Can you use dishwasher tablets to clean a washing machine?
Written by Mark Brezinski and Amanda Oliver
Updated April 1, 2022
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Your washing machine may clean your clothes, but what’s cleaning your washer?
For some, this question may seem silly on its face: A washing machine spends the majority of its time swirling around soapy water—that should mean it cleans itself, right?
Well, no, unfortunately. Just as you still need to scrub your shower, every so often despite cleaning yourself in it, your washer also needs a bit of outside intervention to stay spotless.
The two most common ways your washer gets dirty: a build-up of residue from detergent that wasn’t fully flushed out and mildew growing on the door gasket.
Mildew on your gasket is double trouble: Not only can the foul-smelling fungus transfer its odors to your clothes, it will also degrade the rubber gasket over time.
Can you clean your washing machine with dishwasher tablets?
Getty Images / Kuzmik_A
Dishwasher detergent is formulated for dishwashers specifically, and could wind up flooding your laundry room with soapy suds.
In an effort to keep their washers clean (without actually needing to clean anything) some homeowners have turned to dishwasher tablets.
This housekeeping hack, while not new, has been especially popular on social media over the past few years. The idea is a dishwasher tablet will erase every odor from a once-whiffy washer and rid it of any rancid residues. But, is this technique effective? Is it safe?
Again: No, unfortunately.
We spoke to our senior lab operations manager, Jonathan Chan, to help us understand why nobody should use dishwasher tablets to clean a washing machine—and provided us with some better, safer alternatives.
First, and foremost, dishwasher tablets may not do as thorough of a job cleaning your washing machine as you think, Jonathan says.
“I dissolved 2 tablespoons of detergent into 2 cups of cold water (see below photo). The one on the right is dish detergent and the one on the left is Tide,” he explains. “The Tide is much more dissolved and the dish detergent is clumping up. Basically, dish powder is designed to work at higher temperatures than what you find in your washing machine.” That means it’s likely you’ll have a lot of residue left after using a dishwasher tablets—so it’s actually exacerbating one of the two main ways your washer gets gunked up to begin with.
Reviewed / Jonathan Chan
Laundry detergent at left is dissolved in water, where as dishwasher detergent at right features some undissolved particles.
Appliance company Bosch also warns against the practice on its website, stating, “To keep maximum efficiency and quality, please do not use dishwasher tablets or detergent to clean your washing machine or to clean laundry. ”
In addition to not cleaning well at lower temperatures, dishwasher detergents might use chemical agents that a washer can froth up into a foam overflow—not an ideal outcome when the entire goal of using a dishwasher pod in the first place was to avoid a labor-intensive cleanup.
Here’s how you should actually clean your washing machine
Getty Images / Cunaplus_M.Faba
You can even clean your washing machine by hand.
While cleaning your washing machine may not be as easy as dropping in a tablet, it’s also not particularly difficult.
First, create a mixture that’s 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup water and add that into your washer’s detergent container. Next, pour 2 cups of white vinegar into the drum. Then run a normal cycle on high heat.
Your washer should look spotless once the cycle is complete, but just to make sure, we recommend doing a quick once-over with a sponge dipped in a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar to scrub out any stubborn spots.
The best cure: Prevention
Getty Images / PeopleImages
If you own a front-loader, keep the door open after a cycle. This allows the gasket to completely dry, preventing mildew growth.
As one final washer cleanliness pro-tip: If you have a front-loading washing machine, always leave the door open after a cycle so the drum can dry completely. This will go a long way in preventing mildew growth before it can even start, and can help keep your washer cleaner for longer.
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The washing machine hack that could be damaging your appliance
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A new washing machine cleaning hack has been sweeping across Facebook. However, manufacturers warn it could be damaging your washing machine.
Related: Cleaning guru shares her ingenious space-saving trick for storing plastic bags
A mum from an Australian Facebook group Mums who Clean introduced the cleaning fans to the dishwasher tablet washing machine hack. She revealed how popping a dishwasher tablet into a hot wash had left her washing machine pristine.
Washing machine hack
(Image credit: Future PLC/Jeremy Phillips)
Soon everyone was giving the hack a spin, posting photos of their grubby washing machine water mid-cycle. One twitter user raved about the cleaning tip claiming: ‘I tried the hack of putting a dish washer tablet in your washing machine to clean it. Oh my goodness it’s amazing. It’s actually sparkling!!!’
