What good is a washing machine if it's adding dirt, mildew, and odors back into your fabrics? Fortunately, there's a way to remove residue and smells without excess effort on your part — but the market is saturated with washing machine cleaners that don't deliver, so it's important to do your research first. The
best washing machine cleaners are effective, easy to use, and compatible with all three main types of washing machines: front-loading, traditional top-loading, and high-efficiency.
First, let's talk about ingredients. This is especially important for people who are
sensitive to harsh chemicals and additives. Since you rely on your machine to clean your clothes and linens (all of which come into regular contact with your body), you don't want anything in there that might irritate your skin. There are natural, toxin-free options that will get the job done, and although they're usually not as powerful as the synthetics, they're a better choice for those with sensitive skin and noses.
Scroll on for five options that are reviewer-approved for effectiveness and convenience. One is even so versatile, you can use it in your dishwasher.
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The Overall Best Washing Machine Cleaner
Affresh washing machine cleaner tablets have nearly 20,000 reviews and are a number-one best seller in their category. They're compatible with most machines and use a special formula that dissolves slowly over the course of an entire cycle, so the odor-fighting, residue-removing foam won't rinse away until your machine is clean. It's also safe on machine components and septic tanks. The only downsides, according to reviewers? They're not cheap, and they're not ideal for sensitive skin. Compatible machines: front-loading, top-loading, high-efficiency One reviewer wrote: "These tablets really worked wonders for my washing machine. I noticed that my clothes were not smelling as fresh as they once did, and I traced it back to my washer having an odd smell to it. Affresh took care of everything, and it could not be any easier to use; all you do is throw one in the washer and run it."
Eco-Gals Eco Swirlz washing machine tablets are great for a variety of reasons — they're powerful and even clean the drainage system, too — but the best part is arguably the price. Because they come in a pack of 24 for just $15, each tablet breaks down to a little over $0.50 a tablet. Each order also comes with a 60-day guarantee, too. Plus, it uses eco-friendly ingredients. Compatible machines: front-loading, top-loading, high-efficiency One reviewer wrote: "We bought a new washer so that we could wash larger items, like puppy beds. After we finish cleaning them, we like to use these to clean the washer. The unit is clean and smells fresh when I finish using them. And the price/product amount are too great to ignore."
The Best Washing Machine Cleaner For Odors
If odors are your primary concern,
OxiClean's washing machine cleaner is your best bet. One pouch a month helps to remove musty smells, pet odors, and mildew, thanks to the bacteria-fighting ingredients and added odor blasters. It's safe for all types of machines, but while it is septic-system safe, it's not biodegradable. Compatible machines: front-loading, top-loading, high-efficiency One reviewer wrote: "We have hard water and get a funky build up of moldy stuff in our appliances, causing the inside of the washer and my clothes to stink. [...] I was thinking we’d have to throw out our 2 year old washer. When I tried [Oxi], I could actually see tiny particles floating in the water, which was all the stuff that was trapped somewhere inside the washer dissolving. Afterward everything smelled clean!"
The Best Choice For Sensitive Skin
Instead of harsh chemicals and overwhelming odors,
Lemi Shine utilizes natural citric acids to remove smells, clean away buildup, and optimize your washing machine. This two-pack comes with both cleaning pouches and wipes — and best of all, the formulas are nontoxic, bleach-free, biodegradable, and don't contain any artificial fillers or dyes. As a result, this is the best pick for those with sensitive skin or sinuses. Compatible machines: front-loading, top-loading, high-efficiency One reviewer wrote: "My favorite washing machine cleaner. [...] I'm glad I found it on Amazon. The Lemishine has a nice light citrus smell. I have sensitive sense of smell and strong odors of any kind bother me. Another brand I used had a heavy floral fragrance that could be smelled all over the house and my washer is in the basement!"
The Most Versatile Cleaner (That Also Works On Dishwashers)
Because the formula contains powerful enzymes that break down smells and residue,
these Plink tablets can be used in any standard washing machine as well as your dishwasher. Either way, the fizzing action helps to clear drains and rinses away grime, while the lemon scent helps the whole room to smell fresh. If you appreciate versatility, opt for this one. Compatible machines: front-loading, top-loading, high-efficiency, dishwashers One reviewer wrote: "Very handy you can use in the dishwasher and washing machine. Not as good at cleaning as some others, but does a decent job and smells great."