Do Washing Machine Cleaners Work? (What You Need to Know)

If you’ve ever wondered whether those washing machine cleaners on the shop’s shelves are worth the investment, you’re not alone. 

The short answer: yes, they are. In fact, investing in a good washing machine cleaner can save you time, money, and keep your fabrics smelling fresh!

In this article, we look into why these cleaners are worth the purchase, how they get the job done, and learn more tips for keeping our washing machines hygienic for our family’s use. 

Are Washing Machine Cleaners Worth The Money?

Picture this: you’re using your washing machine to clean your clothes, but when you open the appliance’s door, you’re greeted with the unpleasant smell from your machine and newly washed garments instead. 

person smelling clothes

When your washing machine already has a nasty build-up of limescale, dirt, or even mould, it’s not surprising for it to smell like wet socks, which would, unfortunately, transfer to your clothing if you didn’t do something about it. 

This is where washing machine cleaners can help. The right cleaner will eliminate the nasty buildup in your machine, preventing odours from transferring to your freshly laundered clothes. So, if you ask us, the answer is yes, they are absolutely worth the money.

SEE ALSO: How To Remove Damp, Musty Smells From Clothes

How Washing Machine Cleaners Get The Job Done

Using products like Affresh, Calgon, Oxiclean, and Dettol is simple.

All you need to do is follow the instructions on the packaging, which usually involves pouring the cleaner into the detergent drawer and running an empty hot wash cycle (around 60°C or above) in your washing machine. 

60 Degree Wash Cycle

But how exactly does a washing machine cleaner work?

Essentially, washing machine cleaners typically contain a mix of surfactants, enzymes, and chemicals that work together to break down and dissolve the built-up residue. When they’re added to an empty machine and combined with hot water, the results will ensure a thorough clean. 

Washing machine cleaners are specially formulated solutions designed to remove the unseen gunk that can accumulate in your machine over time. We’re talking about residues from detergents and fabric softeners, and also the occasional fibres and dirt that get loose from your fabrics. 

There are many different types of washer cleaners you can find in the shops. However, it is important to know that what they are made for depends on the ingredients they contain. Some cleaners focus on removing buildup due to hard water, while some are formulated to kill bacteria that cause odours in your machine. 

NOTE: To make your investment worth the price, make sure you’re getting the specific cleaner that will target your issue. If you have hard water in your area, get a cleaner that’s great for preventing limescale, like Calgon. If you want to make your machine smell wonderful, a fragrant cleaner such as Dettol will be your best bet. 

Here are some of the ingredients that we can find in washing machine cleaners, and what they’re commonly used for:


Surfactants, or surface-active agents, are the ingredients that break down dirt, grease, and residues in your machine. As an example, DDAC or Didecyldimethylammonium chloride is a disinfectant that may also enhance the cleaning process by allowing water to mix more easily with the residues.


Enzymes target specific organic stains and residues, tackling protein-based stains like blood or food. This ensures a thorough cleaning, addressing various types of dirt your machine encounters.


Solvents are great for whitening fabrics, but also extremely effective in helping dissolve certain types of stains and residues. They contribute to the overall cleaning power of the solution by breaking down and loosening stubborn deposits.


Scents are often added to give your washing machine a fresh and pleasant odour. They also help mask any lingering odours that may have developed in the machine. 

NOTE: Don’t fancy heavily scented cleaners? No worries. Some individuals may prefer getting fragrance-free options that can be bought in shops, which is better for those who have sensitive skin or various skin conditions. 

Do You Need To Use A Washing Machine Cleaner?

Still wondering whether a washing machine cleaner is worth the extra expense? Consider these benefits:

It Removes Bad Smells

A washing machine cleaner’s main purpose is to clean and kill the germs in your appliance. In doing so, it also eliminates odours, leaving your clothes smelling fresh and clean.

Dylon Washing Machine Cleaner 1 Use, 5-in-1 Washing Machine Cleaner, Freshener and Limescale Remover for Cleaning Washing Machines, Single Application Pack
  • 5-in-1 action: The descaler works on 5 levels to hygenically clean your washing machine, ensuring fresh fragrance and removal of dirt and limescale.
  • Stop dirt: Over time washing machines start to become dirty. Dylon Washing Machine Cleaner helps to rid machines of dirt and limescale for more effective wash cycles.

It Prevents Mould And Mildew Growth

Regular use of washing machine cleaners prevents the growth of mould and mildew in damp, dark corners. This is particularly crucial for front-loading machines prone to trapping moisture, especially on their gaskets.

It Improves The Efficiency Of Your Washer

A cleaner machine is an efficient machine. By eliminating residue buildup, your washing machine operates at its best, providing cleaner clothes and potentially extending its lifespan.

Other Tips To Make Your Washing Machine Sparkle Like New

Taking care of your washing machine is much easier than you may think it is. Here are additional tips:

Schedule A Regular Cleaning Session

Use a cleaner once a month or as needed. Clean the drum, detergent drawer, control panel, and exterior. Don’t forget to scrub door seals with a soft-bristled brush.

SEE ALSO: How To Clean A Washing Machine Like A Pro: Quick & Easy Guide

Read Your Machine’s User Manual

Before using a cleaner, check your machine’s manual for recommendations or restrictions. While most cleaners suit all machines, it’s good to double-check.

Calgon 4-in-1 Washing Machine Cleaner and Water Softener Tablets, Removes Limescale & Odours, Deep Clean, Units: 75 Tablets, Size: XL Pack (Packaging May Vary)
  • Calgon prevents limescale & rust build-up in your washing machine to protect the heating element, pipes and drum of the machine.
  • Washing machine cleaner & limescale remover, removes odours, limescale & residue.

Make Your Own Washing Machine Cleaner

If you prefer avoiding chemicals, create your cleaner using bicarb soda or vinegar. Pour around 2 cups into the detergent tray, select the hottest and longest cycle, and wipe the drum with a microfibre cloth after completion.

Keep Your Clothes Clean And Smell Delightful!

Washing machine cleaners aren’t just hype – they’re a practical solution to keep your appliance running smoothly and your laundry smelling fresh. 

With a little TLC and the right cleaner, your washing machine will be more efficient and give you odour-free cycles.

SEE ALSO: Does Hard Water Make Your Laundry Smell? (& What to Do)

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you really need to use a washing machine cleaner?

Yes, if you want to. Washing machine cleaners eliminate buildup, prevent odours, and keep your machine running efficiently. If you’d like less chemicals, you can use bicarb soda or white vinegar instead.

How does a washing machine cleaner work?

Washing machine cleaners contain surfactants, enzymes, and solvents that break down residues. They’re added to an empty machine and, when combined with hot water, ensure a thorough clean.

How often should you use a washing machine cleaner?

You should use a washing machine cleaner once a month or as needed to prevent odours and maintain your washing machine’s efficiency.

Is it safe to use vinegar in the washing machine?

Yes, it is safe. Pour around 2 cups of vinegar into the detergent tray, select the hottest and longest cycle, and wipe the drum afterwards.

Is vinegar or fabric softener better?

It depends on preference. Vinegar is a natural option for cleaning, while fabric softener adds fragrance. Consider individual needs and skin allergies when choosing.

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