Keep your machine free from bacteria, limescale and mould with our pick of the best washing machine cleaners
Let’s be honest: we’re all a little mystified by the intricacies of our washing machines, especially when it comes to the cleanliness of the machine itself. Although our laundry may emerge stain-free and smelling great, the washed-off dirt can build up inside the mechanisms, along with residue from cleaning products. If you notice an unpleasant smell or any speckling of black mould you should tackle it immediately, and regularly using a washing machine cleaner every month or two is the best way to prolong its life.
Of course, you can go the DIY route with bicarb and vinegar, but there’s a good reason why there are so many cleaners on the market. With the right proportions of chemicals you’ll have a machine that stays cleaner and fresher for longer, with way less hassle. Read on for our top tips for washing machine cleaning, or skip ahead to review the best products around.
Best washing machine cleaner: At a glance
- Best overall washing machine cleaner: Dettol 5-in-1 | £3
- Best machine cleaner for water softening: Calgon Softening Gel | £7.60
- Best eco-friendly machine cleaner: Ecozone MagnoBall | £8
- Best machine cleaner for dissolving hair: Vamoosh 6-in-1 | £5.49
- Best for a deep clean: Dr Beckmann | £2
- Best cleaner for mould: Cillit Bang | £2.49
How to choose the best washing machine cleaner for you
When should I clean my washing machine?
A general rule of thumb is to clean your washing machine every month or two, instead of waiting for evidence of a problem. That means before the appearance of mould, limescale or a lingering smell of damp.
Remember that every washing machine will have specific cleaning instructions, so it’s worth checking the manual to ensure you’re not invalidating a warranty by using inappropriate products.
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How should I clean my washing machine?
You’ll usually use the cleaning product as part of a “service wash”, running the machine on a high temperature with nothing inside the drum. Some products are added via the detergent drawer, while others go directly into the drum. There are also machines that come with specialised cleaning programme presets.
Some elements of a washing machine can be cleaned more easily than others. The rubber door seal and detergent drawer can be given a quick once over with a soapy cloth to keep dirt and bacteria at bay, but the internal parts need more intensive cleaning. A buildup of limescale on the heating element can cause it to overheat, so if you live in a hard water area it’s important to use a cleaner with descaling properties.
Are there any other tips and tricks to keep my machine in good condition?
Before putting in a load of washing, you should shake off any excess hair or dirt, and empty pockets of tissues, hair clips or loose change. If these get trapped in the machine they’re a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Once you’ve finished a wash cycle, unload the machine quickly before the wet clothes have a chance to smell, and leave the door open so the heat and moisture can dissipate. Clean out the filter often, and give the rubber seal a quick wipe whenever you remember.
The best washing machine cleaner to buy
1. Dettol Anti-Bacterial 5-in-1: Best overall washing machine cleaner
Price when reviewed: £3 | Check price at Amazon
We’ve all heard of Dettol, which is a top player in the hygiene and disinfectant world. Using the 5-in-1 washing machine cleaner is a no-brainer: it ticks all the boxes, from killing 99.9% of bacteria and preventing bad odours to removing dirt from the inner mechanisms. It even descales the metalwork and leaves a lovely fresh scent to boot. Just run the empty washing machine at 60°C every few months to keep your machine in top condition. You can also use this product to clean the outer parts of the machine by diluting a tablespoon of liquid in 200ml of water and applying with a sponge – just be sure to use gloves.
At 250ml, the bottle is pretty small, and those with machines in need of an in-depth clean might need to use the whole dose at once (the instructions actually suggest doing this, but many people choose to use half each time). If purchasing on Amazon, you can get a pack of six bottles for £18, which will work out cheaper.
Key spec – Format: Liquid; Volume: 250ml; Usage: Main dispenser drawer; Frequency: Every two months
2. Calgon Antibacterial Water Softening Gel: Best cleaner for water softening
Price when reviewed: £7.60 | Check price at Amazon
Calgon is well known for its limescale prevention products, and this gel cleaner is a great option for those who’ve experienced the tablet version not fully breaking down during a wash cycle. The three-in-one gel cleaner combats bad odours, residue and limescale build-up and, most importantly, it softens hard water, preventing limescale from forming in the first place.
