How to clean a washing machine

We bought (conveyed) a Whirlpool Gold washer with the house. It’s okay as a machine and we haven’t had any problems. It’s “just old enough” to be a water hog, though. Models released just a year or two after started to be quite conservative with water. Replacing it is not on our current list, however. We just got a new AC (ours died in October) and today they are delivering a dishwasher (on its very last legs).

The current problem with the washer is that it’s leaving lint all over our clothes. I didn’t notice it in the summer, but now that it’s winter and we’re wearing more dark colors, it’s on everything.

I learned a thorough method for cleaning it via a blog.

  • Bleach wash
    • Fill with hot water.
    • Add 1 quart of bleach (I used a bit less since our bleach is a concentrated type). Do not add detergent.
    • Agitate for 1 minute.
    • Let stand for 1 hour. (While this was “soaking” I poured the bleachy water through the dispensers a few times. I also grabbed an old cleaning rag and toothbrush and scrubbed all the hinges, dispensers, and other parts…instead of waiting for the Vinegar wash for this.)
    • Run the longest cycle. (I added an extra rinse.)

The bleach wash seemed to be plenty for our washer’s needs, so I’m stopping there, for now. I’ll see if this was enough before trying the other steps.

  • Vinegar wash
    • Fill again with hot water
    • Add 1 quart of distilled white vinegar.
    • Agitate for 1 minute.
    • Let stand for 1 hour.
  • Clean outside parts
    • While standing, use the vinegar mix and a microfiber cloth to clean the outside, hinge area, knobs, and crevices in the top. I’ll also need an old toothbrush and maybe even a few toothpicks to really clean.
    • To clean any dispensers for fabric softener or bleach, remove them and soak in warm vinegar. If they can’t be removed, pour 1 cup of warm vinegar through them.
  • Rinse
    • Run the longest cycle again to give everything a good rinse.


I could not get the fabric softener dispenser clean. It was full of white gunk that I suspect is what was getting on our clothes. E figured out how to take it off the agitator. I scrubbed and soaked it for hours getting the old detergent out of it. I haven’t yet done a load of darks, but I think we found/solved the problem. Related: how did powdered detergent get in the fabric softener dispenser? Did the previous owner use that to put detergent in the machine? It kicks in with the rinse cycle, so that doesn’t make much sense.

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