Ditch the bleach! Sanitize your washer with these 2 cheap cupboard staples

How to sanitize your washer: Image shows a tub of white vinegar and a box of bicarbonate of soda.
(Image credit: Mina Frost.)

If you've done laundry this week, give yourself a pat on the back for me. But when's the last time you remembered to sanitize your washer? 

According to most cleaning experts, cleaning your top load (opens in new tab) or front load washer (opens in new tab) should be on your monthly to-do list. My washing machine is inside a cupboard, which means it doesn't always get to air dry - I noticed my laundry wasn't smelling particularly fresh when I hung it out, so I decided it was about time for a deep clean. 

One of my 2023 resolutions is to be more sustainable where I can, and that includes swapping out chemical detergents and cleaning supplies for eco-friendly products. So instead of browsing the cleaning aisle at my local supermarket, I decided to consult the internet to find an environmentally-friendly hack. 

It turns out the usual suspects do the trick when it comes to cleaning your washer: I found out a combination of bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar is effective to kill mildew and remove bad odors from your washing machine drum. 

I put this nifty hack to the test to see how effective it would be - read on to find out how I fared. 

How to sanitize your washer with bicarbonate soda and vinegar

Before I got to cleaning the drum, I addressed the growing mildew patch on the rubber seal of my washer with a microfiber cloth and an antibacterial spray, as per our very own how to clean your washing machine (opens in new tab) guide. I made sure to get underneath the rubber seal and get rid of all the black spots I could find so they would not spread further.

How to sanitize your washer: Image shows the drum of a front load washer.

Before the clean - a visible mildew patch, lots of condensation, and unpleasant smells. (Image credit: Mina Frost.)

Once that was done, I got my trusty bicarbonate of soda out and sprinkled half a cup into the drum of my washer. I poured a cup of white vinegar into the detergent drawer, and set my washing machine on a hot wash with my usual detergent. 

While that was happening, I did some research into the science behind this simple household cleaning hack. Our sister site LiveScience said it best (opens in new tab): bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are on the opposite ends of the pH scale, meaning one is very acidic (vinegar has a pH of 2) and the other is very basic (bicarbonate of soda has a pH of 9). Together, they combine to dissolve grime and grease, as well as the minerals that form from hard water. The important thing is to not use them in equal amounts, as they'll essentially cancel each other out.

The added benefits are that these two ingredients are non toxic and won't damage either your washer or your clothes. You won't have to run additional cycles to get rid of excess bleach, or worry about it leaving streaks on your garments. 

How to sanitize your washer: Image shows the drum of a front load washer.

... and after! The drum smells a lot fresher and I let the condensation air dry to reduce the mildew smells. (Image credit: Mina Frost.)

Now, for the important part: the results. 

After the hot wash was done, I opened my washer and let my machine air dry for a couple of hours. After my scrubbing, the mildew patch on the front of the seal had faded, and I noticed my machine smelt a lot more fresh. Later in the day, I put on a usual wash, and was pleasantly surprised at how much cleaner it felt and smelt! 

It's worth noting that this was probably the result of the much-needed thorough clean as well as this drum cleaning hack, but I'm sold on bicarbonate of soda and vinegar as an eco-friendly washer sanitizer. From now on, I'll be making it a part of my monthly cleaning routine!

Mina Frost
Deputy Editor

Mina is the Deputy Editor at Top Ten Reviews. She works with section editors to create accurate, detailed and in-depth reviews to populate our buying guides. She has degrees in Linguistics and Investigative Reporting, and is also a freelance writer and editor. When she's not testing kit and agonizing over commas, Mina can be found reading, running, eating good food and drinking wine.