Is It Ok To Use Caustic Soda To Clean A Washing Machine? (read this first)

Caustic soda is an extremely strong chemical that can cause serious damage and injury if used incorrectly. Which begs the question: can you safely use caustic soda to clean the washing machine?

There are several legitimate uses for caustic soda which include; clearing blocked drains, removing oil and grease and as a weed killer. However, I don’t recommend using caustic soda in the washing machine.

This is because caustic soda is so powerful and can damage certain metals, as well as rubber seals and hoses. In some cases, the damage caused can be so severe that the machine will need to be replaced.

Added to which, if there is any residue left in the machine, it will ruin your laundry the next time you put a wash on.

There are a few people that swear by using caustic soda to clean the washing machine. But it’s not the safest idea and there are many more suitable and safer alternatives out there.

How To Use Caustic Soda When Cleaning The Washing Machine

open washing machine door

As I just said, I don’t and never will endorse using caustic soda to clean a washing machine. But if you are determined to try it, keep reading, however, I cannot stress enough that you do so at your own risk.

A Brief Word About Safety

Before reaching for the caustic soda you should understand the following;

  • Caustic soda is a strong and potentially harmful chemical that can cause serious damage and personal injury unless controlled and used correctly.
  • Caustic soda can damage iron, copper, plastics, rubber and coated surfaces which could cause potential damage to your washing machine.
  • It is essential that you wear protective clothing when using caustic soda. This includes protection for the hands (gloves), eyes (safety goggles), respiratory system (face mask), and skin (overalls and apron).
  • Caustic soda should never be mixed with any other products due to the potential for seriously harmful chemical reactions.
  • Always ensure the area you are working in is fully ventilated (open windows, doors etc).
  • Keep caustic soda away from pets and children and don’t allow them to touch it at all.
  • Always keep the container sealed shut and out of reach of pets and children.
  • Using caustic soda in your washing machine is likely to void your warranty.

There’s also a good chance that you won’t be able to buy caustic soda on its own. You will probably need to buy a cleaning product that contains caustic soda as one of its ingredients.

To use caustic soda to clean the washing machine, do the following under caution:

  1. Disconnect the power supply to prevent the washer turning on accidentally.
  2. Put on your personal protective equipment (overalls, apron, gloves, face mask and goggles).
  3. Consult the instruction label on the caustic soda packaging and then use half as much as is recommended (remember this stuff is super powerful and corrosive as well as dangerous).
  4. Add the product to the empty drum of the washer.
  5. Run a 90o C service wash without adding clothes, detergent, fabric softener or any other cleaning agents.
  6. When the cycle has finished, check the machine whilst still wearing the personal protective equipment.
  7. Check the machine for any signs of damage, if there is any damage, it will need to be fixed before the machine can be used again.
  8. Run another wash cycle with added detergent to ensure all remains of the caustic soda have been removed.

If you are uncomfortable about using caustic soda to clean your washing machine (and you should be), you should use one of the safe alternative products listed below.

Safer Alternatives For Cleaning A Washing Machine

bicarbonate of soda

Your washing machine should be cleaned regularly to remove dirt, grease, grime, detergent & fabric softener residue, as well as mildew and mould spores. 

There are several safe alternative cleaners that can be used to clean a washing machine which include;

  • Bicarbonate Of Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Commercial Washing Machine Cleaners

Bicarbonate Of Soda

Grow Chem Baking Soda, Sodium Bicarbonate (5kg Bucket) UK MADE Pure Baking Soda for ECO Friendly Cleaning, Baking, Bath Bombs, Odour Removal and Teeth Cleaning
  • ECO-FRIENDLY: Sodium Bicarbonate / Baking Soda is one of the top eco-friendly , safe and inexpensive cleaning, baking and household products available.
  • CLEANING: Baking Soda is particularly useful in food preparation, cleaning surfaces, ovens, grills, microwaves and fridges whilst also deodorising and freshening without leaving any harsh chemical smells.

