How To Run A Clean Cycle On A Washing Machine

Washing machines are a great appliance for getting your laundry clean. But did you know you should also keep your washing machine clean as well? 

In this article we’ll show you exactly how to clean your washing machine and answer many related questions along the way.

Why Do Washing Machines Need Cleaning?

Every time you run your washing machine, you expose it to dirt, bacteria and mould. Over time these particles can build up and cause your machine to start to smell pretty bad. 

You might also notice black mould build up around the door or door seal on a frontloader and around the lid of a toploader. This is not only bad from the point of view that it can cause the machine to break down… 

It’s also bad from the point of view that clothes might not get completely clean if the washing machine is dirty.

How Often Do Washing Machines Need To Be Cleaned?

You should be working on the assumption that prevention is better than cure. Which means you should clean your washing machine once a month or at least once every 30 washes.

Is There A Specific Clean Cycle On The Washing Machine?

Some washing machines have a specific clean cycle  which might be called a service wash or maintenance wash. But not all do so you’ll need to consult your machine’s user manual to find out details about your machine. 

The manual will also tell you whether the machine has a self clean feature or not. If it has a self clean feature it will be easier to clean the machine.

Other information found in the user manual pertaining to cleaning the appliance could include various cleaning products that should not be used in the machine. Failure to comply with these instructions could lead to any warranty you have on the appliance being made void.

Remember, all washing machines are different so what’s acceptable to use on one brand could be completely unacceptable on another.

How To Run A Clean Cycle On A Washing Machine

Self Clean Cycle

The way you run a cleaning cycle on your washing machine will depend on whether it has a self cleaning feature or not. Let’s start with how to use the self cleaning feature first.

How To Operate The Self Clean Feature On A Washing Machine

You should check your user manual for specific instructions but the self clean feature generally works in the following manner;

  1. Check that the drum is empty
  2. Run the self clean feature by selecting the option on the control board
  3. After the cycle has finished, if there’s a lot of soap scum or other residue left in the machine, you might need to run another self clean cycle

Before using the self clean cycle check in your machine’s user manual for any specific instructions concerning the use of any specific cleaners. Most self clean cycles run without the need for any type of cleaning solution but you should always check first.

How Long Does The Self Clean Cycle Take?

The duration of the self clean cycle varies from appliance to appliance. They can take anywhere between 1 to 4 hours to complete.

How To Clean A Washing Machine Without A Self Clean Cycle

If your machine doesn’t have a self clean cycle, you can still clean it to prevent any build up of mould, dirt, bacteria or germs. All you need to do is run the machine when empty using the hottest wash programme your machine has.

This will generally be a 90 C wash which will remove even the most stubborn germs and bacteria. See below for more specific cleaning instructions.

Cleaning A Front Loader (popular in UK)

distilled white vinegar washing machine

The only cleaning chemical needed for this operation is distilled white vinegar.

  1. Spray white vinegar onto the door rubber and wipe with a microfibre cloth. Be sure to get into all of the folds of the door rubber.
  2. Select the hottest wash setting (90 C) and the longest wash cycle.
  3. Pour 2 cups of distilled white vinegar into the detergent dispenser drawer.
  4. Press start on the machine
  5. Once the cycle has completed, run another hot cycle but add ½ cup of bicarbonate of soda to the drum first.
  6. Once the cycle has completed, wipe the drum and the door rubber with a microfibre cloth.

Once the cleaning cycle has completed remember to clean the filter and the outside of the machine too.

Cleaning A Top Loader (popular in USA & Canada)

Cleaning a top loader uses exactly the same chemicals as cleaning a front loader – distilled white vinegar.

