Washing machine cleaner

I haven’t seen any reviews or testing on washing machine cleaner products. Seems to be lots of advertising on TV claiming they will wash and brighten machine. I am commonly sceptical about what is, said with advert. Even if anyone has, used or tested to see if are, worthwhile otherwise. I have used vinegar for cleaning of clothes. Maybe 2 in one results. I will load, a picture of common advert or ones, online I saw.

Pine kleen are, always saying how good it works.

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I have been using CLR or equivalent products to do the washing machine clean cycle for years. Why buy another product when one product can be used to do so many things well?


You aren’t the only one.

Having used a washing machine for many years (the longest lasting one is about 20 years old and still going even though it is now a backup machine) and used for nappies, nutrient and soil clothing etc which may have promoted growths, odours etc. We have never experienced growths, odours or build-ups in the washing machine. I know that there are no build-ups as I have taken parts of the washer apart to remove bra wires which were dislodged and deposited deep into the machine.

I can’t really see the value in such products for most washing machine users. Saying this, if one is on very hard water (contains magnesium and calcium salts), it is possible that some deposits could be built up over time that clothes washing detergent won’t remove. I suspect that some of the products you have identified won’t also dissolve/dislodge such deposits either (as they don’t appear to contain ingredients which acidify the water to dissolve calcium/magnesium build-ups).

Some of these products may be beneficial to those who all of a sudden have a growth or strong odour in the washer (a washing machine left for a long time without use), but, I wonder how many do. Maybe doing a hot wash would provide a similar benefit and would be cheaper.

The products might be more about creating a market for a product that isn’t really needed (in most cases) rather than developing a product to solve an identifiable, known and common problem.


Yes it is true. The adverts make it out like the inside will be full of mould and grime. Manufacturers always say things without even testing well i wonder if they have or not. My last washing machine had no grime or built up like the, add, say. Im not sure what you think meltam saying using clr. I looked it up says, good for multiple applications of cleaning. I had heard of the product many years ago. It also hasa warning. It could well be general saying do not swallow etc as, with many products.


In front loaders a lot have a “spider arm” or “spider” at the back holding the drum to the motor (Direct Drives). This “spider” is usually made of aluminum or an alloy of it. Using highly alkaline detergents (most are) eventually eats the arm away. This leads to bearing failures among the issues that eventuate. CLR as an acid would have a similar effect as it is effective at dissolving metals like aluminum. This spider problem exists for a number of brands including Samsung and LG in that list.

If a front loader, the best option is to regularly run a tub clean cycle (uses no additives to do this, just water), this helps to remove a lot of the undissolved powders and deposits found around the drum that lead to early corrosion failure.

For some links on the issue:

Samsung front loader spider arm replacement | Robinson Concepts.


I might be going off course talking about front loader regarding the maximum weight do you go by maximum they, say can be washed. Eg 8kg or 10 kg. I haven’t had, an, issue with washing. Im unsure about top load ones. Om pretty sure choice hada, discussion about weights but om just curious what you think.


I didn’t read every word of the two links you gave as they both rabbit on at length. I didn’t see much in the way of solid evidence about what causes the corrosion of the arm but a great deal of speculation, some of which is just silly.

On theoretical grounds I suspect the sodium carbonate in many washing powders would dissolve aluminium over time. Aluminium is a very active metal (it is energetically favourable for it to be oxidised and to be converted to aluminium compounds) and it is only useful in general because it is passivated by an adhesive oxide coating that prevents further oxidation.

If you make the oxide coating ineffective and continuously expose the bare metal it will “burn”, that is white oxide will visibly grow off the surface with the production of heat, though not with flame. I am leaving out the way to do this as it is potentially dangerous and not relevant here.

Alkalis can dissolve the coating (producing soluble aluminates) and so defeat its protection. I also suspect that hot wash will corrode faster than cold. This is a good candidate for the explanation but only in theory.

To know conclusively one would need to observe this happening under the conditions of actual use (possibly comparing different washing powders) and determine how long before the part is seriously damaged.

I doubt that the lactic acid (the kind in yoghurt) in CLR would do very much as it is a rather weak acid and only used occasionally but once again you would need to observe to find out for sure.

Obviously the combination of aluminium alloy parts in contact with the wash and alkaline washing powder has been around for a long time.

Where is the industry on this? Does the composition of the alloy matter? Why do some machines last well and other do not? Is it only aluminium spiders that corrode and is it all of them? Does water hardness matter?


I used the links mainly to show the damage that was possible, the third link is more about an attempt to coat the arm to make it more resistant to corrosion. The Hunker link has information from one of their sources that opines that too hard water and too much powder/liquid used, leads to the issue.

