the laundry area of the basement…

How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach


How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach


Obviously that sucker needed a serious deep clean before our dirty laundry was going anywhere near it!


Step 1: Bleach

Set your washing machine on the longest wash cycle and start it filling with hot water. HOT!

How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach

Add four cups of bleach as the machine is filling (don’t add detergent or anything else, just the bleach). Let the machine fill all the way and agitate for a minute or two to mix the bleach in.

Then turn it off and let the bleach mixture sit for an hour. (Get some other spring cleaning done while you’re waiting! Clean your microwave with vinegar, or make this homemade grout cleaner and clean your tile grout!)

After an hour, turn the machine back on again and let it completely run through its longest wash and spin cycle.

Step 2: Vinegar

As soon as the bleach cycle is done, immediately fill your washing machine again with hot water (still set on the longest wash cycle). This time add four cups of distilled white vinegar as the machine is filling (again no detergent, just vinegar). Let the machine agitate again for a minute or two and then turn it off and let the vinegar mixture sit for an hour.

This time, while the vinegar mixture is soaking for an hour, carefully dip your sponge in the vinegar water and clean the rest of the machine.

The dispensers for fabric softener and bleach are usually removable. On my machine, the fabric softener dispenser at the top of the agitator just twisted right off, and the bleach dispenser in the corner popped up when I pulled gently.

How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach - Remove the fabric softener dispenser and thoroughly clean it

How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach - Don't forget to clean in, around, and under the dispensers too!

Just toss the plastic dispensers into your washing machine and let them sit in the vinegar mixture for a few minutes. Wipe away any grunge on the machine itself, and then scrub the dispensers clean with your sponge.

How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach

The vinegar wash cycle will help remove a lot of the grunge inside the barrel of the washing machine, but if you have really bad scummy icky grossness like I did (or if there is soap scum and build up above the water level inside the machine) scrub those areas with the sponge now, while the vinegar mixture sits.

How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach

You can use the vinegar water to detail the exterior of your washer too; don’t forget the lid and the knobs!

Once an hour has passed, turn the machine back on and let it run through its longest wash and spin cycle.

And your washing machine should be good as new!

How to clean a top loading washing machine with vinegar and bleach

Besides cleaning inside the drum of your washing machine, the bleach and vinegar help clear out mineral deposits and soap scum in the pipes and hoses of your machine as well! So be sure to clean your washing machine with vinegar and bleach at least twice a year, and if, like us, you live in an area with hard water, aim for 3 or 4 times a year to keep everything running smoothly!

Also, remember to clean out your dryer vent about twice a year as well to prevent fire danger from lint buildup!

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Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Lori says

    10 years ago

    Bleach is useful for stain removal, but be very careful what you mix it with as you can produce TOXIC FUMES. Vinegar and bleach should never be mixed together.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      10 years ago

      Very true! That’s what you have to run two separate wash loads to clean your machine this way!

  2. Mary says

    10 years ago

    I used this method to clean my washer a few years ago. Since then, I’ve only used powder detergent (mostly homemade) as well as homemade fabric softener (made with white distilled vinegar). It helps keep it clean. Liquid detergents leave a lot more residue.

  3. Erlene says

    10 years ago

    Wow it’s amazing what a little bleach, clorox, and sponge can do. I think I need to be putting this on my spring cleaning to do list.

  4. Amands says

    10 years ago

    I am wondering, is this possible with a locking washer? We have a top loading washer, but the water does not turn on until the lid is closed and then locks. You have to pause the wash to open the lid. Would I allow to fill halfway then add the bleach or vinegar, then resume to finish?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      10 years ago

      Yep, that would work perfectly! Fill it halfway, then lift the lid and add the bleach, then shut the lid and let it finish filling, and let it start agitating for a minute, then just unlock and lift the lid again to let it sit for an hour. And do the same thing on the vinegar cycle.

      • Jennifer says

        8 years ago

        That won’t necessarily work. I tried soaking my youngest daughter’s baby clothes because she had bad reflux and really messed them up. I left the lid up and the water just drained out. Also, many of the new top loading HE machines have a weight sensor and fill with water by the weight of the load so if there aren’t any clothes in there, it’s not going to fill.

        • Jessi Wohlwend says

          8 years ago

          Hmm, in my older model top loader it never drained as long as I left the lid up. But maybe there’s some sort of timer built in where it drains if it thinks you forgot about it or something. Is there a “soak” setting on the newer machines that allows you to fill and soak the clothes? My older model has that setting where it just allows it to fill and sit, but I don’t know for the newer ones. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

          • Sue says

            8 years ago

            On my washer, you just pull the knob out or in, which ever way yours works…that way the cycle is stopped and the timer is not running..

    • Chris Bobbitt says

      9 years ago

      The lock can probably be bypassed so you can have the lid open throughout the cycle. Stick a magnet to the front of the washer right next to the gizmo that pops out to do the locking. (There’s a magnet inside the lid at this spot, so you’re tricking the washer into thinking the lid is closed.) With Whirlpool washers, you also have to limit the reach of the gizmo. I hold the toothbrush I’ve used to scrub stains against the magnet so the gizmo pops out only 3/4 inch. I always do my laundry this way so I can be sure of a thorough rinse.

      • Rose says

        5 years ago

        Unplug the machine???

  5. Ashley @ 3 Little Greenwoods says

    10 years ago

    I was seriously looking at my washing machine yesterday thinking… how am I supposed to clean this guck?
    Pinning and doing!

    ~ Ashley

  6. Vanessa says

    10 years ago

    Thanks for the helpful reminder!

  7. Laura says

    10 years ago

    Just one reminder: DO NOT USE BLEACH AND VINEGAR together. Mixed they can let off toxic fumes that can be extremely harmful (acid/base)

    • 180out says

      7 years ago

      Ammonia mixed with bleach is a crude form of Mustard Gas. Vinegar and bleach make toxic Chlorine Gas.

      Vinegar, which is acidic, will react with bleach (NaOCl) and release toxic fume of chlorine. If you don’t remove yourself fast enough from the room, you could end up dead…
      Along the same line, never mix cleaning products like Lysol with bleach. Same thing could happen. In fact, avoid mixing bleach with anything. Use it alone. If you feel the need to make your place extra clean, apply another cleaning product after you have made sure yoi have cleaned away all the bleach.

      Chlorine poisoning can occur when you inhale chlorine. Chlorine reacts with water including the water in your lungs to form hydrochloric acid and hydrochlorous acid. Both of these substances are extremely poisonous.

      • Cynde says

        4 years ago

        I inhaled bleach cleaning my mother in laws shower years ago and got chemical pneumonia. Use caution when using any of these chemicals and only use in a well ventilated room.

  8. Trish says

    10 years ago

    How do you clean a front loading washing machine?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      10 years ago

      It’s sort of the same idea Trish. If your front-loading washing machine has a “clean” cycle setting, set it to that, fill it with hot water, add 2 cups of vinegar (instead of 4), let it run through the full cycle, then start another “clean” cycle with hot water, add 2 cups of bleach (instead of 4), let it run through the full cycle. And let it run through one more full cycle with just plain hot water, nothing added, to clean everything out. Here’s a really good tutorial with details if you want!

      • Gale Barnett says

        9 years ago

        Front load get a flashlight and stick head inside and look back and up at the rubber seal thing. You need to have some vinegar on a sponge and toothbrush to scrub the mold and soap off. Then run cycles to get the behind the drum gunk.

    • Marie says

      8 years ago


      Have you ever tried cleaning underneath the rim top inside of the washer where the rubber runs in a circle at the top of the wash tub?

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