The 9 Best Washing Machine Cleaners of 2023

The Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner is our favorite

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Best Washing Machine Cleaners

The Spruce / Lecia Landis

We do it every week: Throw our dirty clothes straight into the washing machine. It’s so mechanical that it’s easy to forget how hard a washing machine works to clean piles of clothes and linens. But did you know that your reliable machine actually needs some TLC? 

“Like a bathtub, the outer tub of your washer can build up a soap scum film between it and the inner basket,” explains Ron Shimek, President of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company. “Dirt and oils can stick to that film and give that funky smell.” Give your newly washed clothing a good, serious whiff: If your fabrics are starting to smell musty, even after going through the wash, it’s probably time to use a handy washing machine cleaner. 

That’s why we researched the top washing machine cleaners, considering each one's type, scent, machine and plumbing compatibility, efficacy, and overall value. To find the best cleaner out there, we searched high and low and even found an eco-friendly option and one that smells extra-fresh. So, in the name of fresh-smelling clothes, roll up your sleeves, and let’s clean your washing machine.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner

4.7
Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Easy to use

  • Cleans all parts of washing machine

What We Don't Like
  • Can leave residue

  • Requires extra rinsing

There’s a lot to love about the Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner tablets. The pack of six is affordable and gets the job done effectively on a variety of different washing machine types. We especially appreciate how it has the power to get into all of the nooks and crannies of an appliance. 

The company is owned by Whirlpool, a trusted appliance maker, so you can feel confident knowing this cleaner is safe for top-loaders, front-loaders, and high-efficiency machines.

These tablets are easy to use, too: Simply put a single tablet into the washing machine drum, and run the machine. The tablet is designed to get into all parts of the machine that can lead to funky smells, including the washer pump, valve, basket, drum, wash tub, agitator/filter, and drain hose. 

If there’s any downside, it’s that there may be a bit of residue once the clean cycle is complete, but it’s an easy problem to solve—just wipe away any visible residue with a damp cloth, and then run another load to ensure that remaining residue is rinsed from any hard-to-see spots.

Price at time of publish: $12

Type: Tablet︱Amount: 6 tablets︱Scent: Citrus︱Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes

Best Budget

Eco-Gals Eco Swirlz Washing Machine Cleaner

Eco-Gals Eco Swirlz Washing Machine Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Eco-friendly ingredients

  • No strong odor

  • More than a full year's supply

What We Don't Like
  • Small tablets

  • Tablets wrapped in plastic

When making your shopping list, it’s easy to forget something like washing machine cleaner. The Eco-Gals Eco Swirlz Washing Machine Cleaner comes in a pack of 24, so you only have to stock up once per year. Considering that you'll be fully prepped, you simply can’t beat the price of this washing machine cleaner. 

Like other tablets, these are easy to use. You simply put them directly into your washer’s drum. During the hot cycle, the non-toxic sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium percarbonate tablets will foam up. That suds deep cleans both the drum and the drain components. It’s important to note that each tablet is relatively small, so you may need two per cycle to generate enough foam for a deep clean. 

Budget-friendly Eco Swirlz tablets are also good for the environment. They do, however, come wrapped in plastic—a worthwhile consideration if you're trying to reduce your consumption of single-use plastic.

Price at time of publish: $15

Type: Tablet | Amount: 24 | Scent: Fresh | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes | Safe for Septic Systems: Yes

Best Liquid

Oh Yuk Washing Machine Cleaner

Oh Yuk Washing Machine Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Nice citrus scent

  • Works on all types of machines

  • Family-owned, small business

What We Don't Like
  • Only good for four uses

  • Cleaning process is more involved

Liquid washing machine cleaners are a bit trickier to use than tablets, so take care if you're prone to spilling laundry ingredients. If you can manage, you’ll appreciate the cleaning prowess of this product. Like the name might suggest, this washing machine cleaner is made to eliminate anything yucky lingering in your appliance—the smell and residue from laundry detergent, dirt, oils, and excess moisture. 

