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27 Jan 2022

Six ways to make your washing machine last longer

Drum and bearings faults, electrical failures and broken doors are the most common problems with washing machines, but how do you make sure your washing machine lasts?

Our recent owner survey*showed that one in eight washing machines get a fault by the time they're seven years old.

But ideally your washing machine should last well beyond seven years without a hitch.For the best chances of making that happen, you need to make sure you are taking care of it and avoiding common mistakes.

Some brands are simply more reliable than others, too. The least reliable brand in our survey saw one in three of its washing machines getting a fault - so that's one you'll want to avoid.

Read on for five tips on how to take care of your washing machine or go to our guide on the best washing machine brands to find out which to pick or avoid.

1. Keep it clean

Many don't realise how important keeping your washing machine clean is to ensuring it stays in good nick.

Soap scum, limescale, mould and more can all build-up in your washing machine, leading to bad smells or worse; blocked pipes.

Preventing this from happening in the first place is a whole lot easier than fixing it later on, so follow this cleaning routine to keep your washing machine spick and span.

  • Every month: Wipe clean the door seal for mould and dirt
  • Every 2-3 months: Clean detergent tray and run a hot drum cleaning wash
  • Every 6 months: Check the lower filter for blockages

For a complete step-by-step guide, read how to clean a smelly washing machine.

2. Avoid washing coins and bra wires

Getting something stuck between the inner and outer drum can spell disaster for a washing machine.

Common culprits are coins and the underwire from bras. Loose coins can damage the drum when banging around in the wash and bra wires could puncture the door seal.

Coins are easy to avoid, simply check pockets before you wash. Bra wires? Not so much.

You need to wash a bra every few uses, more so in summer or after exercise, so we recommend using a laundry bag with them to keep them and the washing machine protected.

3. Beware hard water

Hard water can be a real pain for appliance maintenance and washing machines are no different.

Over time it can lead to limescale build-up, which is particularly a problem for the drain pump and filter.

The filter is quite easy to get to, but the drain pump isn't. The only way to clean this is to run a hot wash with washing machine cleaner.

Detergents have to work a little harder in hard water, so many will have ingredients to help soften water. This is why you're often instructed to use more detergent if you live in a hard water area.

If you think this is still not working, you can consider also adding soda crystals to your wash, which will help soften the water further. Soda crystals should go directly into your detergent drawer along with the detergent.

Common signs of hard water damage on laundry include:

  • Whites losing their shine and coming out slightly grey or yellow.
  • Towels losing softness and becoming harsh and scratchy.
  • Dark garments getting light streaks on them.
  • Clothes that are worn out quickly.

If you're tired of hard water, read our guide on how to buy the best water softener.

4. No overloading

Washing machine drums spin on their bearings, which can only take so much strain.

Loading your washing machine with large and heavy items that absorb lots of water (think dressing gowns and large towels) could cause the drum to spin unevenly as the weight isn't balanced out.

To avoid this, whenever washing these large items, make sure to also add other small items to the load to help balance it. So rather than washing just one towel at a time, add a tea towel or two.

Overloading your washing machine could also put too much force on the bearings when spinning at maximum speed.

If in doubt, we'd recommend only fill the drum two-thirds of the way. A good rule of 'thumb' to follow is to leave enough room to do a thumbs-up inside.

5. Don't ignore strange sounds

Knock knock.

Who's there?

A broken washing machine!

Any odd banging, rattling or knocking noises could be a sign of worse things to come, so shouldn't just be ignored.

If you're lucky it could just be a coin you've forgotten to take out of your pockets getting a good clean. So first check around the drum and seal at the end of the wash for anything that could have been stuck in there.

If solid items go beyond the drum and into the outer tub it can cause a lot of noise. Firstly check if it has made its way down to the filter under the washing machine door.

If there's nothing there, speak to a professional repairer to see if it can be fixed. However most modern washing machines have the drum and outer tub sealed shut, so your machine could be a write-off.

Watch: how to deal with strange sounds from your washing machine

6. Repair before you replace

Not being able to use your washing machine is a pretty big inconvenience, so you'll want to get it working or get a new one as soon as possible.

However, don't rush into simply writing-off your washing machine and replacing it with a new one straight away.

Many of the most common faults can be fixed yourself at little to no cost, and most others can be fixed by a professional for much less than the cost of a new machine.

To find a repairer, use Which? Trusted Traders - tradesmen and women who have been assessed and checked by Which? trading standards professionals.

You can also take a look at our guide to domestic appliance repairs to find out the average costs for a range of jobs, as quoted by Which? Trusted Traders from their years of experience.

If the problem is unfixable and you're considering buying a new washing machine, we have tested Best Buy washing machines that cost less than £350.

* September 2021 survey of 10,898 people who bought washing machines in the past seven years, made of both Which? Connect panel members and the general public.