natural cleaning

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

How To Clean A Washing Machine The Environmentally Friendly Way

Got a smelly washing machine? Here is my tried and tested technique on how to clean a washing machine effectively and environmentally friendly, without the use of harsh chemicals. Not only will it banish bad smells, but it will reduce limescale and mould too.

I have written so much about laundry in the 8 years I’ve been writing here at Moral Fibres. From how often you should wash your clothes, to how to wash striped clothes, and how to wash wool, to my natural stain removal tips, and more. So much more, that I bet you are thinking, how much more is there to know about laundry? Reader, hold my cup of tea, there is so MUCH MORE to know about laundry.

Like, for example, did you know that cleaning your washing machine is a key semi-regular household chore we should all be doing?

Firstly, I know that’s hard news to hear. As a family of four, I find that laundry is one of those never-ending tasks. You wash the clothes, you dry the clothes, and then you have to iron, and fold and put the clothes away. And repeat into infinity. And then on top of that, we’re then expected to clean the very machine that cleans our clothes too? It’s enough to make you weep.

Why Do We Need To Clean The Washing Machine?

The thing is, it’s good practice to regularly give your machine a good old-fashioned deep clean. This is because cleaning your washing machine prolongs the life of your washing machine. And prolonging the life of a hulking great piece of machinery saves carbon as you’ll have to replace it less frequently. And not only that. Cleaning your washing machine makes your washing machine more efficient, meaning you lower the likelihood of having to re-wash clothes because they haven’t come out particularly clean. Saving carbon and water.

If the thought of helping the environment doesn’t make you want to clean your washing machine, then would talk of mould build up in your washing machine, that distributes mould over the very clothes you want to clean encourage you? Yup, thought it might. Sorry. I think this is an example of what they call tough love!

How To Clean A Washing Machine

how to clean a smelly washing machine

The good news is that it’s not tricky to clean a washing machine. You mainly need to tackle the detergent drawer, the drum, the seals, and the filter. I’ve set out my top tips, techniques, and natural cleaning products you need to clean your washing machine below, and how often it’s best to clean each area. If you’ve never cleaned your washing machine before, it might take you an hour. But once you’re in a regular routine, it can take as little as 15 minutes of your time.

1. Tackle The Detergent Drawer

For somewhere that you put laundry detergent, the detergent drawer is always one of the most disgusting parts of any washing machine. Especially if you use laundry liquid and/or conventional fabric conditioner. It can be mould central. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how.

First off, remove your drawer from your washing machine. You may have to consult your washing machine’s instruction manual on how to do this if you haven’t done this before. If you’ve lost the manual, I always find eSpares user manual section invaluable for this.

Next, fill a sink with hot soapy water and give the drawer a good wash. An old toothbrush is great at getting into the nooks and crannies of the drawer. Once you’ve got all the gunk off, rinse it off, and give it a dry.

Before you pop the clean, dry drawer back in, if the drawer was mouldy when you pulled it out, then it’s best to give the cavity a good wipe down to help remove any mould in there. To do this, I spray a cloth with a vinegar cleaning spray and wipe as much as I can possibly reach.

Aim to do this every three months, or more frequently if you use laundry liquid and/or conventional fabric conditioner.

Wendy’s Top Tips

I prefer using laundry powder, because it leaves less gunk in your washing machine, meaning there’s less chance for mould to grow.

When it comes to fabric conditioner, I’ve got a whole lot more to say. If you want the shortened version, conventional fabric conditioner is the worst product you could ever possibly buy. The actual worst. Just stop buying it, it’s a total con.

The long version of this is first, it’s terrible for your clothes. Fabric conditioner essentially applies a thin, waxy coating to your laundry, which has to be water-resistant in order to survive the washing process.  This waterproof coating makes your clothes feel softer but lessens their ability to properly absorb water and laundry detergent.  This means your clothes won’t respond as well to washing and will be more likely to lock in bad odours.

Secondly, many brands of fabric conditioner are petroleum-based and full of animal fat (and therefore not vegetarian or vegan friendly). As they are fat-based, they can clog up your washing machine (especially if it’s a front-loading one) and your pipework. It happened to my parents, I know the upheaval this caused.

Fabric conditioner can also encourage the growth of mould in your machine.  Due to its fat content, when fabric conditioner is exposed to air and moisture, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and mould.  And because of the design of most machines, it means that the water-resistant softener is never quite washed out properly, leaving a residue that only encourages the growth of bacteria and black mould throughout your whole washing machine, contaminating your laundry.

The solution? Make your own fabric conditioner using white vinegar. It softens your clothes without residue, won’t block your machine or pipes, and won’t contribute to the growth of mould. Millilitre per millilitre, it’s also a whole lot cheaper too, and more environmentally friendly.