It is corrosive to metals and does effect Aluminum. The spider parts in almost all washing machines these days are bare alloy metal with no corrosion resistant coatings applied. Any exposure will remove some metal, perhaps not much, it is the combined action of both the alkaline action on the metal using detergents and then the action of the acid solution when “refreshing” the drum. The drum clean procedure in the settings is only designed to use water, it should not lead to further metal loss as acidic or alkaline cleaning solutions would.

The other acid in CLR, gluconic acid, is used as a buffer to help the Lactic Acid remain more effective in use. Gluconic acid’s main role in solutions is to maintain the cation-anion balance of electrolyte solutions.

The Drum Clean cycle fills the machine with more water than a normal wash cycle, I think this is to ensure that all areas of the drum are adequately washed in the cycle Our Samsung manual recommends a Drum Clean cycle one a fortnight, we are sticklers for doing this fortnightly cycle. Some machines have a blinking light when it determines it is time for a cycle, in some of their machines it is a monthly recommendation rather than fortnightly. Samsung do advise that Drum Cleaning products can be added but their recommendation is that only 10% of the amount advised on the product directions be used.

"You can clean the drum without a cleaning agent when you use the ECO DRUM CLEAN cycle.

If you want to use a cleaning agent with this cycle for better results, please follow the instructions below exactly.

There are two types of drum cleaning agents: powder and liquid cleaning agents. Make sure to use a recommended cleaning agent to clean the drum.

To use a liquid cleaning agent, place the liquid detergent guide into the main wash detergent compartment of the detergent drawer, and pour liquid cleaning agent into the main wash compartment.

Since using a cleaning agent that contains chlorine bleach may discolor the product, be sure to use only cleaning agents that contain oxygen bleach.

We recommend that you use only 10% of the amount of drum cleaning agent recommended by the cleaning agent manufacturer."

Samsung used to use Cast Iron spiders with Aluminum drums, these days it is aluminum spiders and stainless steel drums. The cast iron was quite heavy as well as quite resistant to corrosion and I think the move to aluminum was mostly a weight concern. If maintained well the arms should last many years eg 10 - 15 before they fail or degrade too much. Our previous LG machine lasted about 11 years before the arm failed, we decided to buy a new machine rather than repair because of the age of our previous machine and expected increasing repair needs. We regularly used Drum Clean on the LG as part of our maintenance tasks around the house.


Yes but how much? It is one thing to say in principle that something happens, another to know if under the circumstances that it matters. If monthly treatment with CLR reduced the spider life from 100 years to 67 is that important?

OK, however unless we know the circumstances that cause it we are caught between carrying out steps said to prevent the problem that may be irrelevant (or not) and doing nothing which may be the most cost effective in the long run (or not).

I have a front load washer that is 20 years old and still going well. I have no idea if that is due to the material the spider is made from, the washing powder I use, the water I have, or none of the above.


Older machines, and I know Samsung were one type, at one time used cast iron spiders on their front loader machines. I can’t give a time when it changed to aluminum but now it is almost ubiquitous in front loaders. Yours being over 20 years may be one that still had a cast iron fitting or may not be a direct drive that uses a spider. Or it maybe the washing powder/solution, water hardness or whatever including a particularly good arm. The manufacturers recommend the tub clean, we use it and have had reasonable longevity for the machines that have instructions for doing so.


For my two pennies, it would seem far more likely that corrosion of an aluminium based metal spider is due to the pH of the washing solution.

Laundry detergents, soaps, bleach and other laundry cleaning products have pH values ranging from near neutral (IE 7.0) up to 10.0 or higher in some instances. Choice @ChrisBarnes might be able to provide some further insight.

Depending on whether one uses a powder or liquid, the product formula, and any added chemicals EG bleach, to the wash - some consumers may be at greater risk of experiencing failures than others. Certainly if one looks to the basic science of aluminium corrosion, there is an increased risk for a pH greater than 8.5. Not uncommon it would seem with some laundry products.

The protective Aluminium oxide film is stable in aqueous media when the pH is between about 4.0 and 8.5. The oxide film is naturally self-renewing and accidental abrasion or other mechanical damage of the surface film is rapidly repaired.
Corrosion of aluminum

Some greater knowledge of the formulation of the common WMC cleaning products and properties would be of value. All should have a product MSDS as a reference.


Thanks @mark_m for your faith in my knowledge of All Things, but this one’s a bit outside my area of expertise. Our whitegoods team leader Ash Iredale @airedale may be able to comment, though.


Thanks @ChrisBarnes, I was leaning on the Choice article - “Dishwasher and laundry detergent danger”.


My machine, a Fisher and Paykel upright, is about 25 years old. I’ve ‘refurbished’ twice and more recently replaced the out of balance microswitch which doesn’t seem to like hard water - but apart from that it has been trouble free.

