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The 8 Best Washing Machine Cleaners for Fresh Laundry in 2023

Choose the best washing machine cleaner to keep your appliance spotless and your clothes odor-free.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

You might assume that everyday laundry detergent is enough to keep a washing machine clean, but chances are, it isn’t. And maybe you’ve experienced the wrath of a dirty washing machine already.

“You won’t see it, but you may have smelled it—an off-odor that is really unpleasant, especially on towels,” explains Mary Gagliardi (aka “Dr. Laundry”), Clorox’s in-house scientist and cleaning expert. Thankfully, the best washing machine cleaner is closer and more affordable than you may realize.

Gagliardi explains that soil build-up on the inside of a washing machine (even high-efficiency models) can harbor odor-causing bacteria that transfers to freshly done laundry. What typically happens is that a little water, which also includes small amounts of detergent, softener, lint and soil, is left behind after a load of laundry. “And the problem compounds with each wash cycle,” she says. “It doesn’t take long for odor-causing bacteria to transfer from the washer to your ‘clean’ clothes.”

When learning how to clean a washing machine and clean a dryer, invest in the best washing machine cleaner that are expert- and reviewer-endorsed. And keep shopping for the best natural cleaning products and cleaning products professional house cleaners always buy.

The best washing machine cleaners

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Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner Tablets
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Best overall washing machine cleaner

Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner Tablets

Affresh tablets are inexpensive, easy to use and effective, making them the best washing machine cleaner. The time-release tablets gradually dissolve throughout the machine’s maintenance wash cycle (not a clothes wash cycle), penetrating into all the nooks and crannies of your appliance. Affresh, made with United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Safer Choice Certified ingredients, is safe for all types of washing machines, including high-efficiency (HE) washers, top and front loaders and those with septic tank systems. These tablets are also a favorite among Amazon buyers, earning over 150,000 five-star ratings.

Pros

  • Effective and easy to use
  • Affordable price point
  • Safe to use with all washing machines
  • Has a citrus scent

Cons

  • If your machine is extremely dirty, you might have to repeat the process

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Clorox Disinfecting Bleach
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Best value washing machine cleaner

Clorox Disinfecting Bleach

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to keep your washing machine sparkling. Gagliardi maintains that using just 1/3 cup of Clorox disinfecting bleach gets the job done. “All you need to do is add to the bleach dispenser before running an empty clean-out cycle, and it only costs about 41 cents—well below the cost of tablet or powder washing machine cleaners, which run more than $2.00 per use!” she says. Clorox is also on the list of most trusted cleaning brands.

What makes bleach effective? “The sodium hypochlorite bleach active is highly effective at breaking up soil build-up and deodorizing bacteria,” she says. Just keep in mind that there are things you shouldn’t clean with bleach.

Pros

  • Costs about 41 cents per cycle
  • Bleach kills 99.9% of bacteria
  • Tackles mold hidden in the washing machine
  • Can be used to clean almost every room in the house

Cons

  • Product may have a strong smell
  • Can stain clothing

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Oxiclean Washing Machine Cleaner With Odor Blasters
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Best powder washing machine cleaner

OxiClean Washing Machine Cleaner with Odor Blasters

Similar to the way traditional OxiClean manages to miraculously remove stains and brighten white clothes, OxiClean’s washing machine cleaner removes all the gunky residue from your trusted appliance. The powder comes in pre-measured pouches, which you simply dump into the drum of the machine prior to running a hot or sanitizing cycle. It’s safe to use in all types of washing machines and septic systems. Like other washing machine cleaners, make sure to wipe all the gunk out of the washer drum after the cleaning cycle.

Pros

  • Comes in pre-measured packets
  • Odor Blasters remove lingering smells
  • Affordable
  • For both standard and HE washing machines

Cons

  • Some users say the scent lingers

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Active Washing Machine Cleaner Tablets
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Best tablet washing machine cleaner

Active Washing Machine Cleaner Tablets

For those who want to avoid liquid or powder washing machine cleaners, Active tablets are the best option. Sold in a set of 24a one-year supplythese eco-friendly, septic-safe tablets replace liquid descalers and wipes. When exposed to water, the tablets break down and foam up, descaling the internal parts of your washing machine and eliminating odors. On the other hand, here are things that should never end up in washing machines.

These tablets are a favorite among Amazon shoppers, with over 47,000 buyers giving them a five-star rating. Many reviewers maintain that one of the biggest perks is that they’re unscented. Verified purchaser, Tricia Lawson, hadn’t cleaner her washer in a “disgustingly long time,” she writes in her review. “I used this product and was amazed! Had to run two loads and used a tablet for each load but the inside of washer looked brand new again and smelled so much better! Definitely recommend this product!”

Pros

  • Includes 24 tablets in a box
  • Unscented formula
  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with all washing machines

Cons

  • The first use may require two cycles

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5 / 8

Oh Yuk Washing Machine Cleaner
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Best liquid washing machine cleaner

Oh Yuk Washing Machine Cleaner Liquid

Liquid washing machine cleaners are not quite as popular as those in powder or tablet form. However, if you prefer liquid, the best washing machine cleaner is undoubtedly Oh Yuk. The citrus-scented formula works a little differently than most others. First, wipe down visible gut and grime from inside the washer. Then, measure out and add 4 ounces of the solution and 1 gallon of hot water, letting it sit for an hour. Once the hour is up, run the washer with hot water for a cycle.

