How to care for your washing machine

Looking after your washing machine will maximise its life and performance.

Row of washing machines

Our member surveys indicate that the average life expectancy of a top loader is seven years, and 12 for a front loader.

Care and maintenance

Keys and coins kill washing machines
Check pockets before washing, and look for dirt and objects left in the drum, or hidden in the rubber seals after each wash.

Pump filters
Many washing machines have these as a last line of defence against foreign objects. Look for a small hatch low down on the outside of your machine. Check this monthly and clear anything that shouldn’t be in there — use a towel or tray to catch the water when you open it up. If your machine isn’t draining, this is the first thing to check before calling for a repair.

Spin speed
Keep this to 1200rpm, even if your machine goes up to 1400 or even 1600rpm. Higher speeds reduce the life of belts, drum bearings and door seals, without removing much more water.

Don’t use fabric softener with laundry detergent
They react to create a waxy residue called “scrud”. No one wants “scrud”.

Regularly clean the detergent dispenser
Check the manual to see how to remove it, and wash it thoroughly in warm soapy water.

Run a hot wash each month with no laundry and a little detergent
Many machines have a specific “service” or “cleaning” cycle. It helps your machine smell fresh, prevents detergent build-up, and keeps it cleaning at its best.

Wash problems

Here's our advice for dealing with common washing problems.

Lint and other white deposits

Lint often collects on the washing, especially in top loaders. Top loaders that use less water can also cause deposits of detergent, which look a lot like lint. If you have these problems:

  • Sort the clothes, and where possible wash lint givers separately from lint collectors. Lint givers are mainly towels, chenille and nappies. Lint collectors are mainly synthetics, corduroy, poly-cotton and socks. Turn lint collectors inside out.
  • Wash smaller loads of same colour items, selecting full rinses (not spray rinses) to help remove lint and deposits in folds. On some machines you'll have to choose a cycle that has a full rinse.

  • Make sure you use enough detergent – it helps carry the lint away. But don't overdose: excess suds could stop the machine or make white deposits worse.

  • If feasible, don't use water-saving programmes for your wash. Low water-use is often related to deposit problems.

  • Use liquid detergent or pre-dissolve powders to ensure detergent particles don't deposit on to the clothes.

  • Fisher & Paykel Smart Drive owners: If you want to see the lint that comes out of the wash, F&P offer a filter option. Call the F&P Customer Call Centre on 0800 372 273, and ask them to send you a filter.

Greasy deposits

Greasy deposits called “scrud” can result from a reaction between fabric softener and detergent residues. Scrud is waxy and greasy, and clings to unseen parts of the machine, such as under the agitator. Blobs can break free and deposit on to clothes.

  • when you use a softener, wash in warm water. If you regularly use fabric softener in cold washes, run a hot wash every fifth wash.
  • clean your machine regularly using a hot wash and detergent. Check the manual for details.
  • clean the filter (if your machine has one) and the detergent dispenser regularly.
  • leave the door/lid open between washes to let the drum dry out.

Front loader door seals and mould

When mould grows on the seals or in the drum, you can get bad smells. These can make your clothing smell too.

To avoid mould problems:

  • Remove water from the seal after each wash.
  • Between washes, leave the door and detergent dispenser open – that lets the interior dry.
  • Wipe the rubber seal with hot water and detergent to get rid of the mould.
  • Try skipping fabric softener – it’s not usually needed.
  • Once a month run a hot wash with a full-strength powder detergent.

Pump problems

Lint, scrud or small objects can all block the pump inlet or the object trap.

  • On top loaders, remove the agitator and clean the pump inlet.
  • On front loaders, empty the object trap if it's accessible.
  • Check pockets before loading the machine. Matches, hairclips, paperclips and loose bra wires can all jam the pumps – and that requires a service call.
  • Fisher & Paykel suggests you use a lingerie bag to wash bras.

Scratchy towels

One of the downsides of front loaders (and water-efficient top loaders) is that they can produce stiff, rough or scratchy towels. That’s because the towels are generally tumbling through just a little water rather than floating through lots like in an older-style top loader. And to get the fibres nicely fluffed up, towels need to be immersed in water.

Another reason could be that your front loader is in fact too water-efficient, using too little water for the rinse and leaving detergent residues in the wash. Our test results can help you choose a machine that’s good at rinsing while still being water-efficient.

Short of drying your towels for hours in an energy-guzzling clothes dryer to get them soft, you can try the following to help reduce the ‘scratchy, flat’ effect:

  • Adding an extra rinse to your towels wash.
  • Using a gentler wash cycle that uses more water.
  • Lowering the spin speed – higher spin speeds tend to flatten the fibres and line drying doesn't fluff them back up, making them feel hard.
  • Vigorously shaking out your towels, or putting them in the dryer on a ‘cool’ setting for 10 minutes, before hanging on the line. The tumbling action of the dryer will fluff the fibres back up and minimal energy is used as the heating element is not switched on.
  • Taking towels off the line when still a little damp and drying them off in the dryer.
  • As a last resort, you could try using a good quality fabric conditioner in the final rinse.

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