How to Clean a Top-Load Washing Machine

Updated: May 04, 2024

This step by step guide will teach you how to clean a top-loading washing machine so your clean clothes always smell fresh.

The washing machine is one of the hardest working appliances in your home. Because of its frequent use, it needs some TLC every so often. Here’s how to clean a top-loading washing machine once a month to prevent the buildup of dirt, grime and detergent residue. If you have pets or kids, you might even want to clean it twice a month.

Don’t worry, though, it’s way easier than doing a load of laundry!

How to Clean a Top-Load Washing Machine


  • Microfiber cloth
  • Washing machine cleaning tablet
  • Bleach or vinegar


Step 1: Wipe down the exterior

Lady cleaning outer side of washing machine with micro fibre cloth and cleaning sprayFamily Handyman

First, wipe down the exterior of the washer to remove dust and residue using a damp microfiber cloth. Water should do the trick, but you can use a mild cleaner if needed.

Step 2: Clean the drum

When it comes to cleaning the drum of the washer, a washing machine cleaner tablet is the way to go (Whirlpool recommends Affresh tablets.) Or, as an alternative, bleach or vinegar would work too.

Remove any clothes from the washer, then add the tablet or pour one cup of bleach or vinegar into the bottom of the drum. Close the lid and select the “basket clean cycle” if your washer has one, or run a normal hot water cycle.

Keep in mind, newer washers (like certain Samsung models) have self-clean cycles that do not require any detergent or bleach. Check the manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning.

Step 3: Dry

After the cleaning cycle is done, leave the lid open to allow the tub to air dry. It’s a good idea to always leave the lid open between laundry loads to avoid trapped moisture that can cause an unpleasant odor and mildew.

How to Deep-Clean Your Washing Machine


  • Microfiber cloth
  • Mild soap
  • Scrub brush or old toothbrush


Step 1: Clean the dispenser drawer

Cleaning dirty moldy washing machine detergent and fabric conditioner dispenser drawer compartment. Mold, rust and limescale in washing machine tray. Home appliances periodic maintenanceNadezhda Mikhalitskaia/Getty Images

If you notice detergent or fabric softener residue in the detergent drawer, it’s time to give it a good clean. Pull out the drawer until it stops, then lift up the front to remove it completely from the washing machine. Wash the drawer in warm, soapy water using mild soap (do not put it in the dishwasher). Rinse away any soap, dry with a microfiber cloth and re-insert the drawer.

Editor’s Tip: Here’s how to wash microfiber cloths to keep them in shape for all your household cleaning purposes.

Step 2: Clean the agitator

Wipe down the outside of the agitator with a damp cloth and mild soap. Some agitator caps are removable, so you can clean the inside of the agitator—check your owner’s manual to confirm.

If the cap is removable, gently twist and pull to take it off. Then clean the inside of the agitator with a damp cloth or scrub brush. Let the agitator air dry before reattaching the cap.

Tips for Cleaning a Top-Load Washing Machine

Santizing surfaces in the homePeter Carruthers/Getty Images

Where is my washing machine’s filter?

Depending on your top load model, you might need to periodically clean the filter(s).

According to GE Appliances, all their top load washing machines manufactured after 2001 do not have or need filters. “The drain system allows water to flow through the basket and out the bottom of the tub pulling lint, hair and small particles with the water,” says GE’s website. Because no maintenance is required on the newer systems, the pump can’t be accessed for cleaning or maintenance.

If you have a Samsung top load washing machine, your top loader could have multiple filters that need to be cleaned. Potential filter locations include a lint filter located inside the drum, a pump filter located at the front right bottom corner of the machine and mesh filters located on the back of the machine inside water inlets. Check your owner’s manual to find out if your specific model has any of these filters. All of them can be cleaned with running water and a soft brush.

How often should I clean my washing machine?

Whirlpool and GE both recommend cleaning your washing machine once a month or about every 30 cycles. Good indications that it’s time to clean the drum is if your clean clothes aren’t as fresh as usual or if you see build-up on the fabric.

Is there anything I shouldn’t put in my washing machine?

Never use dish soap to clean your washing machine. Dish soap creates too many suds and can leave behind soapy residue on your machine. Take care not to use too much detergent. And if you have a high-efficiency washer, be sure to use only HE detergent. Non-HE detergent will cause soap scum buildup.