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If you’re constantly flinging piles of filthy school uniforms or gym kits into the wash, you’ll want to keep your faithful washing machine in tip top condition. But if you notice a nasty whiff whenever you open the door or find dark residue on your supposedly clean washing, you might need to give your washing machine a bit of TLC.
Mumsnetters regularly start conversations asking why their washing machines smell or are becoming less effective over time. The general consensus is that a build-up of residue or mould inside the machine, around the rubber door seal or in the pipes causes unsavoury smells, although one unfortunate dog owner admitted: “My DDog once put a bit of pork chop in the rubber door seal and that really stank. So check the seals.”
Stray pork chops aside, cleaning washing machines has become a thing in recent years because we now tend to wash at lower temperatures. While this is better for the environment, washing at lower temperatures and with less water makes it harder for washing machines to wash away dirt and bacteria, which can then collect in the rubber door seal or cause limescale to form within the pipes and machinery.
This can ultimately reduce the lifespan of your washing machine and, worryingly, scientists have found germs including staphylococcus, E. coli, hepatitis A, norovirus, rotavirus, and salmonella living in washing machines.
One way to clean your washing machine is to run a hot cycle with no clothes or detergent in the machine. Some people use white vinegar – pouring it into the soap dispenser and then running the machine on a hot cycle – to clean their washing machine. However, in some washing machines, there’s a real risk that the vinegar could damage the rubber seal and hose.
With that in mind, washing machine manufacturers recommend that you use a washing machine cleaner regularly. Whether you use a powder, liquid or tablet washing machine cleaner, it should be simple enough to clean your trusty washer every few weeks to keep things running smoothly.
Here are the best washing machine cleaners for 2021.
1. Best overall machine cleaner: HG Service Engineer Wash
“HG Service Engineer for washing machines and dishwashers is the absolute best stuff.”
HG claims that this clothes washer cleaning powder prevents filters, pipes and the internal mechanics of your washing machine from getting clogged up and stinky, prolonging its lifespan.
Mumsnetters rate HG Service Engineer Wash for achieving real results and it’s certainly the best washing machine cleaner for mould that we’ve found. It’s simple to use – pour the 100g tube either into the central compartment of the detergent drawer or directly into the drum and then run it on a coloured wash at 60°C.
Containing surfactants which capture dirt and antimicrobials and chloromethylisothiazolone to stop bacteria, it also smells lovely and fresh. Although you’ll pay more for a two pack, the price per pack works out similarly to other products on our list.
2. Best budget washing machine cleaner: Dr Beckmann Service-it Deep Clean Washing Machine Cleaner
“You need Dr Beckmann washing machine cleaner. Just put it in the drum and run a long empty wash at 90°C. I tried all the soda crystals, vinegar, bio powder on a hot wash etc, but there was a lingering whiff, which suddenly increased in the hot weather. Then I used the Dr Beckmann and it smells completely clean (maybe a slight whiff of dry cleaner shop). Wish I'd used it sooner.”
This low-cost washing machine cleaner liquid comes in a nifty little box. Dr Beckmann Service-it Deep Clean Washing Machine Cleaner claims to get rid of 99.9% of bacteria and funghi and also tackles limescale, reducing the risk of machine breakdowns.
The main ingredient in this washing machine cleaner is sodium percarbonate – a gentler alternative to chlorine beach – which is still capable of killing microorganisms and mould spores and to sterilise the insides of your washing machine. Zeolites soften the water, and hexcyl cinnamal and limonene add a fragrant scent.
Simple to use, you just pour into the detergent drawer of your washing machine and set it on a hot, empty wash. The manufacturer advises using every two months or every 30 washes, depending on which comes sooner for you.
3. Best washing machine cleaner for smell: Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner
“I occasionally use Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner. It ensures you clean the drawers, drum and seals and leaves it very fresh.”
This liquid claims to prevent bad smells in your washing machine and leave long-lasting freshness. Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner also removes limescale and invisible dirt and kills 99.9% of bacteria. It contains benzalkonium chloride to kill microorganisms, lactic acid to descale and disinfect and surfactants to eradicate dirt.
As you’d expect from a home cleaning staple brand name such as Dettol, it also includes disinfectant. Available in Fresh or Lemon scents, it’s simple to use – just pour a 250ml dose into the detergent drawer and switch on a 60°C without any laundry in the drum. Dettol advises using this liquid washing machine cleaner every two months.
4. Best washing machine cleaner for limescale: Prism 3-in-1 Washing Machine Cleaner
This effective and affordable washing machine cleaner powder can be used at 40°C, but you’ll first have to decipher how to deselect the spin part of the cycle before you start the programme.
The manufacturer recommends using Prism 3-in-1 every month, although it probably depends how often you use your washing machine.
This cleaner for washing machines contains oxygen-based bleaching agents rather than chlorine-based bleach, while thylenediaminetetraacetic acid softens the water and dissolves limescale. Surfactants and enzyme protease get rid of any lurking nasties.
