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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.