2. How To Clean The Filter

Cleaning the filter of your washing machine is the part of the cleaning a washing machine process that I hate the most. However, it’s a pretty important part, as the filter catches hair, lint, and any objects that got left in pockets before they went in the wash. As a result, bacteria can grow here, causing bad smells.

For Newer Washing Machines

Your washing machine filter is normally accessed via a flap on the front of your washing machine – near the very bottom. Open up the door. If your machine is a newer model then you’ll likely see a little hose with a cap on it. Pop a towel down, put down a bowl, and remove the cap from the hose. Pro tip – place the cap somewhere sensible where you will find it again afterwards. Voice of experience here! Once you’ve removed the cap, drain as much water out of your machine as possible. You may have to empty your bowl several times during the drainage process, so unfortunately this isn’t a job you can walk away from.

Once drained, keep the towel down because even though you think you’ve drained your washing machine of every single last drop of water, I promise that your washing machine will be tenacious and there will be more! Next, unscrew the cap of the filter, prepare for a small gush of water, and remove the filter. Remove any lint, hair, or objects from your filter.

For Older Washing Machines

If your washing machine is older and doesn’t have a hose, then you will need ALL the towels. Put these on the floor and be prepared for a large gush of water. The only consolidation is that once you are done cleaning your washing machine, you can wash your towels, and they’ll be cleaner than ever before!

Again, remove any lint, hair or objects from your filter.

For All Machines

Next, pop the filter into the kitchen sink and give it a good clean in warm soapy water. Again, your toothbrush will come in really handy for this job. Once clean, before popping the filter back in, I like to give the filter cavity a good clean. I spray some of my vinegar cleaning solution onto the toothbrush and give the cavity a good scrub.

Once done, make sure you screw the filter back on tight. Then make sure you replace the cap of your hose, if you have one.

Top tip: try to get into the practice of cleaning your filter every 8 weeks or so.

3. How To Clean The Drum of Your Washing Machine

There are lots of places in your washing machine’s drum for dirt, bacteria and mould to harbour. Thankfully, it’s a really easy job to clean, without any effort.

To clean mould, bacteria, grease and soap scum, from your washing machine drum, simply pour 500g of soda crystals into the drum of your washing machine and run a hot wash (at least 60°C). The soda crystals help dissolve any lingering soap scum that can harbour dirt, bacteria, mould and bad smells.

If you have never cleaned your machine before, and especially if you have been an avid user of laundry liquid and/or of conventional fabric conditioner, you may have to repeat this step again.

To help beat limescale, once every 8 weeks or so, pour around 500 ml of vinegar (here’s where to buy white vinegar in bulk) into the drum of your machine and run it on a hot wash (again, at least 60°C).

I have a system where every four weeks I do a hot wash with soda crystals, and then four weeks later I run a hot wash with vinegar, and so on.

It’s really tempting to kill two birds with one stone and do a wash with soda crystals AND vinegar combined. Don’t do that! Vinegar is an acid, and soda crystals are a base. They’ll react and cancel each other out, producing weak salty water. And weak salty water never a washing machine particularly well.

Wendy’s Top Tip

Washing your clothes at low temperatures is great for the environment. However, it’s not always great for your washing machine, as colder temperatures don’t always clean away grease, mould, and bacteria effectively. I, therefore, wash my towels once a week at 60°C, to help keep my machine in tip-top condition.

4. Don’t Forget the Seals

If you have a smelly washing machine, then the chances are it’s coming from the seal of your washing machine. You see, the seal of your washing machine can harbour some nasty smells, as well as lint, bacteria, dirt and pocket detritus.

The good news is that this is also an easy clean. Simply wet a cloth with vinegar, and wipe around the seal, making sure you work your way all around the fold. The vinegar will kill any mould on the seal. This method has the added benefit that it won’t harm your clothes if any residue has been left, as bleach would do.

To help prevent nasty smells in the future, leave your washing machine door ajar after every use to allow air to circulate.

5. Finally, The Body

Lastly, you may need to give the body of your washing machine a good wipe down. If you use laundry liquid or fabric conditioner, it can spill and run down the machine. If your washing machine is next to your dishwasher, it might get food splatters. Muddy sports clothes or kid clothes can leave marks as you put these in the machine. There are loads of reasons why the body can get dirty – I don’t judge!

It’s incredibly easy to clean the outside of your machine. Using a vinegar-based spray, or an all-purpose natural cleaning spray and a damp cloth, simply give the body a wipe down. If dirt has gathered in any crevices, use your old pal, the toothbrush, to give these areas gentle scrub.

