How to Clean a Top-Load Washing Machine

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If your clean clothes smell less than fresh, it might be time to tidy your top-loader! We'll explain how to clean your washing machine with simple pantry ingredients.

The washing machine is one of the hardest working appliances in your home. It needs some TLC every so often! Clean your top-load washer once a month to prevent the buildup of dirt, grime and detergent residue. (If you have pets or kids, you might want to clean it twice a month.) Don’t worry, it’s easier than doing a load of laundry (or folding it)!

Have a front-loader? You need this guide on how to clean a front-load washer.

How to Clean Your Washing Machine


  • Microfiber cloth
  • Bleach (or vinegar)
  • Washing machine cleaner tablet, optional
  • Old toothbrush


Step 1: Wipe down the exterior

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

To clean the drum of the washer, place a washing machine cleaner tablet at the bottom of the washer. Or, you can use two cups of bleach or vinegar. Close the door and select your washer’s self-cleaning cycle or 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. It never hurts to check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 3: Wipe down the interior

After the cleaning cycle completes, wipe down the drum (and the agitator, if your washer has one) as well as the interior of the glass or metal lid.

If your washer has a detergent drawer, pull it out as far as possible and clean with a damp microfiber cloth, removing any detergent residue. Use the same damp cloth to clean the fabric softener dispenser and the bleach dispenser; you can use an old toothbrush, if needed, for stubborn dirt.

It’s worth investing in a microfiber cloth if you don’t already have one—we use them to clean everything!

Tips to Keep Your Washer Clean

To keep your washer running in tip-top shape in between cleaning, here’s what to do:

  • Leave the lid open when not in use to allow the washer to properly dry.
  • If you normally wash with cold water, occasionally run a cycle with warm or hot water to help slow down dirt and detergent buildup.
  • Don’t overfill or underfill the washer with clothes. A load with too many clothes can cause excess moisture to remain in the washer, while a load that is too small can leave behind detergent residue.
  • If you have a high-efficiency washer, be sure to use only HE detergent. Non-HE detergent will cause soap scum buildup.

Next up: Find more solutions to common laundry problems.

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Erica Young
Erica is a freelance lifestyle writer with a bachelor's degree in Journalism. Her favorite recipes are quick, easy and something her kids will actually eat. When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, roaming the aisles at Target or nursing her third Diet Coke of the day.