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5 tips for cleaning your top load washer

5 tips for cleaning your top load washer
(Image credit: Getty)

Discover five tips for cleaning your top load washing machine in our handy feature. We’re all pretty conscious about keeping our clothes clean and making them last as long as possible, but what about cleaning the actual washer we rely on to do that for us?

If you’ve got one of the best top load washers, then you’re in the right place as we run through what to do if your top load washer has bad odor, if mold is building up, or if you simply want to sanitize your machine. 

More modern top load washers don’t come with an agitator, this means they use less water to clean your clothes, but it does also mean that cycles don’t fill the basket all the way up with water. That means some areas in your washer are very moist and damp but aren’t actually getting washed. 

When it comes to cleaning your top load washer, it’s not just about appearance as allergens and bacteria can grow even when a surface looks spotless. Regularly cleaning your washer will also help maintain it better in the long run. We recommend you follow these tips to give your top load washer a good clean at least every three months. 

1. Sanitize your top load washer 

Many new top-load washing machines have a sanitize cycle. These come in two types. If your model has an onboard heater, it can get hot enough to sanitize itself without bleach or other harsh chemicals. If no onboard heater is present, few high-efficiency washers get hot enough to do a stand-alone sanitize, so the cycle will require bleach or special washing-machine sanitizer tablets that are sold separately. Read your instruction manual and follow it carefully when sanitizing your washer, and never put laundry in your washing machine while it is sanitizing, as it could damage the clothes.

If your top-load washing machine doesn't have its own sanitize cycle, you can simulate one by tuning it to its hottest setting (check the user manual if you are unsure which one this is) and the largest load setting. When it is full, add about a quart of white vinegar and four ounces of baking soda. (If you don't have vinegar to hand, use two cups of lemon juice instead.) This mixture will not only remove dirt and grime but also hard-water deposits.

Once the basket has spun enough to dissolve the baking soda, pause the machine and let it sit for at least a half-hour. Then restart the machine and let it finish its cycle. If you have a spin-and-drain cycle, select this setting to spin out any grime that might have been loosened. When the washer is empty, wipe down all surfaces with a solution of hot water and white vinegar.

2. Clean the detergent dispenser on your top load washer 

If your washing machine has dispensers for detergent, bleach, or fabric softener, these dispensers or the compartments that hold them can be a magnet for gunk and grime. Take a hot washrag to these areas as well. An old toothbrush can be a handy tool to reach difficult nooks and crannies. 

3. Clean the filter on your top load washer

To keep your top load washing machine working at its full potential, be sure to clean its filter by removing it from the washer and using a soft brush to clean off the build-up from the filter. 

If you can, remove the screen and let it soak in boiling water for 15 minutes before placing it back into the washer. 

4. Clean your washer basket  

If your washer basket has developed stains or discoloring, vinegar and baking soda may not be enough to thoroughly clean it out. Follow the same steps as sanitizing but with a quart of chlorine bleach instead. Remember not to include clothing in this cycle as it will damage them.  

5. Wipe down the outside of your washer 

Often forgotten is the outside of your washer. Detergent splashes, sticky fingers, and general grime can easily build-up on your top load washer over time. Use a clean cloth and some hot soapy water and give the machine a good wipe. 

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Other washing tips 

Make sure you are using the correct detergent for your washing machine type. High-efficiency washing machines should always be run with high-efficiency detergent. Otherwise, suds can overrun the washer and moisture can end up where it shouldn't, eventually growing mildew. If you accidentally use low-efficiency detergent or just too much detergent and notice there are still suds in the washer, run an extra rinse cycle to clean it out.

Finally, after washing your clothes, leave the lid on your washer open for an hour or so. This helps the drum to dry out and prevents damp smells from forming.