Price: £3.49 for two packs
5. Best washing machine cleaner tablets: Ecozone Washing Machine and Dishwasher Cleaner
If you’re looking to keep both your washing machine and your dishwasher in tip top condition, it makes sense to use a cleaning product that can service both.
The Ecozone Washing Machine and Dishwasher Cleaner removes limescale and detergent deposits from both washing machines and dishwashers. For a front- and top-loading washing machine, place one tablet into the empty drum and run a hot (60°C plus) cycle without a pre-wash.
To clean your dishwasher, place one tablet onto the bottom of the empty machine and run a hot programme without a pre-rinse.
Animal lovers will be happy to learn that this product is free from animal testing and approved by BUAV under the Humane Household Products Standard. Some reviewers report that it is more effective in a washing machine than in a dishwasher but, at this price, it’s worth giving it a whirl.
6. Best washing machine cleaner for mould: Duzzit Washing Machine Cleaner
This washing machine cleaner is slightly more complicated than others, in that you have to mix 50ml with four litres of water and soak the detergent drawer in it for 30 minutes. Then pour 200ml into the detergent drawer and run a wash programme at 60°C, ensuring that the drum is empty. At the end of the cycle, wipe the rubber door seal with a damp cloth.
The manufacturer of Duzzit Washing Machine Cleaner advises to use its cleaner every three months. Containing surfactants to blast dirt and antimicrobials and chloromethylisothiazolone to fight bacteria and mould, it will also leave your washing machine smelling lovely and fresh.
7. Best eco-friendly washing machine cleaner: Ecozone Magnoball
“I have a magnetic ball which prevents limescale. You can use it in the washing machine and in the dishwasher. It lasts five years.”
The second Ecozone product on our list, the Ecozone Magnoball can be used in your washing machine and dishwasher to blast limescale left by the washing process.
Containing two magnets, Ecozone's anti-limescale ball works by softening water and preventing limescale accumulation (it also softens the water).
Animal testing-free and environmentally-friendly, it’s cost effective too as can be used over and over again in every cycle below 60 degrees for five years. Chemical-free, it’s ideal for anyone with allergies, although it won’t get rid of lingering bacteria and dirt or smells.
8. Best cleaner for washing machine rubber seal: Dylon Washing Machine Cleaner
If you’re partial to home-dying your clothes and other fabrics with Dylon washing machine dyes, you may notice that the rubber seal around your washing machine’s door becomes discoloured and clogged with residues.
Dylon Washing Machine Cleaner claims to protect your machine from colour run, as well as tackling bacteria, smells and limescale build up. The pack also contains a treated wipe for you to use to clean your machine’s detergent drawer.
Containing surfactants and benzalkonium chloride to blast nasties, it should leave your washing machine smelling fragrant too.
How do I deep clean my washing machine?
A maintenance or service wash is the way to deep clean your washing machine. It shouldn’t be complicated – load the machine with a specialist washing machine cleaner and then run the machine at its highest temperature, or at the temperature advised by the manufacturer.
Don’t forget to check your machine’s manual as some washing machines come with their own specific cleaning programme. When you run a service wash, your machine’s drum should be empty.
Are washing machine cleaners worth it?
Wash cycles at 40°C and below can be a breeding ground for bacteria, residue and limescale so it makes sense to tackle these with a washing machine cleaning product.
By regularly washing your machine with a washing machine cleaner, you should reduce the chance of breakdowns and keep it running and washing your clothes effectively for longer, saving you money and hassle in the long run.
Look for a washing machine cleaner that’s suitable for your washing machine. Make sure you consider the following:
- Most washing machine cleaners are suitable for both top-loading and front-loading machines but double check before you buy.
- Some washing machine cleaners are suitable for use in both washing machines and dishwashers, which means that you can keep both staple appliances in good condition.
- If you suffer allergies, you may prefer to use a chemical-free washing machine cleaner such as Ecozone Magnoball.
- If you’re against animal testing, BUAV-approved products such as Ecozone’s Washing Machine and Dishwasher Cleaner is worth considering.
- Most washing machine cleaners need to be used in a hot wash but some can be used at lower temperatures, such as the Prism 3-in-1 Washing Machine Cleaner.
- You may like to choose from a range of scents – the Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner, for example, is available in Fresh or Lemon scents.
How often should you clean your washing machine?
How often you run a service wash depends on how often you use your machine. Generally, you should clean your washing machine every 30 washes or every two or three months – whichever comes soonest. Helpfully, some hi-tech washing machines will even remind you when they need to be cleaned.
What is the best product to clean a washing machine?
The best budget washing machine cleaner is Dr Beckmann Service-it Deep Clean Washing Machine Cleaner which provides consistently great results for a low price.
The best overall washing machine cleaner is HG Service Engineer Wash which is highly rated by Mumsnetters and reviewers alike and is the best washing machine cleaner for mould on our list.
How we chose our recommendations
Our washing machine cleaner suggestion came from recommendations on the Mumsnet forums and from consumer reviews on the web. We consulted independent review sites, including Which? to ensure we were bringing you an honest summary of washing machine cleaners in 2021
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