How to Maintain & Clean Your Top-Loading Washing Machine

Fred's Appliance
July 22, 2019
Washer Repair

In a time when front-loading, HE washers are all the rage, there are still millions of American homes sporting a traditional top-loading washer. Maybe it was the cheapest thing on the sales floor, or maybe you got a high-end version of a faithful and reliable old design. Many top-load washers today are HE compatible and would work with HE detergent next to a HE dryer. Whether your top-loading washer came with the house or you bought it recently, these machines do need taking care of from time to time no matter how reliable they are.

Today, we’re here to share tips on how to both maintain your top-loading washer and how to keep it clean from the traditional gunk buildup common for this model of washer.


The first step is to take good care of your washer. With the right maintenance steps, your washer will serve faithfully for years into the future. Fail to maintain your washer and it could take a turn for the worst. For the most part, the worst thing that can happen is that your washer gets a little musty and moldy but poor maintenance can lead to worse dangers than that.

Use the Right Kind of Detergent

The first maintenance tip for any washer today is to use the right type of laundry detergent. Between new HE washers and older fashioned washers still in service, it can be difficult to track which washers need HE-compatible soap versus those that need a traditional laundry detergent that hasn’t been adapted for high-efficiency washing.

Do not let the door-direction of your washer fool you. Many top-loading models of the washer have been improved and upgraded to respond correctly to or even require HE laundry detergent. If you’re not certain, the information on the inside of your top-loading washer lid is likely to have the clues you need to decide which laundry soap to use with your washer.

Don’t Leave Damp Loads Overnight

In a damp climate, clothes in the washer can turn to musty or moldy forms very quickly. But even in a dry or neutral climate, wet clothes left in the washer is a bad idea. A pile of wet clothes, even those just washed, are an all-too-welcoming sight for things like mold, mildew, and some insects.

This means that leaving wet clothes in your washer halfway through the washing cycle is not something you want to do. Leaving clothes in the washer does happen from time to time. You start a load running and aren’t home or awake long enough to move it forward. But always try to have the laundry fully out of the washer and into the dryer before you pop off to work, school, or sleep. This way, there’s no time for local mold to find your pile of damp clothes and take up residence.

Balance Loads of Laundry Around the Drum

Anyone who has previously owned a top-loading washing machine knows exactly what we are talking about when we say that you must balance loads around the drum. The drum of the washer is the basket that holds clothes and the post in the middle around which the basket spins. The issue, of course, is that if clothes are loaded in an unbalanced way around the drum, it won’t spin freely and evenly.

The drum will tilt to one side and begin scraping in it’s track instead of guiding. You may even begin to hear steady thumping and scraping sounds from the washer which is a bad sign. If your top-loading washer starts thumping, stop the machine. Then balance the water-heavy clothes in the drum. Then you are safe to turn the washer back on. Running a badly unbalanced load can severely damage the machine.

Keep the Feet Even

Along the same lines, you also need to keep your washer feet absolutely even and solid on the floor. A washer with even the slightest amount of tilt or wobble can cause real problems for the spinning drum of wet clothes inside. Uneven feet are another major cause of regular thumping and shaking of a washer during its wash cycles. In fact, it’s the only cause of that kind of pumping if a drum imbalance has already been ruled out.

Keep it Clean

Most people don’t think of a washing machine — an implement of cleaning — as needing to be cleaned itself. However, Washing machines absolutely need cleaning whether you’re talking about a front-loading HE washer or a top-loading traditional washer. HE washers need their gaskets treated constantly while classic drum washers can build up gunk and sticky spots near the top where the soap and various dispensers are located.

Run Regularly with Hot Water

 The first top-loading washer cleaning tip is to run your washer on a hot cycle at least once per week. Even if you don’t have any hot-cycle clothes to run with it. Cool washing is great for saving on energy, but not so great at breaking up layers of old detergent, fabric softener, or all the dust that has stuck to these messy areas since.

Hot water will dissolve any leftover soap residue and keep the drum fresh from mildew.

Run the Sanitize Cycle with White Vinegar

If your washer starts to smell musty or look too icky, your next option is a thorough self-cleaning cycle. Just like a hot water cycle, only better, the Sanitize cycle exists on some modern washers to help owners get that sucker clean with hot water any time necessary. Add two cups of white vinegar to the mix and the washer can self-clean almost anything that the internal water can reach.

Pour Hot Water Through Each Soap Compartment

Those detergent, bleach, and fabric softener cups are one of the few things that the top-loading washer cannot clean about itself. Along with the area around the opening and underneath the lid. It splashes a little water through the dispensers, perhaps, but hardly gets the area clean. This is your responsibility. One easy way to help dissolve and clear up any lingering soap scum is to pour very hot water through the soap dispenser compartments.

Scrub Where You See Dirt or Soap Residue

Finally, you’ll want to scrub away any soap scunge or dust residue that is visible after all the other cleaning steps have been taken. A wet sponge or a hot damp washcloth should do the trick and you will only need to do this level of polishing every few months.

—Taking care of a top-loading washing machine involves more work than you might expect, but all the things you can easily do at home. However, if your washer starts to behave in a way you can’t fix or resolve with these steps, don’t hesitate to call us today for an assessment and quick repair services.

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