How to get rid of residue in a washing machine

Updated February 21, 2017

Washing machines remove dirt and oil, which sometimes leave a grimy residue on the inside of the washing machine, from clothing. Using too much laundry soap can also leave a soap scum layer inside the washing machine. Living in a region with hard water leaves lime scale or mineral deposits on the inside of the washer. Sometimes the residue is not visible inside the machine itself, but clothes coming out of the washing machine may not appear as clean as they should. Clothing coming out of the washer with stains or not clean in general is a signal to deep clean your washer and remove residue.

Take out all removable parts, including soap and fabric softener dispensers. Soak the parts in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Scrub them clean with a scrub brush and rinse with plain water. If the removable parts have an oily residue, add 1/2 tsp of a commercially available degreasing agent to the soaking water. If the removable parts have soap scum or hard water spots, add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the soaking water.

Wet a rag with water and scrub the inside of the washing machine to remove dirt residue. Wet a toothbrush with water and scrub crevices to loosen built up dirt and grime. Set the washer to the hottest water setting and add 1/4 cup washing powder. Allow the washer to run through a full cycle to remove dirt residue.

Fill a small bucket with hot water and 2 tbsp of a commercially available degreasing agent to remove oily or greasy residue. Dip a scrub brush into the mixture and scrub the inside of the washing machine. Fill the washer with hot water and add 1/4 cup of degreasing agent. Let the machine run through one full cycle plus an extra rinse cycle. If the washing machine does not have the option for an extra rinse, run the washing machine through another cycle with plain water.

Set the washing machine to the hottest water setting and add 4 cups of white vinegar to clean soap scum residue or hard water stains. Allow the washing machine to agitate for one to two minutes. Turn the washing machine off and let the vinegar and water mixture soak off lime scale and hard water deposits. Turn the washing machine back on, and allow it to finish the cycle.


Repeat any of the cleaning methods two to three times if the washing machine is heavily soiled or if residue remains. Run 2 cups of chlorine bleach through the washing machine on a regular cycle using the hottest water available to disinfect the washing machine and kill hidden mould or mildew.


Do not clean a fabric softener dispenser with detergent. Mixing fabric softener and detergent will cause spots and stains on clothing.

Things You'll Need

  • Scrub brush
  • Degreasing agent
  • White vinegar
  • Rags
  • Toothbrush
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About the Author

Sal Marco began writing professionally in 2009. He has written many online home improvement articles based on his more than 20 years of experience in the home improvement and building industries. He has worked as both part of a team and as a site supervisor. Marco has a Bachelor of Science in management science from Kean University.