11 of the best washing machine cleaners — including a £1 Lush Snow Fairy dupe

Dirty washer killing your laundry day vibes? Let these washing machine cleaners take a load off your mind

A trio of branded washing machine cleaners on yellow graphic background
(Image credit: Future)

Buying a top-rated washing machine cleaner is essential for ensuring this busy appliance is running well — and is safe to use. Not only can all the build-up in your machine prevent it from running efficiently, but even if you own one of the best washing machines money can buy, bacteria can build up that can harm your health. One thing's for sure: using a washing machine cleaner regularly is the easiest way to keep your machine hygienic and fresh. And it's a lot cheaper than having to call our your plumber again, or even having to replace your entire washing machine.

Check out our selection of reviewed washing machine cleaners to buy right now if yours is looking a bit grubby and is in need of a deep clean. Whilst ranking these products, we've considered value for money as well as other added benefits. From formulas with eco-friendly packaging to solutions that kill bacteria, we can help you buy the best washing machine cleaner to suit your appliance.

Keeping on top of your washing machine cleaning schedule will ensure yours will last longer, so you can have fresh-smelling clothes whenever you need them. Once your washing machine cleaner has arrived, take a look at our cleaning a washing machine guide for some step-by-step instructions if you're stuck. Remember: without a washing machine cleaner, pipes can become clogged with limescale and drums impacted with detergent build-up. Don't say we didn't warn you...

The best washing machine cleaners

Why you can trust Real Homes Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Real Homes review process

Here at Real Homes, we ideally would only recommend products that we've actually tried and tested. For peace of mind and so that you know you're buying something that actually works. In the case of these washing machine cleaners, our cleaning expert and ecommerce editor Christina Chrysostomou has tested a bunch of them in her own washing machine at home. Otherwise, she sourced help from other Real Homes team members with washing machines that are in need of a clean. The ones we're yet to test are on our radar for next time.

Meet the team members who've tested these washing machine cleaners.

Christina author photo
Christina Chrysostomou

Whether it's a boujee press event, a hot date with her husband-to-be, or she just wants to stroll into the office in a sassy outfit, Christina's washing machine (and laundry basket) work overtime. From casual fits to activewear to formal LBDs, it's essential her washer is ready to launder, so limescale, blockages, and bacteria are an absolute no-no.

With a landlord that lives in Australia, it's essential that she keeps her white goods in good working order. She tried the Vamoosh washing machine cleaner in her BEKO-branded machine and was pleased with the results. With thick, long, curly hair, the hair-dissolving technology was definitely something that sparked her interest in this product, and the low price point means she can run this in her machine every couple of months without it breaking the bank.

She's currently testing the Ecoegg Washing Machine Detox Tablets and will be sure to report back once she has.

Annie Collyer illustration
Annie Collyer

With two pets in her household, Annie is always looking for a solution for cleaning her washing machine. More often than not, after washing her dog's bed and toys, she'll notice her washing machine has a slight odour.

She swears by the Stardrops White Vinegar solution for cleaning pretty much anything at home. Simply enough, she pours a little in her drum and some in her drawers, too, and puts her washing machine on a hot cycle. You can add some Zoflora into the mix if you really like, though you shouldn't notice that your drum smells like vinegar if you skip this part.

What is the best thing to clean a washing machine?

We rate the Stardrops White Vinegar highly among lots of our cleaning buying guides, mostly because of its versatility. It can be used to clean your washing machine, dishwasher, sink, and shower screen.

However, if you are looking for a specialist product, then we can recommend the Ecoegg Washing Machine Detox Tablets. For pet owners, you need to buy the Vamoosh washing machine cleaner as it banishes pet hairs and odours in a flash.