The cleaner has a pleasing citrus scent that’s not quite as overpowering as most conventional cleaners. You can use it in all types of washing machines—front loaders, top loaders, HE (high-efficiency), and non-HE. It’s also perfectly safe for septic systems. 

One bottle lasts for about four months. The process is a little more involved than something like a tablet. First, you need to wipe down the machine with a little of the solution, and then put four ounces of the cleaner in the drum and let it sit for an hour before running an empty washer. 

Price at time of publish: $15

Type: Liquid | Amount: 16 ounces | Scent: Orange | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes | Safe for Septic Systems: Yes

Best Tablet

Plink Washer & Dishwasher Freshener & Cleaner

Plink Washer & Dishwasher Freshener & Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Washing machine and dishwasher-compatible

  • Easy to use

  • Septic safe

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

  • Small packet size

Most washing machine cleaners can’t be used in the dishwasher, but Plink Clothes Washer and Dishwasher tablets pull double duty, saving you from having to stock two separate products. And no matter which appliance you use these tablets in, the results are the same: a clean machine and a lemony-fresh scent. (Some may find the fragrance of this tablet a little overpowering, so take note if you’re sensitive to smells.) 

Like other tablets, these are very easy to use. Place one tablet in either the washing machine or dishwasher, and run it through a hot water cycle. While it’s working its magic, it’ll get into the inner parts of the appliance to remove odor-causing buildup.

It’s septic-safe, and it can be used on all types of dishwashers and washing machines, making it an extremely versatile multi-tasking cleaner.

Price at time of publish: $6

Type: Tablets | Amount: 4 | Scent: Lemon | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes | Safe for Septic Systems: Yes

Best Powder

OxiClean Washing Machine Cleaner with Odor Blasters

OxiClean Washing Machine Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Safe for all washing machines

  • Premeasured pouches

  • Targeted to address buildup

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

  • Need to wipe residue out of machine

Chances are, you’ve heard the OxiClean name before—and that’s because the brand manufactures some of the hardest working cleaners and stain removers out there. Their washing machine cleaner is no exception. The powder formula is specially formulated to target residue and buildup in your washing machine. 

Despite the fact that it’s a powder, we love that it comes in pre-measured pouches, so there’s no guesswork to do. (It does, however, only last for four uses.) Just tear one of the pouches open, empty it into your washing machine, and run a hot cycle. Easy-peasy! The smell, like fresh laundry, is a bit strong, so take that into account if you’re sensitive to smells. 

If you can get past that, OxiClean’s powder washing machine cleaner is a good bet. It’s safe for all washing machines and septic systems, so you won’t need to worry about any damage to your existing setup. Just be sure to wipe out any extra residue from the washer drum before running a load with clothes, otherwise you'll risk staining and discoloration. 

Price at time of publish: $8

Type: Powder | Amount: 4 pouches | Scent: Fresh | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes | Safe for Septic Systems: Yes

Best Wipes

Method French Lavender All-Purpose Cleaning Wipes

Method French Lavender All-Purpose Cleaning Wipes

Amazon

What We Like
  • Pleasant scent

  • Part of a line of popular complementary cleaning products

  • Compostable

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Wipes are not the preferred method to clean a washing machine for most people, because of the extra work involved—there’s a lot of crouching and scrubbing necessary to get the job done (not to mention, you can’t get into all of the nooks and crannies with wipes). They are, however, very versatile, so you won’t have to stock a ton of different products. The Method All-Purpose Cleaning Wipes can be used to clean the inside of your washing machine drum, plus other household appliances like microwaves, door handles, and countertops. 

We love that these cleaning wipes come in a range of scents, but we especially enjoy the French lavender option. It’s a mild, yet pleasing, blend of lavender, bergamot, purple sage, and chamomile. This is part of the Method lineup, so you can use the same fragrance for the whole home. 