And voila, job done! You can now bask in the glow of lovely clean clothes that will now come out of your machine, and the fact that you’re helping the environment too!

ps: if you’re in a cleaning frame of mind, then here’s how to clean a dishwasher too.

The ultimate guide to cleaning a washing machine the environmentally friendly way

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

How to Naturally Unblock a Drain Without Harsh Chemicals

how to naturally unblock a drain

Learn how to naturally unblock a drain without the use of harsh chemicals with this handy and sustainable guide.

The next time your kitchen or bathroom sink starts draining slowly, or worse, is just a pool of standing water, then rather than reaching for the bottle of chemically dubious drain unblocker, try these natural alternatives instead.

This post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a very small commission – at no extra cost to you – on items that have been purchased through those links. This does not affect your return rights, and this income helps keep this site running.

how to naturally unblock a drain without the use of harsh chemicals

Why You Shouldn’t Use Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar to Unclog Your Drain

It seems logical that using bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to unblock your drain naturally would be effective. All that fizzing and bubbling when you combine bicarbonate of soda and vinegar has to dislodge whatever is blocking your sink. Right?

Wrong! Cast your mind back to secondary school science lessons, when you learned about bases and acids. If you can remember that far back (it’s been a long time since I was in a school science lesson too!), then you might recall that when you combine a base and an acid, then the acid is neutralised.

In the case of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, bicarbonate of soda is a base while vinegar is an acid. Their chemical reaction produces water with a tiny bit of salt in it. Unblocking a drain with salty water is rarely effective. This is because salty water doesn’t destroy fats that may be blocking your drain. You need something that will break down the fat, and tackle the oil and grease that is lodged in your drain.

What Should I Use To Naturally Unblock A Drain?

Instead, I would recommend using soda crystals* to help unblock your drain naturally. I use soda crystals all around my home for a variety of natural cleaning purposes. Soda crystals are a naturally occurring mineral salt, that is soluble in water. Soda crystals are naturally bleach-free. What’s more, they do not contain any enzymes or phosphates, palm oil, or anything else, other than soda crystals.

What makes soda crystals a great choice for this job, is that soda crystals have detergent properties, which help tackle dirt and grease. It’s these grease-fighting properties that make it great at dealing with fat-clogged drains.

How to Unblock a Slow Clearing Drain Using Soda Crystals

For sinks that are blocked by fats – for example, kitchen sinks that have been clogged by cooking fats. Or bathroom sinks that have clogged by soaps or oils, then soda crystals are a great option to naturally unblock your drain.

  1. First of all, boil a full kettle of water.
  2. Once boiled, slowly pour the kettle of water down your drain. This will help dissolve any fat blockages.
  3. Once the boiling water has finally drained away, next, pour a large cup of soda crystals down your drain.
  4. Leave the soda crystals to sit for 5 to 10 minutes in your drain to help break up fat and grease deposits.
  5. Next, boil another kettle full of water.
  6. Now, slowly pour the kettle of water down the drain to wash the soda crystals, and broken down fat and grease away. Take care, as you may get splashes of boiling water as the soda crystals get to work on the blockages.
  7. Repeat steps 1 to 6 until your drain is clear. You should be able to see an improvement every time your repeat these steps.

Remember to take care carrying kettles of boiling water. Check for any trip hazards, and try to do it when small children and pets aren’t underfoot.

What If Hair Is Blocking My Drain?

Bathtub or shower drains tend to be blocked by hair rather than fat, especially if people in your household have long hair.

Soda crystals aren’t effective at tackling hair blockages. You can buy bottles of drain cleaners that specifically tackle hair blockages. However, I have found that using a reusable drain-clearing brush* that I picked up inexpensively does the job. It naturally unblocks the drain without the use of expensive and harsh chemicals. And one brush can replace plastic bottle after plastic bottle of drain cleaner, making it a more eco-friendly option.

How to Unblock a Drain Blocked With Hair

It’s really easy to naturally unblock a drain blocked with hair. Just take your drain-clearing brush, stick it down the drain, and twist it until you have removed all the hair that is causing the blockage.

I’m not going to lie, it is a pretty disgusting job. You end with big blobs of black slime encrusted hair on your brush, which does make you feel a bit sick. But I promise the effort is worth it when your drain starts running freely again.

If, after removing hair, the drain is still slow draining, then do try the soda crystals method, in case there are further soap blockages.

I would say that, as in the case of all things, prevention is better than cure. As we are a household of four long-haired people, I use drain covers* in my showers that catch hair but allow the water to drain. These really help to minimise the need to bust out my drain brush to naturally unblock these drains.

Any other drain clearing tips? I’m all ears! You can also check out my natural cleaning products to DIY if you are after more natural cleaning inspiration.