Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Your washing machine reliably washes stains, odours and bacteria out of your laundry. To keep it that way, the washing machine itself also needs care. Unsightly deposits can form in the machine. To ensure that your washing machine washes optimally and energy-efficiently for as long as possible, you can use washing machine cleaners.

With our washing machine cleaner test 2022 we want to help you find the right washing machine cleaner. We have compared different washing machine cleaners with each other and compiled the respective advantages and disadvantages. This will help you find the perfect washing machine cleaner as easily as possible.


  • Depending on the type of product, washing machine cleaners can disinfect, deep clean and/or descale your washing machine. They extend the life of your washing machine and improve its energy efficiency.
  • Washing machine cleaners can be used for preventive care as well as for basic cleaning. At the latest when your washing machine smells unpleasant or no longer washes properly, you should use washing machine cleaner.
  • Washing machine cleaner can be used regularly, but should not be used excessively, as the ingredients can attack hoses and seals. Other washing habits and the hardness of the water also play an important role.

The Best Washing Machine Cleaner in the United Kingdom: Our Choices

Buying and evaluation criteria for washing machine cleaners

If you want to decide on a suitable washing machine cleaner, there are various aspects that you should consider.

The buying criteria include:

In the following sections, we describe what you need to look for in each of the buying criteria.

Dosage form

You can buy washing machine cleaners in three different dosage forms. These do not affect the effectiveness of the products. The decision is a matter of personal preference.

  • Liquid washing machine cleaner has the advantage that it is usually filled into the washing machine via the rinse chamber. The washing machine is conveniently cleaned at the same time. You can also simply apply it to a cleaning cloth to clean the machine's seals by hand. It should be dosed according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Powdered washing machine cleaner is usually put directly into the washing drum and cleans the washing machine there and inside. To use washing machine cleaner powder similar to a general purpose cleaner, you can dissolve some powder in water and use the solution to clean gaskets and the rinse chamber of your washing machine.
  • Tabs are basically pressed powder. They therefore work in the same way as powdered washing machine cleaner. However, they have the advantage that they cannot be overdosed as they are already measured out. However, they are not good to use on the exterior of the washing machine or seals.

The differences between the dosage forms therefore mainly concern the dosage of the cleaner and the area of the machine that is being cleaned. The effect should be comparable in each form, depending on the quality of the product.

Annual applications

Different products should be used with different frequency per year. The manufacturer's instructions are decisive here. Especially high-dose products are sufficiently effective if they are applied twice a year. Other products are recommended for monthly application.

The need for washing machine cleaner depends, among other things, on the hardness of the water. The harder the water, the greater the limescale deposits on household appliances such as washing machines. If you do not know the hardness of the water where you live, you can contact your local water supplier.

The ingredients of washing machine cleaners can attack more sensitive components. You should therefore always follow the manufacturer's dosage recommendations.

Your washing habits also play a role. Many detergents are now effective even at very low temperatures and clean the clothes completely. This has the advantage that you save electricity and can wash your clothes in an environmentally friendly way.

However, if you only wash at low temperatures for a long time, you risk getting deposits that are only removed at higher temperatures. If you regularly wash boiled laundry, you may not need to use washing machine detergent too often.


Washing machine detergent is either put directly into the laundry drum or into the rinse compartment of your machine. This usually depends on the dosage form. You can also find a detailed overview of the different forms of administration in this article.

Powdered washing machine detergents and tabs are usually placed directly in the washing drum, while liquid detergents are placed in the rinse compartment. This is then cleaned directly with the detergent. However, thorough cleaning of the compartment is also possible by hand and with powdered cleaner. Simply dissolve a little powder in water and leave the rinse compartment there.

Tabs are less suitable for this. In any case, please note that the compartment behind the rinsing compartment is not cleaned as well. This must always be done by hand.

