How To Clean A Washing Machine Naturally Without Vinegar

It's laundry day... Again!

Last week we dedicated an entire post to everything you need to know about how to clean top loading washing machines with vinegar and baking soda because, let's be honest, most people don't give their washing machines the TLC they deserve.

In that post I mentioned why it's important to wash our washing machine, how much harm washing machine cleaners do to the environment, how to clean even the dirtiest nooks and crannies of a top-loading washing machine, and even what it takes to deep clean both an agitator and an impeller, but I have to admit that I left out an important topic — what if you want to give one of your most-used appliances a makeover, but don't want to use vinegar?

There are many reasons why someone wouldn't want to use vinegar to clean their washing machine, it could be out of fear that their clothes will end up smelling like a salad or out of fear that the acidic nature of vinegar might damage some parts of the machine, but no matter what the reason is, I've got you covered. 

Whether you don't want to use vinegar because you don't like it or you just want to learn about other natural alternative cleaning methods, stop looking elsewhere and keep scrolling because today I'm going to teach you how to clean your washing machine without vinegar! Believe me, there are many eco-friendly products just as good as vinegar — you just have to get to know them.

What does vinegar do for cleaning washing machines?

Vinegar is essentially the magic sauce that does everything. Seriously, after learning about all the benefits of cleaning not only my washing machine but my whole house with vinegar, I spent about 1 hour asking myself why I spent so much money for so many years on chemical cleaning products. One for the mirrors, one for the bathroom, one for the kitchen... Everything I needed was right in front of me, but I didn't know it!

For instance, when I first used vinegar to clean my washing machine, the results almost made me shed tears of joy. I have to add that my washer wasn't an easy thing to clean, I mean, I hadn't cleaned it in years — I didn't even know it was supposed to be cleaned in the first place! — but despite that, vinegar washed away all filth and grime on its way.

The ease with which vinegar cleans washing machines comes from the fact that it is an acidic compound, making it ideal for removing bacteria, mold, mildew, dirt, limescale, and a myriad of other agents that can cause stains and unpleasant odors. So if your washing machine is smelling worse than your sweaty yoga leggings, remember that vinegar can be your strongest ally.

What can I use instead of white vinegar to clean the washing machine?

Yes, I’m coming clean (pun intended): I'm a die-hard vinegar fan. However, I know not everyone is, so for those of you who don't want to deal with an all-purpose salad dressing, I introduce you to 3 natural products that will leave your washing machine squeaky clean: hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and citric acid.

a glass jar with baking soda in it. Pin

Remember when I said in the post on how to wash top-loading washing machines that hydrogen peroxide also works wonders for cleaning any washing machine? Well, that compound that you likely have in your first aid kit is the protagonist of today's post, because hydrogen peroxide is mold, mildew, and bacteria's true nightmare. Long story short, it oxidizes compounds that are common in organic matter, which cleans and disinfects virtually any surface. Best of all? It's a powerful natural washing machine cleaner that tackles almost any dirt without needing vinegar. 

I love to pair baking soda with vinegar, but baking soda by itself is also a good eco-friendly washing machine cleaner. While it's not an acid, believe me, it feels like one, as it dissolves organic compounds while deodorizing even the stinkiest surfaces. Plus, if you use it in your washer, it will gently scrub the inside of the drum, an ideal feature for the most stubborn dirt stains.

Speaking of acids, the last natural ingredient I highly suggest you use to clean your washing machine without vinegar is citric acid. If the first thing that pops into your mind when you read this compound is "lemons!" you're right! Citric acid comes from acidic fruits like lemons and oranges, and its commercial powder form is much stronger than vinegar — perfect for removing extreme dirt buildup, limescale, and just about any kind of sticky ickies like grease, food particles, or slimy residues.

How do I clean my washing machine naturally without vinegar?

The first step to naturally clean any washing machine is to simply go to where you keep your cleaning kit, find all washing machine cleaners, get rid of them, and never add them to your shopping cart again. You honestly don't need any fancy chemical washing machine cleaners to get the job done. Plus, they harm the environment in various ways ranging from being toxic to aquatic life to being one of the main sources of nitrogen pollution, so the best thing you can do is resort to the eco-friendly alternatives I mentioned above. 

Also, keep in mind that you can clean the body of your washing machine while it cleans itself on the inside. You can always start from the outside in, first cleaning the body, filters, door, and then starting it up, but in order to save time, it's best to clean the outside while the washer cleans itself on the inside. Time is our greatest currency!

But to be honest, the greatest advice I can give you on how to clean your washing machine naturally without vinegar is to literally grab your new vinegar-free-eco-washing-machine-cleaning-kit, get some microfiber cloths and old toothbrushes, and start tackling that smelly appliance!

Pro-Tip: Before you get down to business, let me share with you the ingredients of an almighty mixture that will eat up any dirt it touches — citric acid + baking soda. This powdered mixture is my secret weapon when it comes to cleaning and removing odors from washing machines, and I’ll show you how you can use it later on!

How often should you clean a washing machine?