So I tried the hack of putting a dish washer tablet in your washing machine to clean in and oh my goodness it’s amazing. It’s actually sparkling!!!!!February 1, 2020
So, the washing machine tip definitely seems to remove the build-up of dirt from the inside of the machine. However, could the hack be damaging your machines rather than helping it work more efficiently?
A post shared by Jess (@allthingshomewithjess)
A photo posted by on
What the experts say…
We spoke to an expert and can reveal that while the hack will not cause any serious damage, it isn’t recommend.
‘Cleaning your washing machine is essential to get rid of the dirt, mould and bacteria that will have built up in the drum and pipes,’ explains Lauren Clark, AO. com’s large appliance expert. ‘Not only this, but it will ensure that the machine runs efficiently and keeps your clothes looking bright and fresh.
(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)
‘Dishwasher tablets are unlikely to cause serious damage to your appliance. But we’d advise that people follow the manufacturer instructions on how to clean the machine as these differ with each model and type. Many now even have their own cleaning programme to do so.’
For safe manufacturer-approved tips to keep your washing machine smelling fresh take a look at our how to clean your washing machine.
Related: Keep forgetting to clean the microwave? Join over half of brits who are drawing up a 2020 cleaning schedule
‘Instead of using dishwasher tablets, we’d suggest adding either normal detergent, a cup of bicarbonate of soda, vinegar or limescale and grease remover to your drum on an empty wash for the best results,’ Lauren recommends. ‘Select the longest and hottest cycle on your appliance at least once a month to get the best results.’
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Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women’s weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.
Washing machine cleaning with dishwasher tablets
With active use of the washing machine, its internal parts lose their former cleanliness over time: limescale and dirt, scale and mold – all this has an extremely negative effect on the quality of washing. Over the decades, people have come up with countless ways to clean their assistant, but not everyone knows that you can even clean the washing machine with dishwasher tablets.
If you own both a washing machine and a dishwasher, you probably have a special tablet, or at least you know where to buy them. For beginners, advice: in any hardware store, tablets for PM are sold in abundance, pay attention to products 3 in 1 or 5 in 1.
Attention! For those who do not have PM, the ideal option is piece tablets. In big cities, finding such is not a problem, it will cost a penny, and the goods will not lie in vain. In extreme cases, the goods can be ordered in specialized online stores.
To clean the machine in this way, do the following:
- check that there are no clothes or other foreign objects in the drum;
- place one tablet inside and place the second in the main wash compartment in the powder compartment;
- now you need to run the wash at the highest possible temperature with a double rinse;
- spin off.
After following all the recommendations, wait until the end of the wash, then open the access door and let the drum air out. Then a pleasant characteristic smell will remain inside the car. If you do not ventilate the drum, the chemical smell can become sharper and take root in the machine.
How effective is this measure?
It is impossible to find any universal answer to the question of the effectiveness of such a procedure. In most cases, it all depends on the preliminary state of the washing unit. The more neglected the case, the more often you will have to repeat the cleaning. However, after 3-4 times there will definitely be no trace of dirt and mold.
Experts also recommend mechanical cleaning of the machine in parallel with chemical cleaning. Armed with a damp cloth and detergent, you need to go through the rubber parts (manhole cuff, for example) and other hard-to-reach places. It would be a good idea to rinse the drain filter separately, just like the drain hose. After such methods, the machine will definitely remain in perfect condition.
Special tablets – user opinion
My review is about tablets called Okho, which are designed to clean the inside of the washing machine. I must say right away that I was very pleased with the result and, in principle, I can recommend the above remedy, but first things first.
When I got a washing machine, I immediately began to pay attention to commercials for Calgon and other products, where they showed what horrors await my home assistant if I begin to neglect preventive measures.
In order not to start the situation, I immediately went to the store, bought Calgon and used it for a long time according to the instructions. However, I soon noticed that some washing powders are equipped with this substance, so I stopped buying it.
My friends advised washing with citric acid – cheap and cheerful (125 grams per 5 kg load), but I somehow feared for the plastic and rubber parts of the machine. Still, acid, who knows what to expect from it. As I said, I really valued my washing machine and wanted to find a product that would be strictly intended for SM and tested by people in experience. I also heard about dishwasher tablets, but once one of my acquaintances advised me to use them, since the water in our region is soft, and the use of just such tablets is pointless.
But then one day I was hanging out on the forum, reading reviews about washing powders, and I came across tablets for cleaning washing machines – Oho. I was interested in an environmentally friendly composition, and the reasonable price pleasantly surprised me. Then I decided why not give it a try. In the product description, it was said that this product will not only get rid of scale, but also remove other contaminants and even eliminate unpleasant odors (it’s all about a special formula with active oxygen).
