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Updated October 2023

How to care for your washing machine

Regularly servicing your washing machine could extend its lifespan and save you money.

Our member surveys indicate that the average life expectancy of a washing machine is 10 years. A little care and maintenance could extend this, so when was the last time you considered servicing your washing machine?

We service our cars every year to maintain their performance, preserve their safety ratings and extend their lifespans, but washing machines don’t usually get any attention until something goes wrong.

At the Wall household we had the spin motor on our six-year-old washing machine burn out, which cost over $600 to replace. The service agent advised us that if we had gotten the motor checked in the months prior, he could have replaced the motor’s carbon brushes for less than $100 and it would have lasted another six years.

So a preventative check could save you from an expensive repair job. Even better, you can do a lot of preventative maintenance yourself.

5 washing machine maintenance tips

Image of a woman cleaning her washing machine

1. Wipe the door seals

All manufacturers recommend that after every wash, you wipe the bottom of the door seal to mop up excess water and leave the door ajar for the seal and drum to dry out. This can prevent mould growing in the drum and seal, which can lead to unpleasant odours. We never used to do this in our household and eventually our seal became very grotty, so we had to replace it. Suffice to say, we now wipe the seal after every wash.

Door seal replacements are around $100 for the part. If you factor in the technician’s callout charge, you are looking at over $200 to replace your seal (although you can do it yourself if you are the handy type).

Asko has taken a different approach to door seals and don’t have a bellows-style seal that can trap water. Instead, their machines use a rubber gasket on the door that seals against the steel rim of the outer drum. However, they do still recommend wiping the rubber seal after every wash.

Image of washing machine detergent drawer

2. Clean the detergent drawer

You should regularly remove and wash your detergent drawer to prevent the build-up of residue, which can eventually stop detergent from getting into the drum.

Westinghouse recommends that you wash out the detergent after every single wash for their top load washing machines. For most other manufacturers, it’s on an as-needed basis – AEG suggests “once in a while”.

Cleaning is even more important in the case of newer machines with auto-dosing systems. Miele has implemented an auto-dosing cleaning routine into its TwinDos washing machine, which cleans detergent residue out of the dosing pump and pipe system. However, activating this routine requires a fairly complex set of button presses which isn’t exactly user-friendly.

Image of a washing machine

3. Run a regular drum clean

With the arrival of more effective low temperature washing powders and liquids, many washes are now done at 40 degrees or lower. This is better for energy consumption but it’s to the detriment of keeping the drum and the rest of the wet areas inside the machine clean. Without running regular hot washes, mould and bacteria can grow, causing unhygienic washes and nasty odours.

Running an empty hot wash (ideally 70 degrees+) through the machine once a month can prevent this. Luckily quite a few manufacturers now have drum or tub clean cycles on their machines, and Miele, Bosch, LG, Samsung and Fisher & Paykel have notifications on their latest machines to prompt you to clean the drum. If you have an older machine, you’ll just have to put a reminder in your calendar.

You can also buy specific drum cleaning products, which are especially useful if you live in an area with hard water that might cause limescale to build up – but most detergents have additives to soften water. Fisher & Paykel recommend a product called Ceraclean (which costs around $7 from the supermarket) that states that it will flush out odours, mould, mildew, soap powder buildup, limescale and oily grimy residues. If you follow the recommended drum cleaning procedures, you probably won’t need this.

Image of a washing machine drain pipe

4. Check and clean the drain pump

If you have a front loader, have you ever wondered what that hatch on the bottom front right of your machine is? That’s where the little drain pump lives that removes the dirty water once the wash and rinse cycles have been completed.

Manufacturers recommend you regularly clean this pump to stop it from getting blocked. Andrew Wadsworth of Wellington Appliance Servicing reckons one of the best preventative maintenance measures a user can do is to check all the pockets of garments before washing, as items such as coins and hairclips can get stuck in the drain pump. He told us that when he worked as a service engineer for LV Martin, 40% of his workload was pulling these items out of drain pumps. Save yourself some money: check those pockets and learn how to clean the drain pump yourself.

If you have a top load washing machine, you won’t have the luxury of an access flap for the drain pump. You may have to remove external panels to get to the pump, so it’s even more important to avoid getting objects stuck in there. Some top loaders have a “coin trap” inside the central agitator – your user manual will tell you how to access it.

Image of washing machine inlet

5. Clean the inlet and lint filters

Inlet filters stop the entry of minerals and debris from the water supply into the washing machine. Cleaning the inlet filters can be tricky as it usually requires pulling the washing machine out from the wall to access the rear panel. Most machines will have a mesh screen filter on the water inlet on the rear. There may also be a filter on the tap end of the hose. These only need checking if you have debris or a lot of limescale in your water. You’ll need to turn off the tap to your washing machine first and drain the hose or have a bucket ready to collect the water.

Top loaders may also have a lint filter, often inside the central agitator – but check your manual for the location (front loaders don’t need these as they are typically gentler on clothes). You can remove and clean this filter with hot soapy water and a brush.

Warranties, repairs and costs

Most new machines come with at least a two-year warranty, and many have five, ten or even twenty-year warranties on their motors. None of these warranties require you to perform any servicing, which is surprising.

Miele advised that “all routine cleaning and maintenance requirements can adequately be performed by the user“. They sell a “service certificate”, but it’s not quite what it sounds: it’s essentially an extended warranty of five years for an extra $269.

Miele is currently the only manufacturer that doesn’t offer anything more than a standard two-year warranty on their machines, and currently have no motor warranty available, but they do test their products to the equivalent of 20 years of usage. They also offer a “professional preventative maintenance and performance assessment” (phew!), where they will check three Miele appliances for $179, including conducting basic servicing tasks as listed above.

Other manufacturers will direct you to their service agents for similar services, but none explicitly mention a maintenance service.

Image of a washing machine repair

How much is a callout charge for a washing machine?

Jones Service, part of the group that owns Kitchen Things that sells Bosch, Miele, LG and Samsung washing machines, told us that they have some customers who will book regular servicing. We asked the likely cost of a service: the initial call-out fee is $135.75 and includes the first 20 minutes of labour, and then labour is charged at $19.75 for every 10 mins.

Bosch themselves will charge you $109.99 for a call-out, and then it’s $11 per 6 mins of labour – and they charge for travel on top, so if you live outside of a main centre, it’s something to be aware of.

Fisher & Paykel allow you to book a service agent online, and their call-out fee is $129, with the max labour charge on top of $115.

Several manufacturers have links to authorised repairers on their websites, so you can pick and choose whom you use, but none of them will be cheap. LG have an agent listed who will charge $149.50 for just an inspection, and the cheapest call-out fee we found in our research was $90.

Considering all the above, we reckon it’s worth attempting the basic maintenance tasks yourself and saving your cash for when you really need a professional.

Don’t be afraid of servicing your washing machine: there is so much clear information and advice available to enable you to save a pretty sizeable call-out charge to remove a button from a pump.

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