Posted on Leave a comment

How To Clean A Washing Machine

LG dark grey washing machine in a kitchen

Does your washing machine smell? With how often washing machines are used, it’s not a surprise that they can become smelly over time.

In the UK, the average household will use their washing machine 270 times a year. That’s 5 times a week! Of course, this will vary depending on the number of people within your household and the capacity of your washing machine. With such a heavy usage, your washing machine will need to be cleaned regularly.

In this article we discuss the causes of why your washing machine smells, how to effectively clean it, and other questions you may have.

Why does my washing machine smell bad?

Washing Machines

With such heavy usage, your washing machine is likely to suffer from a build up of soap scum. Your washing may also not have the chance to dry out between washes. With the mixture of dirty clothes, warmth, and a damp environment, this makes it the perfect environment for mould and mildew growth. And what do they come with? A horrible odour!

A bad smelling odour from your washing machine could also be due to poor drainage. This will mean that water will sit and become stagnant in your machine, allowing bacteria to grow.

Other than cleaning your washing machine, you can reduce bad smells through how you use detergents. Using too much detergent will generate more suds than usual, and your washer will be unable to fully rinse them away. These suds will then build-up in your machine, where mildew, bacteria and mould can grow.

How to clean your washing machine

Washer finished in grey with door ajar, showing the inside of the washing machine drum

Although your washing machine is designed to clean and is often in contact with soap, it doesn’t clean itself. Like your shower, bath, and sinks, you’ll need to actively clean it yourself. Luckily, it’s actually quite easy.

So, if you want to avoid stinky school uniforms, and stale looks from your co-workers, just follow these 7 simple steps:

Step 1: Check your manual and temperature settings

Before doing anything, it’s important to first check if there are any cleaning or descaling products that your manufacturer advises against. There will be a reason for them including this in the manual, and it’s also best to follow as they say. Going against their warnings could lead to risking your safety, voiding your warranty, or even damaging your machine!

It’s also best to begin the process by checking your machine’s temperature settings. In particular, you’ll want to see what the hottest setting is and how long a cycle at this temperature can last. This will determine how long the washing process will take.

Step 2: Clean the detergent drawer

The detergent drawer can quickly become coated in detergent and fabric softener. This can sometimes be difficult to remove, as well as being plain gross. So, we recommend removing the drawer completely and soaking it in hot soapy water.

Whilst it soaks, you can clean out the cavity the drawer sits in. Do so using a toothbrush and microfiber cloth, ensuring you remove any build-up of soap scum and mould. Once this is done, you can finish cleaning the drawer, again with a toothbrush and microfiber cloth. Be sure that both the cavity and drawer are dry before putting it back.

Step 3: Drain and clean the filter

The filter is where any lint or other debris is caught. Without regular cleaning, you can just imagine how disgusting it can become! To clean it, you’ll first need to give your manual a check. Every washing machine is different, and so filters can be located in different places, or have different ways to access it. Because of this, our advice on how to clean it is quite generic, and parts may not be relevant for your machine.

You’ll want to start by grabbing a towel and bowl, and placing them under the filter. Then, place the emergency drain tube over the bowl and release the cap. All of the water should drain into the bowl. You may need to pause and replace the bowl if it becomes full before all of the water is drained.

Next, carefully remove the drain filter cover. There may be some trapped water here, which is why it’s important to have a towel laid out. Once removed, remove any lint and debris from the filter. If there’s a lot of build-up, you can soak it in hot and soapy water. Once clean and clear, you can put it back.

Step 4: Run the hottest cycle

To clean the drum and inside of your washing machine, the best and easiest way is to run the hottest cycle with a washing machine cleaner. You can buy your own washing machine cleaner, just make sure that you choose a product that your manufacturer recommends, or simply use a cup of white vinegar.

Some washing machines models will have a dedicated cycle for cleaning itself, such models from AEG or Beko. If not, find the hottest cycle on your machine’s manual, and run this one.

Step 5: Clean the rubber seals

The rubber seal is a hot spot for collecting soap suds, lint, and water. It’s therefore one of the best spots for mould and mildew to grow. Because of this, we recommend wiping these down as often as you can. To do this, dampen a microfiber cloth with vinegar and wipe them down, being sure to lift them up to get into all of the crevices. If you feel like it needs a deeper clean, you can dip a toothbrush in bicarbonate of soda and give it a good scrub. Once clean, dry it with a clean and dry cloth.

