How to Clean Washing Machine with Vinegar

Washing machines have a lot to do. From smelly gym gear to soiled baby clothes, it’s no surprise that most washing machines get dirty from time to time. But mucky clothes aren’t the only cause of a grimy washing machine. The damp drum of a washing machine is the perfect place for mould and bacteria to breed. Limescale and detergent build-up can also clog things up, leading to bad smells and poor washing machine performance.

Cleaning your washing machine regularly can eliminate all of these problems, increasing the lifespan of the machine and giving you cleaner, better-smelling clothes. Today I’ll highlight just how you go about doing this using everyday household items and also how to clean washing machine with vinegar.

How do I know when my Washing Machine needs to be Cleaned?

Being greeted by a nasty pong when you open up your machine door is a clear sign that you need to clean your washing machine. Depending on what kind of mould or bacteria is growing in there, you may notice a damp, cheesy or general fungus type smell. Discolouration around the rubber seals and black splodges around the doors, detergent drawers or within the machine drum are telltale signs that you have a mould problem in your machine.


Black or brown dots and mysterious streaks and smudges on clothes coming out of the machine are other common symptoms of mould. Pulling back the rubber gaskets around the door and looking amidst the folds will often reveal things you’d rather not see. Tissue remnants, clumps of hair and food debris are just some of the unpleasant residents of washing machine gaskets and if left for long enough in this damp environment, these can start to decay and produce a really icky smell.

But sometimes a bad smell or visible smudges aren’t the giveaways. Over time, many people notice that their washing machine is not performing as well as it did when it was brand new. You might find that your machine isn’t as effective at stain removal or that smells linger on your clothes, even after they’ve been through the wash. If your washing machine just isn’t doing such a good job anymore, a simple clean might be the solution.

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Why should I use Vinegar to Clean my Washing Machine?

There’s been much hype about vinegar as a cleaning agent in recent years, but did you know that it has been used for household hygiene for centuries?

Vinegar has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and it’s completely non-toxic. It is also readily available and economical with a large bottle of vinegar costing just a few pence at your local supermarket.

Specialised washing machine cleaning products will cost you several times the price of a bottle of vinegar and the results probably won’t be any better. Vinegar does a fantastic job of cutting through grease, grime and dirt build up. In fact, it is more effective at killing mould and mildew than bleach and has a natural deodorising action too.

Clean washing machine with vinegarSome people find the smell of vinegar off-putting, so you might be wondering if your house will smell like a chip shop after this process. The good news is that although vinegar has a strong smell, it evaporates extremely quickly and after an hour or so, there won’t be even a whiff of vinegar in your home. Personally, I don’t mind the smell of vinegar. I find it much better than bleach which can really linger.

Washing machines are made up of delicate parts that can easily be damaged by chemical products. Bleach, in particular, is corrosive and it can cause damage to your machine. It’s also toxic, bad for the environment and it can cause serious skin and eye irritation. Distilled white vinegar can be used for many cleaning tasks around the house with none of these risks. Here is a step by step guide on how to use vinegar to clean your washing machine:

Products Needed

Chances are, you already have what you need for this task in your home. You’ll need a large bottle of white distilled vinegar and around four cleaning cloths, rags or old towels.

The best vinegar to use is that ofGolden Swann White Vinegar. It works great for cleaning washing machines and removes limescale, grime and dirt from your machine. You can also use it as a weed killer as well!

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How to Clean Your Washing Machine

Cleaning the outside of the machine

  1. Soak one of the cleaning cloths in vinegar and wipe all the external surfaces of the machine.
  2. Make sure not to forget the external glass on the washing machine door and try to get right into any grooves or indentations.
  3. Leave the vinegar on the surfaces for a few minutes and then wipe clean with another cloth soaked in plain water. The vinegar does have a strong smell, but it will evaporate quickly.