These wipes are a bit pricey, but they’re all-purpose and can be composted rather than trashed. Just make sure you already have a composting system in place. 

Price at time of publish: $23 for 3-pack

Type: Wipes | Amount: 70 | Scent: French Lavender | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes | Safe for Septic Systems: N/A

Best Eco-Friendly

Lemi Shine Washing Machine Cleaner

Lemi Shine Washing Machine Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Powder and wipes included

  • Good for all washing machines

  • Lemon fresh scent

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

  • Need to use two packets for non-HE machines

Lemi Shine may be an eco-friendly choice, but it’s just as hardworking as any other. That’s because the two-in-one option—powder and wipes—is made of natural citric extracts, citrus oil, and sodium bicarbonate. These ingredients work hard to banish both residue and smells, and it is exceptionally good for those with hard water, because it can even dissolve stubborn calcium buildup. The product is versatile, too. You can use this on all washing machines!

Here's what you do: First, you use the powder, which reaches all of the interior parts of the machine and cleans the drum itself. When the hot cycle is through, use the wipes to clean door gaskets on front-loading machines or detergent trays. Like many washing machine cleaners, this pick also can leave a residue, but the wipes help with that. 

We love the fresh lemon scent it leaves behind, but it is rather strong, and it’s important to note that it’s not safe for cats. The brand says that these can be used with any type of washing machine, though two pouches may be required for non-HE devices.

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Powder and wipes︱Amount: 8 each︱Scent: Citrus︱Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes | Safe for Septic Systems: Not listed

Best Heavy-Duty

Renuv Heavy Duty Washing Machine Cleaner

Renuv Washing Machine Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Giant tablets

  • Good for all washing machines

  • No dyes or scents

What We Don't Like
  • A little pricey

  • Doesn’t have a fresh laundry smell

When your machine has a lot of built-up dirt and grime (maybe it’s been a while since you cleaned your appliance!), Renuv Heavy Duty Washing Machine Cleaner is a great choice. There are plenty of quality tablets on the market, but these tablets are sizable and slow-release. They foam up over time to extend the cleaning power. 

They’re formulated with minimal ingredients (less residue) that are all dye- and scent-free. And considering the size, they offer a fantastic value. And you won’t need more than one per load (even for non-HE machines). Just note: The brand recommends using one tablet per 30 laundry cycles, so the amount of time the package lasts will vary by household. For light users, you may get great mileage, needing just a single tablet every two months or so. For heavy users, you might not even get through a full month before you need another tablet. 

Price at time of publish: $20

Type: Tablets︱Amount: 6 ︱Scent: Unscented︱Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes

Best for Eliminating Odors

Glisten Washer Magic Washing Machine Cleaner and Deodorizer

Glisten Washer Magic Washing Machine Cleaner and Deodorizer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Effectively removes odors

  • Cleans the gasket and detergent drawer

  • Doesn’t leave behind residue

What We Don't Like
  • Have to pour into machine manually

  • Expensive

It’s no surprise that Glisten Washer Magic Washing Machine Cleaner and Deodorizer is a top-selling washing machine cleaner. It’s one of the best at removing grime and buildup, so your clothes will come out fresh and clean every time. It can even tackle mold, mildew, and other questionable odors that can make your whole laundry room smell. 

The cleaner, which is safe for all machines and plumbing systems, including HE machines and septic systems, doesn’t leave behind the same residue many other cleaners do. You can even use a little bit to scrub the washing machine door gasket and detergent tray. 

If there’s any downside, it’s that you have to pour the cleaner into the machine manually—watch out for drips! This cleaner is also more expensive than most tablets, especially because you’ll only get about three uses out of each bottle (a small price to pay to banish those bad odors).