Calgon gel is safe to use on all types of fabric, so won’t damage your clothes, and it can be used in every wash cycle. Just add alongside your normal detergent into the main dispenser drawer: one cap’s worth (50ml) if you’re in a medium to hard water area, or one and two-thirds of a cap (83ml) for very hard water. The 750ml bottle of gel costs £6 on Amazon, so if you use 50ml at a time, that’s 15 washes’ worth. You can also buy in bulk (either four or six bottles), which works out to a more economical price.
Key spec – Format: Gel; Volume: 750ml; Usage: Main dispenser drawer; Frequency: Can be used in every wash
3. Ecozone Magnoball: Best eco-friendly washing machine cleaner
Price when reviewed: £8 | Check price at Amazon
This might seem like a bizarre cleaning product at first glance, and you may be asking, can magnets really prevent limescale build-up? But many Magnoball customers are happily surprised at how well it works. Apparently, the magnets held inside the soft outer silicone casing cause limescale particles to crystallise in water so they don’t settle on the machine’s mechanisms. Any pre-existing limescale should visibly reduce after about five washes.
While the Magnoball will eventually split apart, it’s still a more cost-effective and eco-friendly option than tablets or liquid. Instead of actively adding cleaning products to every cycle below 60°C, the Magnoball can stay in the drum alongside each washing load and should last a minimum of five years. There are no chemicals in play here either, and as it also helps to soften clothes you might not need fabric softener. A win-win!
Key spec – Format: Silicone ball with magnets; Weight: 100g; Usage: Inside drum; Frequency: Can be used for every wash
4. Vamoosh 6-in-1 Washing Machine Cleaner: Best washing machine cleaner for dissolving hair
Price when reviewed: £5.49 for one sachet | Check price at Amazon
Hair can easily ruin your washing machine, clumping up and clogging the mechanisms. Vamoosh claims to dissolve hair – and says it’s the only cleaner to do so – so this product is a no-brainer for pet owners or those with long (human) hair. Vamoosh uses active oxygen to break down the keratin in hair, making it dissolve before washing away: just add the sachet’s powdered contents to the dispenser drawer, then run the empty machine on its longest, hottest cycle, which is usually between 85° and 95°C.
Aside from its hair-dissolving properties, the Vamoosh cleaner also rids your machine of bad smells, removes 99% of bacteria and acts as a descaler to eliminate limescale. While this version is primarily for cleaning your washing machine mechanism of any previously clogged-up hairs, Vamoosh also makes a Pet Hair Dissolver that can be used for cleaning a pet’s bedding and blankets.
Key spec – Format: Powder; Volume: 175g; Usage: Main dispenser drawer; Frequency: Use every one to two months
5. Dr Beckmann Deep Clean: Best washing machine cleaner for a deep clean
Price when reviewed: £2 for one treatment | Check price at Amazon
Machines in need of a thorough deep clean will benefit from these powdered sachets from Dr Beckmann. The product includes a magical ingredient: activated carbon, which apparently attracts particles of dirt lingering in the machine, just like a magnet. This allows the product to both absorb and then neutralise all the unpleasant odours that seemingly won’t budge, and to leave a fresh fragrance in their place. It can also help get rid of dirt marks on the rubber seal.
Designed to be used every other month (or approximately every 30 cycles), it keeps your machine fresh and clean. Just pour the powder directly into the drum of your machine and run a cycle on empty at a minimum of 60°C.
Key spec – Format: Powder; Volume: 250g; Usage: Main dispenser drawer; Frequency: Use every two months
6. Cillit Bang Black Mould Remover Spray: Best for removing mould
Price: £2.49 | Check price at Amazon
If you’ve got a proliferation of black mould speckling the rubber of your washing machine’s seal, it’s time for a dedicated mould remover. Cillit Bang spray is a no-holds-barred product that removes black mould ‘without scrubbing’: just apply the spray, leave for a maximum of fifteen minutes, then wipe clean. The mould should simply lift off as a result, killing bacteria and germs at the same time.
To pack the punch it does, Cillit Bang spray is classed as a household cleaning product – which means all safety measures should be taken in accordance. Be careful when using it around pets and small children, and use gloves both when applying and cleaning off. There’s a pretty strong smell of bleach and chemicals, too, so keep windows open where possible.
Key spec – Format: spray bottle; Volume: 750ml; Usage: spray on affected areas; Frequency: whenever needed