I must say right away that the tablets crumble and crumble easily. The first time I did not know this and dropped the pill on the floor when I took it out of the package. It is clear that these are non-critical trifles, but due to negligence, it is possible to transfer all the goods in this way, but the machine cannot be cleaned.
There is nothing complicated in using the tablets: take one, place it in the drum, after getting rid of the packaging film, and start washing at 60 degrees. For effective cleaning, it is recommended to use the product monthly, but in my opinion, this is completely unnecessary.
Ojo is doing very well and a regular cleaning every six months is more than enough.
However, again, in my area the water is considered soft, so I can’t say how well these tablets work in hard water. And in regions with a high salt content in the water, you probably need to clean a little more often. I would still advise you to try Okho, since they are quite cheap and environmentally friendly, there will definitely not be any harm from them.
- Share your opinion – leave a comment
Is it possible to wash clothes with dishwasher tablets? Perhaps household appliances simply broke down in the family, so the detergent is temporarily not needed, or perhaps the husband simply bought capsules of the wrong size.
Of course, you don’t want to throw away expensive household chemicals, but it’s completely incomprehensible what to do with it. In such conditions, some housewives begin to wash clothes with dishwasher tablets. We will tell you whether it is possible to do this or it is better not to risk it.
Are tablets suitable for white clothes?
PMM owners believe that there will be nothing wrong with washing white clothes using dishwasher tablets. Allegedly, the composition of the tablets is very similar to the composition of washing powder, and therefore it is completely harmless to linen. What does the tablet contain?
- Enzymes that dissolve molecules of proteins, fats, starches and other things, which means that stains and other dirt from clothes disappear.
- Oxygen bleach, which in a tablet is up to 15% of the total mass, which helps to break down dirt.
- Polycarboxylate detergent.
- Nionic surfactants – they are 100% biodegradable, plus they are used to form foam.
- Aromatic fragrances.
- Finally, phosphonates, which help to neutralize the harmful impurities that are contained in the water.
If you carefully study this list, it becomes clear that it does not contain such aggressive elements as chlorine, which could damage clothing. Therefore, dishwasher tablets can indeed be used for washing white cottons, especially when you need to effectively remove dirt or stubborn grease from clothes.
If you still don’t trust PMM tablets, run a work cycle with old kitchen towels that you don’t mind ruining as a test wash.
When you are sure that there is nothing wrong with using dishwasher tablets instead of washing powder, you can start washing your everyday whites. The main thing in this business is not to overdo it with a dose of detergents, so never put more than two tablets in the washing machine for one wash. If you are going to hand wash only a few items of clothing in a basin, then there may even be a lot of a whole tablet. In this case, cut one piece into two parts for more economical consumption.
What fabric can be damaged by a tablet?
To answer this question, it is worth once again returning to the composition of household chemicals for PMM. It contains a powerful bleach, which means that the tablet should never be used to wash colored clothes, which it can ruin. The same applies to delicate fabrics such as silk, rayon and microfiber, which are simply not made for such strong chemical exposure.
It is worth considering the fact that dishwasher tablets dissolve well only in warm and hot water, so if you start washing with this detergent, then choose long modes from 1 hour with a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius and above.
And if it so happened that you have already washed colored and white clothes in one wash, so there are stains and stains on the clothes, then this is not a reason to give up, but another way to use pills. In this unpleasant situation, housewives recommend thoroughly crushing a dishwasher tablet, pour six tablespoons of warm water, stir, apply the mixture to streaked stains and wait a few hours. After that, the clothes should be washed using an ordinary white powder to remove all stains.
The tablet cleans the washing machine
There is one more indisputable advantage of using PMW tablets in the washing machine. It’s no secret that the washing drum often suffers from scale, mold and other unpleasant contaminants, so it must be cleaned after each wash. But even a thorough cleaning is no guarantee that various deposits will not appear in the drum, which then have to be removed using a variety of products, such as soda and citric acid. The disadvantage of this method is that such mixtures can damage the “home helper” if you add too much of them. And here a dishwasher tablet can again come to the rescue, which contains a lot of active detergents that effectively dissolve scale and other contaminants.
Because of the above, dishwasher and washing machine owners recommend monthly use of detergent tablets for laundry at temperatures of 90 degrees Celsius and above.