Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up from a Washer

Category Appliances
Fabric softener can build up and become a gooey mess in the dispenser on your washer. This is a page about cleaning fabric softener build up from a washer.


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How can I clean the liquid fabric softener scummy "deposit" off my washing machine agitator?

By Vicki Lockmiller from Monroe, MI


September 2, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

Try vinegar. Fill the washer with hot water, add 2 cups vinegar and let it soak an hour or more. Run it through a full wash without loading it. This is how you remove soap scum from your washer. This is something you should do as soon as you see any build up and remove it then.

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December 27, 2016

My fabric dispenser sits on top of my agitator. The inside of the agitator is full of an astounding amount of black gunk from the fabric softener dispenser. I have removed the agitator for cleaning, but I can't get the gunk off the inside where I can't reach. Any good ideas? Thanks.


December 27, 20160 found this helpful

Run the machine with no clothing using one gallon of vinegar. This cleans out the machine.

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December 27, 20160 found this helpful

My old washer had the fabric softener on top of the agitator and I had the same problem. I started getting it the habit after giving it a real good cleaning out. I would use a washcloth with hot water before each use and wipe it all down and throw the facecloth right in that wash.


After making a habit of it, it just became easy and the junk wouldn't have time to turn black or smelly! It is just a few second step before washing the clothes. I hope this helps!

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December 27, 20160 found this helpful

does it come off? My old top loader used to and it could be taken apart to clean. Vinegar helps cut the gunk. I no longer use fabric softener for this reason. Instead, I use vinegar in place of fabric softener?

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December 28, 20160 found this helpful

1. It seems most service repair people recommend (with agitator in place) using a cup or 2 of bleach with washer set on full load and hottest water setting.


2. Wait 30 minutes or so and then run through full cycle.
3. After this has finished run a full load with clear hot water to be sure all bleach has been removed.
4. Repeat above process only using vinegar instead of bleach.

Remember - bleach and vinegar cannot be mixed.
Also, be careful with a stainless steel drum as bleach can damage this if it sets very long (I think - more than 30 minutes).

I have had to clean my machine (after removing agitator) with a baby bottle brush and vinegar/water.
Then I decided not to use anything but liquid detergent and vinegar in my machine - no problems since then.

Good luck - don't you just love nice smelling clean clothes!!

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December 28, 20160 found this helpful

I cleaned mine in a bucket of water and vinegar with a baby bottle brush. Then I just wash it twice a month in the kitchen sink to keep it clean.

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December 29, 20160 found this helpful

A simple way to clean this would be to fill the dispenser with an enzyme detergent and do an ordinary wash. When the cycle has finished, open the machine and add vinegar to the dispenser, then run an extra rinse, to help clear both the dispenser and your wash of the detergent.

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December 31, 20160 found this helpful

Use vinegar and a brush. You may want to avoid using fabric softeners as they contain harmful chemicals.


Try using vinegar in the dispenser instead. It will soften as well.

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July 22, 20180 found this helpful

I disagree with the above message about bleach and hot water. Bleach should always be used with very cool water. If hot is used, the bleach gases off which is very bad for our lungs, plus the bleach loses its power and cant do the job it was meant to do. It also says this on the bottle of most brands of bleach. I am going to try eucalyptus oil in my machine...a great grease cutter and perfume with hot water.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

September 2, 2009

I would like to know how to clean the inside of my clothes washer. It has a gummy build-up from all of the Downey that I have used over the years. It is especially in the fabric softener dispenser, but also around the rim of the washer. I have tried soaking then running vinegar through, but it didn't touch it.




Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

Fill your fabric softener holder with vinegar and run it through the wash. It clears it out and won't hurt the washer. (02/26/2005)

By Denise

Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

I'd start with the cheapest, going to the more expensive ideas. I'd try baking soda with hot water. I'd put some rags in the washer to "scrub" the inside of the tub. If that doesn't work, I'd try bleach. I'd try it directly on the tub first, with a rag, to see if it works. If not, I'd try Iron-Out or some other washer-safe acid. Once I got it clean, I'd run some vinegar through a cycle with hot water about once a week. Hope I've given you something that works or sparks your imagination as to what might. (02/26/2005)


By terry

Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

As you've tried washing it out I'd try a green pot scrubber, like a Scotch Brite pad, and just use water with it. Regards.

Jo (02/26/2005)

By Jo Bodey

Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

I had the same problem and had to clean it all of by hand. I now use washing soda it is so much better. (02/27/2005)

By marlene

Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

I have a tip for possibly preventing that fabric softener buildup in your washer in the future. My washer is almost 18 years old, and I have never had a buildup of fabric softener in my washing machine. I only use about 1/4 cup of fabric softener in each load, which is half the amount of what the bottle cap line "recommends" I use. Maybe using a much smaller amount of fabric softener may help to prevent a buildup because the fabric softener is more diluted. By the way, I normally only run a load of clothes when I have enough for a large load, which in my machine uses 17.3 gallons of water. If I run a smaller load, I cut back even more on that 1/4 cup of softener.

Tori (02/27/2005)

By Tori

Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

Go to Wal-Mart, and pick up some CLR. It's great for cleaning the gunk out of a washer. I had this same mess, too. CLR is also a great all-purpose cleaner. It will even clean coffee pots, and will take out rust stains.

It's really a good idea to let your washer go through the entire cycle, periodically, with just CLR, and water. It keeps the inside of the washer nice, and clean. (02/28/2005)

By Darla

Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

It's best not to use vinegar, it can harm the inside of your washer. (06/18/2006)

By Jenn

Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

Washing soda or a detergent based with washing soda works best (and a microfiber or scrubbie) I don't use fabric softener anymore because the laundry detergent I use softens my clothes enough, without the toxins. You can check it out (under Home Care) (06/18/2006)

By Kelly

Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up From Washer

I used hot water and dish detergent on the removable pieces. That worked pretty well, but only after I let it soak 1/2 hour. I used Lysol wipes on the non-removable part which was after I scooped huge handfuls of gunk out (using gloves) and then I flushed it with hot water. (01/18/2008)

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