Almost one in five Brits never clean their washing machine, putting them at risk of bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, a recent survey by Glotech repairs has found. The problem is compounded by liquid detergents and low temperature washes. Of course, low temperature washes are better for the environment as they use less energy.
But more people are realising that it pays to care for your washing machine and there is now a big growth in dedicated 'washing machine cleaners'.
But don't take everything at face value. Our lab technicians have tested the acidity of a new Washing Machine Cleaner that's recently been launched from a big brand. One of its claims is 'Limescale Removal' yet the acid is so weak it will have negligible effect....but limescale can't be seen in the machine! Citric acid has 10x the acidity in the wash drum.
There are many posts on the internet about using bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, but this ISN'T the best way. Any GCSE Chemistry student will tell you that the alkali and the acid will cancel each other out.
There are two particular tasks required to keep your washing machine in good health:
- Cleaning - Low temperature washes and liquid detergents in particular aren't always effective at removing build up. This encourages the growth of bacteria, with the resultant odour.
- Limescale Removal - Mineral deposits can build up on internal components, particularly the heating element. Limescale reduces the efficiency of your machine and may reduce its service life.
We advise the following for a trouble free washing machine:
Add Soda Crystals to every wash. Use the soft water dose of your regular detergent and make up the difference in Soda Crystals. You can even use Liquid Soap (formerly Liquid Soap Flakes) instead of your usual powder/liquid detergent. Particularly useful if you have a baby or people with sensitive skin in your family. Liquid Soap is also recommended for cleaning delicate and waterproof clothing.
Use the following amounts of Soda Crystals, depending on your water hardness:
- Medium - 50g
- Hard - 75g
- Very Hard - 100g
Obviously put the crystals in the drum if you put the liquid in the drawer, or vice versa.
Soda Crystals soften the water to help prevent limescale building up on internal surfaces. It also helps with the cleaning of your laundry. For tough stains, use Soda Crystals Laundry Boost. It also helps flush out residual detergent and grime. All three can act as a breeding ground for bacteria, which cause the smell.
You can also use white vinegar in place of conditioner. This also helps keep the machine clean and free of limescale.
Run an empty hot wash of 500g of Soda Crystals, placed in the main drum, to eliminate gunk and clean out any bacteria. If you've not done this before, it may take more than one cycle. If the smell gets worse or you see black bits, it's a sign that the gunk has been lifted and needs flushing out. Hence the need for a second run with Soda Crystals.
If you live in a hard water area
If you have hard water, you can alternate your monthly maintenance clean by using Citric Acid instead of Soda Crystals. Although if you have exceptionally hard water, you may want to carry out these maintenance washes fortnightly.
On alternate months, run an empty hot wash with a box (250g) of citric acid to remove limescale. Not only does limescale build up mean higher energy bills, it can cause corrosion of the heating element. It also can provide a breeding ground for bacteria.
These simple steps will help keep your machine clean, odour and limescale free.
We are often asked if Soda Crystals are suitable for cleaning your dishwasher. Other than cleaning the hinges at the bottom that get gunked up, it's best to use Citric Acid or White Vinegar. Here are the instructions on how to clean your dishwasher.