How to clean the agitator in a washing machine – laundry pros share their secrets

Don’t let the agitator agitate you with these three simple cleaning tips

Laundry room
(Image credit: Mereway Kitchens & Bathrooms)

A clean washing machine is essential for fresh laundry, and while we might run a hot vinegar cycle occasionally to freshen up the drum, we often overlook a crucial component that can make or break our laundry results – the agitator.

Over time, detergent residue, fabric softener, and everyday grime can build up on the agitator, compromising its performance and leaving your clothes less clean. To truly clean your washing machine and keep it running efficiently, it's important to give the agitator the attention it deserves.

Here, professional cleaners have explained how to clean the agitator in a washing machine to ensure perfect laundry every time.

How to clean the agitator in a washing machine

Say goodbye to lingering stains and make laundry smell better with these quick cleaning tips for agitators.

1. Wipe down with vinegar

bottle of white vinegar beside a container of sugar and a scrubbing brush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One thing people with mice-smelling laundry rooms always do is clean with vinegar to remove musty smells and mold, begins Kathy Cohoon, cleaning expert and operations manager at Two Maids:

‘For starters, you’ll want to wipe it down. Routine cleaning can be as simple as wiping down the agitator with a washcloth and some soap and water or vinegar. This can help to remove the buildup of detergent and product in the machine and keep your clothes coming out clean and fresh.'

2. Run a cleaning cycle

Miele washing machine in a chic farmhouse style laundry room with striped wallpaper and flowers in the sink

(Image credit: Miele)

‘Then, run a cleaning cycle,’ Kathy Cohoon, cleaning expert continues. ‘If your washer has a dedicated cleaning cycle, use it! The agitator can be cleaned along with the rest of the machine,’ she says.

‘If you do not have a washing machine cleaner, don’t sweat it. Alternatively, you can make your own DIY washing machine cleaner by adding one cup of chlorine bleach or vinegar to the dispenser before running the cycle.’

3. Don’t forget about the interior

Top Loading Washing Machine With Colorful Bed Linen Inside. Laundry. Taking Care Of Colored Fabric, Apparel. Horizontal Plane - Image ID: 2WRBJMP (RF)

(Image credit: Tatsiana Niamera via Alamy)

The worst sludge and mold often build up inside of the agitator itself. ‘If you can remove the cap, rinse with hot water and scrub with a soft bristle brush to remove any built-up product or mold,’ suggests Zachary Pozniak, third-generation dry cleaner and VP of operations at Jeeves New York.

‘If you cannot remove the cap, pour hot water on the opening on the agitator,’ he adds. ‘This should dissolve and rinse away any gunk in there. However, it is not recommended to put cleaning products in your agitator.'


How often should you clean the agitator in a washing machine?

According to Ken Doty, COO and cleaning expert at The Maids, it is a good idea to clean your agitator every month or so. ‘This will help minimize the amount of detergent and grime buildup,’ he says. ‘Before cleaning, be sure to check your machine's manual for detailed cleaning instructions.’

After cleaning your agitator and washing machine, it is a good idea to always leave your washing machine door open between cycles. This will help to prevent future mold growth and prevent musty smells that can affect your laundry.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.