How to Clean Your Washing Machine Without Bleach

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have been making my own cleaning products for quite a while now. When I started doing this, I was having a hard time finding a way to clean our washing machine using natural products. The problem is that when you look up “how to clean a washing machine”, a majority of the instructions tell you to use bleach, and while sometimes bleach is called for, I try not to use it too often as it isn’t great for the environment in terms of waterways and aquatic life, and it isn’t great for our health as exposure can cause various unpleasant symptoms for certain individuals. Some other less impactful reasons that I try to only use bleach minimally are as follows:

  • Bleach is not an all-purpose cleaner.  The oxidizing effect of the bleach can be tied up with soils. This means that in order to use bleach to kill germs, it has to be used on a surface that has already been cleaned, otherwise the dirt and grime on the surface blocks the disinfecting properties of the bleach.
  • Bleach isn’t as effective for mold removal as you thought it was.  Chlorine bleach kills surface mold only. Mold can grow deep roots within porous surfaces, so bleach will not work in this case to remove mold. The chlorine actually stays on the surface, while the water component seeps in further.  This can actually contribute to mold growth!
  • Bleach expires quickly. Chlorine bleach loses it’s effectiveness rapidly, and if it’s been sitting in your cupboard or on a store shelf for a while, then it’s cleaning properties are greatly diminished.

Thus, it’s not always as effective of a cleaner as we may have thought. Thus, I was determined to figure some way to clean our washing machine without using it, and I succeeded!

I let our washing machine collect a bit of grime – ew! I know, but I wanted to be able to show you before and after pictures so you can see how well this works! The only two ingredients you need are white vinegar and baking soda. The vinegar is fantastic for killing germs and getting rid of mold and soap scum, while the baking soda is excellent for getting rid of any odors caused by those yuckies! My secret is that after you’ve gone through the first couple of steps, you use a stiff bristled brush of some sort to scrub the soap scum. It works like a charm. I use whatever brush I have on hand that is new. This time, I used a brush used for scrubbing dishes, and it worked great. You can even use an unused toilet bowl brush (emphasis on UNUSED! 🙂 ) – I’ve done that in the past too, and it works perfectly!

Okay, so here we go!  First, I will show you the before picture – gross, but it needed to be done so you can see how well this process works!  You can see the soap scum and grime on the center pole of the washer and at the water lines – Yuck!

Materials you’ll need:

  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • A stiff bristled brush
  • A washcloth


1.) Start a wash cycle with your setting on as large a load as possible and your water temperature as hot as possible.  As the machine is filling with water, dump in your vinegar and baking soda.

2.) When the machine has filled with water, let it agitate for about a minute to really mix in the vinegar and baking soda.  Turn the machine off and let it sit for 45 minutes like this. While the machine is sitting,  wipe down the outside of the machine to get it clean.  At the end of the 45 minutes, turn it back on and let it finish it’s cycle.

3.) Now comes the stiff bristle brush.  Use the brush to wipe over the areas that need attention (the water lines of soap scum and the center pole in my case).  After soaking in the hot water, vinegar and baking soda for those 45 minutes, you will be surprised at how easily it comes off with the brush – you don’t even have to scrub, just run the brush over it, and you will see the soap scum and mildew come right off.

4.) Fill the washer with a small amount of hot water and use your washcloth to wipe off the sides and get rid of any specs of mildew that are there after brushing it off.  Drain the machine, and you are done!

Here is my after picture.

Sparkly clean without the use of any harsh chemicals or any backbreaking scrubbing!  Enjoy! 🙂

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, and any recipe for food, beauty products, cleaning products, or the like is not a means of diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure for any disease or condition, mental or physical, real or imaginary.


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