Cleaning the dispenser drawer

  1. Remove the detergent dispenser drawer and wipe all of the surfaces with a cloth soaked in vinegar.
  2. If the drawer has a thick build-up of cleaning products or visible mould, try to scrape off as much of this as you can. You can use a cloth to do this or if it the build-up is very thick, a wooden spoon or something similar may help.
  3. Then rinse the drawer under running water and replace it in the machine.

Cleaning your washing machine drum with vinegar

  1. Open the dispenser drawer again and fill both the detergent dispenser and the fabric softener dispenser to the maximum level with distilled white vinegar.
  2. Close the drawer and choose the machine’s longest and hottest setting. Some washing machines have a specific cleaning cycle.
  3. Run the machine empty on this setting.
  4. When the cycle has finished, run an additional rinse cycle to clear any residue from the machine.

Cleaning the rubber gaskets of the washing machine with vinegar

After you’ve run both the full cycle and the rinse cycle on your machine, take a cleaning cloth or towel and soak it in vinegar. Carefully pull apart the rubber folds of the gasket and thoroughly clean these, removing any debris, that remains in there. Also, wipe the seals on the inside of the washing machine door and inside the glass area. Finally, use a second cloth or towel to dry within the folds of and the outside of the gasket.

Your washing machine should now be visibly and hygienically clean. Don’t worry if you can still smell vinegar. This odour will soon disappear.

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Keeping your washing machine clean

Now that your washing machine is sparkling clean, you’ll want to keep it that way. While you can’t avoid having to wash dirty clothes, there are things you can do to prevent your machine from getting really dirty and to avoid bacteria and mould growth.

Leave the door open

The number 1 tip for keeping your washing machine mould free is to leave the door open when it is not in use. It doesn’t need to be wide open but just enough for air to circulate. Likewise, after a wash cycle has completed, it’s a good idea to leave the dispenser drawer open for a couple of hours so it can air dry. This will help to prevent mould and mildew developing. These are the main culprits for bad smells in your laundry.

Remove clothes as soon as a wash cycle has completed

Have you ever forgotten to remove clothes from your washing machine for a day or more? It doesn’t take long for things to get pretty smelly in there and it’s hard to get that horrible damp smell out of your clothes once it’s really penetrated the fibres. The same goes for your machine and that’s why it’s important to remove clothes from the machine as soon after washing as possible.

Prevent debris from getting into your machine

Prevention is better than cure so do your best to stop obstructive items ending up in your machine. Clear out pockets (I find at least three items in my husband’s pockets every time I wash his clothes) and shake out towels, pet bedding, etc., before putting them in the machine. You may want to do this outdoors!

Run the machine on empty

Every so often, it’s a good idea to run your washing machine empty on the hottest setting, particularly after you have washed heavily soiled items. This helps to flush through the machine and clear any buildup of detergent or debris in the dispenser drawer and the main drum. You can add half a cup of vinegar to the detergent drawer when you are doing this. This will help to clear any gunk that is hanging about.

Clear debris from the gasket

Sometimes things end up in your washing machine that shouldn’t be there. Coins, tissues, receipts, and other small items have a habit of turning up in the folds of the rubber gasket. Socks and other small items of clothing can also get trapped here and if you have pets in your home, this is also where balls of fur tend to congregate.

Many washing machine manufacturers recommend clearing the gasket of your machine after every wash but usually, once a fortnight is enough. You should clean the gasket more frequently if you regularly wash heavily soiled items.

Experts recommend thoroughly cleaning your washing machine with vinegar at least once a month. This will ensure that both your washing machine and your clothes will be clean and hygienic. I hope this article helps you to clean your washing machine with vinegar. Enjoy!

Claire has been in the cleaning industry for over 15 years. She's worked numerous jobs including both domestic and industrial cleaning. Her most recent role has been head of product testing for a major cleaning supplier. Following the birth of her second child, Layla, Claire has set up Cleaning Mentor to help people become better at cleaning, saving time and money.

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