How to clean the inside of a washing machine and keep it that way

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Skilled
1. Clean machines clean clothes better

When it comes to cleaning a washing machine most people do not understand why it's necessary and if they do then how best to do it. How to even tell whether its clean or not ?

We cannot see how dirty the inner tub gets. And it does get dirty. The inner tub collects dirt from clothes, detergent residue and even mould if the machine is not left open to dry out. Always leave the lid open after a wash whether front or top loader as you will greatly reduce the mould problem right there. Scale can also build up if water is hard. If you expect the machine to clean clothes and do it well then it must be cared for and kept clean itself.

Old school twin tub machines in comparison had the tub exposed. No metal basket obscuring the tub. But with front loaders or top loaders we have no idea how dirty the inner tub gets without dismantling the machine. A clean wash basket ie. the metal basket in which you put the clothes could be sparkling. But its the inside plastic tub that collects the dirt and is out of sight. If you could see it you likely would get a shock if you never cleaned the machine before or after a long time.

The only sense we can use here is smell. After washing clothes the only smell you should get is some detergent otherwise nothing. If there is any other smell either not enough detergent was used to wash the clothes or the machine needs a clean. Remember how the machine smelt when it was new. After a wash it smelt of nothing. That is what clean smells like. Nothing!

The reasons a machine gets dirty over time is mainly due to low temperature washing or inadequate high temperature washes, use of liquid detergents and the worst offender of all is fabric softener. There is a vicious cycle at play here. When i see comments on amazon why people buy these products its because they want the laundry to smell fresh.

They start with powder as it's cheapest and low temperature washes to save money on electricity :bored: This then leaves an unpleasant smell of detergent on the clothes so they look for more perfumed detergents. This is where the liquids and tabs come in. After that they graduate to fabric softener. But all this does is compound the smell problem over time. Using more perfume to mask a bad smell is treating the symptom and not addressing the cause.

Liquid detergents and fabric softener are made from oils and leave a fatty residue on the inner tub. This builds up over time and causes an odour. If you stick with powder detergents and avoid liquid you will delay the buildup of smelly residue inside the machine. Now I've been doing just that since i got my front loader over six years ago and still noticed something was not right since a couple of years. But nothing i did could rectify this. At best I'd get a temporary reprieve and then the old damp smell would return every time. I wanted the machine to smell of nothing like it was new and kept looking for ways to get there.

In some cases parents with newborns opt for gentler detergents. If these are soap based a machine will get mouldy much faster as soap is food for mould (!) If using these kinds of soap based detergents be regular with cleaning and do hot (60 degrees) washes regularly. Even then it might not be enough. Best to avoid ANY soap based detergents in a washing machine. I see people trying to DIY their own laundry detergent by using soap. Don't put that in your machine !!


2. Which products to use ?

There are many products on the market that claim to clean a washing machine. What exactly they do needs to be clarified. For many people descaler IS a cleaner. That is because the term 'cleaner' is used interchangeably with descaler. The only way to tell them apart is if you can see the ingredients used in the cleaner. This is up to the manufacturer to disclose and some do. If you see any acids like citric acid then its a descaler. It targets hard water deposits and detergent residue. It does not 'clean', it only descales. These products are cheaper and many will asssume they 'clean' as well but they cannot remove dirt and oil residues. Still, the 'Atomic' vendor pitches it as doing both. I don't buy that. Meaning it might descale alright but not clean as well. Because cleaning and descaling are two differernt tasks with distinct use cases and are mutually exclusive. I'd prefer to use specialised products for each task for a better job than a two in one. Anyway I tried the above linked 'Atomic' product and it foamed up the machine completely. It's not compatible with LG's tub clean cycle despite the front loader picture on its box. It's for top loaders only. So be advised (!)

A 'cleaner' removes residues other than scale that accumulate on the walls of the inner tub. It does so most commonly using oxygen bleach. Typically this will be sodium percarbonate. That is the main ingredient you want in a cleaner and to be effective it needs to be viable. When contacting water especially boiling water it will release oxygen and this can be seen by bubbles and foam released. If you don't see bubbles then it isn't viable and won't work for this purpose.

The way to test viability is to add a teaspoon (5 grams) to a hot water flask and then slowly pour boiling water into it. If it foams, if it fizzes then its good otherwise not. This is a simple test for oxygen bleach. When viable it will loosen residues on the wall of the tub with hot water and the swirling action of the water.

