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How to Clean a Top Load Washing Machine

May 18, 2023

Top-load washers are different from front loaders in that they have a lid on the top instead of a door at the front. If anything, this makes it much easier to load and unload clothes. For one thing, there’s no bending over involved—you can just plop them in! And because the lid is at the top, you can add things to the washer mid-cycle; this makes it a lot more convenient to use.

They’re also much more affordable. Generally speaking, you can get one for as low as $300. Front-loaders, on the other hand, usually start at around $600 and can go upward to $1,500 depending on the features. What’s more, is that they can be stacked with dryers (washer on the bottom and dryer on top) to save space in the laundry room. This makes them an excellent choice for those who are living in an apartment or small house.

They do have their disadvantages, however. For one thing, they use a lot more energy (up to 50% in some cases) compared to front loaders. Not only that, but they also use more water because they fill the drum—this has to do with the fact that they use an agitator to clean the clothes. In other words, your energy bills will be higher (you can bring them down a bit by choosing an energy-star model).

And like all washing machines, they can develop an odor after a while. For example, mold and mildew can be an issue if you keep the lid closed (that will prevent moisture from evaporating). Detergent residue and grime can also build up inside and that can lead to various smells, which if left alone, can get onto the clothes that you’re washing.

How to Clean Top-Loader Washing Machines – Best Methods

To prevent that, it’s important to clean your top-load washing machine on a regular basis, ideally once every two to three weeks (you may want to up the frequency if you do the laundry often). And as it turns out, there are several recommended options when it comes to how to clean top load washers so we’ll hop right into it! 

1. Use Active Washing Machine Tablets – Recommended

active washing machine tablets 396x400 1

What are ACTIVE Washing Machine Cleaning Tablets? They are effervescent foaming tablets that are specifically designed to clean your washing machine. Not only will they remove buildup (e.g. dirt, grease, soap scum), but they’ll also take care of any odors that are present. What’s more, is that they’re compatible with most washers including those made by LG, Whirlpool, GE, Maytag, and other brands.

The best part? They’re convenient and easy to use. Simply put one of the tablets in the inner drum (not into the detergent drawer) and you’re good to go. You don’t have to deal with any liquids nor do you have to measure anything. If anything, it’ll only take you a few seconds! And one pack comes with 24 tablets so it’ll last you a while (it’s recommended that you clean your washer once or twice a month with Active tabs).

Tip: If it’s been a while since you last cleaned your washing machine, it might be a good idea to wipe the inside with a microfiber cloth before using the tabs. You can also scrub the inside surfaces with an old toothbrush.

Once you’ve put the tablet in, run a wash cycle on the hottest possible setting; it’ll automatically break down into its active compounds, which will clean, refresh, and deodorize your washer. If your washing machine has a ‘cleaning cycle’, you can also use that.

Wait for the cycle to finish and wipe away any residue with a clean microfiber cloth. For example, there might be leftover residue on the drum.

One of the nice things about the ACTIVE washing machine tablets is the fact that they don’t require an agitator inside the washing machine to be effective. Sometimes washing machines without agitators can be harder to clean but the effervescent effects of the tablets get around this pretty well. 

2. Use White Vinegar to Deodorize

white vinegar washing machine

White vinegar contains acetic acid, which makes a powerful cleaning agent. Not only will it rinse away dirt and grease, but it’ll also kill germs and eliminate odors. To use it, all you have to do is pour it into the washing machine. And don’t worry- it won’t leave behind a vinegary scent. Just give it some time and it’ll evaporate on its own.

Start by choosing the hot water setting. Measure four cups of white vinegar and pour it directly into the drum. Let the cycle run.

Open the lid after a few minutes (that’ll stop the cycle from running) and let the vinegar sit in the washing machine for about an hour (the longer the better). That’ll give it more time to sanitize the inner surfaces. Resume the cycle afterward and once it’s complete, open the lid again. That’ll prevent moisture from building up inside the machine, which can lead to mold, mildew, and bacteria issues.

Don’t forget to clean the top and sides of the machine as well. Spray it with vinegar (there’s no need to dilute it with water) and wipe it down with a clean microfiber cloth.

Tip: For extra cleaning power, you can repeat the cycle (with the same settings) with half a cup of baking soda. It’ll gently scrub the inside, which will help remove buildup and stains. That’s not all, it’ll also neutralize odors.

3. Use Chlorine Bleach to Kill Germs

chlorine bleach

Chlorine bleach is great in that it’ll kill any germs that are inside your washing machine.

If your top-load washer has a detergent drawer, add two cups of bleach there and another two cups directly into the drum. If your washer doesn’t have a drawer, add four cups of bleach to the drum.

Select the hottest water setting and run the longest cycle possible. After a few minutes, open the lid—that’ll pause the cycle. You want to let the bleach sit in the washing machine for at least an hour before restarting and finishing the cycle. That’ll give it more time to disinfect the inside.

If you can’t pause the cycle, you can skip the step altogether. Instead of doing that, pour the bleach into the drum and let it sit in there for at least an hour before starting the cycle. If anything, that’ll have the same effect. Not a fan of the smell? You can rinse it away by running the washing machine again. The water will flush out the last of it.

Note:  Never mix chlorine bleach with other chemical cleaners – the two can react to produce toxic gases!

4. Use Hydrogen Peroxide

hydrogen peroxide washer

Hydrogen peroxide is similar to bleach in that it’s also effective at killing germs. Unlike the latter, however, it won’t leave a noticeable smell.

Simply measure four cups of hydrogen peroxide and pour it into the basket. If you have a detergent drawer, add two cups there and two cups into the drum. Proceed to run the hottest wash cycle possible.

Pause the machine after a few minutes by opening the lid. You want to let the hydrogen peroxide sit in the washer so that it has more time to sanitize the inside. Alternatively, you can let it sit in the washing machine for an hour before starting the wash cycle. Either way works.

Top Load Washing Machine Maintenance Tips

Don’t Overdo the Detergent – Using too much detergent will create excess suds; this can leave a residue in the washer, which over time, can breed mold and bacteria. Seriously, less is more. Not only that, but it’ll also make malfunctions more likely. For example, the suds can block the hoses, which will prevent water from leaving the machine. The soap suds can also build up on your clothes and that can lead to odors (they’ll hold onto the dirt and bacteria that you’re trying to wash away). That’s why it’s so important to follow the instructions on the packaging. Never add liquid detergent without measuring the amount.

Leave the Top Lid Open – Don’t close the lid after using the washing machine. You want to make a habit of leaving it open. That way, the moisture inside the machine will be able to evaporate. The last thing that you want is for it to build up as that can lead to mold, mildew, and bacteria growth. Generally speaking, you want to leave the lid open for at least an hour (the longer the better) after using the top-load washer. After that, you can close it again.

Don’t Forget to Clean the Filter – As a general rule, you want to clean the filter once every three to four months (it’s usually at the bottom of the wash basket beneath the agitator). That’ll prevent lint from building up, which can affect the washer’s efficiency. In some cases, it can also result in odors. And here’s a tip—soaking the filter in hot water will make it easier to remove trapped residue.

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