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How to Clean Top Load Washing Machine

by Spencers TV & Appliance

Cleaning a Washing Machine

At a Glance:

How Often Should You Clean Your Washing Machine?

How to Clean a Top-Load Washing Machine

Know Your Washing Machine Cleaner Options

Prevent Odors From Building Up

Know When It’s Time to Upgrade Your Washing Machine

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Trust Spencers Appliance?

Your washing machine works tirelessly to remove stains from your clothes and wash away pet dander, pollen, dirt, and other unwanted particles. However, just because your washer does a good job cleaning doesn’t mean it’s actually clean itself. After every load, lingering grime and bacteria can stay inside the drum, which will build up over time. The result is a smelly washer that isn’t able to clean your clothes effectively.

If you haven’t washed your washer recently, now is the time to do so. You can also build good habits now so your washer stays clean throughout the year. Use this guide to learn how to clean a top-load washing machine to prevent odors and keep your clothes looking their best.

Browse All of Our Top Load Washers

Take a look at our selection of top load washers and learn how to keep it perfectly clean.

Top Load Washers

How Often Should You Clean Your Washing Machine?

Most sanitation experts recommend cleaning your washing machine at least once a month or about every 30 cycles. If you have a busy family with kids and adults who create a lot of dirty clothes, you might reach the 30-cycle mark at or before the 30-day mark. In this case, monthly cleanings are recommended.

If you live alone or don’t create much laundry, you might get away with cleaning your washer every 60 days – or even 90 days in some cases. Your washing machine will tell you if you need to clean it more often. If you start to notice a mildewy musty odor at the 30-day mark, it’s time to clean your unit.

Dos and Don'ts of a Washing Machine

Washing machine odors usually start out light and then grow more intense because of the buildup of bacteria. There might be something wrong with your drainage if the smell returns immediately after you clean your washer – especially if the odor is strong. However, even if your machine doesn’t have an odor, cleaning it regularly is still a good habit to get into. It will keep your washer sanitary and will prevent grime from potentially transferring to your clothes. 

How to Clean a Top-Load Washing Machine

Top Load Washer Cleaning

If you aren’t in the habit of regularly cleaning your appliances, you might not know how to clean a top-load washing machine. Fortunately, there are multiple steps you can take to sanitize the drum, filter, and exterior of your unit. Build these steps into your cleaning process so your washing machine stays sanitary.

  1. Scrub the inside of the drum. Mix hot water and vinegar that you can use as a natural cleaning solution. Use an old rag to clean the drum – that way the drainage vents won’t cut up your sponges. 
  2. Clean the agitator. If you have a top-load washer with an agitator (as opposed to an impeller), wipe down the blades while you are cleaning the drum. The fins of the agitator are often more prone to collecting grime and bacteria as they break up your clothes during the wash cycle.
  3. Run a cycle of hot water. Set your washer to its hottest setting and run a quick cycle with just water. Do not add detergent. Some units have specific cleaning cycles that maximize heat and minimize water usage.
  4. Wipe down your seals. The rubber seals around your machine can grow mold if you aren’t careful. Even top-load washing models will have some rubber elements built in. Wipe these down after use.
  5. Remove and clean your filter. Lint traps aren’t just for dryers. Some washing machines also have filters that trap hair, pet fur, and other debris over time. Make sure you remove and rinse this filter when you clean your washer. 

If you follow these steps on a monthly basis, it shouldn’t take more than 15 or 20 minutes to wash your top-load unit (not counting the hot water cycle time). This doesn’t need to be a difficult or time-consuming chore, but it is certainly an important one. 

Know Your Washing Machine Cleaner Options

Once you know how to clean a top-load washing machine, you can start to build this process into your chore calendars. However, before you start cleaning your unit regularly and assigning this task to your kids, make sure you have the right chemicals and cleaning tools for the job. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind.

  • Vinegar is often the best choice for cleaning your washing machine. It is safe to touch and doesn’t have as strong of an odor as chlorine bleach.
  • Baking soda is also another household alternative to cleaning with harsh chemicals. You can add one cup of baking soda to the drum before you run the hot water cycle for a deeper cleaning experience.
  • You can also clean your washer with chlorine bleach. You can use this to wipe down the drum and add a small amount to the washer in lieu of baking soda.

If you clean with chlorine bleach, be safe. Make sure you have property ventilation like an open door and a ceiling fan that is on. You can also open the windows in your laundry room and wear a mask so you don’t breathe in the bleach. If you feel light-headed, step away from the washing machine and sit in an area with fresh air.

Also, never mix white vinegar and bleach. This creates a toxic gas that can be dangerous in small amounts. Decide whether you want to clean with vinegar or bleach when you are cleaning your washing machine. 

Prevent Odors From Building Up

If you are worried about odors developing in your washing machine, take steps to proactively prevent them. Whenever possible, keep the lid of your washing machine open. This will let fresh air into the drum and potentially also natural light if your laundry area has windows. Mold and mildew thrive in damp, dark, wet areas. By keeping your lid open, the fresh air can prevent mold growth and keep your washer clean and odorless.

Keeping your washer clean is as easy as not closing the lid. Remembering this trick will also make cleaning the drum more enjoyable because your washer will be less stinky.

Top vs Front Load Washer

Know When It’s Time to Upgrade Your Washing Machine

Knowing how to clean a washing machine is important for protecting your unit and increasing its lifespan. However, washing machines will naturally wear out over time – especially if they are used frequently. If your washing machine is getting louder, making strange noises, or not working correctly, it might be time for a new model. While you can reset your washer, this won’t fix everything. 

If your washing machine is more than a decade old, consider replacing it with a newer model. Visit one of our 10 locations across Phoenix and its surrounding areas to see what the latest top-load units can do. Our team at Spencers TV & Appliance is here to support you.


What happens if I never clean my washing machine?

Modern washing machines have built-in technology to remove grime and fight bacteria in the drum, but they aren’t perfect. Over time, you will start to notice a musty odor in your laundry area that can grow stronger and start to spread through your house. This mildew can also affect how clean your clothes are. 

What happens if I don’t clean the washing machine filter?

A washing machine filter is just like a dishwasher filter. It can get packed full of hair and debris over time, which makes it less effective. Your washing machine could develop a clog or it could do a worse job of removing particles from your clothes. Try to remove and clean your filter at least once a month. 

Why is it important to clean the drum in the washing machine?

The drum of the washing machine is where you put your clothes. If you have a clean drum, then you can maximize the cleanliness of your clothing. Cleaning the drum is also important to prevent odors and to reduce buildup that could potentially affect the drainage abilities.

Why Trust Spencers TV & Appliance?

Since 1973, Spencers TV & Appliance has grown to 11 locations throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. The secret to our longevity is simple: personal service. Customer satisfaction has always been the focus of our business, and throughout the years, we have been able to work hard with our suppliers to bring you the best prices. After all, getting customers the best price and personal attention is how we compete with big-box stores, day in and day out.

Not only do we offer top-rated appliances, name-brand electronics, and the best mattresses on the market but we also provide water treatment solutions and perform kitchen design services. Stop by your nearest Spencers and see what you’re missing!

Shop Top-Load Washing Machines at Spencers

At Spencers TV & Appliance, we provide high-quality, name-brand products at great prices — check out our catalog to shop top-load washers online today. Your friends in the business are always happy to help you learn how to clean a top-load washing machine so your home stays sanitary. Call us, or better yet, stop by at one of our locations in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Glendale regions. Visit us today!

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