My cleaning regime has been about 4 litres of vinegar and a couple boxes of baking soda when it seems to be a bit grimy, every three months or so, leave overnight then run a soak cycle. About once a year I take the agitator out and give everything a good clean with an old kitchen dish brush and some more vinegar.

These days it makes a sound that suggests the bearings (or something akin, drive motor?) are on the way out - I haven’t ruled out more diagnosis and remediation given it’s longevity, but maybe it’s near the end. It’s survived four house moves across three states so it doesn’t owe me anything and today looks clean as a whisle.


I remember growing up we had, a dryer which lasted for years kept going somethings last for ages.

Hi @passerbye123 , yes - a lot of older dryers last for ages because they’re simple timer vented dryers and there’s just nothing in them to break. Modern dryers are way more complex, so there’s a lot more to go wrong, even though they’re probably a lot more energy efficient.


Your helpful colleague @ChrisBarnes suggested you might be the best one to comment on the pH of the laundry detergents (when in the wash) and out of the packet/container.

If you’ve followed the more recent discussion the suggestion is that WMC cleaners and or detergents are the cause of corrosion (leading to failure) of the aluminium spider drum support found in many front loaders.


Hi @mark_m , I appreciate Chris’ faith in my abilities, but I highly suspect your understanding of the chemistry of laundry detergents exceeds my own.
I do have personal experience of a washing machine spider failing, and investigating repairing it myself (an ultimately fruitless endeavor) so I understand the issue.
I can’t say for certain, but I would imagine laundry detergent may contribute to corrosion, but heat and humidity would be the main causes of it in this application. I would also suspect that metal fatigue would be a bigger problem - a washing machine spider has to hold the weight of the entire inner drum, plus laundry (up to 12 kg on the bigger front loaders), plus the weight of the water in the clothes, with everything spinning and bumping around for hours, at speeds of up to 1200 rpm. So stress fractures and work hardening would be where I’d be laying the blame first, not on chemical action from detergents.
As I said though, I’ll defer to wiser heads on this - I’m not a chemist after all - and I invite anyone who knows better to please prove me wrong.
Something I would say though is that if a spider fails it’s likely going to be terminal for the appliance - parts and labour to replace it will be very expensive (relative to the residual value of the appliance), and the inner drum will more than likely have done considerable damage to the outer drum, seals and other bits of the washing machine in the process of failing.


Greater experience than I have. Our one front loader was after a relatively short life (5+ years) sent for recycling after it developed a controller fault. It was an LG with a DC drive. In that time it must have run up a significant number of hours given it was washing daily for 5 adults. The standard wash a cycle time best accompanied by Richard Wagner’s The Ring, Die Walkure. Similar cyclic crescendos emanated from the machine.

One would need to consider barely visible surface corrosion can have a significant impact on the microstructure of a metal leading to stress fractures. Not something we will solve here.

The design of one example suggests the spider is machine die cast (lower cost - if one looks to how Tesla BEV’s are constructed). ‘https://dougsmithspares.com.au/shop/4434er0002h-lg-washing-machine-drum-spider-shaft/.
My best guess is in a test rig the spider has a lifetime greater than LG require. It would be enlightening to know what they achieve? It sets a minimum lifetime number of washes for their products.

Is it a major failure consumers should not accept within the lifetime of the product? Consider the consequences,

How one best cleans, the product used and airs a FL? Scope for both poor and better choices if it can affect the lifetime of the spider.

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Yes, we are sadly seeing washing machines that run nearly as long as the Ring Cycle, though sadly without the cultural benefits to the host city. As an aside, some washing machines we’ve seen contain an Easter egg, whereby the relevant key sequence triggers them to play the national anthem of their country of origin. There are also several content creators now composing music using the tones of their appliances - you’ll find one in particular of people playing the Harry Potter theme music on their washer if you look on a popular video streaming site.
I’m certainly in no position to argue when it comes to the impact of corrosion on failure of metals - while we have a good working knowledge of materials here, you can add metallurgist to the list of credentials we sadly don’t have.
At a guess I would say you’re right about how LG (and most manufacturers for that matter) are testing their products for longevity. The design and materials would certainly be required to last a not insignificant number of cycles, though of course it’s impossible to eliminate all manufacturing and materials faults, so the life of individual units may vary.
But yes, the big question is should consumers accept such a failure? This always comes back to the wording of the Australian Consumer Law - goods must be fit for the purpose for which they are sold, and should last a reasonable length of time based on the nature of the item, it’s cost, and the expectations of a reasonable person. This, for an expensive washing machine, should be significantly longer than the one or two years of a typical manufacturers’ warranty, and if my washing machine spider failed after three or four years then I would expect to be made whole by the manufacturer. Sadly there’s no one clear rule on it, which is a shame because longer lasting appliances are great for consumers, the environment, and the manufacturer who can then trade on their reputation for reliability.