How to clean a washing machine with vinegar?

by Abby

My washing machine has been smelly kind of musty these days. How can I clean it using vinegar?

  21 answers
  • Lorna Merryfield Lorna Merryfield on Sep 11, 2016
    I used to use baking soda and vinegar and make it into a paste, then run it on sanitary cycle which is just hot water, but now I use an enezyme cleaner, which works some better.
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on May 05, 2016

    Just run white vinegar through a short cycle. It is proven the vinegar solution works the best to break down all the build up from soap etc.

  • Sandra Trudeau Sandra Trudeau on May 05, 2016
    Just got an all in one ventless washer/dryer. Manufacturer recommends running 2-3 C white vinegar through a wash cycle... do not use detergent with it.
  • Charlene Charlene on May 05, 2016
    I use 1 half gallon of vinegar and then wash away.
  • Lynn Deese Lynn Deese on May 05, 2016
    I have an HE washer and it gets musty smelling after a while. I run a load of towels with a couple of cups of white vinegar and then run the load again with about half a cup of baking soda. It could probably be done without the towels but they get musty sometimes too, so it freshens both at the same time.
  • Danielle Danielle on Oct 05, 2015
    This is actually a very simple fix. First, if you have built up gunk in the detergent holder just heat up a kettle of water just shy of boiling and rinse it out really well, wiping off any residue with a washcloth or towel. Second, fill up all the holders in the detergent drawer with bleach and run it empty on the longest cycle on your machine, but keep it on cool water so you don't render the bleach ineffective. That will kill mildew and should do a lot for the smell. Third, toss a cup of baking soda into the machine, fill all the holders in the detergent drawer with white vinegar, crank the water temp as hot as it'll go and run it empty on the longest cycle again. Fourth, wipe down the gasket and door with pure white vinegar so get any particles off those hard to get to places. If that doesn't take care of the problem you may have to repeat steps 2 & 3 a couple of times, but I've never seen a washer it didn't work on after a max of 4 runs. To keep from getting the problem again NEVER leave the door closed, it's like making a mildew terrarium to do that. Just leave the door cracked the barest amount when not in use so the machine can air dry. Also, instead of Tide, which I find to be positively corrosive on clothes, plus it makes me itch, I use Eco's Free and Clear laundry detergent. It does a great job on our clothes and it's fragrance free, dye free, formaldehyde free, phosphate free and dioxane free. It's made from plant based materials and while it's fragrance free the plant products do have some natural scent so our things come out smelling a bit like rosemary, peppermint and eucalyptus, at least to my nose, but that dissipates after a day in the open air. And best of all, no itch!
  • Ta Ta on May 05, 2016
    I run several cups of vinegar through my longest wash and also add more during rinse. Water temp. is cold/cold.
  • William William on Mar 28, 2016
    The vinegar will disinfect, helping kill mold and mildew. The acidity of the vinegar will help dissolve soap residue in the wash tub and can also be helpful in dissolving lime deposits in pipes (if you have hard water). The baking soda cleans soap scum and deodorizes if you have SWS (stinky washer syndrome). Set your washer to run on hot water with the largest load setting. Do not add clothes or detergent. Add 3-4 cups of white vinegar to the water and allow the machine to agitate for a minute to incorporate the vinegar. Add about ½ cup of baking soda. Allow the machine to run again to mix in the baking soda. Stop the washer at this point and allow the water to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. While the hot water, vinegar, and baking soda are penetrating the grime and odors, use a clean cloth dipped in the vinegar water to wipe down your washer. Give attention to the top of the washer, the knobs, the top of the wash bin, and any bleach or fabric softener dispensers. (I had to bust out an old toothbrush to detail all the grime that was residing in my washer! Ew!) Allow the washing cycle to resume until the water begins draining. If your washer will allow it, turn the knob so the tub will drain while spinning, further cleaning out any gunk that has been loosened up and pushing the vinegar water through the holes in the wash bin. If your washer doesn’t allow this, start another hot wash cycle at this point and allow it to run through completely. The scum around the top of the wash bin wiped off very easily with a sponge at this point. (Remember, the water doesn’t reach this part, so it may need a little extra attention.) Again, keep in mind these instructions are for a top loader washing machine only.
  • William gave an excellent recommendation along with easy to follow instructions. This is what I have done for 30+ years. Think back to your parents, grandparents and beyond. This is what they all used before chemicals. Plus, depending upon how much action your washer sees, it can actually have it last longer. At least in my experience. In addition, I place white vinegar in the fabric softener cup, sprinkle in baking soda in each load and wool dryer balls in the dryer. Less chemicals and no static. Don't forget to clean out the dryer vent at least a couple times a year too. Hope this helps!
  • Ann1441388 Ann1441388 on May 06, 2016
    I never have to clean it, as each time I finish a washing I spray 10/15 white vinegar sprays. It never smells and I never see the technician to repair it, as I never have limestone.
  • Johnchip Johnchip on May 06, 2016
    If you just need to flush, use the vinegar and cycle, if you need to scrub, use vinegar and baking soda, scrub, then cycle.
  • Cheryl Gyles Cheryl Gyles on May 06, 2016
    Every so often run a cycle of hot water and add white vinegar. Vinegar takes care of mineral deposits due to hard water, helps with mold/mildew/musty smells, and helps with soap/fabric softener buildup. It is also cheap and environmentally friendly, and readily available!
  • Sherry Fram Sherry Fram on May 06, 2016
    We run the cleaning cycle & pour a cup of white vinegar in the detergent dispenser & sprinkle a cup of baking soda in the drum once every 3-4 weeks. Keeps it all clean & smelling fresh! Way cheaper than the tabs.
  • Rosemary Hesse Rosemary Hesse on May 06, 2016
    Baking soda and vinegar in a full hot wash cycle.
  • Cynthia Starnes Griffin Cynthia Starnes Griffin on May 10, 2016
    Place a few old towels in the washer. Turn setting to HOT, and Largest Load. Add a kettle of boiling water a quart of white vinegar and a box of baking soda. After you remove the towels, run a rinse only cycle. And leave the door/lid open in the future.
  • John John on Jun 26, 2016

