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How To Clean Your Washing Machine (Without Vinegar)

How To Clean Your Washing Machine (Without Vinegar)
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Washing machines naturally clean themselves while doing laundry, right? Well, not exactly. Actually, no.

Washing machines acquire build-up from soap, limescale, and dirt. But they also host some nasty stuff, such as mildew and mold. So it needs to be cleaned. But what if you don’t have any vinegar in the house?

Yes, you can clean a washing machine without vinegar by using cleaning tablets, dishwasher tablets, citric acid, hydrogen peroxide, or even bleach. The washing machine’s dispensers, gaskets, and seals need scrubbing, too. Lastly, prop the machine’s lid open between uses to allow air circulation.

Vinegar and baking soda are common and environmentally friendly remedies for dirty washing machines. But not everyone wants to use vinegar.

Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives. Which is best to use will depends on your needs, budget, and preferences.

Washing Machine Cleaning Tablets

In our busy world, washing machine cleaning tablets have risen in popularity. Some claim to be environmentally friendly, some promise to descale, others have bleach or other harsh agents.

Not all cleaning tablets are safe for septic tanks. If you have a septic tank, your best bet is with an eco-friendly tablet.

Despite the claims, you may find you still need to clean the seal and gaskets. However, by using the tablets first, it should make the job easier.

Also, as none of these tablets go into the dispenser, you will need to clean that separately.

Bleach Washing Machine Cleaning Tablets

The following are examples of washing machine tablets that contain bleach or other strong cleaning agents. They all work for front and top-loading machines.

Please note, some of the following may not be suitable for the septic tank, so do check before buying.

  • AMAZE! Ultra Concentrated Bleach Tablets
  • Cleanex Bleach Tablets
  • OxiClean Washing Machine Cleaner
  • Tide Washing Machine Cleaner
  • Yougg Washing Machine Cleaner

Eco-Friendly Washing Machine Cleaning Tablets

The following are examples of tablets that claim to be eco-friendly. All of the products listed declare themselves fragrance-free, safe for septic tanks, and may be used in either front or top loaders.

  • Active Washing Machine Descaler
  • Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner
  • Duracare Washing Machine Cleaner
  • Eco-Swirlz Eco-Friendly Washer Cleaner
  • Prime Household Eco-Friendly Washing Machine Cleaner
  • Renuv Heavy Duty Washing Machine Cleaner

Cleaning a Washing Machine with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent alternative to using vinegar to clean a washing machine. Even people who use vinegar for the main drum sometimes prefer it for the peskier places such as the gaskets and seals.

Hydrogen peroxide helps remove limescale and eliminates most molds, viruses, and bacteria lurking around. Thus, it throws a similar punch to bleach but is slightly safer and kinder to the environment. It is not as fast-acting as bleach, however.

The easiest way to use hydrogen peroxide is to rub it into the dirty areas, wait an hour, then scrub. Old toothbrushes are perfect for getting into difficult creases. Earbuds (Q-tips) are another handy tool.

You can also use it to wipe down the door and agitator (if you have one) and soaking and scrubbing the dispenser.

Once finished scrubbing, you are ready to clean the main body of the machine.

  1. Add 2 cups of water and a half a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the drum.
  1. Then set the washing machine on the hottest and longest cycle. Some people find a second rinse is best.

Cleaning a Washing Machine with Citric Acid

Citric acid is a natural way to clean your washing machine without using vinegar. It is what makes lemon juice such an effective cleaning agent. However, citric acid doesn’t contain the other stuff found in lemon juice, such as natural sugars.

Citric acid is a natural disinfectant that kills bacteria, mildew, and mold. It makes a decent alternative to limescale removers.

Unlike lemon juice, citric acid is sold in a powdered form. Therefore, you will need to mix it with water to create a cleaning paste or spray.

Citric can also be combined with baking soda to produce similar results as when using vinegar. (Some claim it is even better.)

Also, citric acid can be used while washing clothes. You place it in the fabric softener dispenser. It will soften your clothes while also helping keep limescale in check.

To use as a cleaner for the main drum of the washing machine:

  1. Add one cup of citric acid and, if desired, a half a cup of baking soda into the drum.
  1. Run the washing machine on its clean setting or the hottest and longest-running setting available.

Cleaning a Washing Machine with Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach can be a problematic substance to work with, as it leaves anything you are wearing splattered with bleach marks. Also, it can’t be safely mixed with other products. Thus, you need to rinse out your machine before you try cleaning it with the stuff.

The advantage of chlorine bleach is that you use it with cooler water. In fact, the maximum temperature to use chlorine bleach is 104 F (40 C).

To clean the drum, pour around a quart of the chlorine bleach into the drum and run it on a cool cycle, no higher than 104 F (40 C). An extra rinse is advised.

Cleaning a Washing Machine with Bathroom Cleaner

A lot of people use their favorite bathroom cleaner to give their washing machine a good scrub. After all, the products are designed to clean soap scum, mildew, mold, bacteria, and all the other grim common to damp areas.

If using this method, it is essential to give the washing machine a good rinse afterward. You don’t want the residue to get on your clothes and later irritate your skin.

Cleaning a Washing Machine with Dishwasher Tablets

Another growing trend is using a dishwasher tablet to clean the inside of a washing machine. You need to put it into the drum, not the dispenser, and run it as hot as you can.

However, like the bathroom cleaner, you need to ensure that you’ve completely rinsed the machine afterward.

