Cleaning Your Washer Using Bleach and Vinegar

I recently started noticing my washer would leave these little brown flakes on my clothing after a wash. It wasn’t a lot, just a flake here or there on clothes and it’s most noticeable on my whites obviously. I can clean them off with a paper towel. The thing is I wouldn’t see any buildup inside the tub but whenever I start a wash and let the empty water churn, I’d see the flakes in the water. So it would seem this stuff builds up in another layer underneath the tub. (My washer is a top-loading washer by the way).

I tried empty washes with hot water to flush the stuff out but the flakes still kept showing up. Extra rinse cycles would also fail fully wash the flakes off my clothes and the stuff obviously can’t be clean. I did some research online and apparently this is some type of soap scum from your detergent, mixed with oils and dirt washed off from your clothes, that can build up over time in your washer. Yuck.

The trick to clean this gunk away is to fill your washer up with hot water and add 1 quart of chlorine bleach. Put the washer on the longest wash cycle. When it’s done, fill it up with hot water again and this time add 1 quart of white distilled vinegar. Yes it seemed odd to me too that you’d put something you cook with in your washer but whatever.

And it works! The bleach loosens up the gunk and the vinegar seemed to dissolve the stuff, letting your washer flush it out when it expels the water. You might have to repeat this process if there are still flakes. But this does appear to work. Maybe moms everywhere already know stuff like this but I was just thinking – if it were 15 years ago, how would I even go about finding out stuff like this without finding someone who just happened to know? Now I can just look it up online with a few keystrokes. We don’t even think about how the Internet has really changed our lives, so much information is readily available to us.

Yes, I just blogged about cleaning my washer and digressed into the power of the Internet. WHATEVER, I’m out.

SUMMARY: To clean your washer of dark flakes, do one full wash with hot water and 1 quart of chlorine bleach. Do another full wash with hot water and 1 quart of white distilled vinegar. Repeat as necessary or with just hot water until you no longer see flakes in the water after it’s been churned.

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  1. Also tried (6 years later!) and it was a noticeable improvement! Thank you!

    In researching this topic, I found the manual for our Samsung top loading (WA400) – I should have read the manual a long time ago, but our washer has a ‘Pure Cycle’ – not sure why it isn’t name something like ‘Washer Cleaning Cycle’ but that is what it is. Suppose to run every month or so to get that buildup out. So with this little trick this should help KEEP it clean!


  2. I also have a Samsung top loading WA400 and ran the “Pure Cycle” multiple times and still had brown flakes. I tried your bleach and vinegar recipe and the flakes seem to be gone after one treatment cycle. Thank you for the information.

  3. I am sooo excited to try this. I have been having this problem since one year after I bought my Samsung top load washer. Had three repairmen out who all thought I was crazy. I use Pure Cycle frequently and it did little. Even though I haven’t tried this trick yet, I am happy to know I have a viable option.