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Is your washing machine healthy? Do you know what is inside?

Dirty washing machine YUCK! 

Most households have a washing machine, whether a simple front or top loader or a high-end washer/dryer combination. These essential appliances are used weekly or daily in some households and are expected to perform load after load. When they break down, it is a disaster; uniforms and essential items don’t get washed, the machine can be expensive to replace, and if we are lucky, the breakdown does not cause a flood.

In this blog, we dig deep into the most common cause of washing machine breakdowns and show you how to make yours last longer.

According to ‘Choice Magazine’, once your machine reaches six (6) years old, a major breakdown could cost over $300, potentially making it not worthwhile repairing. The average lifespan for a washing machine can vary:

  • Budget/entry-level Five Years (price $400+)
  • Mid-Range Eight Years (price $700+)
  • High-End 11 Years (price $1500+)

You can do a few simple things to keep your machine healthy and increase the life of your investment. 

The washing machine is the last thing on our minds to clean. We wipe it down and clean the filter, but it’s the bit we cannot see, which is concerning. It looks clean, and the drum is nice and shiny. But, and that is a big BUT, just like mould and fats build up in a sink pipe, we get build-up on the outer drum, in the pipes and the pump of the washing machine.

A significant cause of washing machine breakdowns is the build-up of limescale, scrud, mould, and small items caught in pumps.

Let us look at the inside of a typical top and front-loading washing machine.

Inside workings and parts of a front and top loader washing machines

Whether you have a top or front loader, all washing machines have two (2) drums. Mould, limescale, and scrud build up between these drums and in the pipes, causing costly breakdowns. These blue areas are the hidden areas where this build-up occurs.

  1. Water Inlets – these are usually found near the top at the back of machines. As the name suggests, connect your washing machine to the taps so water can fill your device. 
  2. Note: some washing machines only have a cold inlet. Others have provisions for hot and cold water; these rely on mixing the water to reach the desired temperature. If there is only one, your machine will have a heater element inside the outer drum to heat the water and not rely on your hot water system.
  3. Agitator or No Agitator – Top-loading washing machines usually have a type of agitator; it could be short at the bottom or tall, like the one in this diagram. Front-loading washing machines don’t use an agitator; they use the movement of the drum to tumble and agitate the clothes.
  4. Inner Drum – There are two (2) drums. The inner drum is what you see when you open your machine. It has many small holes in its side so water can escape when the machine is on a spin cycle.
  5. Outer Drum – This drum holds the water in your machine. It doesn’t move; it is fixed and has pipes attached to drain the water out after the cycle.
  6. Pump & Motor / Drive – All machines have a pump to remove water from the machine and a motor to turn the inner drum and agitators. The position can vary slightly, but they usually are found at the bottom near the drain pipe.
  7. Water Outlets – You put the end of this pipe into the drain hole in your laundry tub so the water can flow away.
  8. Door / Lid & Rubber Seals – It is important to keep doors and lids closed when washing but leave them open between uses so the machine can dry out, which helps reduce mould.
  9. Controls & Soap Dispensers – Depending on your washing machine model, these are found in different positions.

Why does this build-up happen?

  • Mould – grows in dark, moist areas between the drums and pipes. 
  • If not removed, it can cause blockages, harbour bacteria, break away and leave black marks on clothes.
  • Limescale – is the build-up of minerals more commonly found in hard water. Limescale is the white scale in jugs, kettles and around bathroom tapware. This build-up also happens in washing machines, especially those that heat their water. 
  • If not removed, it can cause blockages and restrict the movement of the pump, inner drum and motor, causing costly breakdowns.
  • Excess Fillers – Fillers do not provide cleaning benefits; they bulk up the product’s volume. If possible, use products that contain fewer fillers, usually found in concentrated form. Sometimes, the fillers used in detergent powders do not dissolve and settle on the bottom of the outer drum, pipes, and pump. Powder detergents commonly use sodium sulphate, and liquid detergents use water.
  • If not removed, they can cause wear and tear on the mechanical parts like the pump and motor, causing costly breakdowns.
  • Scrud – this is when the fabric softener comes in contact with undissolved detergent. The fabric softener becomes a waxy sludge, accumulating between the drums, hardening and is difficult to remove. DO NOT USE FABRIC SOFTENER!
  • If not removed, it can cause blockages and restrict the movement of the pump, inner drum and motor, causing costly breakdowns.
  • Dirt & Body Fats – some dirt, body fats and oils do not flush away, adding to the build-up layers. Use hot water when possible to help disperse the fats and oils out of the machine.
  • If not removed, they get caught in the layers of mould and limescale, creating an excellent breeding ground for germs and bacteria.
  • Germs & Bacteria – Sweaty clothing, handkerchiefs, bacteria, and bacteria in the air can get caught in the build-up and breed. Some can be very nasty, like S. aureus, E. coli, P. aeruginosa, E. hirae, S. choleraesuis. 
  • If not removed, the germs are spread throughout our wash.
  • Washing in Cold Water – Cold water can be used for lightly soiled items and saves energy. However, it does not remove oils, fats, and sludge build-up or kill germs. Use a hot wash to help break down body fats and oils.

