How to Clean a Top Load Washer

How to Clean a Top Load Washer.  Here is a chore that almost no one takes seriously.   I’m about to show you photos that will change your mind about that.  There are things lurking in your washing machine that you may not know about.  Read on to learn how to clean a top load washer.   Front loaders are an entirely different animal that need a post all their own.  I am still looking for a volunteer to allow me in to clean and photograph theirs.  Stay tuned.

How to Clean a Top Load Washer

In the meantime, I have allowed my poor machine to go 6 months without a good cleaning just for this post.  I awoke today almost gleeful to get this job done.   You see, I love my washer.   I used to have a front loader that I loathed.   It always smelled dirty and my clothes were not coming all that clean.   I waited eagerly for it to break so that we could go back to a good-old top loader.

The day finally came and to my chagrin, machines aren’t made like they used to be.   I wanted one that filled all the way up and had a good agitator.   Those are hard to find.   Most are water efficient (aka…don’t fill enough to clean anything, IMHO).   But! We did find one.

I HIGHLY recommend the Speed Queen commercial washer (no, not coin operated).  She is a hard worker.  Does a beautiful job. Start to finish, double load, extra long wash, still done in under 30 minutes.   Spins till things are 70% dry so that my dryer doesn’t have to work so hard.   MUAH!  Love her.  So.. here we go.

This is her:  IMG_2209    I’m going to show you what she looks like when not properly cleaned for many months.  Yours may look similar.  I dare you to check.

IMG_2148 bleach dispenser
IMG_2147 under the rim (without pulling to the side)

IMG_2160 under the rim when you PULL it to the side.  It has some play to it for when it spins.

IMG_2150 the caked up dispenser cup
IMG_2146 and then the normal dust and grime build up IMG_2152

OH! But that’s not all.  That’s what we can see easily.   Ever smell a disgusting sewer smell coming from your machine and wonder where it’s coming from?

IMG_2174 (1) IMG_2175
Remove the dispenser cup.  Gross eh?   Now some of those cups act like they don’t come off.  Maybe some don’t, but I haven’t met one yet that I couldn’t unclip.  This is why you want to be sure you try to do that.  That’s moldy softener and detergent build up.  There are little holes in that tube so that water can enter and pick up the dispensed softener.  Only problem is that it doesn’t always get out of there.  It cakes up.  You have to go in and get it out of there.  Ideally once every month or two.

OK, so what do we do about all this?  Simple fix.

First, (1a) either clean that dispenser cup in place (if you absolutely can’t remove it) IMG_2166IMG_2161by filling with very hot, almost boiling water and a few drops of laundry detergent. Stir it up and let it sit for 20 minutes.  Then get your wire brush in there and scrape all the much off.  Clean the outside with foam bathroom cleaner.

OR(1b) the preferred method: Take that cup outta there.  Throw it in the sink with extremely hot water and some Dawn dish soap to soak for 20 minutes.  Then get your wire brush and clean it inside and out.  Rinse and dry.  Viola.  That part’s done.




Next (2) I use Dow Scrubby Bubbles foaming bathroom cleaner because it cuts through soap build up.  I spray everything.
IMG_2158 IMG_2162 IMG_2164     IMG_2168
and wipe.  Spray and wipe under every rim and in every nook and cranny. I use the end of a utensil wrapped in the wash cloth to get into tight spaces.

Now that disgusting moldy thing. (3) you have to attack that baby from multiple angles.  First, get the top layer of crud off with some scrubby bubbles.  Scrub what you can with a brush.   IMG_2183I also have a rubber spatula that I have just for this purpose.  Sometimes I also wedge a washcloth down there.  Eventually I always use the wire brush.   Get everything you can off of there.  You won’t get it all yet.  Just do the best you can.
Then set your machine to HOT water and fill the tub with a tiny bit of laundry detergent.  It will fill that tube almost to the top.  As it fills, scrub.
IMG_2188Keep scrubbing.   Then allow the rinse cycle to run.  Stop it JUST BEFORE THE SPIN CYCLE.

You will note that there is still a bit of scum in there.  That is likely big clumps that couldn’t get out of the little holes to wash away.   You make still have to scrape a bit off, but it should fall off easily.
IMG_2197  Once at the bottom, use a spoon or any other implement to scoop that out of there.  Then allow the washer to finish it’s cycle.

Before you put that softener cup back on, take a look inside.  Note the Fill Line.  It is in there. IMG_2194  Look for it.   THAT is where you are supposed to fill the softener/water mixture to.  Not higher.  Otherwise, your machine is caking up needlessly, and your clothes are building up a residue that is making them get dirtier faster.

You don’t want to do that.

OK,  put that baby back where it belongs.  Then wipe out the inside of your washer.  Little bits of lint and softener pieces will still be in there because they were too large to wash away.  Wipe those all out of there.

Wipe down the exterior.

IMG_2189 IMG_2190

Lastly, change any filters you may have installed (we always install one.  It costs under $50 and saves a small fortune on hard water, sand, or if you have city water, rust stains when they decide to flush the pipes but not tell you.)   You should also check your hoses and replace those with stainless steel braided hoses.  (If you’ve ever had a hose rupture, you know why.)

IMG_2154 IMG_2153 IMG_2199

Now enjoy your clean machine!  Plan to do all that every couple of months.

IMG_2211 IMG_2204









  1. You can fly to Australia and do my front loader 😊 Do you guys use des alter at all? I use that when my machine gets the warning it needs its cleaning cycle. It gets out all the laundry liquid residue out of the drum. It’s amazing how much suds it creates from all the leftover liquid!

  2. What an amazing difference! I noticed a smell and thought I’d have to call a plumber never thought my machine was so filthy but it is! This is on my chore Must do list! Thank you!

  3. Oh my word! My washing machine came with our house (we moved in in January 2015) and it was rental for 10 years before that. Pretty sure it’s the original machine. I’m scared now to even try to clean it now if that’s what yours looked like after only six months. We got a large enough tax return this year that I’m getting a new dryer and washer, which we’ll hopefully be getting within the next week or two. I’m definitely going to set a reminder to clean the new ones at least once a month!

  4. Thank you! My machine has a self-cleaning option and I use that with bleach…but I will try this method and see if it works better. I know we are needing to replace the hose soon 🙂

  5. Wouldn’t have thought of that! We’re on city water. My new machines should be here Thursday though so I may just skip a couple days of laundry 🙂

  6. I have cleaned my machine this morning. I have a top load washer, but it is different to the machine of the pictures. It is an american machine, by Hoover. I have a Hoover dryer with top load too. I love my machines!!!!
    I cleaned it with a toothbrush and bleach. Then I do a hot cicle with a cup of baking soda, and a cup of white vinegar on the softener box. A couple of weeks ago I moved both machines and clean below and around.
    I have a sink close to the machines in the laundry room, too. It’s a laundry-balcony closed with windows, actually. I love my laundry room. It make me more easy that chore. I think that it is an important room in every house.

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