Price at time of publish: $11

Type: Liquid︱Amount: 12 ounces︱Scent: Unscented︱Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes

Final Verdict

Our top pick is Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner. These tablets are easy to use, compatible with all types of washing machines, and they are affordable. If you're looking for a tablet that will clean all parts of your washing machine, inner workings, and drum, this is the one to try. For a budget-friendly option, consider the Eco-Gals Eco Swirlz Washing Machine Cleaner. With one purchase of the 24-pack of tablets, you can get a full year’s supply of washing machine cleaner that's safe for your system and Mother Nature.

What to Look for in a Washing Machine Cleaner

Type

Washing machine cleaners come in tablet, liquid, and powder form. You can also use all-purpose cleaning wipes to clean your washing machine, although this method won't be able to get into the inner workings of your machine. “Make sure to find something that will clean out the inside of the machine and the drain,” says Marisol Wilkens, a residential cleaner with over 20 years of experience.

Tablets are the most convenient to store and use, and powders and liquids won't take up too much room, either. Wipes take the most effort to use, but they can be used on other household appliances and messes, too.

Scent

Washing machine cleaners can have a strong scent, so take note if that is something you are looking to avoid. Some cleaners come in unscented forms, but you may still find a residual odor. Eco-friendly cleaners that use essential oils for their scent are often the preferred choice for those who are sensitive to chemicals and smells.

Machine Compatibility

Many washing machine cleaners work for top-loading washing machines, front-loading machines, and high-efficiency machines, but you should always double-check. Tablets tend to be the easiest to use in a wide variety of washing machines. Front-loading washing machines have door gaskets that can easily contribute to grime, mold, and mildew buildup, so look for a cleaner that targets these areas, or use a wipe to manually clean them.

Plumbing Compatibility

If you have a septic system, make sure that your washing machine cleaner is septic safe. Using any chemical in your plumbing, including some washing machine cleaners, may cause damage to your system, which can result in potentially smelly and often very expensive problems. Septic-safe washing machine cleaners will almost always state that they are septic safe on the packaging.

FAQ
  • How often should you use a washing machine cleaner?

    For most people, using a washing machine cleaner once per month keeps their machine in great shape, says Ron Shimek, President of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company. If you notice mold or an unusual smell, plan to clean your washing machine more often. Front-loader washing machines need cleaning more frequently than top-loaders, because water can accumulate in the gasket on the front and cause mold issues.

  • How do you keep your washing machine from smelling?

    Regular cleaning with a washing machine cleaner is the best way to keep your washing machine from smelling. You can also go the DIY route. Instead of using a washing machine cleaner, place a half-cup of baking soda in the detergent compartment, and two cups of white vinegar in the drum, and then run a hot empty cycle. You can also buy yourself some time between cleanings with good practices, such as removing wet clothes as soon as the cycle is through, and leaving the drum open until things dry out.

  • Can you use a washing machine cleaner in your dishwasher?

    While a washing machine cleaner uses similar cleaning agents to a dishwasher cleaner, the two items cannot be used interchangeably unless specified. Washing machine cleaners are often larger or more concentrated, because a washing machine is usually bigger than a dishwasher. Dishwasher cleaning tablets, liquid, or powder are recommended in specific amounts for standard dishwasher sizes. Many companies that make washing machine cleaners also make dishwasher cleaners. If you find a product that you like, look for one from the same manufacturer.

Why Trust The Spruce

This article was written by Brigitt Earley, a freelance writer with nearly 15 years of experience writing about consumer products, including household appliances and cleaning products like washing machine cleaners. To curate this list, she scoured top retailers to find the best, most highly rated options. Then, she vetted each, reading all of the specs and hundreds of reviews. To make her top picks, she consulted experts like Ron Shimek, President of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company, and then used that guidance to analyze the type, scent, machine and plumbing compatibility, and overall efficacy of each one. 

Additional reporting was conducted by Katie Melynn, a freelance writer who specializes in home and family products who has been writing for The Spruce since 2019.

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