Bicarbonate of soda has many uses around the home from cake making to removing stains from laundry. It can also be used to clean your washing machine as well.

Just add 1 cupful of bicarbonate of soda to the drum of the washer before running a hot 90o C service wash. One of the benefits of using bicarbonate of soda is it deodorises as well as cleans without leaving any scent behind.

What’s The Difference Between Caustic Soda & Bicarbonate Of Soda?

Bicarbonate of soda is often confused with caustic soda but the two are completely different chemicals. Caustic soda consists of sodium hydroxide whereas bicarbonate of soda consists of sodium bicarbonate.

Caustic soda is a corrosive alkali that can cause chemical burns and is mainly used as a cleaning agent and under controlled conditions in a laboratory.

Bicarbonate of soda is used as an antacid, a water softener, a pesticide, in fire extinguishers, in baking and as a natural cleaner.

White Vinegar

White Vinegar 5L - Food Grade Suitable for Cleaning, Cooking, Baking, Pickling, Marinating, Weed Killer
  • Natural and eco-friendly: Pure Chem's White Vinegar is made from natural ingredients, free from harsh chemicals and additives, and is a safe and eco-friendly alternative to traditional cleaning products.
  • Versatile cleaning agent: This vinegar's acidic properties make it a powerful cleaner, cutting through grease, grime, and stains on a variety of surfaces. It can be used to clean floors, tiles, countertops, and even as a natural fabric softener.

White vinegar is a natural disinfectant and degreaser and can be used to clean the washing machine in the same way as bicarbonate of soda. Just add 1 to 2 cups of white vinegar to the empty drum before running a hot 90o C service wash.

Just ensure you give the machine an extra rinse cycle to remove any traces of vinegar, because too much vinegar can have an adverse effect on the rubber hoses and seals over time.

Commercial Washing Machine Cleaners

There are several commercial washing machine cleaners available on line or in stores all round the UK. They include;

Simply follow the instructions on the packaging to ensure your washing machine is thoroughly clean.

For full information on how to clean a washing machine like a pro, click here.

What Is Caustic Soda Used For?

caustic soda flakes

Caustic soda has a variety of uses in the home which include cleaning and unblocking drains and pipes. Clogged drains or blocked pipes are often caused by grease or fat buildup. Caustic soda turns fat and grease into soap which can easily be washed away with water.

Outside of the home, caustic soda is used in the production of paper. It is used to break down the wood fibres to create pulp used for paper making. It is also used to bleach the pulp white to create paper.

It is also used as a powerful cleaner for removing grease and fat from industrial stainless steel cookware. Some gardeners use caustic soda as a weed killer, however, it takes a large amount of caustic soda to cover a relatively small area of weeds and there are better and safer commercial weed killers available.

Always Remember

Caustic soda is potentially dangerous if used in large quantities or for extended periods of time without taking adequate precautions. The amount of damage caustic soda can cause will depend on the amount used, the length of exposure and the activity being done.

Caustic soda is known to cause damage to skin, eyes, the lungs and the digestive system. Which is why I stressed earlier about always taking adequate precautions including wearing personal protective equipment.

SEE ALSO: How To Run A Clean Cycle On A Washing Machine

Frequently Asked Questions

Is caustic soda harmful to humans?

Caustic soda is potentially harmful to humans, it can cause chemical burns to skin, eyes, the lungs and the digestive system. The level of injury is determined by the amount of caustic soda the person is exposed to and how long the exposure lasts.

Why is it not advisable to use caustic soda to clean a washing machine?

It is not advisable to use caustic soda to clean a washing machine because it is corrosive. Not only can caustic soda cause chemical burns to people, it can also damage iron, copper, plastics, rubber and coated surfaces. This will put many areas of the washing machine at risk of serious damage and using caustic soda in your washing machine will almost certainly void your warranty.

Will caustic soda melt plastic pipes?

Caustic soda is an extremely powerful corrosive that can remove grease and fat with ease. However, it can melt plastic pipes if left in contact with them for too long.

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