If you hear someone saying, "you do laundry every single week, so you should ABSOLUTELY clean your washing machine every single week too", don't listen to them, because a washing machine shouldn't be cleaned that often — especially if you use citric acid.

Citric acid is, like any acid, a relatively strong compound that if used too often in excessively large quantities, can corrode plastic surfaces, pipes, or even damage a vital part of your front-loading washing machine: the rubber door seal. That's why I highly suggest that you only deep clean your washer once a month, at most.

However, when it comes to the body of your washing machine, you can clean it a bit more often, but not thoroughly. Instead, simply wipe it gently with a cloth dipped in some hydrogen peroxide every time you do your routine household cleaning.

How to Naturally Clean Any Washing Machine

So, you've already banished toxic washing machine cleaners from your life, gathered the hydrogen peroxide, the baking soda, and the citric acid, made my almighty mix, and now you're standing in front of your washing machine, not quite sure where to start and where to pour what. 

Don't worry. Inhale, exhale, and get ready to get down to business because today, you'll finally put an end to that nasty smell that is emanating from your washing machine drum at this very moment. Join me to learn how to clean your washer without vinegar, whether it's top-loading or front-loading, simply following a couple of easy steps.

How to clean a top-loading washing machine without vinegar?

The first part of your washing machine that you should clean is, without a doubt, the detergent dispenser. It's the first thing you notice when you open the washer door and look inside, and let's face it, it probably is far from clean:

  1. Grab a bottle of hydrogen peroxide 3% — that strength only, and pour a splash of it into the dispenser.
  2. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. This way, the hydrogen peroxide will loosen any clogs or dried detergent residues. 
  3. While the 15 minutes are passing, soak an old toothbrush with more hydrogen peroxide and scrub the opening and edges of the dispenser.
  4. Once the 15 minutes are up, rinse everything with plenty of water.

After the detergent dispenser has been freed of dirt and slimy residues, it's time to attack the root of the problem, the thing that has been a long-time haven for mold, mildew, dirt, and odors — your washing machine drum

  1. First and foremost, for the process of cleaning your washing machine to go as smoothly as possible, you must turn it on and select the "drum cleaning" setting. This cycle was specifically designed to — you guessed it — clean the drum, but if your washer doesn't have it, just set it on the hottest cycle — at least 60°C —, full-load setting.
  2. After setting your custom washer cycle, wait until the drum is half full, and depending on what ingredient you want to use, pour in 2-4 cups of hydrogen peroxide 3%, 1 cup of citric acid, or 2 cups of baking soda.
  3. If you have a particularly dirty and stinky washing machine, use the baking soda and citric acid mixture I mentioned above: 1 cup of citric acid and ½ cup of baking soda.
  4. Once you have poured in the natural ingredient of your choice and the drum is full, let it agitate for a few minutes, and pause the cycle. If you used hydrogen peroxide or baking soda, let it sit for 3 hours or so. But if you used citric acid, only let it sit for 30 minutes. Citric acid is stronger than vinegar, so it doesn't need to sit in the machine that long.
  5. After the time has passed, resume the washer cycle and let the natural, eco-friendly ingredients do their magic.
  6. I always advocate using as little water as possible during every household chore, but if you used baking soda or citric acid, run a final rinse cycle to remove any residues before you wash a load of laundry.

As you can see, this is a process that takes about a couple of hours — even more — to finish, so to make the most of it, the best thing you can do is clean the body of your washer while the first cycle is still running. Fill a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide, spray some of the liquid on a microfiber cloth, and wipe the entire surface of the machine, including the sides, the knobs — scrubbing them with a hydrogen peroxide-soaked toothbrush if they're too dirty, and the top. Then, wash the cloth with plenty of water, wipe the entire washing machine again, and that's about it!

P.S: If you want to give it cleaning as deep as the ocean, I strongly suggest that, if your washing machine has an agitator, take it apart and clean it from head to toe, starting from the fabric softener dispenser up to the openings where the fluid comes out. And if it doesn't have an agitator but an impeller, also remove it from the drum of the washing machine and clean it underneath. You will be surprised by the amount of dirt that will greet you once the impeller is in your hands.

How to clean a front-loading washing machine without vinegar?

A woman cleaning her washing machine. Pin

Before even starting to clean the drum of the washing machine, I encourage you to spend a few minutes on the rubber door seal first. This is where mold, mildew, and odors are most prevalent in front-loading washing machines because rubber is porous, and it retains moisture. To clean it thoroughly, just follow these steps: 

  1. First, check that there is no element trapped inside the rubber door seal, such as lint, coins, or even a sock.
  2. Once you have double-checked, wipe it with a damp cloth to remove as much surface dirt as possible, and then spray it with some hydrogen peroxide so that the rubber door seal and the surrounding areas are also impregnated with the liquid.
  3. After letting it sit for 3 to 5 minutes, use a cloth or towel to wipe off any remaining dirt and mold residue. If the rubber door seal is still stained after wiping it several times, opt for an old toothbrush.
  4. Then, wipe the entire rubber door seal with a wet cloth to remove any remaining hydrogen peroxide. Leave the washer door open for a couple of hours to ensure that the rubber door seal dries properly, thus preventing mold and mildew from reappearing.