While the process might involve a little more manpower, reviewers promise that it works. Dawn Prevost, a five-star reviewer, writes, “This stuff is great! But ‘ew yuck’ is the appropriate name, because once you see how good it works, that’s what you’re going to say.” Letting mold build up is a mistake that can shorten the life of your washing machine.

Pros

  • Liquid has a hard-working formula
  • Has a citrus scent
  • Doesn’t leave residue in the drum or clothes
  • Compatible with all washing machines

Cons

  • Only available in a 16-ounce bottle

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Eco Gals Eco Swirlz
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Best eco-friendly washing machine cleaner

Eco-Gals Eco Swirlz Tablets

If you’re committed to using only natural cleaning products, then the best washing machine cleaner is Eco-Gals Eco Swirlz. You’ll love the ease and effectiveness of these tablets, sold in a one-year supply of 24 tablets. Made with non-toxic sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium percarbonate, these tablets foam up during the hot water cycle and get to work cleaning all the components of your washing machine. Since the cleaner removes gunk, clogs and gross odors that stick to the machine’s drum, clothes will even smell and feel cleaner, too. For another solution that’s better for your pocket and the planet, try this homemade laundry detergent.

Pros

  • Deodorizes without harming aquatic organisms
  • Comes in easy tablet form
  • Unscented formula
  • Compatible with all washing machines

Cons

  • May need to use more than once for a noticeable different

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Lemi Shine Washing Machine Cleaner
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Best washing machine cleaner wipes

Lemi Shine Washing Machine Cleaner and Wipes

Aside from having the most clever name of all the best washing machine cleaners, Lemi Shine makes the best wipes specifically for the purpose of wiping down your appliance. The product is basically two for the price of one. Each package includes eight pouches of U.S. EPA Safer Choice Certified washing machine cleaner and eight wipes. After pouring a package of the bleach-free, citric acid-powered cleaner into the drum and running a cycle, simply wipe down the appliance and enjoy a clean and gunk-free gadget.

Pros

  • Each box comes with eight pre-measured pouches of powder and eight wipes
  • Bleach-free formula
  • Affordable
  • Has a lemon scent

Cons

  • May need to use multiple wipes for residue

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Tide Washing Machine Cleaner With Oxi
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Best washing machine cleaner for odor elimination

Tide Washing Machine Cleaner with Oxi

Tide Washing Machine Cleaner with Oxi promises to deeply penetrate all the debris and buildup in your appliance while eliminating any funky odors and leaving behind Tide’s trademark scent. Dispense the pre-measured powder packet directly into the machine and let it work its magic. The product is made with TAED, a bleach activator, to act as a cleaning super boost. Plus, Tide says that one packet is enough to deep clean your machine’s nooks and crannies—no second cycle needed.

“I have used this cleaner for a few months now and I can confirm that it does an excellent job of cleaning my washing machine. It suds up really well, which really helps to get the dirt and grime out of the machine,” shares Anthony, a verified purchaser.

Pros

  • TAED ingredient gives an extra cleaning boost
  • Leaves behind Tide’s trademark fresh scent
  • Comes in individually wrapped packets
  • Improves the machine’s cleaning ability

Cons

  • Slightly pricier than other powder packets

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What to consider when buying a washing machine cleaner

There are a few things to consider when purchasing a washing machine cleaner, similar to choosing a detergent type. “I like a product that is economical, efficacious and versatile,” says Gagliardi. Some people prefer the ease of pre-measured pouches or tablets while others might prioritize its effect on the environment.

There are a few types of washing machine cleaners. Most powder options come in pre-measured pouches that you simply add to the drum for a cleaning cycle. Tablets work similarly, but are activated by hot water, dispersing the cleaning agents into the appliance. Liquid is a less popular option, which generally requires measuring out a concentrated solution and adding to water. Almost any household wipe can be used as a washing machine cleaner, too, but there are also those marketed for this specific purpose.

How we found the best washing machine cleaners

As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.

FAQ

What is washing machine cleaner?

We use washing machines for all kinds of surprising uses. A washing machine cleaner is a cleaning product formulated for the regular cleaning of your appliance, penetrating deep into the machine and eliminating grime and odor.

How often should you use a washing machine cleaner?

According to Gagliardi, running a monthly clean-out cycle keeps a clothes washer free of soil build-up. “Depending on your wash habits, you may need to do this more frequently, like if you wash exclusively in cold water—or less frequently, like if you regularly wash a bleach load each week,” she says.

Can I use washing machine cleaner in my dishwasher?

Don’t use a washing machine cleaner in your dishwasher. Many of the brands that make washing machine cleaners also offer similar products specifically to clean dishwashers. Read the fine print before using a washing machine cleaner for any other purpose.

Source:

  • Mary Gagliardi (aka “Dr. Laundry”), in-house scientist and cleaning expert at Clorox

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Leah Groth
Leah Groth covers everything from cleaning hacks and consumer products to travel and pets for Reader’s Digest. When she isn’t working on a piece, you’ll find her chasing after her four children (two humans, a Vizsla and a German Shorthaired Pointer) or working on her 100-plus-year-old home outside Philadelphia.