Day #1 – how to clean a washing machine

Ok.  Let’s get this party started.

If you have no idea what I’m referring to, all of my blabbering about it is here.

And we’re going to start with something I have held off on posting about for a few reasons.

31 things you need to know

1) Many simple things I think “I’m sure I’m the last one to learn this” so I don’t bother posting for fear of exposing the extent of my remedial knowledge.  But then I mentioned this to someone who thought it was brilliant.  Consider ego boosted.

And 2) Gross bit of honesty coming your way right here …

When we moved in to this house we immediately started to notice that our clothes coming out of the wash were smelling, well, bad.

I had run the machine without any clothes in it and just some regular laundry detergent right when we moved in to cleanse it from its previous occupants.  Clearly I did not know how to clean a washing machine.

And I make our laundry detergent homemade and we’d been using it for over a year so I didn’t believe that it just all of a sudden stopped working.

And unfortunately we weren’t ready to invest in a new washer and dryer set.  We want to rearrange the laundry room area as part of the full house renovation project so we didn’t want to make the wrong decision and have it not work out with our hopefully new floor plan.

So, on a whim, I just decided to run it empty, on the hottest setting and pour vinegar into the bleach dispenser.

how to clean a washing machine

I had no idea what to expect.  I’ve seen vinegar used for a lot of cleaning tricks, but hadn’t seen anything specific to cleaning a washing machine.

I’m happy to report that Joel and I don’t smell anymore!!!

It worked.

It has been a few months and we’re still smelling clean and fresh.

I have since read that some people also use baking soda with it, but only for top loaders.  I didn’t find it necessary but I guess it can’t hurt.  Unless you end up creating a volcano.  😉

Tell me, did you know about this already?  Why would you keep something like that from me?  And what other awesomeness do you use vinegar for?


  1. says

    I haven’t ever noticed that my washing machine smells. I leave the lid on my open after I am done washing and allows it to air out. However, it is a top loader. This is a good tip, though, and I will file it away

  2. jenny Ballard says

    Yes, using vinegar clean your machine and gets rid of germs. You can use it in your softener dispenser as a every wash softener, and it’s a lot cheaper. My washing machine brand actually recommends it as you can’t use softeners in my machine.

  3. says

    I’m a lot older than you and didn’t know this, Karah. (living in the dark ages) Our machine doesn’t smell, but I scrub it a couple times a year. I like this idea, so easy! Thanks for the tip! Can’t wait to see what else I can learn from you. 😉
    Debbie :)

  4. Diana Walters says

    UGH! Where was this post just 5 minutes ago???? I JUST started the washer on large load/hot water with detergent. Opened this post…..ran to find my gallon of vinegar. Which. Is. Gone. sigh……Next time. The vinegar is listed, the washer will be clean. Luckily, it’s already odor free, at least for the moment.

    • says

      Hahahaha, I’m envisioning the running now! Our well water goes to the washer and I think that was the odor issue, will definitely be running an empty cycle every few months now with vinegar. :)

  5. says

    I use vinegar for so many things, it drives The Man absolutely insane! I won’t wash the boys’ clothes with anything but straight vinegar now – it gets the boy-funk out, the pee-funk out (let’s face it, boys don’t really wipe), and any form of muck that they might encounter. AND it makes the clothes soft.

    I use it to clean. Smelly grout? Make a vingear/baking soda paste and let it sit for a few minutes – fresh like a daisy (ask me how I know).

    I heat a cup of it in the microwave, let it boil, then steam the micro in the vapors for a few minutes. Anything in there wipes right up, no harsh cleaners required.

    It worked OK as an ant repellant, but I’ve found that plain old ground cinnamon works best (even better than Raid, much to The Man’s chagrin!)

  6. says

    Vinegar is just about the best thing ever! I actually JUST did this about a month ago… and was totally embarrassed that I waited so long. Ours wasn’t too smelly, just had gotten grimy with soap scum, etc. Totally did the trick. :)
    xo Heidi

  7. says

    i’ve done this before and it did work! I also use a little vinegar and some dawn and hot water in a spritz bottle for cleaning. AND the best ever use of vinegar:

    when i buy fresh fruits and veggies i fill my sink with water and a 1/2 cup of vinegar and let the fruits/veggies soak for about 30 minutes. Not only does all the gunk come off, it make your stuff last longer. promise!

  8. Jennifer says

    Vinegar is so handy! I am going to try it in the washer today. I have tried apple cider vinegar on my son to remove a wart and it worked like a charm!

  9. jenny Ballard says

    I also use carbonate soda and vinegar to clean my drains every couple of weeks. A couple of tablespoons of soda in the drain, followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. Let it bubble and sit for about 30 minutes, then run plenty of hot water down the drain. It’s a lot cheaper and safer than Draino, or caustic soda.

    • says

      LOVE this tip, thank you so much for sharing!! Are you just talking about something like soda water? Sorry, not sure what you mean by “carbonate soda”. :)

      • Jenny Ballard says

        Sorry I should have been more specific. It’s proper name is Bicarbonate of Soda, which is what we (Australians) call baking soda.
        Here we can buy it under a number of names, carb soda, bicarb or baking soda, depending on the brand.

  10. Janet Murray says

    You know, it makes perfect sense, but never occurred to me either! I mean, if water deposits, etc. build up in your coffee maker, why wouldn’t you think that the same build up would occur in your washing machine? And you run vinegar through said coffee maker to clean it, why not the washer?? Wow, my “DUH” moment of the day!

  11. Cristy says

    Does this apply to your HE washer as well? I am thinking it does since you made the comment to only use baking soda in the top loading kind.

  12. Julie Williams says

    We just moved into a new house with hard water (town well ), and wanted to try not getting a water softener. VINEGAR is right! I put about 1/2 C in with each dishwasher load, helps the dishes come out clean with no spots. Equal parts vinegar and water and a little dish soap in a spray bottle will clean hard water spots off stainless steel and the residue on the tray under the water/ice despenser on fridge.

    It has helped soooooo much!

  13. Rachelle says

    Ty for this awesome tip..I was gonna purchase the Tide washing machine cleaner..which is pricey..but now ill b using vinegar & baking soda & saving $ and will prob work a lot better!! Thanx again this is brilliant:0)

  14. Nancy says

    Know what I like? The fact that you have answered almost if not every one of the comments. Never seen that dedication to readers before. Thanks for that!!@!!

  15. says

    I am so glad to see this! I have a front load washer that smells bad. I was told its calcium build up. I used Tide cleaner for washing machine but it did nothing. I will try vinegar. Thanks!

    • Julie says

      I had a friend tell me…or maybe read somewhere that the front loading doors need to stay open to prevent the musty moldy smell…

      • says

        Hi Julie!! I was trying to leave the door open after each load but due to its location sometimes it’s just not practical for us. :( Haven’t had any issues since regularly using vinegar. Love that its so cheap, too. :)

        • Julie says

          I hear ya, our laundry area is right by the door to the garage, a small mud room of sorts….don’t know why the ppl who build plan them so cramped…but I’m not complaining too much, love my house. :)

          Definitely notice when I don’t have vinegar for a load of dishes, not as clean.

    • Jenny says

      Rebecca, if there is a build up it may take a couple of times to clean it right out. After that, just do it once a week to keep it clean.


Let me know what you think!