Washing Machine Not Cleaning Clothes? (this might be why)

We all take our washing machines for granted, we load them with dirty washing, add detergent, select the program and walk away. When we come back to empty the machine, the clothes are clean and smell fresh. But what happens if on your return the clothes are smelly and still dirty?

 If that’s what you’ve just experienced, keep reading as we take you through the most probable reasons for your washing machine to not clean your clothes. The most common reasons are often not down to any mechanical faults, just human error. Which is good news as it means you won’t need to call an engineer to repair your machine.

Quick Tip

If the laundry is too soiled it might be necessary to presoak the washing or apply detergent directly onto specific stains before putting them through a wash cycle. This could explain why the washing machine is not cleaning the clothes. If not, consider the following.

Too Many Clothes In The Drum

You might think you’re being super efficient by cramming as many clothes into the machine as you can. But, too many clothes in the machine can lead to them coming out just as dirty and smelly as they went in. You see washing needs to move around in the drum so that the detergent can get into all the creases and folds.

As a general rule you should never fill the drum above ¾ full of laundry. This allows enough room for the washing to move freely, and allow the water to soak into each item of clothing.

Using An Incorrect Amount Of Detergent

It’s pretty obvious that not adding enough detergent will cause insufficient cleaning of your laundry, but did you know that using too much can also cause the same issue. Too much detergent will result in too many suds which will confuse the washing machines sensors resulting in the laundry not cleaning properly.

Using The Wrong Type Of Detergent

There are specific detergents for automatic washing machines (HE) and specific detergents for different types of laundry. Whites, coloureds, delicates, wool etc all require specific detergents to clean them properly. Using an incorrect detergent can result in poorly cleaned clothes.


Using The Wrong Program

Modern washing machines have lots of different programs which many of us ignore. We get stuck using the same setting time after time. This can cause the laundry to not get washed properly.

You need to check the labels on the clothing and follow the washing instructions. It might take longer but it’s more efficient in the long run.

The Machine Needs Cleaning

It’s easy to assume that as it’s a washing machine, it cleans itself right? But that’s not strictly true, over time detergent can build up in the dispenser, mould and mildew can form in the drawer, drum and around the door seal. All of this can contribute to your laundry not getting as clean as it should. 

To clean your washing machine you’ll need to remove the detergent dispenser drawer and soak it in warm water for around 20 minutes. Then using a toothbrush remove any stuck on detergent or softener residue. Using a one in four solution of white vinegar and water, wipe all round the drum and the door seal using a soft cloth or sponge. Finally replace the drawer and run the machine on a hot wash with no clothes added. Your machine should now be fresh and clean and ready for your next wash load.

Water Jets Are Blocked

Above the detergent dispenser there are a number of water jets that can become clogged or partially clogged due to calcium build-up. Remove the drawer and gently push a cocktail stick into each jet hole to ensure the correct amount of water pressure to dilute the detergent and clean the laundry.

The Drain Pump Filter Is Blocked

The reason your clothes aren’t cleaning could be because the drain pump filter has a blockage. Spread a towel on the floor in front of the filter, remove the filter, which is usually located on the front of the machine at the bottom (consult your handbook) and remove anything that shouldn’t be in there. Things like buttons, bra wires, screws, nails, hair pins etc can get caught in this filter which will cause just enough of an obstruction to prevent water draining completely resulting in clothes not washing properly.

Drain Hose Blocked

If the filter is clear, it could be the actual drain hose has a blockage. Remove the drain hose from the rear of the machine and inspect it for any kinks or obvious blockages. You can use a plumber’s snake to clear any obstacles before refitting the hose.

The Machine’s Heater Isn’t Working

If you selected a hot wash and the clothes still didn’t clean, it could be the heater element has packed up. If you suspect this to be the case, we’d advise you to call an engineer.

Is Your Washing Machine Level?

Washing Machine

If your washing machine is not sited on a level floor, it could be enough to prevent the detergent from dispensing evenly. An unlevel machine could also reduce the spin speed and affect draining as well. To adjust the level of your machine, twist the screw section on the feet. 

Clogged Lint Trap

Not all machines have a lint trap, but if yours does and it is full it could cause your laundry to not clean properly. Consult your handbook to see whether you have a lint trap and if so where it’s located. Once you locate the lint trap, remove it from the machine and wash it in warm soapy water until all of the lint is removed. Before replacing it into your machine make sure the trap door operates correctly and there are no visible cracks or faults.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my washing machine not getting my clothes clean?

The two main causes for the washing machine not getting your clothes clean are, overloading the machine or a clogged detergent dispenser.

What is the brown gunk in my washing machine?

The brown gunk found in your washing machine is commonly referred to as “scrud” and is where fabric softener has come into contact with detergent and caused a reaction. If this scrud comes into contact with your clothes it will stain them.

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