Clothing in washing machine

How to clean a washing machine: A 6-step guide

Cleaning your washing machine is an important way to help keep your family’s clothes smelling fresh and looking clean. Repeat the following steps every thirty days or every thirty wash cycles to prevent soils and detergent from building up in your washer.

How often should you clean your washing machine?

Cleaning your washing machine is an important part of its maintenance. Some machines have cycles specifically for cleaning your washing machine, or you can manually clean it. It is typically recommended to clean your washing machine at least once per month or every 30 cycles.

How to clean your washer

If you are noticing that your clean loads don’t seem to be as fresh as they used to be, your washing machine might need to be cleaned. Always check your washing machine’s use and care guide first for cleaning instructions. Read this guide to learn more about how to clean your washing machine.

  • affresh® tablets1 or other washing machine cleaner
  • Clean towel or rag
  • Washing machine cleaning wipes
affresh® tablets

Step 1: Clean washer with affresh brand tablets

  • Remove any items left in the tub.


  • Add an affresh® Washing Machine Cleaner tablet to the bottom of the tub to break up dirt and residue. If you don’t have affresh® tablets you may be able to use liquid chlorine bleach, but check your use and care guide first.


  • Close the door and select your washer's cleaning cycle or a normal cycle with hot water setting.


  • You may run a rinse and spin cycle to clear away any excess cleansers after your cleaning cycle ends.


  • Leave your washer door open to let the tub dry.

Detergent pouring into dispenser

Step 2: Clean washing machine dispensers

  • Your washer may or may not have a dispenser drawer. If it does, it needs to be cleaned every thirty days.

  • Pull out the dispenser drawer until you feel resistance. Depending on your washer, the drawer may or may not be completely removable. Note that dispensers may not be dishwasher safe.

  • Use a machine cleaning wipe to wipe down all surfaces. If you don't have wipes, use a damp cloth or an all-purpose cleaner as needed. Finish by towel drying your dispenser.

  • If your dispensers are removable you can soak them in hot water or clean them with a mild detergent, rinse and dry them.
Whirlpool® 2 in 1 removable agitator

Step 3: Clean the agitator

  • If your top-load washing machine has an agitator, you can also clean it as part of the deep cleaning process

  • If the agitator has a removable cap, you may be able to gently remove it and manually clean the inside with a cloth or scrub brush. 

  • If the cap does not easily come off, do not force it. Not all agitator caps are removable. If there’s any doubt, check your owner’s manual.

Whirlpool brand offers an innovative washing machine with a 2 in 1 removable agitator in case you’d like to remove the agitator for easy cleaning or to make the switch between impeller and agitator.

Person wiping rubber seal on washing machine door

Step 4: Clean in and around the door

  • Remove any clothing or items from the washer.
  • On top and front load washers, open the washer door or lid and wipe down the inside glass or metal with machine cleaning wipes.
  • On front load washers, use the textured side of the wipe to clean the inside and outside of the rubber door seal. You can also clean with a damp cloth.
Person wiping outside of washing machine

Step 5: Clean outside of washer

Use a soft, damp cloth or sponge to wipe away residue, dirt and dust and spills. Be sure to use only mild soaps or cleaners when cleaning outside surfaces.

Front load washing machine with door open

Step 6: Keep fresh between cleanings

  • If you normally wash with cold water, run a cycle with warm or hot water occasionally to help slow down soil and detergent buildup.


  • Leave your washer's door or lid open between washes to dry out the inside.

Person adding affresh® tablet to washing machine Person adding affresh® tablet to washing machine

What can you run through a washing machine to clean it?

Aside from affresh® Washing Machine Cleaner tablets, it may be safe to use other products in some washing machines, as long as your washing machine’s use and care guide does not say otherwise. Always refer to your owner’s manual before cleaning your washer.

Brush and soap icon

Can you use dish soap to clean your washing machine?

It is not recommended to use dish soap to clean your washing machine. Dish soap creates significantly more suds than detergents designed for use in a washing machine. Any leftover dish soap could cause a mess when you use your washing machine again.

Carton icon

Can you use baking soda to clean your washing machine?

It is generally safe to use baking soda to clean your washing machine. Its deodorizing properties can help get your machine back to smelling fresh and new. Remember, always check your owner’s manual to make sure.

Bleach icon

Can you use bleach to clean your washing machine?

Liquid chlorine bleach can sometimes be used to clean washing machines, depending on your model. Always check your owner’s manual before cleaning as it is not recommended for certain types of washing machines. After using chlorine beach, it is recommended to run a rinse cycle to ensure that there is none left behind.


Shop all Whirlpool® washers

Whirlpool® washing machines come in a variety of styles with a wide range of features to help you care for your family from day to day. Manage your laundry while you’re enjoying family time with select Smart Laundry Appliances and enjoy Intuitive Controls that make tackling laundry day a breeze.

Discover more from Whirlpool brand

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1 affresh® brand products and the recommending brands’ products are all owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.