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10 things you should never do if you own a washing machine

Plus expert tips to make it last longer and work better

Whether your washing machine is old or new, follow our advice on the things you should never do to get the best out of it and keep it washing for longer.

Or go straight to our round-up of the best washing machines.

1. Don’t overload it! You’ll shorten its life

Overloading your washing machine’s drum so that it’s completely packed will lead to less than perfect wash results and could damage your machine.

Washing machines are designed to wash a certain weight of clothes and no more. It varies with the type of laundry, though – you can usually wash more cottons, such as bed sheets, than synthetics, such as gym kit.

Many modern machines won’t allow you to overload them. They simply won’t wash if there’s too much in the drum or too much for the wash program you’ve selected.

But some machines won’t stop you from washing, even if the drum is full to bursting. This could lead to poor wash results, as there’s less room for the water and detergent to spread throughout the load.

More seriously, overloading could damage the way the drum spins and, over time, this could mean the life of your machine will be shortened.

Common washing machine problems and how to fix them.

How to load your washing machine

  • Always make sure that there’s space between the top of the load in the drum and the top of the drum itself – this should be around the width of your palm.
  • Instead of cramming everything into one load to save time, try using the quick-wash setting for two decent-sized loads. On some machines, this will reduce a three-hour wash to just one hour. Wash quality won’t be quite as good, but you will be saving time and not overloading your washing machine.

Find a washing machine with a roomy drum, such as:

Or check out our extra-large drum capacity washing machine reviews.

2. Use too much detergent at your peril

Disappointing wash results are certain if you use too much detergent. While stains might be tackled effectively, a lot of the detergent will still be lurking in your clothes following the rinse phase.

On light items, you won’t be able to see this, but if you wear a lot of dark clothes, evidence of overdosing will be obvious, with either flecks of detergent powder on the clothes or translucent smears of liquid detergent visible. Either way, it’s not a great look.

Using too much detergent could also be a problem for you if your skin is sensitive to the chemicals used in the detergent.

How to avoid using too much detergent

  • Grab your washing machine’s manual and check how much detergent you should be using. This will be detailed on a program-by-program basis, so you’ll use more for a full load than you will for a half load, for example.
  • Measure the amount you use. Most of us get this wrong when using guesswork and end up using far too much.

A clogged detergent drawer can stop washing detergent getting to your clothes. Watch our video to find out how to fix a dodgy detergent drawer.

3. Never mix whites and coloureds

A sure-fire way to end up with ruined clothes is to mix your white shirts, sheets or anything else with a bunch of coloured clothes. Do this, and dirty greys will be the order of the day.

Dyes may be better than they once were, but colours will still run. So read the care label before your wash.

How to avoid colours running in the washing machine

  • The safest way to make sure your whites don’t end up grey or worse when wash day comes around is to separate your laundry into whites and coloureds and run two washes.

See our guide to useful washing machine programs.

4. Guesstimate the temperature, and clothes could shrink

Clothes can also be damaged if you wash them at the wrong temperature in your washing machine.

Cotton is stretched in manufacture and will shrink a little following a first wash. But if you get the water temperature wrong, shrinkage could be much worse.

How to avoid your clothes shrinking

  • Read the label to find out the right temperature the clothes should be washed at.
  • Use the washing machine’s manual to find the best program for them.
  • If you’re very worried about your clothes shrinking or losing their shape, wash them in cool water by hand and then dry them on a washing line or airer.

Find out which temperature to wash at with our washing machine temperature guide.

5. Skipping service washes makes it smelly

The best washing machines will wash your clothes for years, and you may well be delighted with the results.

But the machine itself will need cleaning, too.

Over months and years, the inside of your washing machine will get dirty, mould can build up and this can lead to your machine smelling bad.

This is becoming more common, as most of us now wash at lower temperatures with non-biological detergents.

How to run a service wash

  • To keep your machine clean and odour-free, run a service wash at 90°C every month.
  • You can do this using detergent, a specialist washing machine cleaner or something natural such as white vinegar.
  • Check your machine’s manual to see what’s recommended for your washing machine.

6. Forget to level it and it could break down

Washing machines can spin at superfast speeds. To be able to do this safely, the machine needs to be level on the floor.

If your machine is installed by a professional, they will check the machine is level for you and will make any adjustments.

How to level your washing machine

  • Try rocking your machine – if it moves, you’ll need to level it.
  • You can do this by adjusting its feet.
  • Loosen the locking nut and then use a spanner to lower or raise the washing machine until it’s level.
  • Check with a spirit level and tighten the nuts.

Read more on how to install a washing machine.

7. Don’t wash belts or coins, or the door glass might break

Remove belts from trousers and jeans before you wash.

The glass in washing machine doors is toughened, but a belt buckle spinning at 1,600 rpm will do the glass in the door no good whatsoever.

And something small like a coin could end up blocking the filter or causing a din as your machine spins.

How to provide even more protection for the glass

  • Once you’ve removed any beltsfrom the load, consider using a laundry bag for any clothes that have large metal buttons.
  • Lowering the spin speed could also help to mitigate the already low risk of the glass breaking.

8. Leaving tissues in pockets leads to mess

Make sure that you remove any tissues or other bits of paper from your trouser pockets before you wash.

If you’re in a hurry or you just forget to do this, you could end up with bits of soggy paper all over your wash.

How to remove tissue from wet clothes

  • Large lumps of tissue can be picked off by hand.
  • Smaller spots of paper can be removed using a soft brush.
  • If there’s any left when your clothes are dry, try using sticky tape to lift them off.

9. Don’t ignore your washing machine’s manual

Many people use the same wash program regardless of the clothes that they’re washing.

But the manual will recommend specific programs, based on the fabrics being washed and how dirty they are.

So a pile of stinky rugby kit should be washed for longer and in hotter water than something like work clothes, which might not be visibly dirty.

10. Forget maintenance and you’ll pay the price

It’s very easy to forget about maintaining your washing machine, but if you do this, you could easily end up with a machine that doesn’t last as long as it should.

Washing machine maintenance doesn’t take long, it isn’t technical and it could give your machine a new lease of life.

Quick washing machine maintenance

  • Clear clumps of hair, dirt and detergent that accumulate around the door seal on a washing machine. As the seals are made of rubber, this kind of thing can lead to the seal perishing over time. Every week or two, wipe the seal clean with a damp cloth.

See our round-up of the most reliable washing machine brands.

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