How to use washing machine cleaner

"Grease and limescale can build up relatively quickly in your washing machine's filter, spray arms, and pipes when it is being used day in and day out. It's really important that you maintain your machine properly and keep it clean as this results in a longer lifespan, plus, more importantly - a more effective wash, and cleaner clothes!" says Jennifer Sharpe, Chief Fragrance Officer at Fabulosa

To clean and freshen up your washing machine and get rid of any stubborn grease and limescale, you should be using a specialist cleaner - like Fabulosa's Washing Machine Cleaner - at least once a month. You need a product that also kills bacteria and viruses, as this is essential to eradicate those unpleasant smells.

Simply pour 125ml of the product into the soap dispenser and run your machine on an empty, short, hot cycle. For stubborn, persisting smells, simply repeat." 

3 things to consider when choosing a washing machine cleaner 

By keeping the inside of the washing machine clean, you’ll benefit from an appliance that won’t break down every few years or need a new part, which in turn saves you money and hassle in the long run. We rounded up what to look for in a good washing machine cleaner.

1. Does it tackle limescale?
When learning how to use a washing machine correctly, it’s important to clean the inside of it regularly in order for it to work properly. Not only does this deal with any unpleasant odours resulting from dampness, mould, and mildew, but it will also help prevent limescale build-up, the enemy of any appliance that uses water, especially if you live in a hard water area.

2. Does it tackle odours?
A good washing machine cleaner will tackle odours inside the appliance caused by soap scum and grease. When doing laundry, even the best washing pods or laundry detergents can leave some residue on clothes, which will leave your laundry smelling fresh.

3. Does it kill germs?
Look for a cleaner that works over time. Removing stinky odours, descaling, cleaning, and helping to protect plastic inner workings and the drum itself makes sense. But some solutions are antibacterial, too, killing germs at the same time, while others can also be used to clean a dishwasher.

Alternatives to washing machine cleaner

All of the washing machine cleaners on our list will do a good job of cleaning your appliances. Having said that, there's plenty of room to experiment with DIY washing machine cleaners.

Our top picks for this task are baking soda and dishwasher tablets. Simply put either (or both!) into your washing machine tray and run your machine on the hottest cycle. If you already own a dishwasher, that's one less product you need to buy.

We've loads more dishwasher tab hacks to try around the house, as well as all sorts of bicarb cleaning tricks and vinegar sanitising solutions, too.

How often should I clean my washing machine?

It's recommended to put your washing machine through a cleaning cycle at least once a week. If you're not using it as often, we recommend giving it a clean (both inside and outside) at least once a month. If you don't treat your appliance, you could face far more expensive bills in the future to repair washing machine damage caused by erosion or negligence.

Is washing machine cleaner worth it?

Washing machine cleaner is typically worth it, especially if there is a lot of hair and pet dander around your home. 

"Hair (both human and pet hair) enters the washing machine via clothes and items such as towels and pet bedding," says Dave Toms, head scientist at Vamoosh. "A normal wash with detergent alone does not dissolve in water.  When you mix water and hair, it clumps, which then clogs up and puts a lot of stress on your plumbing. However, Vamoosh's clever patented hair-dissolving technology breaks down the SS-bond in the keratin so that the hair breaks into smaller pieces and washes away."

Conversely, a good washer might already have some features built-in, so you can forego the chore of running a washing machine cleaner on an empty cycle altogether.

"Contrary to their primary purpose of keeping our clothes clean, washing machines can collect dirt and bacteria inside of them," says Vivien Fodor, category manager for Whirlpool UK & Ireland. "Yet one in five Brits never clean their washing machines — this is partly due to a lack of awareness of needing to, and people not knowing how." 

More awareness and washing machine cleaners can help with this, as can owning an appliance that is self-cleaning. "To tackle this, at Hotpoint, we developed an automatic cleaning cycle that runs through our washing machines," says Fodor. "Simply press and hold the AutoClean button for five seconds, and the machine will start a cleaning cycle — removing detergent, soap build-up, chemicals, and bacteria."

Christina Chrysostomou
Former acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the former acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.