Note that the term is percarbonate (full term sodium carbonate peroxide) , NOT bicarbonate (baking soda) and NOT carbonate (washing soda). When dissolved in water, Percarbonate releases hydrogen peroxide which in turn releases oxygen. It's very important it be stored in an air tight container as contact with any moisture will activate the product and reduce its effectiveness. It becomes plain washing soda after that and won't be of much use to clean as it has expired. This is also the reason not to buy in large quantities as I doubt it will last beyond a year. So buy fresh as per your needs.

So what products can we find in the Indian market that contain sodium percarbonate ?

a) The most common and readily available is Vanish powder. Read further below how to use Vanish as it foams like crazy,

If you try the test mentioned above it will fizz and overflow the flask. But if you try the same experiment with any other washing powder there won't be any fizz as these detergents lack oxygen bleach and this how their costs are kept lower. Even the ones that advertise 'oxy' power. The one stain cleaner, Henko stain champion that said it had oxy ? failed the test !! Liquid detergents by definition don't contain oxygen bleach as detergent scientists haven't figured out how to keep oxygen bleach viable in liquid form.

b) Bosch's washing machine cleaner. It too contains percarbonate. But in my tests i was surprised to find it did not pass the fizz test. This is sad because the ingredients it has are ideal. It even contains TAED which is a bleach activator. That allows bleaching at lower temperatures. Should be very effective but not in my experience. Maybe if it was fresh it might have worked. I'd bought some back in 2019 and only recently opened it. It's supposed to have a 5 year shelf life but i can tell you it was not viable after two. It's also quite expensive for what you get. Rs.700 for just 200 gms. Cheaper alternatives that too more effective are available.

c) Pure Sodium percarbonate , not cut with washing soda so more concentrated than others. Comes with a tight stopper that is tricky to remove. I use a butter knife along the sides and slowly pry it up. Passes the test. The advantage is this product does not foam much and can be used in a higher quantity. More used, more effective the clean. A single dose of 50 gms for starters. Even 100gms if you want. Vanish by comparison only contains 25-50% percarbonate.

d) Feedwale Oxy Fresh, this looked interesting as it was half the price of c). Picked it up and subjected it to the viability test. No fizz. Nothing. TOTAL FAIL! as far as this thread goes. You get what you pay for (!)

e) Diswasher tablets get mentioned by some but when i look at the ingredients of Finish dishwasher tablets i find they only contain 5-10% percarbonate or much less than Vanish. They are designed for dish washers and to clean dishes and less for washing machines. Will be less effective than c) or a) and require more which will create a foaming problem like vanish and this reduces how much you can use in one go.

f) Affresh tabs. These used to be available earlier and contain 60-70% percarbonate. They come in tablet form weighing about 60gms. That is the target dose Whirlpool thinks is enough to clean a machine if used regularly or every 40 washes. The idea of tablets is it releases the percarboanate slowly as the water heats up. They are quite expensive these days. More than twice as dear compared to earlier. I tried the viability test on remaining stock i had and noticed some fizz, so its still viable almost four years after buying. But Affresh won't be an option for most people.

g) Any kind of bleach and i've even seen a toilet bowl cleaner being marketed by Surf as a descaler. The thing with bleach of Rin or clorox is they must include a rust inhibitor in the formulation if you use them regularly. Otherwise i think repeated use is to be avoided. Rin and Clorox do not include a rust inhibitor. Bleach is effective at tackling mould. But percarbonate should address that as well. Maybe not on the gasket but at least on the inside of the tub. If you find any mould on the gasket there's a chance there is mould on the inner tub as well.

An alternative to chlorine bleach was recommended to me some time back and that is Chlorine tabs by Suma. These don't contain the sodium hydroxide that is added as a stabiliser for bleach. To remove odours, three of these tabs in a tub clean was effective but it's only a temporary solution. Try those tabs to remove mould if you want instead of chlorine bleach. They contain accurate dosage compared to other products labelled as chlorine tablets.

Products to look at are a), c) and the Suma tabs.


3. How to do it ?

This post will deal with front loaders only. I will address top loaders later as the method to tackle them uses different dosing as the entire tub is immersed in water and consequently will have more residue. Also the problem is more acute with top loaders as all washes are low temperature unless you feed your top loader with water from a solar heater. That is wash your clothes in minimum 40 degrees C water and no lower which almost nobody does with a top loader. Combo washer dryers too require extra steps which we can get into also.