Application temperature

The washing programmes for which washing machine cleaners are effective differ depending on the product. For best results, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Some descalers are already effective from 40 degrees. Some natural products, such as citric acid, should not be used at higher temperatures, as this can change the condition of the acid and thus affect its effectiveness.

Do not use cleaners with citric acid above 40 degrees.

Hygiene cleaners and universal cleaners are often only effective above 60 or 90 degrees. Especially if you usually wash at low temperatures or if your washing machine smells musty, it can make sense to use high temperatures for cleaning.

If you do a lot of hot washing but have very hard water and primarily want to descale, you can use a descaler for low temperatures. For coarser soiling, stronger cleaners at high temperatures are the better choice.

The washing temperature has an impact on electricity consumption and thus also on the environmental balance. Depending on how often you want to use the cleaner, this should not be too much of an issue if you use it only a few times a year.

Environmental compatibility

The environmental compatibility of various products has become an important issue for many consumers. A contribution can also be made in everyday life. Washing machine cleaners are also available as eco-products, which are usually certified accordingly.

One advantage of eco-products is that they are usually less aggressive and do not put much strain on washing machine components such as rubbers and hoses.

Another factor to consider is the form of presentation: products in powder form are more compact and therefore easier to ship than liquid washing machine cleaners. This means that CO2 emissions can be saved.

High-yield washing machine cleaners only require a small dosage and often have smaller packaging. This helps to avoid packaging waste. You can also choose whether you want a cardboard or plastic-packed product. Many manufacturers also indicate whether the packaging materials have been recycled.


Washing machine cleaners are divided into chemical and natural products according to their ingredients. Natural products have a good environmental balance and are biodegradable. Chemical cleaners are synthetically produced and are often used for coarse soiling and heavy deposits.

Some washing machine cleaners contain activated carbon. This attracts and binds loose particles particularly effectively. Unpleasant odours can thus be completely removed.

There are also washing machine cleaners with additional fragrances or as odour-neutral products. Depending on whether you want a specific scent in the washing machine or prefer a clean, odour-free machine, you can choose a washing machine cleaner with or without fragrances.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about washing machine cleaners answered in detail

If you are thinking about buying washing machine cleaner, you will certainly have some questions that you would like to answer beforehand. In our big washing machine cleaner guide, we have compiled the most important and most frequently asked questions and answered them in detail.

Our guide should make it as easy as possible for you to find the right washing machine cleaner for you.

What is washing machine detergent and how does it work?

Washing machine cleaners are chemical or biological cleaning agents that are specifically designed for use in hard-to-reach or inaccessible areas of the washing machine. They clean the interior, pipes and hoses of your machine.

This is necessary because dirt in the clothes, small fabric remnants, ingredients of the detergents used, limescale from the water, pet hair and the like constantly get into the washing machine with the clothes and affect it. This can lead to deposits in the washing machine. Such deposits attack the machine, reducing its performance and energy efficiency.


Washing machine cleaner keeps your washing machine running at peak performance and energy efficiency, so you can enjoy your clothes and laundry for a long time.
(Image source: Kevin Liang / unsplash)

In order to use less electricity and wash in an environmentally friendly way, detergents are now often very effective at low temperatures from 30 or 40 degrees. While this has a positive effect on the wallet and the environmental balance sheet in everyday life, it means that many deposits are not broken down during the wash cycle itself.

Washing machine cleaners are used for precisely this reason. Depending on the type of product, they can disinfect your washing machine and kill bacteria, loosen dirt and debris, bind loose particles and remove odours and limescale. Some washing machine cleaners form a kind of protective film to make it harder for deposits to build up again.

When does it make sense to use washing machine cleaner?

In principle, washing machine cleaners are worthwhile for everyone, as the products protect the washing machine and extend its life. By removing limescale, they also make washing more energy-efficient and thus cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

Since deposits in the washing machine collect in places inside that are difficult to access or not accessible at all, it is difficult to assess whether cleaning is needed at the moment. However, you can also use washing machine cleaners for preventive care without hesitation.

