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21 October 2020

Washing machine cleaners compared

Our washing machine cleaner guide compares products from Dettol and Dr Beckmann and explores the claims made by manufacturers.
Washing machine advice lifestyle 3 483367
MS
Matt Stevens

Using a washing machine cleaner regularly will freshen up your machine to ward off unpleasant smells and it could keep your machine washing effectively for longer.

But do you need to use an off-the-shelf product, such as Dettol washing machine cleaner or Dr Beckmann washing machine cleaner? Or can you do it yourself?

Need a new machine? See the best washing machines our reviews have uncovered.

Why do I need to use a washing machine cleaner?

Washing machine cleaners are designed to clean away any gunk that builds up inside your washing machine.

Without cleaning your washing machine, you could end up with a smelly washing machine that gradually becomes less effective, so a regular maintenance or service wash using a washing machine cleaner is recommended by washing machine manufacturers.

Cleaning the insides of a washing machine has become more necessary because we tend to wash our clothes at lower temperatures than was once the case. 

While this is positive in terms of energy saved, washing at lower temperatures and with less water can make it harder for a washing machine to wash away grime from the innards of the machine itself.

Mould can develop in the damp areas of the machine and on surfaces, such as the rubber door seal, limescale can build up on components deep within the machine, such as the heater element and deposits of dirt and undissolved detergent can be found spread around the machine.

If you don’t regularly clean your washing machine you could end up reducing its lifetime as components decay or become less effective.

View the ranking of most reliable washing machines brands.

Can I clean my washing machine with natural ingredients?

Despite what you might read online, never put vinegar in your washing machine. Many dishwasher repairers warn that the acidity of this could erode at the drum bearings and make your washing machine eventually leak or become very noisy.

If you want to avoid using a commercial washing machine cleaner, you can simply set your washing machine to run a maintenance wash with an empty machine - or a 90°C wash if a pre-set option isn’t available. You could also try adding bicarbonate soda.

Do washing machine manufacturers recommend washing machine cleaner?

Manufacturers advise owners to keep their washing machines clean. They might encourage you to buy their own products for this, or highlight hot wash programs designed to give the insides of the machine a good clean using detergent only with no clothes.

Washing machine cleaners from washing machine manufacturers tend to cost more than the cleaners available in the supermarket. 

Washing machine cleaners compared

There are two types of washing machine cleaners: powders and liquids, but they do the same job.

Those we’ve investigated are designed to be used at between 40°C and 60°C, so a lower temperature than a conventional service or maintenance wash, which are usually advised to be run at the hottest available temperature using only detergent.

Dettol washing machine cleaner

Price – £3.50

Type – Liquid

Manufacturers claims – Dettol washing machine cleaner claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria, prevents bad odours, removes limescale and hidden dirt and provides lasting freshness.

Advice to owners – Pour a 250ml dose into the detergent drawer and wash without any laundry in the drum at  60°C.

How often should you use it? – Dettol advises use its washing machine cleaner every two months. But how often you use it should be based on how often you use your machine – if you're always using your machine, every two months could be about right. But if you're a one-wash-a-week kind of person, then you won't need to clean your machine as often.

What’s in it? – Dettol uses benzalkonium chloride to kill microorganisms and prevent further growth. Lactic acid is used to de-scale and disinfect and surfactants are used to trap dirt. It also includes disinfectant and perfume.

Dr Beckmann, Service-it Deep Clean washing machine cleaner

Price – £2.99

Type – Powder.

Manufacturers claims – Dr Beckmann’s, Service-it Deep Clean washing machine cleaner says that it will get rid of dirt and grime while also tackling limescale, which it says will improve efficiency and protect against breakdowns. And it claims to remove 99.9% of bacteria and fungi.

Advice to owners – Pour into the detergent drawer of your washing machine and set it to wash at 60°C without a pre-wash and while making sure that there’s no laundry in the drum.

How often should you use it? – The manufacturer advises every two months or every 30 washes. We think that using the number of washes as your guide seems like the most helpful advice for how often to use it.

What’s in it? – The main ingredient in Dr Beckman Service-it Deep Clean washing machine cleaner is sodium percarbonate, which rather than being a chlorine beach is a gentler oxygen based bleach. It’s used to kill microorganisms and spores and to sterilise the insides of your washing machine. 

Among other ingredients are zeolites, which soften the water, and hexcyl cinnamal and limonene which make your machine smell nice inside.

Prism 3 in 1 Washing machine cleaner

Price – £2.99

Type – Powder.

Manufacturer's claims – Removes limescale, cleans and freshens.

Advice for owners – This washing machine cleaner is designed to be used at 40°C without a spin cycle. If you use Prism 3 in 1, grab hold of your washing machine manual to find out how to de-select the spin part of the wash programme.

How often should you use it? – Every month, according to the manufacturer. But, this sounds a bit too frequent - every two months should be fine. If you wash the average three loads a week, that will mean your washing machine gets a good wash itself approximately every 24 washes.