So the usual cleaning process with a front loader is to run a tub clean monthly. That is a special machine washing cycle recommended by the manufacturer or if that is missing then a boil wash. A regular wash cycle uses less water than the main cycle of the tub clean cycle. The tub clean cycle at least on LG front loaders uses as much water as a rinse cycle for its main wash cycle ie. three times more than used in a regular wash cycle. That is 15 litres as opposed to just 5 litres on my 55 litre drum LG machine.

The tub clean is run either with nothing so plain water or with some product. Many will use descalers here but it won't be as effective for cleaning. The machine manufacturer also says to run it without any clothes. But i've found its more effective if you add some mops or old towels in there.

See, with a front loader the water is confined only to the lower quarter of the tub. As the clothes are washed they spin around and spray whatever comes off them on the sides. Those sides are higher than the water level and rarely see any water so dirt tends to accumulate there. The mops will spray the product water up there and catch the dirt. This is why it is more effective to run a tub clean with some mops in there as opposed to nothing.

You can start with Vanish powder if you like or get the Labogens. Important point with Vanish is to use no more than 20-30 gms as its foams a lot and will fill the front loader full of foam. You don't want that as the machine will get into suds lock and not run the cycle properly.

The way to control the foaming is to add some mops. I use about five, the kind you swab floors with. White and clean with no mould on it. That last bit is important as you don't want to introduce mould into the machine with a dirty mop. Use new ones instead. And some old white face towels. White or light colour is preferred as it will catch dirt and make it more visible. You only need about 500 gms of fabric dry weight. Do NOT use Vanish alone without some fabric in the machine. The fabric will control foaming and it serves a second purpose. It will spray water higher up the tub as the machine spins resulting in a more effective tub clean.

The next bit is you need to pay attention to the colour of water as the wash cycle completes. That is the cycle that uses the product. The two rinse cycles after just rinse out any residue. Your product is long gone at this point. So pay attention to the colour of the water at the end of the first cycle before it drains the water. IMPORTANT !

Is it cloudy or dirty ?

The wash cycle ends, typically after forty minutes and i shine a bright torch inside to check the colour of the water. The first time i did this i was surprised to find the water brown !!! Note that this is just before the water drains, I could see the colour of the water in the machine. I did not need to collect the water in a bucket. You can if you want a more through inspection but I found shining the light before the water drained was good enough.

Most people assume they can get away with one cleaning cycle. That is true if you are regular and I was but it still was not enough as I was not aware of cleaning in this way. I just ran empty tub clean every month or every other month. Some times with citric acid to descale and some times with Affresh. Could not figure out how to use Vanish because 20gm would foam up the machine completely. Disaster! It never struck me to use mops to control the foaming.

The MAIN point here is you need to repeat this process until the water is no longer dirty but clear at the end of the wash component of the tub clean cycle. Until that condition is reached the machine is not clean. It takes repeated attempts if you have not cleaned or never cleaned the machine in years. There is no miracle product out there that can do this in one go. Takes repeated attempts, no two ways about it. It took me five attempts at tub clean using 30 gms Vanish and those mops until the water became clear or not brown. So i started Monday, ran the cycle again the next day and so on until Friday. At the end of this process I finally got to smell nothing. I knew i had done the job, finally.

Now to keep it clean requires this process to be done at least once every 2-3 months. If you use liquid detergents and fabric softener then do it every month. This will keep the machine clean until its end of service.

One way to increase the effectiveness of the first clean is to start the tub clean cycle and give it twenty minutes to heat the water up. When you feel it has done that, switch the machine off at the mains. After two hours, connect the power up and manually restart the tub cycle. Only regular wash cycles resume where the power was cut. The tub clean has to be restarted manually by pressing those two buttons. Once it starts it will realise there is already water and begin heating the water up again. Let it run twenty minutes. Then switch the power off again. After two hours restart and let the machine complete. In this way you are using the benefit of soaking to loosen up any residue inside. It's optional.

Power consumption for the tub clean cycle on my LG is 0.88 kWh. That is how much it costs to heat 15 litres of water to 70 degrees C. Don't skimp on tub clean cycles or you will be running many more later on.

That's all there is to it. Took me years to figure this process out.

Give it a go and post about your experience :)
 
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Skilled
Using Atomic cleaner.jpg


The above is using that 'Atomic' cleaner. Completely full of foam. Not compatible with LG's tubclean cycle. This will also happen if you use just 20gms of Vanish powder with no fabric. This is bad because that foam goes to the back and can affect the bearing seals. You never want this to happen.