    VINEGER is the answer. Start out with two cups white vinegar and run it through the normal warm/cold cycle w/out any soap and low water. Do this twice, the second time using only one cup V. In-between, use the second vinegar and a soft scrub sponge to wipe off all the remaining soap scum.

  • Kim Weaver Gleitz Kim Weaver Gleitz on Oct 04, 2015
    run an empty load with about a cup of vinegar. after every use leave the door slightly ajar to let air in.
  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Nov 02, 2021

    I use vinegar routinely in the rinse cycle, the amount is based on the size of the load. It kills mold and spores that love to grow in moist dark places, and the washer is a perfect place for that. At the end of the cycle, open the door (front loader) and remove the load. Take a rag and moisten it with vinegar and wipe all rubber surfaces. Be extra certain to get down into the areas where the water drains out. Leave the door open to let it dry, also wipe dry the chute where you add detergent and leave that open.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Nov 02, 2021

    Be very careful in the use of vinegar and make sure you clean and rinse thoroughly afterwards. If not, it can degrade your gaskets.

  • Mogie Mogie on Nov 02, 2021

    Step 1: Create a Vinegar Solution And Spray

    Create a white vinegar solution in your spray bottle and start spraying the inside of the drum.

    Step 2: Scrub With Clothe

    Scrub the sprayed surfaces away with the microfiber clothe very neatly, leaving nothing untouched.

    Step 3: Wipe The Gasket

    The rubber gasket that lines the door is a very important scum-collecting part of your front-loading washer that you must clean in detail. We discussed above how it can collect all sorts of dirt and even hair from your laundry. Wipe off any grime and mildew you find around it.

    Step 4: Clean Detergent Drawer

    Measure out two cups of distilled white vinegar and pour it into the detergent drawer before turning the washer on. Remember to set it to the hottest and longest wash cycle.

    Step 5: Remove Vinegar Smell

    Get rid of the smell of vinegar by sprinkling baking soda directly into the drum. Run another cycle of the hottest and longest wash cycles.

    Step 6: Clean The Exterior With Vinegar

    Start scrubbing the entire exterior of your front loader with the microfiber clothe after spraying it with white vinegar solution – don’t miss the knobs or control panel

    Step 7: Air Dry Your Machine

    Let the machine air dry by leaving its door partly open to avoid any musty odor, mold, or mildew from developing further

  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Nov 04, 2021

    if you have a front load washer you need to clean and dry the rubber gasket around the drum and leave door open when not in use - you can spray with vinegar let it sit then dry it off also run a hot water load of one cup of vinegar (white) without clothes in it and it should clean it too