A maintenance wash effectively cleans out the insides of your washing machine, which needs done on all washers from time to time. Most detergent manufacturers as well as washing machine manufacturers seem to have settled on doing it once a month, but obviously this will vary from household to household depending on how much the washing machine is used basically.
However, there are other factors that will affect the need for maintenance washes. For example we tend to find that people that use detergents correctly, using normal powder or tablets for whites and a "colour" detergent or liquid (also liquid tablet capsules and concentrated liquids) for coloured loads, will have far less need to perform a maintenance wash with that sort of regularity. In short, using the detergents properly in the first place can save an awful lot of bother in the long term.
Using only colour detergent, liquid, liquid tablets or any other detergent that does not contain bleach will massively increase the need to carry out a maintenance wash. This includes alternatives such as soapnuts, ecoballs and Ecover etc., products which we have serious concerns about anyway.
It is worth noting at this point that the modern washing machines available now use less water (a lot less) and that this is a growing problem which can lead to smelly washing machines. I have, at the end of this article, provided links to help you cure this and other problems that arise from these conditions. Washing technology, how we do it and what we use to do it with, have changed massively since the introduction of the EU Energy Labelling system and what we do today is totally different to what we did even ten years ago to wash.
Essentially the maintenance wash is to clean your washing machine out, not clothes!
It is absolutely vital, if you want this to work, that the machine is empty when a maintenance wash is performed. The reason for that is that lots of the components in the detergent will, instead of cleaning the machine, be attracted to and attempt to clean any laundry that you put in instead of the build-up of bacteria and other nasty dirt in the machine. The point is to clean the inside of your washing machine, not clothes.
This will also help the surfactants in the powder to attack the calcium build-ups as well, which will negate the need for any descaler. However, if you use detergent correctly you should have little call for such add-on products normally as there are components in the detergents to combat the effects of limescale already, there should be little, if any, requirement to buy any more products for this reason, such as Calgon.
You will need a good brand powder or tablets to do this. Liquids, liquid tabs or Colour detergent is of no use at all for a maintenance wash and they will not clean the insides of the washer properly as they contain no bleach or bleaching agents. It is the bleach in the detergent that will kill the bacteria and that is a huge part of this process and the primary reason for carrying out a maintenance wash.
You can find out a lot more about detergents and how to use them properly from this link
Many washing machines end up like this just because they're not looked after
This is also pretty important if you wish this to succeed.
You need to use at least a 60˚C program, preferably a hot wash at about 90˚C or even 95˚C is still better and will help to clean better. Please select one without a pre-wash, you want to get the full wash cycle and the heating from the heater to maximise the impact of any biological action by the enzymes if you are using a bio powder, which I'd recommend.
Put the kettle on and sit back with a cuppa and relax, you're done.
The maintenance wash is very simple, quick and easy to perform but it can save you a whole heap of trouble, not to mention possible unnecessary service visits. Performing this simple task once in a while really can save you money and lots of it as the effect that not doing it can have is profound indeed. If you want your washing machine to last as long as possible we strongly recommend that this simple chore is regularly carried out.
This article was originally posted in 2004 and, since then we've been searching for a cleaner that can solve the odour problem for people, in 2008 finally found one!
Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner has been specifically developed to combat the problem of smelly or foul smelling washing machine and is available in the online store along with it's sister product Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner.
Is short, Affresh attacks the residue itself, breaking it up and sending it down the drain and, regular use can stop it from happening again. The great thing about this is that it's not stupidly expensive either, it's actually quite cheap.
We get asked all the time on the best way to solve the problem and, especially if it is fairly bad, maintenance washes can take a long time to clear the odours but it still won't remove all the scum that's left, Affresh will as it is specifically designed to break these residues up.
You can find more, as well as related, information on the effects of not carrying out a maintenance wash from the following articles:
Smelly Washing Machines how to avoid nasty smells and get rid of them
Washing Machine Soap Drawers how to clean them to avoid smells and bacteria build ups
Door Seal Mildew or Black Marks how to cure and avoid mould on your washing machine door seal
Whiter Whites, Brighter Colours, how to use detergents correctly.