20gm Vanish.jpg


Using mops and 20gms of Vanish. The foam is more controlled.

50gm Vanish.jpg


With mops and 50gms of Vanish. Much more foam but still controlled.

50gm pre-dissolved Vanish.jpg


With this one i pre-dissolved 50gm Vanish powder in some tap water and poured it in the detergent drawer before starting the tub clean cycle. Seemed to have brought down the foam. I don't think it affects cleaning efficacy as it will get dissolved with water few minutes into the tub clean cycle anyway. The previous ones i was just putting measured amounts of powder in the detergent drawer.

Labogens_percarbonate_50gm.jpg


and finally this is 50gms of the Labogens percarbonate. There are no mops and yet the foam is not much. I would still recommend using mops in there as it will clean better.

When doing this process after twenty minutes pay attention to the foam that collects in the door gasket. Use a torch to look at it. I noticed some black dots the first time i ran this kind of wash. I knew it was working as it had pulled off some residue. I never thought to look for that before. A bright torch helps see things better.
 
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dexterz

Adept
Planning to get vanish powder tomorrow and run a clean cycle on my LG front load WM with a teaspoon or two of vanish powder. Will drop some bath towels or floor mats to control the foam. Do you add the vanish powder directly into the tub or in the usual detergent slot?
 

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Skilled
Planning to get vanish powder tomorrow and run a clean cycle on my LG front load WM with a teaspoon or two of vanish powder. Will drop some bath towels or floor mats to control the foam. Do you add the vanish powder directly into the tub or in the usual detergent slot?
Detergent drawer is fine. Less bending. You can put it in the drum as well.

How old is your machine ?

How did you clean it before ?
 

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Skilled
Planning to get vanish powder tomorrow and run a clean cycle on my LG front load WM with a teaspoon or two of vanish powder. Will drop some bath towels or floor mats to control the foam. Do you add the vanish powder directly into the tub or in the usual detergent slot?
If you add all that then 4 teaspoons to start with will get you to 20-30 gms. That should be ok as you can see in the photos.

Get a feel for how the foam builds and after you can decide if you want to use more.

When you run an empty Rinse+Spin cycle does the machine smell of anything after you open the door ? that is your guide.
About 4years old. LG's descale powder bought from the service technician
Well, you've done what they told you. Let's see what happens :)
Nice article and quite informative. I will have to do this quite a few times as i have not cleaned the machine in several months.
If you use the Labogens you will be able to use larger doses and maybe fewer tub clean cycles. With Vanish the foaming increases much more requiring smaller doses and more cycles.

The reason for more cycles is these chemicals are gentle and safe for repeated use with the machine. Both Whirlpool & Bosch think so.

Harsher stuff does the job faster but raises the question of secondary effects on rubber seals and such. That is the mitigating factor to using stronger stuff. Not something you can run once a month or repeatedly use.
 
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dazzwilliams

Disciple
If you use the Labogens you will be able to use larger doses and maybe fewer tub clean cycles. With Vanish the foaming increases much more requiring smaller doses and more cycles.
Can you share the link to the correct chemical composition?
Amazon search for labogens throws out multiple options
 
@blr_p - Any special tips / points for top loading machines. And I guess the hot water soaking should do the trick.

PS - The puny overhead water is heated plenty in NOIDA. It's almost impossible to touch water during peak afternoon. It's that hot. Lol. Saves me the time for first heat cycle.
 
@blr_p No mention of how excessive use to detergent would lead to sudsing and hence damage the internal drum and components? Having a measured scoop or some sought of a marker will help in adding detergent in moderation rather than blindly adding 60gms when it might not be needed all the time.
I have given it a cursory read since it was a long post and plan to read it in detail when I get hold of laptop. If already mentioned, then nevermind..
Nevertheless, good writeup..
 

blr_p

Skilled
Can you share the link to the correct chemical composition?
Amazon search for labogens throws out multiple options
Already linked in the main post.


The company is called Labogens but sodium percarbonate from any chemical company will work so long as it passes the viability test described.

Labogens consistency is like Vanish powder. It's good. I could hear it fizzing like club soda for a good 20 minutes in the flask.

If you can find it in tablet form that will dissolve slower even better for front loader use. Used in Aquaculture. @TEUser2K1 any tips where to get tablets ?

This is as close as you can get to Affresh tabs. A detergent scoop's worth of those tabs into the drum every couple of months and you are set :)

Works out cheaper to get things from other industries than directly targeted products.

