How to Clean a Top Loading Washing Machine

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Learn how to clean a top loading washing machine with bleach and white vinegar in this easy step by step tutorial!

This post shows how to clean a top load wash, for a cleaning tutorial for front load washers, click here.

cleaning washer agitator

Do you need to clean a top load washer?

Short answer: yes!

I spend an enormous amount of time doing laundry.  Between my husband and kids I do way more laundry than I ever thought a family of five could produce.

With all of that use, detergent residue, mold, and grime can build up fast, like in the photo below.

dirty washing machine soap dispenser

I would always make a mental note to do something about it but I obviously never quite got around to it. (Our poor neglected appliances!)

Until this week.

Determined to break this cycle of yuck I researched and researched the best way to clean a washing machine and here’s what I came up with.

Step by step



  1. Clean the Washing Machine with Bleach Fill washer tub all the way up with HOT water.  Not warm water, not cold, fill that baby with the hottest water setting as the setting will allow. 
  2. Add one quart of bleach, set it on the longest cycle (for me this was the “whitest whites” cycle) and let the washer agitate for a few minutes, then let it sit one hour by pausing the cycle.  After the hour let it complete the wash cycle. ***If you prefer not to use bleach you may substitute a quart of hydrogen peroxide in its place***
  3. Clean the Washing Machine with Vinegar Again fill the washer with HOT water but this time add one quart of white vinegar.  Same routine-set on the longest cycle and let it agitate a few minutes then sit for one hour.  After the hour complete the wash and rinse cycle.
  4. Wipe out the washing machine and clean detergent trays: Wipe down the entire inside and outside of the machine with 1 cup hot water and 1 cup vinegar mixture using a microfiber cloth (affiliate link)

Don’t forget to wipe the blades of the agitator inside the washer drum. If your detergent and fabric softener dispenser have soap scum built up in the nooks and crannies like mine did and they are removable soak in hot water with vinegar for ten minutes then wipe down.  If they aren’t removable pour a cup of white vinegar (warmed in microwave) in them and then wipe clean after a few moments. You can also scrub with an old toothbrush and a water and baking soda paste for any stubborn spots, just wipe with a clean damp cloth to remove the residue afterward.


You can substitute hydrogen peroxide for the bleach


How often should you clean your washing machine?

If your machine is not very dirty and doesn’t need a deep clean, you can maintain it by running an empty load with 1 cup of vinegar once a month.
If your top load washing machine has a lot of build up I recommend cleaning it thoroughly as described below, then maintaining it with monthly vinegar cycles. I try to run my maintenance vinegar cycles on the first of the month so I don’t forget to do it.

How to prevent mildew smell in your washing machine

Even if you regularly clean your washer, it can still sometimes get a mildew smell to it. The solution to this is too easy-after running the machine, keep the lid open to allow it to dry out. Closing the lid when it is wet is a sure-fire way to get a stinky washer!

washing machine after cleaning

And there you have it-a sparkly, clean washing machine, free of build up and grime!

When you’re finished don’t forget to learn How to Clean a Dryer next!

So spill it-when is the last time you cleaned your washing machine? Did you know you’re supposed to do this at least twice a year, more if you have hard water?? Learn something new every day!

You might also like these cleaning tips:

This post was originally published in May 2013 and updated with additional information in June 2020.

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  1. you should never mix bleach and vinegar when cleaning. This is extremely dangerous and creates chlorine gas. If someone isn’t aware of just how incredibly dangerous these two chemicals are when mixed and they rush through this, it’s potentially creating a deadly outcome. You have no warnings about this on your page either, which is very ignorant in my opinion.

  2. So I did this and it still smells. When I shake the drum, it sounds like there is still a ton of water in the bottom even after I run a second drain and spin cycle. Suggestions? Or does anyone know if it supposed to have water still? We can’t see the water but we can hear it. I imagine sitting water is why it smells, but I have never run across this problem before and googling it didn’t help.

    1. Has anyone googled what happens when you mix bleach…with anything? Super not safe!!!! As in you can die!! Also hydrogen peroxide and vinegar is corrosive. Smh

  3. Hi
    Just one question … won’t the bleach damage the metal parts/stainles steel of the mashine?

  4. Hi Melissa!

    Thanks for the greatest post I’ve found on cleaning the washing machine. Quick question, when you say a quarter of bleach and a quarter of vinegar, do you mean 1/4 cup? Or 1/4 of the entire product bottle?


  5. Hey, there! I’ve found myself in the same boat. We bought a washing machine in 2017 and I never knew I needed to clean it. Recently I have noticed a smell (and have been putting off all of the visual clues for far too long).

    Will this method work on an HE washer that doesn’t have an agitator? Thanks! 🙂

  6. I have scrubbed mine by hand with vinegar before but this sounds much easier, can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the great tip and by the way you might want to add a reminder to readers not to mix the bleach and vinegar.

    1. It’s not the inside of the washer, if you take off the fabric softener thing, n then the agitator, that’s where the nasty stuff is at, I couldn’t believe all the nasty stuff that come out of there.

      1. I keep saying, you say, bleach and vinegar. You cannot mix those two together. It could be very dangerous and caustic.

  7. Question-
    I am in college and just now have access to my own washer, how do I fill it up with hot water? Is it with the machine, or do I dump pitchers of water in?

    1. Just run a load of wash empty and set the water to hot then stop it when it’s full. Some washers have a soaking mode built in as well. Hope that helps Jess! ~Melissa

      1. This is rude. I’m 30 years old with two degrees and have never ran a cleaning load in a washer due to moving so often. I was reading the comments to also see how to fill a machine up with hot water as mine locks automatically too. I’m not sure what your motive was posting a mean remark other than to let others know how negative you are.

  8. I want you to know, your blog is my cleaning bible! Thank you so much for this post (and the dryer one too!) My washer looks brand new!

  9. I accidentally did mine backwards. In
    Other words, I did the vinegar load first, then the bleach load. Does this matter or do I need to go in and do another vinegar load? I think I have a pretty clean washer machine at this point, I scrubbed every single spot in the inside and managed to get it pretty clean and there was a ton of mold build up in several spots. What do you think?

  10. Amazing ! thanks for sharing how to Clean a top load washing machine. It`s very important subject for of all us. When I read this tips I am very excited because I have also a washing machine. This the best way to clean this top load washing machine. If you want to know about this tips you can follow this article.

    1. This doesn’t clean the top edge of the tub rims though, right? Like is that dust or is it mold from water that gets on the top of the bin in the back area you barely see?
      It’s hard to reach back there but technically it’s possible to wipe with a rag I’m guessing lol

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