  1. Select the longest wash cycle and the hottest temperature setting.
  2. Pour 4 cups of distilled white vinegar into the drum.
  3. Once the cycle starts, pause it and let the vinegar/hot water solution stand for at least 1 hour.
  4. Whilst the machine is paused, wipe the top of the machine using a microfibre cloth dipped in the vinegar solution.
  5. If there is an agitator in the machine and it has a removable cap, remove the cap and clean the inside.
  6. You can then clean the fabric softener and bleach dispensers using an old toothbrush.
  7. Recommence the wash cycle
  8. Once the cycle finishes, run a second wash using 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda.
  9. Once that cycle finishes, wipe the top and inside of the washer with a microfibre cloth to remove any residue.

Top Tips To Keep Your Washing machine Clean

Here are a few ways to help keep your washing machine cleaner for longer.

  • To help prevent mould and mildew from forming, you should leave the door of the washing machine open when not in use. This allows it to dry out completely. Mould and mildew need damp conditions to thrive.
  • You should run a hot wash in between regular washes to help remove dirt and detergent build up from the machine.
  • Never leave wet clothes sitting in the washing machine drum as this encourages mould and mildew growth.
  • Clean the filter on a regular basis.
  • Clean the seals, drum, door, top and front of your machine regularly.

Can I Use Chemical Cleaners In My Washing Machine?

If you don’t want to use natural cleaning agents like white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, there are proprietary washing machine cleaners available. 

You will need to check with your washing machine manufacturer on whether specific cleaners can be used but here are a few proprietary washing machine cleaners.

Dettol Antibacterial Washing Machine Cleaner

Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner 250ml, Laundry, Antibacterial, Deep Clean Washing Machine Removes Limescale, Odours & Dirt, Descales, Clean Washing Machine Drum, Seals, & Pipes, Original Fresh Scent
  • 5-in-1 PROTECTION: Bacteria, Odours, Limescale, Dirt, Freshness
  • KILLS 99.9 Percent OF BACTERIA: Dettol washing machine cleaner kills 99.9 Percent of bacteria

This 5 in 1 cleaner from Dettol removes bacteria, odours, limescale, dirt and produces a clean smell which eliminates bad odours.

Calgon Hygiene +

Calgon Hygiene Plus Washing Machine Cleaner & Limescale Remover, Water Softener Tablets, Helps to Maintain your Washing Machine, 65 Tablets, Pack of 1
  • Hygienically cleans your machine for a deeper clean
  • Unbeatable protection against limescale and residue and eliminates bad odours

This product can be used on its own or is safe to use along with your laundry (check before use).

Dr. Beckmann Service It Deep Clean

ORIGINAL Dr.Beckmann Service-it Deep Clean Washing Machine Cleaner, 1 Treatment
  • Removes 99.99% of bacteria, viruses and fungi which can lead to bad and unpleasant odours
  • Hygienically cleans deep inside your washing machine, leaving a fresh lemon fragrance

This cleaning product from Dr Beckmann removes 99.99% of bacteria and viruses as well as hygienically cleaning your washing machine and leaves a pleasant smell when finished.

Eco-Gals Swirlz Washing Machine Cleaner

Eco-Gals Swirlz Washing Machine Cleaner, 24 Count, 1 Year Supply
  • Eco-Swirlz' unique foaming action empowers you to live your dream while your washing machine cleans itself.
  • Fresh, Green & Clean. Get the Job Done. Protect the Environment. Feel Good.

This product employs a foaming action to deep clean your washing machine and eliminate germs, bacteria and odours.

SEE ALSO: How Long Does The Delicate Wash Cycle Take? (and what it’s for)

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you put detergent in for a clean cycle?

There is no need to use detergent when running a clean cycle on a washing machine. You can use a proprietary washing machine cleaner or white vinegar to assist with the removal of mould, bacteria, germs and detergent residue.

How often do you have to run a clean cycle on a washing machine?

It is recommended that you run a cleaning cycle once a month or every 30 washes on a washing machine.

How long does a clean cycle last?

Depending on the make and model of your washing machine, a cleaning cycle can last anywhere between 1 to 4 hours.

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