Cleaning your washing machine

You can clean your washing machine in the following way: Put half a glass of baking soda, or half a glass of natural vinegar, in the drum. Turn on a boiling wash of at least 90º degrees. Because of this high temperature all the dirt will be removed inside the washing machine. Finally, run everything along with a damp cloth, do not forget the rubbers!

Cleaning your washing machine



Picture of Yannick

A wash geek since 2017

Why should you clean your washing machine?

Many people assume that it is not necessary to clean your washing machine at all, because the appliance is designed to clean. Nevertheless, it is very important to clean your washing machine from time to time. If you don’t clean your washing machine properly, there’s a good chance it will develop limescale or grease lice and this can be harmful to your washing machine and/or cause your laundry to become less clean. Here are the reasons why we clean washing machines:

  • Cleaner laundry: without you knowing it, particles can get stuck in your washing machines that keep your laundry from being as clean as it could be. Leftover detergent, grease and hair accumulate in nooks and crannies of your washing machine, providing a breeding ground for bacteria. This forms a grey, smelly goo, known as grease lice or laundry lice. Not very hygienic, and it can also cause stains that are difficult to remove.
  • Fresh smelling: If you want your laundry to smell good, you can’t have a smelly washing machine. Regularly cleaning your washing machine, especially the drum, will take out any foul smells and stop it smelling.
  • Your washing machine will last longer: this of course applies to most appliances – if you maintain it properly, they will last longer. Keeping your washing machine clean reduces the risk of parts wearing out, malfunctioning or breaking down.
  • Save money: when your washing machine is clean, it does its job best! This means it heats up water quickly, you can use a short cycle and you won’t have to run an extra wash cycle just because your clothes aren’t completely fresh out of the drum. This saves you water and energy, so your bills stay nice and low.
  • Bonus fact: washing machines get dirty faster these days. This is because they use less water and wash at a low temperature. This is best for the environment and your wallet, but this could be the reason why your washing machine stinks and you need to clean it every now and then.

Cleaning a washing machine: how and how often?

Now you know how important it is to keep your washing machine clean, you probably want to know how to go about it. Cleaning a washing machine is actually very simple and it is only necessary once in a while. Usually, doing it once a month is enough. Our first tip is: read the instruction manual of your specific washing machine. The ‘maintenance’ section will tell you exactly how to clean it.

Don’t have your washing machine’s manual to hand? If so, these tips are universal and can be applied to almost all washing machines. To clean a washing machine, follow these steps:

  • Cleaning the washer rubbers: the rubbers are the rubber on the door of the washing machine, also known as the “cuff”. Moisture and excess detergent and dirt often cling to them. Clean the rubbers by wiping them with a cloth.
  • Cleaning the washing machine’s soap dish: Whenever you use the soap dish, for example for liquid detergent or fabric softener, there is always some soap residue left in it. This soap residue attracts other dirt – such as dust and bacteria – and makes for a smelly washing machine. Clean it by wiping it clean.
  • Simply run a 90 degree programme: this is known as a ‘boil wash’. Running at a high temperature loosens a lot of dirt and kills many bacteria. You can do this with or without washing.

Then there are several things you can do to clean your washing machine. Our advice: read through them all and decide what suits you best.

Cleaning the washing machine with soda

Soda binds and neutralizes acids through a chemical reaction. Very useful when cleaning, as it helps you get rid of foul smells and grease stains. To clean your washing machine with soda, you can put half a cup of soda in the washing machine – through the soap dish or directly into the drum. Then, run a second wash cycle at 90 degrees – this time without laundry.

When it has finished running, all soap residue, grease and dirt should have been removed from the drum. Vinegar is a natural product, so you can use more of it to clean your washing machine. Many people pour out a whole bottle of cleaning vinegar each time they clean – but if you keep up with your cleaning, you can use less. It’s up to you whether you add vinegar through the soap dish or directly into the drum. Then you can run a program at 90 degrees. You can use either cleaning vinegar or natural vinegar. If you do not have vinegar or baking soda in the house, you can also use a dishwasher tablet to clean the washing machine.

You can place these in the soap dish as well as directly in the drum, and then run the hottest washing programme, at a minimum of 90 degrees. Just don’t forget to remove the wrapper from the dishwasher tablet. Many dishwasher tablets now come with soluble packaging, which you should also remove when using them to clean washing machines. If the package does not dissolve properly, it can cause a blockage in your pipes, which is not something anyone wants to see. It is quite normal, but you want to do something about it. That’s because limescale build-up on your washing machine’s heating element can make it take longer to heat up – costing you more time and electricity – but it can also cause the heating element to fail.

Preventing Limescale

There are several things you can do to prevent limescale from forming in your washing machine. Here are our two tips:

  • Find out online how hard the water is that comes out of your pipes. The hardness of the water determines how quickly lime scale is formed. Then read the packaging of your detergent, because it contains ingredients that prevent limescale from forming. If you use too little detergent for the hardness of your water, your laundry might get clean but lime might still form on the heating element. Adjust the amount of detergent according to the recommendations on the packet
  • Lime builds up faster at high temperatures. To avoid limescale, wash at a low temperature. To avoid limescale, wash at 30 or 40 degrees rather than 60 or 90.

Removing limescale

Do you wash at 60 or 90 degrees regularly? Or does your detergent do nothing against limescale? Then it is important to regularly clean and descale your washing machine. Once a month is enough, and fortunately this job is a piece of cake! These are our tips for descaling washing machines:

  • Supermarket descaler: You can buy descaler tablets or descaling solution. The instructions for your descaler will tell you how to use them. This usually involves running a 60 degree wash cycle.
  • Descaling with baking soda: You put half a cup of baking soda in the soap dish or directly into the drum – make sure it is empty – then you can run a 90 or 95 degree cycle.
  • Descaling with vinegar: This is almost exactly the same as descaling with baking soda, for this you empty a bottle of cleaning vinegar into the drum or soap dish. Run the machine at 90 or 95 degrees and you’re done! Most likely you have grease lice. This is an accumulation of excess detergent, grease, hair, skin cells, bacteria and more. Not very hygienic, but it also makes your ‘clean’ clothes smell and get stained.

Preventing Grease Lice

  • How do you prevent grease lice? We have several tips, all of which can be done in a jiffy:Use less detergent: Detergent is often the source of grease lice. Soap residue gets stuck in the rubbers of the washing machine (on the door) and all sorts of other dirt gets stuck in there. Do not use more detergent than necessary per wash. This is a normal wash cycle but at 90 or 95 degrees. This will remove a lot of soap scum, residue, bacteria and odours from a smelly washing machine.
  • Wipe the soap dish: There is often a residue of detergent in here, causing other junk to get stuck in there and create grease lice. This can be solved by swiping a cloth through it once in a while.
  • Leave the door open: Bacteria love a damp washing machine. Leaving the door open after each wash will allow it to dry properly and prevent grease lice from developing.

Get rid of grease lice

Do you regularly clean your washing machine and follow the tips above? Then you will not be so bothered by grease lice. If it does happen, here are two steps you can take to get it clean.

  • Cooking wash: Nowadays we often wash at low temperatures, often as low as 60 degrees. However, by occasionally running a hot program (90 or 95 degrees), a lot of dirt is loosened, including fatty lice.
  • Repeat with vinegar: By turning on the same wash cycle again afterwards, but with a splash of vinegar, you neutralise the smell and remove any remaining grease.
Picture of Yannick

A wash geek since 2017

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