Cleaning Fabric Softener Build Up from a Washer

September 2, 2009

Hand pouring fabric softener into washing machine compartmentHow 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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2 More Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

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.


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
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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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 355 Posts
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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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 255 Posts
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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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
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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Bronze Answer Medal for All Time! 155 Answers
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.

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