See how to clean a top loading washing machine using non-toxic ingredients, like vinegar and baking soda!

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In this week's edition of the cleaning 101 series, we're tackling a task you probably haven't thought about lately.

fabric softener dispenser on washing machine

Over time, those washing machines just tend to build up gunk. It definitely doesn't happen overnight - but I challenge you to go really inspect your washing machine right now. Kind of gross, isn't it?

dirty inside drum of a washing machine

In Journey to Clean, I have a specific cleaning task just for taking care of the washer, dryer, and deep freezer (it's under the living areas week). The process you're about to see isn't something I do every month; most of the time, I just give everything a good wipe-down and make sure there are no obvious messes. But, every few months, I like to give the washing machine (and the dryer - stay tuned for that one) a good deep clean. Your clothes will thank you!

vinegar, baking soda, and a measuring cup sitting on a dryer

How to Clean a Top Loading Washing Machine

For this deep clean, I use non-toxic ingredients that you might already have (and, if you don't, you should). I use baking soda and vinegar to clean so many things throughout the home - they are both super versatile! Grab 4 cups of vinegar and a cup of baking soda for this one. (You'll also need cleaning towels and an old toothbrush.)

inside of a speed queen washer

Start off by filling your washer as high as possible with HOT water.

knobs on a speed queen

To do this on my machine, I set it to hot with the largest load size setting. The regular cycle setting is fine, as long as you catch it when it is through filling.

(For those wondering, I have a Speed Queen - they are the best and I 100% recommend them!)

pouring vinegar into a measuring cup

Once the washer is about halfway full, open the lid and add 4 cups of vinegar to the drum.

pouring baking soda into a washing machine

Allow it to fill some more and add 1 cup of baking soda, getting a little bit in the fabric softener cup.

drum of washing machine filled with water, vinegar, and baking soda

The mixture will fizz; it's supposed to!

pouring vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser on a speed queen

You can also add a little bit of vinegar to the fabric softener cup too.

inside of a speed queen washing machine

Once the drum is full, allow the machine to agitate for 1-2 minutes, just to mix in the baking soda well. Then, open the lid to stop the cycle.

Allow this mixture to sit in the washer for about an hour to break up and dirt and grime.

wiping fabric softener dispenser with a microfiber cloth

After an hour, dip your cleaning cloth in the vinegar water to scrub and gunk from around the bleach dispenser, fabric softener cup, or door. I also have a toothbrush on hand that I use just for cleaning - it works great on this.

cleaning edge of washing machine door with a microfiber cloth
cleaning brackets of a washing machine door with a toothbrush

Once you're through scrubbing all of the surfaces, close the lid to allow the cycle to finish. Make sure there is a rinse in the cycle to get all of the vinegar/baking soda out of your machine.

inside drum of a speed queen washer

And that really is all there is to it! You'll be amazed how clean your washer looks after doing this.

bleach dispenser on a speed queen washing machine
looking into a speed queen washer
open speed queen washer

Day to Day Washing Machine Maintenance

One more tip - to keep your washer mildew (and smell) free, keep the door of your washer open when not using. This has made a massive difference in keeping our washer clean and un-smelly.

Now go forth and do one simple cleaning task, friends! Now that you know how to clean a washing machine, I promise this one isn't difficult and makes a huge impact.

See more about my laundry room organization system

xo, Leslie; signature for end of the blog post.

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  1. Hi Leslie! I may be a little late to this post… found you through Pinterest… but I’m glad I did. I was looking for an effective way to clean my washer without using harsh chemicals. Reading through your post, I come across the pictures of your washer. We have the EXACT same washer!!! I agree with your sentiment that they are the best!! Love mine… it just needs a good degunk!! 😆 Going to try this trick tmrw. Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Oh aren't they great?! Worth every penny. Hope the cleaning tutorial helped!

  2. Lisa Smith says:

    Hi Heather, in this article you said "we’re tackling a task you probably haven’t thought about lately." Untrue, I had an old toothbrush after my washer just the other day, but I thank you for all this wonderful information to go along with my toothbrush. I know you said you pour cleaner into the fabric softener cup, do you pour anything into the bleach dispenser? I can't wait to get home and try this. Thank you!

    1. Hi Lisa! I didn't pour anything into my bleach dispenser.

  3. I have a Speed Queen, but the lid locks so I can't stop it after it's full. Any suggestions?

    1. Ooh, not sure about that. I can open mine at any point in the cycle - hopefully somebody will see this comment with a suggestion.

    2. Brittany Gomez says:

      Hi Kristie! My washer locks as well, is there a pause button that allows you to stop the cycle temporarily? It may help to pause the wash when it goes into the agitation cycle, may be a good time for it if it is possible on your machine? Hope this helps. 😀

    3. Denise Wood says:

      Hi Kristie, I have the same type. You will have to pause or power off, wait for lid lock to open then add b soda, turn on to agitate, then turn off and wait the hour clean then restart the machine. The only way the lid lock opens is to turn off or pause the machine.

  4. Just an FYI to those reading this. Excellent tutorial! BUT if your washer is like mine, it auto-drains after leaving the lid open for 5 minutes. I was so excited to find an easy cleaning method, but my efforts were wasted, unfortunately.

    1. Leslie Lambert says:

      Great info, thanks!

    2. Great to do on your washer. My parents just did theirs and my dad said he found underwear, socks and other little things. It’s really good for longevity of your machine 🙂

  5. We have the same exact machine and I love it! Have you ever removed the agitator and done a deep clean? We've had our machine for about 10 years and I often wonder about what might be stuck in an area I can't see. Just curious if you have done this or know how to. Thank you for all the thoughtful content!!

    1. Leslie Lambert says:

      I haven't yet...I kind of researched it, and it doesn't seem super easy to remove. But I would be interested if anything lurks underneath!

  6. Margie Carothers says:

    Great tutorial! Is this method just a effective if you don't have a fabric softener cup?

    1. Leslie Lambert says:

      Yes, just add the contents of the fabric softener cup directly to the water!

  7. Sam Sullivan says:

    Cleaning and organizing is my jam. So to find all these tricks was truly satisfying. THANK YOU!

  8. The only problem here is some washing machines "lock" during cycles and you can not open the lid once full!

  9. I'm sure I'm a few years late to the party, but modern top loaders are now required to have a lid lock. So the Speed Queen I bought doesn't allow me to fill it up part way and then open the lid. Saying it sucks is an understatement. (I knit and really need a way to felt). So I'm wondering how to incorporate the vinegar and baking soda without any water in the drum . . . (???)

    1. Leslie Lambert says:

      Oh no! Another option is to sprinkle in the baking soda before you start the cycle and place the vinegar in a (non-breakable) cup in the bottom of the drum. That will allow the vinegar to mix in gradually.

  10. My washing machine won't finish the cycle after sitting for an hour with the lid open. I closed the lid and it's like it was never turned on. I tried turning it back on to a rinse cycle and it won't respond. Any suggestions?

    1. Leslie Lambert says:

      What brand of washer do you own?