DIY Washing Machine Cleaner With Baking Soda and Vinegar

baking soda and vinegar
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Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes - 2 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $3

Why do washing machines need to be cleaned regularly? As your laundry spins inside your washing machine, your clothes get cleaner, but a residue starts to build up on the inside of the machine. That grime is a combination of detergent residue and mineral buildup, which can lead to mold, mildew, and a very unpleasant odor.

Learn how to clean your washing machine naturally to prevent that gunk from becoming a very smelly problem. The following recipe and step-by-step instructions can be used for both front- and top-loading washing machines with a few minor variations.

What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools

  • Measuring cups
  • Old rags
  • Old toothbrush
  • Spray bottle

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 cup baking soda
  • A few drops of essential oils

Instructions

How to Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine

Top view of white washing machine

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To prevent the buildup of detergent in your washing machine, run this DIY washing machine cleaner through it two or three times a year. 

If you have hard water, you should clean your washing machine every three months to remove the buildup of minerals from the inside of the machine.

To clean your top-loading washing machine, follow these simple steps.

  1. Run Vinegar Through the Washing Machine

    Choose the largest load size and hottest water temperature that is available for your machine. 

    As the washing machine fills with water, add 4 cups of white vinegar and wait for it to finish filling.

    Once the machine is completely full, just as the load starts to run, pause the machine and let the water and vinegar sit for an hour. This allows the vinegar time to break down the detergent buildup on the walls of the machine.

  2. Clean the Exterior While You Wait

    The outside of the washing machine shouldn't be neglected. Use an old rag to clean the exterior. 

    Dampen the cloth with a little extra vinegar or use your favorite natural cleaner. You can also add diluted vinegar to a spray bottle and spray the outside of the machine before wiping it clean.

  3. Don't Forget to Scrub Out the Detergent Dispenser

    The drawer that houses the detergent and fabric softener dispenser can easily get overlooked. 

    While you are waiting for the vinegar to clean the inside of the machine, use an old toothbrush to scrub out the detergent residue from inside the tray.

  4. Restart Your Washing Machine

    After the vinegar has finished sitting for an hour, restart your machine and let it continue running. Once it drains, you are ready for the baking soda cycle.

  5. Choose Your Essential Oil

    While you can choose whichever essential oil you like for the scent alone, certain oils are great for combating mold and mildew. Oils of oregano, thyme, clove, lavender, clary sage, and arborvitae have all shown antibacterial and antifungal properties and are great choices for a natural antibacterial washing machine cleaner.

  6. Run a Cycle With Baking Soda

    Once your first cycle with the vinegar has finished, run a second cycle with baking soda and essential oils. 

    Pour 1 cup of baking soda and a few drops of essential oils into the drum of the machine.

    Turn on the washing machine again, choosing the largest and hottest water cycle available. Let the washing machine cycle run through completely without stopping.

  7. Air-Dry the Interior of the Washing Machine

    The washing machine needs time to dry out, so be sure to leave the lid open after it is finished draining. In fact, to help prevent the buildup of odors, you should leave the lid open whenever possible, as long as small children and animals can't get inside.

    If you can't leave the lid open for safety reasons, wipe the interior of the machine dry with an old rag before closing the lid.

How to Clean a Front-Loading Washing Machine

Close-Up Of Washing Machine At Home

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The design of the front loading washing machine makes it slightly more challenging to clean, however, it should still be done regularly.

  1. Spray the Interior of the Washing Machine with Vinegar

    Using a spray bottle of vinegar, thoroughly spray the interior of the front-loading machine with white vinegar. Let it sit while you move on to cleaning the rubber gaskets.

  2. Clean the Rubber Gaskets

    Liberally spray the rubber gasket with more vinegar. Using an old rag, wipe away the mold, mildew, and soap scum that has built up. 

    Once this is clean, go back and wipe out the inside of the metal drum as well.

  3. Run a Vinegar Wash

    Close the door to your washing machine and choose the largest and hottest cycle setting. 

    Pour 2 cups of white vinegar directly into the detergent dispenser and wait for the load to finish running.

  4. Run Another Load With Baking Soda

    Open the door of the machine and add in 1/2 cup of baking soda and a few drops of your preferred essential oil.

    Run the machine on the same settings as before.

  5. Clean the Exterior While You Wait

    Spritz the outside of your machine with vinegar and wipe down with an old rag while the washing machine runs.

  6. Make Sure the Interior Is Dry

    Once the machine has stopped, open the door and either wipe down the interior with a dry cloth or leave the door ajar to let it air dry.

Include Your Washing Machine in Your Cleaning Routine

The hardest part of this DIY washing machine cleaner is remembering to actually do it! Add it to your cleaning routine regularly and your machine will stay smelling fresh with barely any work required. It’s a great addition to your eco-friendly laundry routine.

While you could turn to bleach to clean the inside of your washing machine, harsh chemicals are not really necessary. Vinegar is an incredibly effective natural cleaner. When mixed with baking soda and essential oils, you can make a simple all-natural washing machine cleaner to keep your machine looking and smelling its best.

Warning

Be sure to check your owner's manual or manufacturer's website before using this or any other DIY cleaning method on your washing machine. Some acidic substances, such as vinegar, may damage certain coatings or rubber components.

View Article Sources
  1. Puskarova, Andrea, et al. "The Antibacterial and Antifungal Activity of Six Essential Oils and Their Cyto/Genotoxicity to Human HEL 12469 Cells." Scientific Reports, vol. 7, 2017, pp. 8211., doi:10.1038/s41598-017-08673-9

  2. Costello, Jennifer. "Reliable and Scientific Tips for Cleaning with Vinegar." NSF International, 2021.