A DIY Washing Machine Cleaner Made From 3 (Natural) Ingredients
There are a few home appliances that don't get the TLC they deserve, and the washing machine is definitely one of them. According to green cleaning expert Melissa Maker, we should be thoroughly cleaning washers as often as once a month depending on how often we use them.
"Cleaning your machine regularly will make it last longer and eliminate moldy smells caused by stale soap and fabric softener buildup," she writes in an mbg article about how to clean home appliances naturally. Washing your machine out regularly also ensures a higher-quality wash.
While you can use bleach to clear out your machine, natural cleaners work just as well, and any leftover residues that get onto your clothes will be a lot gentler on your skin. Here's Maker's step-by-step guide to scrubbing your washing machine down using a DIY blend of white vinegar, essential oils, and baking soda:
- Begin with an empty washing machine and add about 2 cups of baking soda directly into the machine. This is going to gently scrub the inside and combat those stale, moldy odors that are left behind from old soap and fabric softener deposits. Run a large, long hot water cycle, and leave it be.
- Next, add in 2 cups of plain white vinegar and 10 drops of an essential oil like tea tree or lavender, which help with mildew and mineral deposits and will also act as a mild disinfectant, where you normally put your detergent. Run another cycle through and set it to the longest, hottest, largest load setting you can. The vinegar will help break down any deposits and further remove moldy smells.
- Once both cycles are complete, you can quickly wipe down the drum and agitator using a cotton cloth and vinegar. If you have any stains, try rubbing them with a paste of baking soda and water and a non-scratching sponge. That should remove just about everything.
- On front-load washers, that rubber seal that runs along the edges of the machine clings on to all kinds of gross stuff. Dip a cotton cloth into plain white vinegar and 10 drops of your essential oil, and give yours a good wipe down.
- Next, tackle the exterior parts of the machine including your detergent dispensers, all cracks and crevices, and the door frame. Clean the inside and outside of the door with a cotton cloth and vinegar and water. Scrub grimy areas where necessary with a cleaning toothbrush (and baking soda, if needed) and wipe everything clean with a cotton cloth.
- If possible, you can soak your dispensing trays and then wipe clean.
Keep in mind that some washing machines such as LG's front-loading models have a specific setting, "tub clean," for this purpose. This feature is nice because it provides really hot water but still lets you put in your own natural cleaners, plus LG's machines come with automatic AI-powered diagnostic checks to ensure they keep running smoothly. If your machine has a tub clean option, you can follow the protocol above but simply swap the two long hot-water cycles for two tub-clean cycles.
A few best practices for maintaining your newly clean machine: Leave its door slightly ajar when it's not in use, and don't be too liberal with your detergent. If you regularly use too much, it can cling to the walls of your machine and cause germs and funky odors.
Honestly, the hardest part of washing your laundry machine is probably remembering to do it, so just add this task to your cleaning calendar, and you're good to go.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.