Dear Home Ec 101,
I’ve used everything possible I can think of – even Magic Eraser! – to get the inside of my top-loading washer (where the top of the water line usually is) clean, but it’s still icky looking. It cleans just fine, and doesn’t stink, but is very unsightly.
Any tips for me?
We All Fall Down
Do you know how soap scum is the bane of the bathroom? You’ve got the same cycle happening in your washer. As your washer agitates droplets of soapy water splash up onto the walls of the wash tub. When some of the water evaporates, a microscopic amount of sticky detergent is left on the wall of the washer. This detergent does what detergent does best and traps dirt. Over time this creates a ring of crud just above the water line. This crud, if it were in the bathroom would be easily identified as soap scum.
Magic erasers can be used on soap scum, but other ways are more effective, since they tend to shred to bits when facing a heavy stain of this type.
Before getting started on the soap scum removal project, please run either a load of dark clothes or an empty load. Pour water into the bleach dispenser to ensure there is no bleach at all in the washing machine. This is extremely important because the solutions for cleaning soap scum will often react with bleach.
As a side note, I just want to mention that no one is going to be inspecting your clothes washer. If you’re expecting company, take care of the kitchen, bathroom, and main living area first. If your friends are looking for ring around the washer as a reason to feel superior, you may need new friends. I’m not one to talk, as I can be sidetracked by the random cleaning project, too.
In your case, there are several options:
1. Break out your handy Bar Keepers Friend. Dampen a sponge with water (you should be wearing gloves, by the way) sprinkle the Bar Keepers Friend liberally onto your sponge and then gently apply to the stain. Don’t rub hard and don’t immediately wipe off the BKF. You want to give the oxalic acid time to work on breaking that bond between your soap scum and the washer’s tub. Rinse your sponge and wipe away the BKF residue and you should see significant improvement. Now, if this ring has been building up for years, it might take a few applications to clean completely.
2. White vinegar – fill a clean spray bottle partway with white vinegar and spray directly on the ring. Give the vinegar about fifteen minutes to work. Spray with some fresh vinegar and wipe again. While vinegar is effective at removing soap scum, it may take some dedication.
3. Ammonia. I hesitate to even recommend ammonia since bleach is in the same room. Please use caution, if you use this approach. Use a clean, empty spray bottle and fill with one part ammonia and two parts warm water. Spray onto the ring and wipe away with a sponge (while wearing gloves). *This is the only non-acidic cleaning method in this list*
4. CLR – Calcium Lime Rust remover, it’s a commercially available product that may work quite well on your soap scum issue.
Whichever method you choose, please run an empty load before your next load of laundry.
Note – Now if you found this, looking for a way to remove soap scum from any marble fixture, it is extremely important that you choose a non-acidic method of removing soap scum. Janitorial supply stores have cleaners that will suit your needs and effectively remove soap scum without damaging the marble. The advice in this article is for removing soap scum from inside a clothes washer.
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