What led to my desire to “strip” my washing machine of gunk and buildup?
For some time now when I take my freshly washed laundry out of the washer to put into the dryer I’d find little hard chunks of brown, waxy debris. It didn’t smell horrible, in other words…it wasn’t poop! It felt like soap and crumbled easily in my hand. There weren’t huge quantities of it but it was enough to definitely notice. I knew it was buildup coming from somewhere inside the washer.
The above happens off and on over time and I finally decide to see if I can find where the brown gunk is coming from.
Step 1 (for me): This depends on your washing machine.
I took the top off of my agitator. It is a two part thing that I never use. Inside the agitator I can tell it fills with water as the washer is used and drains when the washer drains. I look down inside and can see hard brown AND slimy brown gunk. Gross!
Step 2: With the help of my trusty shish kabob stick and a flashlight I dig down inside, break off and scrape off as much gunk as I can and wiping it off with a towel. (I am pretty disgusted at this point, to know that my laundry has been washing in water that moves through this slimy gunked up thing!
If yours isn’t an old school top loader like mine you won’t have to do this. But you still have some scrubbing to do. Use a one to one mixture of water and vinegar to make a cleaning solution (or use a disinfectant spray if you have one) and wipe out the gasket. Pull back and wipe behind it as much as you can. Spray and wipe any other surfaces in the washer you can get to.
Step 3: Get some LemiShine Washing Machine Cleaner.
As far as I am concerned that stuff is pure magic. It has worked better for me than other homemade or store bought washing machine cleaner I’ve tried. All you have to do is run a normal wash with HOT water. Besides that it just works, Lemishine is made in the USA and uses natural citrus exptracts to clean instead of harsh chemicals. Seriously try the Lemishine.
I’d say to do this thorough clean every three months or so and you should be golden. ALL of your laundry might get cleaner now, not just the cloth diapers!
So…when is the last time you inspected your washer with a shish kabob stick and flashlight?
I’m Julie, a former cloth diaper retailer who discovered a passion for the industry. Now, instead of selling cloth diapers, I advocate them and promote small businesses I love who sell and manufacture them.
I’m the wife of a fireman and mother of three. I have a daughter and identical twin sons.
I did this not too long ago with my washer. I found putting baking soda down there then putting vinegar and letting it foam up, letting it soak for a little bit then pouring boiling water in helps to clear it out as well. :) definitely some crazy weird funky gunk that gets built up in there.
De in D.C. says
I have a top-loading HE washer. I have NO IDEA what may be lurking down there under the agitator. I wipe down the barrel with vinegar every few months to remove the calcium deposits, then do a ‘clean machine’ cycle with bleach to hopefully kill and brown slimy monsters.
Oh I am so glad you posted this! I was having the same issue and did my own version of this a while back. My husband thought I was nuts spending a couple of hours pouring vinegar and hot water into the washer over and over while poking with a skewer stick . I never thought to use the wet vac though. I will have to do that next time!
In my front loader the gunk hides in near the front under the rubber barrier (as well as the occasional sock). I have rubbed a rag in there but I should probably take more time. EW
Also take a ziploc bag put vinegar in it place on shower head with a rubber band or tie with something. Leave for awhile and it will run better. Lots of usese for vinegar
Hah! I love the investigation you did-nice tools! We have a front-loader HE and after every cloth diaper rinse, I try really hard to remember to wipe out the rubber barrier. I imagine poop stuck in there and it horrifies me. So far I’ve found nothing:)
Tiny Tipis says
Oh my gosh! My washer is old. Older than me even. I suspect it REALLY needs this! Thanks for posting!
Rachel R. says
Ew; mine gets like this, too. There’s this cup thing on the top of the agitator post and it fills up with nastiness. I don’t understand why – I don’t understand how it fills full enough for the yuck to get in, but not full enough for the wash water to run through it and clean it back out!
Minnesota Momma says
so i totally took mine apart yesterday to do this keep in mind i dont even use fabric softner because my son has sensitive skin and i dont want residue in my diapers but it was my inlaws machine previously so i knew the gunk was there. I took off the agitator too adn it was so gross the brown film was unbelivable the under side of the agitator was the grossest part!! i pulled out a huge hunk of lint and hair from center. it was gross to think that it was getting on my clothes as i washed them.
Mine is only a year old so I ran some dawn through hot cycles in it (like with diapers)then the Vinegar there was a waxy white residue that was comming off on my dark clothing I will be running a white vin through it once a month so that I can keep crap from building up!
Happy "Ewe" says
Oh my gosh! I have been thinking about this a lot lately actually! And have been to afraid to just “do it” Your post has encouraged me in that it can be done! We have been CDing for over a year now. I and I am begining to notice that my washer has a funky smell when it is not in use and my clothes just aren’t as clean as they use to be. Colors not so much but my whites look dingy…guess I know what I will be doing this afternoon!
I think a toilet brush would be a good tool for the job!
I am speechless. What a great post!
Sara Walden says
wow i never thought of cleaning my washing machine. this is a really cool post!
I followed your instructions several times as my washer Is the same type as yours. Your instructions certainly made my washer cleaner than before, but I couldn’t clean out all of the sludge. I finally sprayed Goo Gone into the middle of the agitator, letting it sit for several hours, then ran an empty load (no clothes) to rinse out the Goo Gone. Then I poured 3/4 cup of the store brand version of OxiClean into the middle of the agitator as it was filling with hot water, topping it with boiling water directly into the center of the agitator. I did this three times and my washer is finally clean! I’ll go back to your instructions for regular maintenance so the sludge doesn’t build up again. Thanks for posting your tips!
*My store brand version of OxiClean only has the active ingredients, Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate. There are no surfactants or fragrances added.
Awesome that you finally got it cleaned! Thanks for sharing how you did it!
My ancient washer only has a cold cycle. Does not washing in hot temperatures occasionally mean the build-up is worse? Because it is nasty about every month
Not really. I think 30 days is probably pretty normal for crud to build up.