How to use soda crystals to clean a washing machine

Washing machine smells? Limescale build up? Your washing machine needs regular cleaning – and soda crystals are an easy option

Smelly washing machine
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Hands up if you clean your washing machine regularly? You're in a minority – most of us don't. But the low temperature washes many of us have switched to in an effort to be eco-friendly, and the liquid detergents we use (and which tend to leave deposits behind), our washing machines become havens for bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, which can not only give us upset tummies, but will also make your washing machine smell. And hard water doesn't help with limescale build up, either. So, if you want to keep your laundry load healthy and extend your washing machine's life, you do need to clean it on a regular basis.

Of course, there's a huge market for washing machine cleaners (you can see our favourites in our buyer's guide), but if you want a natural solution that can both clean a washing machine and remove limescale, you can use soda crystals instead. 

Soda crystals will soften the water to prevent limescale build up; they also help get rid of liquid detergent deposits and the muck that bacteria love to live in. 

What does 'regular basis' mean? This is the schedule you should (try to) stick to:

Every time you put on a wash, add a handful of soda crystals to the drum. If the water in your area is hard, use 50g to 75g; medium hardness areas, use 25g; soft water areas, as needed.  

Every two weeks or once month, put on a hot wash with a drum that's empty of anything other than 500g of soda crystals. If you live in an area with very hard water, you may need to do this every couple of weeks; otherwise, once a month will do. If your washing machine has been smelly and this doesn't work to banish it, put it on for a second empty hot wash.  

Every other month, you'll need to tackle the limescale build up – again, many good quality washing machine cleaners can tackle this job for you, but if you want a basic product, 250g of citric acid will do.

Still a lingering washing machine smell? Take a look at your detergent tray – that can be flushed out quickly to remove black spots (mould). If you can remove it, do so and give it a good scrub. White vinegar will remove any remaining black spots with ease.