Now that your washer door looks brand new and closes tightly, it's only fair that the drum looks brand new, too:

  1. You already know the drill — open the door and pour 1 cup of citric acid or 2 cups of baking soda into the drum, or 2-4 cups of hydrogen peroxide 3% into the detergent dispenser. As for citric acid, in this type of washer, I recommend that you don't use too much of this compound, in order to take care of the rubber door seal. I mean, if you use citric acid once a month to clean your washing machine, the rubber door seal won't melt in front of your eyes, but it's indeed a delicate component and it's better to expose it to acids as little as possible.
  2. Again, choose the "drum cleaning" setting or the longest washing cycle, with the largest water load, and the highest temperature.
  3. Close the door and let the cycle finish, and while it does, take the opportunity to wash the body of your washer with hydrogen peroxide, the same way I mentioned before.
  4. Run a final rinse cycle if you really need to remove any residue from the machine.

Also, feel free to clean the fabric softener and detergent compartments — hydrogen peroxide is very useful for this. These compartments tend to have a lot of built-up detergent in them (it's why I prefer biodegradable laundry detergent instead of conventional ones), especially if you use the powder kind, and in order to clean them, just take them out of the machine and put them in a plastic container filled with hydrogen peroxide. Then, let them soak for five minutes, and rinse them with some water.

Last but definitely not least, remember that you should also clean the filter of your washing machine. Just think for a second about the excess detergent, lint, hair, and anything else that has gotten into the machine's drum that inevitably ends up in your filter. That's why it's always a good idea to clean it from time to time: 

  1. Empty the washing machine completely and unplug it.
  2. Place an old towel on the floor under the filter to absorb any excess water that may leak out.
  3. With a coin or a flat screwdriver, carefully open the door that protects the filter and take it out. 
  4. For better cleaning, first, remove the superficial residue with tweezers, then submerge the filter in hot water with a splash of hydrogen peroxide, and finally scrub it with a toothbrush.
  5. Once the filter is clean, rinse it thoroughly with abundant water, pat it dry, and put it back in its place.
Banner for an eco cleaning challenge.Pin

Vinegar is the best natural option for cleaning your washing machine, but you don’t have to have it

Is there anything you can't handle with vinegar? I doubt it, but while this wonderful clear liquid will naturally clean just about anything, it's not a must-have for cleaning your washing machine. 

Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and citric acid are all excellent substitutes for vinegar, all of which have specific characteristics that mercilessly tackle dirt, mold, mildew, bacteria, and limescale without harming the environment. In addition, these are products that you can easily find in your own home, but if you don't have one of them, you can buy them in any grocery store or drugstore near you. Cleaning washing machines can be a tedious chore, but hey, if we can make it easier somehow, so be it.

If you have any other natural cleaning products that make the task of cleaning washing machines naturally easier, please share them in the comment box below! As I always say, one of my favorite hobbies is growing my eco-cleaning kit. Oh, and the next time you tell a friend or family member about the wonders of cleaning washing machines with vinegar and they say "man, I just can't stand vinegar... Do you know how to clean washing machines without vinegar?", just send them this post. Their washers will be forever grateful!

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2 thoughts shared

  1. Hey!! Thanks. I have some concern about using citric acid and was wondering if you can help me. About how much citric acid powder should be used to get rid of limescale deposits. My area has very hard water so I wanted to ensure that the heating rod and the drum is rid of limescale while also ensuring that the rubber gasket is not damaged.
    Sorry for the long post. And thanks for reading 😊.

    1. Comment author image

      Candice Batista


      Hi Tejas,
      Citric acid is a common, safe, and effective solution for treating hard water stains or limescale deposits due to its natural acidic properties. However, it’s always crucial to use the right amount to avoid any potential damage to the rubber gaskets of your appliances.

      Here’s a general guideline to follow:

      For small appliances like kettles or coffee machines, you can use about 1-2 tablespoons of citric acid in a liter of water.

      For larger appliances like washing machines or dishwashers, you might need about 2-3 tablespoons of citric acid added to the empty machine’s drum or main compartment.

      Follow these steps to clean your appliance:

      Dissolve the citric acid powder in a small amount of warm water before adding it to your appliance. This will ensure that it’s evenly distributed.

      Run a full cycle with the machine empty (no laundry or dishes). Be sure to select the hot water setting to ensure the citric acid solution effectively breaks down the limescale.

      Once the cycle is complete, run another cycle with just water to ensure all the citric acid has been rinsed away. This should prevent any potential damage to the rubber gasket.

      Please remember that these are general guidelines, and it’s always a good idea to refer to your appliance’s user manual or consult with the manufacturer for specific cleaning instructions.

      Also, while citric acid is typically safe for rubber gaskets, frequent or overly concentrated use can potentially cause damage over time. If you find yourself needing to descale frequently because of very hard water, you might want to consider a water softening solution for your home.

      hope this helps,