Some people just run the machine through another wash cycle, but this time without adding anything. This helps ensure all remaining detergent and residue are gone.

Deodorize a Washing Machine with Baking Soda

If your washing machine has been recently cleaned and is still pretty sparkly, there is no need to do another deep clean just yet. All that’s required to eliminate a slight musty smell is baking soda, all on its own.

Baking soda’s ability to deodorize is well known. However, many are unaware that vinegar neutralizes baking soda’s deodorizing properties.

This isn’t to say baking soda and vinegar are not a useful combination; they are an excellent cleaning aid. But it is best to use baking soda all on its own when just trying to combat odor.

To use:

  1. Combine 2 cups of baking soda with equal amounts (or slightly more) of warm water.
  1. Set the mixture into the drum of the machine and leave it for half an hour.
  1. Run the washing machine on hot.
  1. When the washing machine has finished, leave the door to the appliance open for it to air dry.

Deodorize a Washing Machine with Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has a sharp odor but can get rid of that musty smell with ease. If you don’t like the smell of standard tea tree oil, there is a lemon tea tree variety that smells like, well, lemons.

Tea tree is also a natural disinfectant that helps get rid of bacteria, fungus, and mold.

To use:

  1. Add two teaspoons of tea tree to the drum.
  1. Run it on its self-cleaning cycle, or whichever is the hottest.
  1. Leave the door open to air dry.

Deodorize a Washing Machine with Oxygen Bleach

Oxygen bleach is made of sodium percarbonate. It is safer than regular bleach but is stronger than baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

Just as you would with baking soda, you use as follows:

  1. Combine 2 cups of with equal amounts (or slightly more) warm water.
  1. Set the mixture into the drum of the machine and leave it for half an hour.
  1. Run the washing machine on hot.
  1. When the washing machine has finished, leave the door to the appliance open for it to air dry.

Cleaning the Dispenser Tray

The dispenser tray needs to be cleaned separately. While you can use similar methods as above, some are removable. If so, this allows you to either soak it in the sink before giving it a good scrub or popping into the dishwasher.

Sometimes an old toothbrush and earbuds (Q-tips) can be handy to get the scum out of hard-to-reach corners and cervices. You can wipe down the main cavity of the dispenser with a cloth or paper towels.

Cleaning the Filter

To ensure your washing machine does its job as best as it possibly can, it is important to clean the filter periodically. Some machines keep this near or inside the fabric softener dispenser. Others keep them behind a door located at the top or the very bottom of the machine.

Some filters are difficult to open. Some may require a coin or a screwdriver. Others are so tight you need to be very strong or use a tool, such as fat nose pliers, to get enough grip and torque.

Also, especially in the case of filters located near the bottom, water may rush out. Place a shallow pan or tray below it or have towels and a mop ready.

Once the lid is open and the water has cleared, remove any objects such as coins, paper clips, and hair ties that might be caught inside.

Lastly, clean the filter. Some are removable; thus, you can clean it just as you would a removable dispenser. Some are fixed; so, you would need to gently give it a clean with a toothbrush and a cloth or paper towels.

Maintaining the Hoses of a Washing Machine

Occasionally inspect the hoses that connect the hot and cold water to the washing machine. To do this, remove them and make sure there are no obstructions.

Ideally, the hoses should have a filter to prevent crud such as sand and dirt from entering the machine.

How to Keep a Washing Machine Cleaner and Fresher

Washing machines will always need a good scrub once in a while. However, using a few handy tricks can keep the machine fresher and lengthen the period between cleans.

  • Detergent: Less Is More. Too much detergent causes scum and build-up. Try to use the minimum necessary. Never use more than the recommended amounts.

    More doesn’t always mean cleaner. In fact, it can mean that the soap isn’t thoroughly rinsed out of your clothes, which can cause rashes and irritation.
  • Dry Seals and Gaskets. Standing water and damp are breeding grounds for mold, mildew, and bacteria. So, between uses, wipe down the seals and, if you have a front loader, the gaskets.
  • Leave the Door Open. One of the easiest hacks to slowing down the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria is to keep the washing machine’s door open between uses.

    Front-loaders are relatively simple; you just don’t shut it all the way.

    If you don’t like your top loader standing open like Jaws, however, use a thick sponge or foam brick as a wedge to keep a crack between the door and machine.
  • Leave the Soap Dispenser Open. Like the door and the gaskets, soap dispensers often remain moist after use. Again, this is a breeding ground for disagreeable things such as mold and bacteria. The easy fix is to leave the drawer open so it air dries between uses.
  • Powder Instead of Liquid. Powder detergents leave less build-up in a machine than liquid.

    Fabric softener is almost always liquid. Consider using citric acid instead if you wish to avoid vinegar. Lemon juice is another option.

    If you use a tumble dryer, consider using dryer balls instead of fabric softener. Dryer balls are generally made of wool or plastic; alternatively, use two tennis balls.
  • Raise the Temperature. It is becoming common to wash clothes at cooler temperatures. This saves costs, is better for the environment, and extends the life of your clothes.

However, low-temperature washes are more likely to leave build-up and don’t kill the bacteria and mold that might be lurking.

To help your machine, run a hot load once or twice a month.

  • Shake Your Clothes. Before tossing clothes into the machine, give them a good shake. This will rid clothes of excess dirt and sand, reduce the amount of sludge future-you will have to clean.