Washing Machine Drum Clean (What It Is & How To Use It)

What is drum clean in a washing machine? A washing machine drum clean function is a self-cleaning cycle designed to remove mold or other bacteria that is likely to have built up inside the drum through general use.

As well as the hygiene perspective, making sure you do this regularly can extend the usable life of the machine – saving you money on servicing and replacement costs further down the line!

If your machine has this function built-in, you just need to make sure the drum is empty, select the cycle, pop the cleaning solution in, and press start.

If you don’t have this program, you can achieve the same results by running the highest temperature cycle on your machine.

How Washing Machine Drum Clean Works

The drum clean program works by using a high temperature (60C plus) cycle to hygienically clean the machine. It works best when paired with a specific washing machine cleaning solution – like the Tide Washing Machine Cleaner.

However, if you don’t have any, a cup of white vinegar plus a scoop of bicarbonate of soda (sometimes called baking soda) straight into the drum will do the same job.  

How long does a drum clean cycle take?

It depends on the brand and cycle chosen, but usually, drum clean takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.

For me personally, I use a 90C cycle which takes 2 hours and 1 minute.

How often should you use the drum clean cycle?

Samsung advises you need to do it monthly – and I agree. Some other brands like Beko will say 1-3 months, but really it depends on how often you use your machine, how dirty your items usually are, and whether you have pets at home. 

In my house – I usually run a cleaner through the machine every 2-4 weeks after washing my dog’s blankets so that the machine is clean and fresh again for the next ‘human clothes’ cycle.

What are the benefits of regular drum cleans?

  • Prevent bad odors in your laundry room
  • Prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria and mold in your washing machine
  • Extend the lifespan of your machine by regularly removing limescale and water marks
  • A clean machine means fresher clothes 

Running the Drum Clean Cycle

This is probably the easiest maintenance task on your list! Just make sure the machine is completely empty, and add in your washing machine cleaner per the instructions.

If you don’t have any, a cup of white vinegar plus a scoop of bicarbonate of soda (sometimes called baking soda) straight into the drum – then select the drum clean cycle and press Start.

Different brands have slightly different names for this or specifically recommend other cycles to use if you don’t have a ‘Drum Clean’ option – so I’ve listed these for you below.

Beko

Only a few Beko models have a specific Drum Cleaning cycle, but otherwise, they recommend using the Cottons 90 program instead. 

Bosch

Bosch machines generally don’t have a Drum Clean cycle, so instead they advise that you use any 90C program that doesn’t have a pre-wash phase. 

Electrolux

Electrolux prefers the term ‘Maintenance Wash’ – but it’s the same as a drum clean! Some models will give you a heads-up that it’s time to run a maintenance program, but if not, then try and make sure you do one at least every 60 cycles.

If your machine doesn’t have a specific maintenance program, Electrolux suggests a short cotton program at a high temperature (90C) will do the trick. 

GE

GE has different instructions for top load washers and front load washers when it comes to cleaning the drum.

For top loads – the program you want is called ‘Basket Clean’ which should be run once a month, and for front loads – it will either be called ‘Basket Clean’ or ‘Self Clean’.

If you don’t have any of these options, then GE recommends a large Heavy/Cotton wash cycle instead.

Haier

For Haier brand machines which are top load, the manufacturers recommend filling the machine with hot water, adding a machine cleaner or a quart of bleach, and letting it agitate for a minute then leaving it to sit for an hour.

Once the hour’s up, you’ll need to run the washer through its longest wash and spin cycle. 

There are no specific instructions for Haier front load washers, so just stick to the generic instructions and use the hottest cycle possible.

Hisense

Most Hisense washers will have a Drum Clean program which runs at 95C. If yours doesn’t have this, just pick the hottest cycle possible.

LG

Most LG top load machines will indicate when they need to be washed with a flashing ‘tcL’ on the control panel – indicating a Tub Clean is needed – but otherwise, once a month will be fine.

Press ‘Power’ > press ‘Cycle’ > select ‘Tub Clean’ > add the washing machine cleaner > then press ‘Start’.

For models without this feature, add the cleaner then fill 2/3rds of the tub with water and run a wash cycle for 2-3 minutes to agitate the cleaner, then turn off the unit for 2-4 hours.

After the cleaner has had time to work its magic, run a full wash cycle (wash-rinse-spin).

For LG front load machines, you’ll have an easier time – just select the ‘Tub Clean’ cycle, add your machine cleaning solution, and press ‘Start’. If you don’t have this feature – pick the hottest cycle possible.

Midea

Midea’s offering will be called either ‘Drum Clean’ or ‘Self Clean’ depending on the model; it runs at 90C, and they recommend it’s done every 2-3 months.

If there’s no option for this on your machine, pick the hottest cycle option that you have available. 

Panasonic

Only a limited number of Panasonic models offer a ‘Tub Clean’ program which takes around three and a half hours, and they recommend is completed once a month.