What’s in it? – Inside this washing machine cleaner you’ll find oxygen based bleaching agents, rather than the chlorine based bleach that you’ll find at home. Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid is used to soften the water and dissolve limescale. Surfactants bind with the dirt and make it easy to wash away and the enzyme protease is used to breakdown proteins. This helps with stain removal.

Duzzit washing machine cleaner

Price – £2.25

Type – Liquid.

Manufacturer's claims – Duzzit washing machine cleaner claims to maintain against breakdowns and malfunctions. On the box it's noted that it will clean, freshen and maintain washing machines whilst helping to avoid expensive call out charges.

Advice to owners – 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 without laundry in the drum or other detergent. At the end, wipe the rubber door seal with a damp cloth.

How often should you use it? – The manufacturer advises to use its cleaner every three months, which might be fine, but every two months would leave you with a cleaner machine.

What’s in it? – This washing machine cleaner is made up of surfactants which capture dirt, antimicrobials to inhibit the growth of bacteria and chloromethylisothiazolone which fights bacteria and fungi. The only other key ingredient is there for fragrance.

HG service engineer for washing machines and dishwashers

Price – £7.45 for two

Type – Powder.

Manufacturer's claims – This washing machine cleaner claims to resolve and prevent malfunctions. On the box the manufacturer claims that using it ensures that filters, drainage pipes and other invisible working parts do not become clogged up and smelly. It also notes that leakages and short-circuits can be prevented.

Advice to owners – Pour 100g of the cleaner into the machine: this equates to one tube of the cleaning powder. You can either pour it into the central compartment of the detergent drawer or directly into the drum. Don't add any other detergent and run a coloureds wash at 60°C.

How often should you use it? – Every three months is advised by the manufacturer, which might be a bit too long between washes. So, if you buy it and are happy with the results, consider using it more often if run a lot of washes every week.

What’s in it? – This washing machine cleaner is made up of surfactants which capture dirt, antimicrobials whose job is to inhibit the growth of bacteria and chloromethylisothiazolone which is in the mix to fight bacteria and fungi. The only other key ingredient is just there for fragrance.

All washing machine cleaner prices correct as of November 2019.

Now find out the best washing powder and laundry detergent.

How to clean your detergent drawer

You can use around 20% of your washing machine clear to clean the detergent drawer. Just remove the drawer and soak it in a solution of cleaner and water for around 30 minutes. Read the instructions to see how much cleaning liquid, powder and water to use.

If the drawer seems broken, read our guide on how to fix a dodgy detergent drawer.

You can clean the door seals manually using a soapy cloth and hot water. Feel inside the seal for any objects or dirt that have become trapped or naturally accumulated and remove what you can. Then wipe all of the rubber surfaces with the cloth.

How to run a service wash

The best way to clean your washing machine is to run a maintenance wash, sometimes called a service wash. This is where you load the machine with detergent, specialist washing machine cleaner or a homemade alternative and then run the machine at its highest temperature - or on a special machine clean program. 

Check the manual of your machine to find out what the manufacturer recommends and to see whether there it comes with its own cleaning program.

If you're using a washing machine cleaner you won't need to use a washing machine detergent or a pre-wash as part of the cleaning process. 

When you run a service wash, your machine should have an empty drum.

Advice on how regularly you should run a maintenance or service wash varies between manufacturers of washing machines, detergents and washing machine cleaning products. And when you run a maintenance wash will also depend on how often you use your machine. But as a rule of thumb, keep two to three months or every 30 washes in mind as the kind of frequency you should be aiming for. Some washing machines will also remind you when they need to be cleaned.

What manufacturers' recommend:

  • Ariel - The makers of Ariel recommend a monthly maintenance wash and advise owners to wash between 60°C and 90°C.
  • Persil - Persil users are advised to run a maintenance wash every couple of months to, ‘clear the pipes of dirt and grease.’
  • Bosch - Bosch advises regular maintenance washes. Some of its machines indicating to owners when this needs to take place. With machines that offer this kind of reminder, after 20 washes an LED will flashes on the digital display or a message will be displayed. Bosch advises owners of its washing machines to run the drum clean program at 90°C, where it’s available, and to do this with washing powder but without any clothes in the drum. It also says that descaling shouldn’t be necessary if the correct amount of detergent is used when you run regular washes. Bosch washing machine reviews.
  • Beko - Beko recommends using limescale remover or powder and running the washing machine on a cotton programme at 70°C or higher. Many machines in its range come with a drum cleaning program designed to do just this. Beko washing machine reviews.
  • Miele - Miele advises owners to run a maintenance wash at 75°C to remove bacteria, mould and other washday detritus that can build up while we wash at low temperatures. It recommends using its own Miele washing machine cleaner, but also says that standard detergent can be used. And its advice is to put the cleaner or detergent straight into the drum. Miele washing machine reviews.
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