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.

how to clean top loading washing machine before and after Via @dreamurbanlife/TikTok

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
  • 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

@dreamurbanlifeHow long has your washing machine not been cleaned?😏#homehack #goodthing #clean #cleaning #machine♬ Rags2Riches (feat. ATR Son Son) – Rod Wave

When it comes to cleaning the drum of the washer, a washing machine cleaner tablet is the way to go. If you don’t have one, 2 cups of bleach or vinegar also work as a substitute!

Grab your tablet, drop it in some water, let it dissolve, then pour it into the drum. Close the door and select your washer’s self-cleaning cycle or a normal hot water cycle. Let the water drain out with all that nasty gunk, and voila—you’ve got a sparkling clean washing machine. Hopefully, unlike TikTok user @dreamurbanlife who made this handy video, you won’t find a dead roach in the process!

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: Clean the agitator

How To Clean Top Loading Washing Machine Agitator TikTokvia @cleaningforselfcare/tiktok

If your top-loading wash machine has an agitator, chances are it hasn’t ever been deep-cleaned. Carefully remove the top of the agitator. TikTok user @cleaningforselfcare puts the top of the agitator in a solution of bleach diluted with warm water, then gets to work with this Clorox spray and a scrubby brush on the agitator itself. She pulls out a shocking amount of gunk, then runs a rinse cycle to get rid of the remaining bits.

After its bleach soak, the top of the agitator gets a similar treatment to remove a layer of mysterious black chunks. @cleaningforselfcare does end up having to put on a pair of gloves and go after the worst grime with a straw-cleaning brush, but the clean washer is well worth the effort.

Step 4: 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 cleaning and home décor expert. She knows exactly how to tidy a filthy kitchen and straighten out a mixed-up pantry! When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, buying more bins she doesn't need or bingeing her latest TV show obsession.