If you don’t have this, just pick the hottest cycle option on your machine. If you prefer a manual approach, they have a full guide on how to do that.

Samsung

Most Samsung models have Eco Drum Clean and/or Eco Drum Clean+ functions – but if yours doesn’t, then just select the hottest cycle you can.  

Related: What is Air Turbo in a Samsung Washing Machine?

Sharp

Probably one of the more complex methods has been designed by Sharp, with their ‘Tub Clean’ feature for top load washers.

For this, you need to make sure the drum is empty > power on > press ‘Course’ > press ‘Tub Clean’ > press ‘Wash’ > select the washing time > press ‘Water Level’ and change as needed > then, press ‘Start/Pause’.

Once the machine has beeped to indicate it’s finished supplying water, press ‘Start/Pause’ > put the washing machine cleaner in > then finally close the lid and press ‘Start/Pause’ again to run the full cleaning cycle. 

There are no specific instructions for Sharp front load washers, so just stick to the generic instructions and use the hottest cycle possible.

Whirlpool

Whirlpool machines generally don’t have a specific Drum Clean cycle, so just stick to the generic instructions and use the hottest cycle you have available – preferably 90-95C, and that’ll run for at least an hour.

Cleaning a washing machine drum

Cleaning the Drum Manually

If you don’t have a drum clean function or just prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, you can also manually clean your machine.

All you’ll need is some hot water, rubber gloves, and a washing machine cleaning solution (or a homemade remedy, like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda).

  1. Safety first – rubber gloves!
  2. Mix the cleaning solution with the water.
  3. Use a soft cloth or sponge to wipe down inside the drum and along the door, door seal, dispensers, and gaskets.
  4. Using a clean bucket of hot water, and a clean cloth or sponge, rinse everything down to make sure there’s no leftover cleaning residue.

Tips for Maintaining a Clean Drum

  • Regularly clean your door seal, as this is where dirt is most likely to gather.
  • If you mainly use cold (30-40C) cycles, run a drum cleaning cycle more regularly – at least once a month – as your machine is more likely to harbor bacteria at low temperatures.
  • Leave your door or lid ajar between washes to allow air to circulate and prevent damp odors from building up.

Common Mistakes – Washing Machine Drum Cleaning

Not cleaning the door seal

Although some machines will do this automatically – lots will not have the capability to do this.

Either way, it’s always good practice to check the door seal for any damage regularly and remove any foreign objects (hair, coins, pens, etc) that might have fallen out of your pockets mid-wash and become stuck before they get a chance to damage the machine.

Assuming that a drum cleaning cycle cleans the whole machine

Like above, the drum cleaning doesn’t mean the whole machine is clean and hygienic – you still need to clear the main filter and detergent drawer regularly and the water hose filter a couple of times a year.

Using normal detergent in a drum clean cycle

When cleaning the drum, you need to use a specialist washing machine cleaner rather than your normal detergent, as this is specifically designed to remove bacteria and limescale from the machine (rather than from clothes).

Not turning off AutoDose

If you have a machine with an AutoDose feature, be sure to turn it off before running a drum clean cycle – otherwise, the machine will automatically add laundry detergent into the drum. 

Not running a rinse cycle after cleaning with chlorine bleach

If you prefer to use liquid chlorine bleach to clean your machine, rather than the vinegar/baking soda mix or a specific machine cleaner, then it’s best to run an extra rinse cycle after to make sure all the bleach residue has been removed, as otherwise it might damage your clothes. 

FAQs

Is drum clean the same as self-clean?

Yes – they’re both the same thing. Brands like to mix things up, so Drum Clean might be called Self Clean, Maintenance Wash, or Tub Clean. If you don’t have this – just run the hottest cycle on offer instead.

Do you put anything in the washing machine for drum clean?

You should never have clothes in the machine during a drum clean – but whether you add a washing machine cleaner or homemade cleaning solution (like chlorine bleach or a mix of vinegar and baking soda) is completely up to you.

I like my machine to smell lemony fresh, so I do use one – but it’s completely down to your own personal choice.

Does drum clean use hot water?

Yes – and generally, the hotter the better! While some models are programmed to run at 60C, this is uncommon with most using 90-95C water for a thorough clean. 

Is washing machine drum clean necessary?

Absolutely, yes. While your machine won’t break down (for a while) without doing it, it does make it more likely that you’ll experience more error codes from blocked filters or outlet pipes.

From a hygiene perspective – it’s good practice to make sure that the machine entrusted to give you fresh and clean clothes is actually clean itself. 

To Wrap Up

Whether your brand of washing machine refers to it as Drum Clean, Tub Clean, Self Clean, or Maintenance Wash – it’s best to do it once a month, with an empty machine, and using a specific washing machine cleaner.

This will help your home and your clothes to stay fresher for longer, reduce the risk of bacteria or damp odors hanging around, increase the lifespan of your machine, and is generally quite an easy home maintenance task.

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