Step 6: Wipe down the exterior and window

Once the interior of your washing machine is sparkling clean, you can finish off by wiping down the exterior. All you have to do is dampen a microfiber cloth with hot soapy water, and wipe everything down. Be sure to get all of the knobs and dials, as well as each side of the machine, where possible.

Step 7: Disinfect your washing machine with bleach (optional)

As an additional final step, you can disinfect your washing machine with bleach. Before doing this step, it’s essential to check your user manual. Using bleach in your machine could void your warranty, so it’s important to make sure it’s been allowed by the manufacturer.

Bleach is also highly dangerous when it comes into contact with your skin and eyes, or ingested. Always wear gloves when using bleach products, as well as taking extra precautions.

To disinfect your washing machine, add half a cup of bleach to your detergent drawer, and another half in your drum. Run your washing machine on its hottest cycle, ensuring that your drum is completely empty. If possible, pause the cycle once the drum has filled with water and allow it to sit for 45 minutes to an hour. Restart to complete, and then run an extra rinse cycle to ensure all the bleach has been rinsed away. To further ensure all of the bleach is gone, wipe down the inside of the door and the seals with a damp cloth.

AEG Washing Machine and Tumble Dryer

Can vinegar damage your washing machine?

Using vinegar in your washing machine will not damage your washing machine or harm your clothes. When combined, hot water and vinegar will create a potent solution that removes dirt and prevents bacterial growth inside the drum and around the lid.

Many people are hesitant to use vinegar as they’re worried about their laundry smelling like vinegar. You don’t need to be concerned about that though. Vinegar will actually act as a deodoriser, helping to eliminate odours. Meanwhile, the odour from the vinegar itself will dissipate during the rinse cycle. If you’re still unsure, you can add a couple of drops of essential oils to scent the vinegar first.

Vinegar isn’t just great for cleaning your washer. It can also be used in your laundry cycle for many benefits:

  • Naturally softens fabric
  • Brightens and whitens fabric
  • Reduces lint and pet hair
  • Cleans your washing machine
  • Banishes mildew odour
  • Fights underarm odour
  • Erases hem lines
  • Keeps dark clothing dark


Can I use dishwasher powder in my washing machine?

No, you cannot use dishwasher powder in your washing machine. This rumour has been circulating around the internet for a few years now, and although it sounds like a fantastic hack, it is not. In fact, many appliance brands, such as Bosch, have spoken out about this.

Your washing machine does not reach temperatures as high as your dishwasher, which is what dishwasher powder is designed for. Because of this, the powder will not fully dissolve, and will result in your washing machine becoming coated with this residue. This is the opposite outcome that you’d want.

Does cleaning your washing machine improve performance?

Yes, keeping your washing machine will absolutely improve its performance. If you’re not cleaning your machine, soap scum build-up and odour will transfer to your clothes. These deposits left on your clothes can make them sticky, and thus unclean.

Washing Machine Maintenance Tips:

A sponge cleaning the inside seal of a washing machine

Wipe the rubber seal down after each wash, especially if damp.

Close up of washing machine showing clothes on a wash cycle

Occasionally use a warmer or hot cycle; don’t always use a cold or cool cycle.

Lady opening the bottom of the washing machine to change the filter

Clean out the filter regularly.

White Smeg washing machine with door ajar

Leave the door open between washes. This lets damp air dry and clean air to circulate the drum. This will minimise the growth of mould and mildew.

Top of a Siemens drawer, displaying the control panel and different washing machine functions

Once a month, run a hot cycle with a cup of vinegar in the empty drum of your machine.

Washing machine dispenser drawer open

Remove any removable parts, such as the soap tray, and thoroughly clean them in the sink.

To conclude, a regularly cleaned washing machine is essential in preventing odours and keeping it at optimal performance. It will also expand its lifespan, and keep your clothes feeling and smelling fresh. With the average UK household using their machine frequently, it’s important to clean it regularly to combat soap scum, mould, and bacteria build-up. These simple steps will keep your washing machine smelling fresh and your clothes clean. And remember, using vinegar is a safe and effective way to maintain your washer’s cleanliness without causing harm.

If you continue to have issues, you may need to look into a professional washing machine repair.

We’re always more than happy to help with any washing machine questions you may have. You can contact a friendly member of our expert term on 0115 965 1937.

For personalised advice, our friendly appliance experts are ready to assist on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *