The Best Natural Way to Clean Your Washing Machine

cleaning Sep 14, 2019

by the editorial team

Are you looking for a natural, nontoxic way to clean the inside of your washing machine?

Mildew, bacteria, and other foul-smelling things build up in washing machines over time.

However, the traditional cleaners you can buy at stores are often full of harmful, toxic ingredients.

In this article, we'll provide a natural way to clean your washing machine—including two nontoxic cleaner recipes that will keep your laundry room smelling fresh all year round!

Why Your Washing Machine Needs Cleaning

You’ve got a lot on your plate already. Is it worth taking time out of your busy schedule to clean the inside of your washing machine?

Yes, absolutely.

High-efficiency washers, especially front-loading models, are prone to mold and mildew growth.

The dark, moist, closed-off environment inside your washing machine is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

This may pose a sub-par environment to you and your family—not to mention the smell can become pungent as time goes on.

When you add exceptionally dirty items to your washing machine (such as microfiber cloths used for cleaning bathrooms), the sanitary condition of your washing machine can become worse.

Plus, if you use cloth diapers in your household, some fecal matter and urine can make its way into the machine—even if you rinse them before washing.

Can You Maintain a Clean-Smelling Washing Machine Year Round?

There are a couple of things you can do to maintain a clean-smelling washing machine throughout the year.

Leave the lid open after every wash cycle.

It will help prevent mildew growth and stale odors.

Avoid using too much laundry soap or fabric softener, and run an extra rinse cycle, after washing, to avoid soap scum buildup.

Be sure to only use a low-suds detergent in high-efficiency machines to avoid residue buildup.

The door seal on front-loading machines can get particularly dirty.

Once a week, wipe down the seal of your machine with a vinegar and tea tree oil mix.

It's important to note that even if you follow these tips to the T, some bacteria and mold build-up is inevitable.

That’s why it's important to deep-clean your washing machine several times per year. 

Here’s how!

The Best Natural Way to Deep-Clean Your Washing Machine

Many natural recipes for cleaning your washing machine call for mixing baking soda with vinegar.

This combination is ineffective.

Why? Because vinegar is acidic and baking soda is alkaline.

When you mix these two ingredients, they cancel each other out.

Instead, use a mix of washing soda and natural oxygen bleach to clean the drum of your washing machine.

Below are the natural ingredients we suggest keeping on hand for cleaning your washing machine. For your convenience, you can click on the images to buy them on Amazon (I may an affiliate fee if you do).

    • Washing soda to break down hard water deposits and dissolve grease

    • A natural oxygen bleach to soften the water and kill off different types of mold

    • Vinegar to take care of mineral deposits, mold, and mildew. It can also be used as a fabric softener on a rinse cycle.

    • Essential oils with anti-microbial properties. We suggest using tea tree oil to fight mold and mildew growth inside your washing machine.

Keep in mind that the best way to clean your washing machine depends on whether you have a front-loading or a top-loading machine.

Natural Washing Machine Cleaner Recipes

Below are two recipes that you can use to deep-clean your washer several times per year.

For a front-loading washing machine

  • 2 tbsp washing soda

  • 2 cups white vinegar

  • 2 tbsp natural oxygen bleach

  • 20 drops of essential oil of your choice

  1. Remove the tray dispenser and soak it in hot, soapy water. Scrub the residue with an old toothbrush, rinse the tray, and put it back into your machine.

  2. Add oxygen bleach and washing soda to the drum and run the hottest cycle your washing machine has.

  3. After the cycle is finished, add vinegar and essential oils to the liquid dispenser on the tray. Run another hot cycle.

  4. Use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe out the drum. 

  5. Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Use a microfiber cloth with the vinegar solution to clean the outside of the machine. Pay special attention to the door seal.

  6. If your machine has a filter at the bottom, remove it and clean it with soap and water (or vinegar).

For a top-loading washing machine

  • ½ cup washing soda

  • 1 quart white vinegar

  • ½ cup natural oxygen bleach

  • 30 drops of essential oil of your choice

  1. Add oxygen bleach and washing soda to a full drum of hot water. Wash on the cleaning or heavy-duty cycle.
  2. Add vinegar and essential oils to the drum and run another hot water cycle.
  3. Agitate for a few minutes, then let the solution sit for 30 minutes before finishing the cycle.
  4. Dip a microfiber cloth into the water and use it to clean the outside of the machine, the underside of the lip where the drum lives, as well as all dispensers.
  5. If your machine has a filter at the bottom, remove it and clean it with soap and water (or vinegar).

Final Thoughts

The build-up of grime can turn your home appliances into a health concern.

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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

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Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

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