At the very latest, if the clothes smell unpleasant even after the wash cycle, streaks are visible or you have the impression that the performance of your washing machine is decreasing, you should use washing machine cleaner.

You should also consider the hardness of the water. If it is very high where you live, it is worth regularly descaling the machine.

What types of washing machine cleaners are there and which is the right one for me?

If you want to decide which washing machine cleaner is right for you, there are three alternatives to choose from.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using each type of washing machine cleaner. To help you find the right cleaner for your washing machine, we will give you a detailed overview of the different product types in the following section.

Universal cleaner

Universal cleaner

With a universal cleaner, everything is done in one wash. You can use it in the washing machine and on the outside surfaces, you can soak the rinse compartment in it and be sure that rubbers, seals and the laundry drum are cleaned gently.

If you also use cooking programmes from time to time and only want to give your washing machine a one-off basic cleaning or preventive care, the one-off application of a universal cleaner may be a good choice for you.

  • Complete cleaning of the entire washing machine in one wash cycle
  • can be used inside and out
  • rinse compartment can be conveniently cleaned or soaked at the same time
  • Usually the entire pack size is needed for one application
  • Not all products also remove limescale effectively
  • Comparatively much packaging waste due to low yield

In fact, in most cases the application is intended for one-time use only. With many products, you need the entire contents of the package for one wash. This means that universal cleaners are often not very economical and produce a comparatively large amount of packaging waste. To compensate for this effect, you can use products in recycled packaging material.

It should also be noted that not all universal cleaners actually remove limescale. However, if the water is rather soft, a universal cleaner can be a good, gentle option.



Descalers extend the life of your machine and improve its energy efficiency. This saves you money and makes washing more environmentally friendly.

In addition, descalers are often effective at low temperatures. Some natural-based products should not be used at high temperatures to maintain their full effectiveness.

  • Optimise washing machine performance
  • Often effective at low temperatures
  • Energy-saving, environmentally friendly
  • No specific cleaning function
  • Odours sometimes persist
  • Not always suitable for external use

If your washing machine is not particularly dirty and does not smell unpleasant, a descaler is a good choice. You can usually use it several times a year.

It is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use. You can also use the water hardness level as a guide. If the water hardness is very high, it makes sense to use descaler regularly.

Hygiene cleaners

Hygiene cleaners

Hygiene cleaners are the all-rounders among washing machine cleaners. You can use a hygiene cleaner against dirt and deposits, but also to remove bacteria and disinfect your washing machine. They also dissolve limescale.

Hygiene cleaners also remove odours. Many also contain fragrances, so that unpleasant smells not only disappear, but a pleasant aroma is absorbed.

  • Effective against dirt and bacteria
  • Dissolves limescale
  • Removes odours
  • Multiple applications are sometimes necessary
  • With some products, the entire filling quantity must be used for one application
  • Requires high temperatures

Especially if you usually wash your clothes at low temperatures, the use of a hygiene cleaner may be suitable for you. Hygiene cleaners usually require high temperatures to be effective. This consumes a little more electricity, but should balance out if you usually wash at low temperatures.

A disadvantage is that many hygiene cleaners require the entire filling quantity for complete cleaning. Also, it is often recommended to use several times a year, so you may need several packs for a year.

It turns out that the different types of washing machine cleaners all have their strengths and weaknesses. You should decide which strengths are most important to you before you buy.

How much does washing machine cleaner cost?

Washing machine cleaners are household products and as such can be bought cheaply. However, depending on the type of product, there can be some differences in the price range.

Product type price range
Universal cleaner 4 to 7 euros
Descaler 5 to 40 euros
Hygiene cleaner 3 to 15 euros

Universal cleaners are usually an inexpensive option, but they do not necessarily dissolve limescale and, depending on the product, may require the entire filling quantity for one cleaning. Descalers can be somewhat more expensive, but can often also be used for other appliances.

