How to clean sludge from top loader washing machine [Instructions]

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If you have just looked into your top loader washing machine only to see it filled with brown grime down there (sludge), you may want to know how to clean sludge from top loader washing machine..

Find out how to clean sludge from your top loader washing machine and leave it sparkling clean below.

Brown sludge in top loading washing machine – How to clean sludge from top loader washing machine

Materials you need  

Instructions (step by step)

  1. Unplug the washer.
  2. Put one quart of bleach in the washing machine and fill the washer’s tub with hot water (hot water-not warm).
  3. Set it on the longest cycle (for example, whites’ cycle) depending on your machine model.
  4. Now, let the washer agitate for a few minutes-then let it sit for one hour(just pause the cycle).
  5. After an hour has lapsed, let it complete the cycle.

Quick tip: If you prefer not to use bleach, you can substitute it with hydrogen peroxide.

  1. Again, fill the washer again with hot water and add 4 cups of vinegar.
  2. Set it on the longest cycle and once more let it agitate for a few minutes and then sit for one hour.
  3. After one hour, complete the cycle.

Quick tip: If after using bleach and vinegar you still see some sludge, repeat the above process but be sure to use a brush to scrub away the stubborn sludge before running the cycle. Additionally, you can add 1 cup of baking soda for stubborn stains.

  1. Lastly, using a mixture of hot water and vinegar, wipe down the entire inside and outside of your top load washer using a sponge or microfiber cloth.

Likely causes of sludge in your top loader washing machine

Using excess detergent

When you use too much detergent in your washing machine, it usually builds up over time (around the drum) and with time, it becomes too heavy and turns to sludge.

Using fabric softener

Fabric softener is worse than using excess detergent when it comes to forming sludges.


Well, because fabric softener is like wax-it only enters the wash at the final rinse cycle meaning it is not absorbed by your clothes or get flushed out (so it forms sludge).

Running a cold wash all the time or most of the time in your washing machine

When using cold water and powder detergent to wash your clothes, the powder tends to not completely dissolve in the cold water as it does in warm or hot water.

Problem is, if the powder detergent does not dissolve, the residues form at the bottom (and become sludge, at some point).

How to prevent sludge in your washing machine

As you know, prevention is better than cure so let us now look at what you can do to prevent sludge from forming in your top-load washing machine.

Use little detergent

You should use a tablespoon of laundry detergent per regular load size.

Just remember that the amount of detergent is, for the most part, measured using a measuring cup that comes with the detergent.

The cup is, however, about 10 times larger than the actual amount of laundry soap needed so to avoid using excess detergent, you should try to measure less amount.

Avoid using fabric softeners

Unless absolutely necessary, avoid using fabric softener in your washing machine.

The main reason is most fabric softeners are wax-like and water resistant and they, as a result, form sludge at the bottom of your washer.

Use more warm and hot washes

Once in a while (like once per month), run a drum clean cycle.

In fact, numerous modern machines come with this option because it is very helpful in keeping your washer clean.

But what if yours doesn’t have?

Do not fret- just do the hottest cycle you can on the highest water level (if the drum is not wet, it will not clean).

Side note:

When running a clean cycle, do not use any detergent or even bleach because they are alkaline just like the sludge you are trying to get rid of and it won’t help at all.

Often run an empty load

You can make it a habit to run an empty load every week with hot water, vinegar, and baking soda to help dissolve the sludge before it accumulates a lot.

How to clean sludge from top loader washing machine-FAQs

How do you know you have used too much detergent?

Using too much detergent is the most likely cause of sludge in your washer.

Now, when you wash your clothes, you normally expect soft and fresh results so when you get stiff, starch, and scratchy clothes, it might mean you are using too much detergent.

What is the brown stuff in my washing machine?

The brown stuff you see in your washing machine is the waxy build-up that occurs as a result of using too much detergent, using fabric softeners, and using cold water in your top-load washer frequently.

This stuff is what folks simply call sludge.

Why is there gunk on my garments after washing?

The most likely cause of gunk in your garment is using too much detergent (it is the most likely reason why your clothes might be coming out of the wash soiled).

To solve this, just train yourself to use less detergent than you are using.

How to clean sludge from top loader washing machine-recap

When it comes to getting rid of sludge from your top loading washer, your best bet is cleaning with hot water, bleach/hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and if more stubborn, baking soda.

In a nutshell, the very annoying brown grime should disappear with a thorough tub cleaning and (afterward) using a reduced detergent amount (slightly less) in your washer.


Top loader washing machine not getting clothes clean? Here is what to check

How to clean the inside of a dryer drum [instructions and tips]

Whirlpool top loading washer troubleshooting guide

Wash cycle times for top load washers [complete guide]


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