Thing is getting it in small amounts like a kg or less. Chemical companies sell it in 25kg or larger sacks for commercial use.

This was the only one I found on amazon for percarbonate from a chemical company.
No mention of how excessive use to detergent would lead to sudsing and hence damage the internal drum and components?
Having a measured scoop or some sought of a marker will help in adding detergent in moderation rather than blindly adding 60gms when it might not be needed all the time.
Excessive use of liquid detergents together with low temperature washing will lead to more residue buildup and unwanted smell for sure.

It's easy to overdose detergent if using tabs and doing smaller loads.
 
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dexterz

Adept
Went out and bought the vanish oxirich detergent booster. @blr_p I just need to put the towels in the tub, add 4teaspoons of the vanish powder and set the machine to the tub clean cycle right? No need for detergent?
 

blr_p

Skilled
Went out and bought the vanish oxirich detergent booster. @blr_p I just need to put the towels in the tub, add 4teaspoons of the vanish powder and set the machine to the tub clean cycle right? No need for detergent?
No detergent to be added. Detergent adds nothing useful for this task and is counterproductive in that it will create more foam.

Also you need to watch the water towards the end of the wash cycle or collect it in a bucket
I will have to do this quite a few times as i have not cleaned the machine in several months.
What process do you follow to clean your top loader ?
 
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What process do you follow to clean your top loader ?

I take out the lint filter. Clean all the debris from it. Then I use a brush [scotch brite one medium size] and handwash to it.
Next I use the LG descaler [although I have a whirlpool machine, but i guess a descaler is universal] and use it with TUB CLEAN mode. I DO NOT use any fabric during this cleaning procedure.
After the cycle is finishes, i simply use an old T shirt to wipe everything clean.

But this time around I followed your guide, and my god the water that came out was way much more dirty than what I had anticipated. I will have to follow the process for 3-4 more cycles. But one thing i noticed that using Vanish tends to leave some water stain on the inside of the drum. Is that normal? or did I use way too much vanish powder?
 

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Skilled
I take out the lint filter. Clean all the debris from it. Then I use a brush [scotch brite one medium size] and handwash to it.
Next I use the LG descaler [although I have a whirlpool machine, but i guess a descaler is universal] and use it with TUB CLEAN mode. I DO NOT use any fabric during this cleaning procedure.
After the cycle is finishes, i simply use an old T shirt to wipe everything clean.
Yeah, descaler won't do much for smell. If you have hard water do not discontinue use of the descaler. It does have a purpose just not for cleaning.

Can you describe the tub clean mode of your machine ? What does it do and how long does it run. How high is the water level from the top gasket when you do tub cleans

What are the dimensions of your tub, diameter and height up to the top gasket ?

Post the model#
But this time around I followed your guide, and my god the water that came out was way much more dirty than what I had anticipated.
Heh! I have yet to post the guide for top loaders so hold up :)

There are a number of ways to go about it which I wil propose and you guys can decide what wil work.
I will have to follow the process for 3-4 more cycles.
How much Vanish powder did you use ? the one I posted at top is for front loaders

The process is different as are the dosages. Since entire drum is immersed in the wash unlike front loaders.

Btw, there is no need to use any fabric when doing tub clean with top loaders.

Fabric is hack I came up with only for front loaders tub cleaning.
But one thing i noticed that using Vanish tends to leave some water stain on the inside of the drum. Is that normal? or did I use way too much vanish powder?
Can you post a photo, I don't understand what you mean by water stain
 
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I have a whirlpool 6.5 kg top loading machine.
The water setting is kept at "high" level (there are five level very low, low, medium, high, very high) and water temperature is "hot" (there are three levels warm/hot/very hot).

The machine takes 1.5 hours to complete the entire cycle.

The water level is just a few inches away from the tub. And the cycle is also quite vigorous.

I had used about 75g of the Vanish powder. Or about 1.5 scoop provided in the packet. As the water is more in my case. I also used 3 small kitchen towels. They were fairly clean but NOT spanking clean. You idea was great for including the towels during cleaning cycle. It actually REDUCES the water splash in top loading machine.

To the make the process better i intentionally paused the machine for 30 mins (although it causes the machine to emit beep every 30 seconds or so. Like a UPS which is hell irritating). So that the dirt and other Grimes can have enough time to soak.

Will share the pictures of the inside of tub later today. The water is quite hard in my area. So will have to use descaler too later.
 
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