Hygiene cleaners can handle all the necessary cleaning and are quite inexpensive. However, it is important to note how many regular applications are recommended.

What alternatives are there to washing machine cleaners?

Home remedies are mainly used as alternatives to washing machine cleaners. In the following table you will find an overview of some proven alternatives.

Type Description
Citric acid Citric acid must be diluted according to the instructions for use. You should use it in a wash cycle at a maximum of 40 degrees, as higher temperatures impair its effect.
Chlorine cleaner Chlorine cleaner is diluted with water in a 1:1 ratio. You should use it on a wash cycle at 90 degrees.
Vinegar essence Vinegar essence is added to the wash drum and used at the highest temperature. Many machine manufacturers warn that vinegar can attack hoses and seals. It should therefore be used with caution.

The different alternatives have different advantages. In particular, natural agents are environmentally friendly and often inexpensive. Depending on the hardness of the water and how dirty the machine is, you can choose between conventional washing machine cleaners or natural alternatives.

Where do I put washing machine detergent in the machine?

Depending on the formulation, you either put the detergent directly into the drum or into the rinse compartment. Liquid detergents go into the rinse compartment, powders and tabs go directly into the drum.


Dirt, bacteria or animal hair can build up in the washing machine and cause unpleasant odours. Washing machine cleaner is an effective remedy.
(Image source: Matthew Henry / unsplash)

You should follow the manufacturer's recommendations. If you want to clean the rinsing compartment separately, you can simply remove it and soak it in cleaner.

In which programme and at which temperature should I use washing machine detergent?

The right temperature depends on the product. Some detergents are already effective at 40 degrees or should not be used at higher temperatures. Other cleaners require higher temperatures of 60 or even 90 degrees.

Here, too, you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions. One wash cycle with the washing machine cleaner is sufficient, a second cycle with clear water should not be necessary.

How often can I use washing machine cleaner?

This depends on the product you choose. The product manufacturer will give recommendations that you should follow. Since chemical cleaners can be more aggressive, you should never use them more often than recommended.

Natural-based cleaners can be gentler. However, you should not use them all the time, as rubber and hoses in particular can suffer from constant use.

The hardness of the water should also be taken into account. In the following overview you will find some reference values that can give you some orientation:

Hardness level Explanation
up to 1.5 Very soft water. Hardly any limescale should build up in the machine. One or two cleanings per year are sufficient.
1.5 to 2.5 Medium-hard water. The machine should be descaled a little more often.
more than 2.5 Hard water. The washing machine should be decalcified regularly to prevent damage.

To protect your washing machine from mould as well as limescale, you should always leave the door open a small gap after the wash cycle so that it can dry out completely. Rubbers and the lint filter should also be cleaned regularly.

Can I put washing machine detergent in the machine with my laundry?

The answer to this question is simply: no! You should always wash your washing machine without laundry in the empty cycle. The ingredients of the detergents can otherwise damage your clothes.


Washing machine cleaner helps to care for your clothes. However, they should never be washed together with the detergent.
(Image source: Nick Page / unsplash)

However, a new empty cycle without any cleaner or detergent is not necessary after the cleaning has been done. So when using washing machine cleaner, make sure that there is no laundry left in the washing machine.

Can I also use washing machine cleaner on my dishwasher?

Most washing machine cleaners are also suitable for dishwashers. This is usually stated on the packaging. Descalers in particular are usually universal descalers.

Many washing machine cleaners are suitable for dishwashers.

The advantage of a special cleaner for dishwashers can be that they are partly suitable for use in a normal dishwashing cycle with dishes. Washing machine cleaners, on the other hand, should always be run through the dishwasher without clothes or dishes.

In addition, some washing machines or dishwashers have extra cleaning programmes. It is best to read this in the operating instructions.

Image source: Skripnichenko / 123rf