Doesn’t the rinse water wash it away after each wash?

Unfortunately, not all.
Some washing machines have been known to have more germs than household toilets. Body fats, minerals, soap with many fillers and fabric softeners cling to the sides of the walls of the drum and pipes. This, coupled with mould, makes a disgusting black sludge, an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. If not treated, it can create a hard coating that can cause breakdowns due to blockages or stress on the pump and motor.
As the diagrams show, you would only know you have a problem if you dismantle your machine, which is impractical. The build-up smells and little bits can sometimes dislodge and get caught on your clothes.

The Story of Three (3) Washing Machines

We acquired three (3) washing machines that had recently broken down, each with a different cleaning history. The inside looked relatively clean before we dismantled them. Check out this video; you can see the build-up on the drum and under the agitator. 

Visit Derrick with 2Rs, a washing machine maintenance specialist’s YouTube channel, to see other videos demonstrating how to fix appliances and what can be found inside them.


Vinegar is excellent at removing odours at low concentrations. However, vinegar can destroy washing machine pumps and pipes. As discussed in our blog ‘4 things you need to know about cleaning with vinegar’, vinegar can cause damage to appliances as it is corrosive and can damage rubber seals and some metals.

Do not mix bicarbonate soda and vinegar; they stop working after they bubble and foam. After this reaction, each ingredient is rendered neutral. Bicarbonate soda is excellent as an abrasive instead of a cream cleanser. They can help remove grease build-up in drains when mixed together and used straight.

However, using a dedicated cleaner for your appliance is always best. Support Australian jobs and buy one that is Australian-made, owned, and environmentally responsible.

How to clean your washing machine

Cleaning your washing machine isn’t difficult, but it is essential to do it regularly to help keep it running optimally. Here are some easy steps to follow:


  1. Remove lint from filters (if you have a lint filter)
  2. After each load, wipe down the inside of the machine with a cloth.
  3. Run an empty load on your machine’s hottest cycle. This will help loosen body fats and oils.
  4. To clean the door seal of a front-loader, use a cloth and an all-purpose cleaner or a mild bleach solution. The rubber seal’s shape and position allow it to hold dirty water, requiring you to wipe it down by hand.
  5. Use a soft brush to remove any residue from the detergent drawer (soap dispenser).
  6. Wipe down the top and outside of the machine with a soft cloth and some all-purpose cleaner.
  7. Keep doors and lids open to help let the inside of the machine dry out. This helps prevent mould.


  1. Ensure your machine is empty.
  2. Remove lint from filters.
  3. Use a dedicated washing machine cleaner like Anti-Bacterial Magic Washing Machine Cleaner and use as directed on the label.
  4. Then, wipe down as per the general weekly clean.
  5. This will help break down general build-up and help prolong the life of your machine.


Some machines clean heavily soiled clothes or are used more often in large families. If you have completed monthly maintenance cleaning and now have a smell or black flakes on your clothes, your machine has a heavy build-up that one treatment could not remove. We recommend using Magic Heavy Duty Washing Machine Disinfectant, Australia’s most potent washing machine disinfectant and cleaner.

Machines that have not been cleaned regularly or for a long time may require a few cleaning cycles to become clean. Once clean, the maintenance clean should be enough to help prevent the build-up from worsening. 

Follow these simple steps to prolong the life of your machine and help keep your washing healthy.

The differences between washing machine cleaners

When you are ready to purchase a washing machine cleaner. There are many to choose from, with similar prices, but the main differences are:

  1. Don’t pay for water:
  2. Magic is a powder, is the most effective (powerful) washing machine cleaner available in Australia and at a price-competitive
  3. Support Australian Jobs:
  4. Magic is completely Australian Made and Owned
  5. Reduce your impact on the environment: 
  6. Magic offers more sustainable packaging with up to 60% less packaging


Common Questions

Where do the black bits come from?
The black bits are mould and build-up that has come loose from your drum and caught on your clothes. Use Magic Heavy Duty Washing Machine Disinfectant cleaner to help remove stubborn build-up. Then, use Magic Anti-Bacterial Washing Machine Cleaner monthly as a maintenance step.

Why shouldn’t I use the drum-clean setting on my machine with a washing machine cleaner?
The drum clean setting uses very hot water, hotter than the recommended 60oC. The hot temperatures above 60oC make the solution even more powerful and could make the stainless appear dull.

Why shouldn’t I use fabric softener?
Fabric softener contains lubricating ingredients designed to coat and soften fabric fibres. This means it also covers the walls of your washing machine. Suppose it comes in contact with undissolved detergent. In that case, the softener turns into a waxy substance that can become very hard and difficult to clean out of the machine.

Why should I use hot water?
Hot water is excellent for properly dissolving detergents and loosening the build-up of body fats and oils.

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