Limescale build up in your washing machine? what causes this and how to cure it

Limescale removal from washing machine, causes and cures

Techniques that aid washing machine limescale removal are an important issue in areas with ‘hard’ water, which is essentially water with elevated levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. While hard water might be great for your health, it can wreak havoc with everyday kitchen appliances, and your washing machine is no exception. Over time, the high mineral content causes deposits and stains to be formed inside your washer. This, in turn, greatly increases the need to pay extra attention to issues such as washing machine maintenance and cleaning. One typical outcome of hard water usage is the increased likelihood of unpleasant smells developing in your washer.


Limescale is essentially a deposit of calcium carbonate, and it can be scrubbed off the surface of your appliance. This is, however, a particularly hard mineral deposit, which will require a fair amount of effort to remove. The primary concern here is to find a limescale removal solution that allows you to scrape away these deposits without causing damage to the underlying washer surface. In theory, limescale should be quite effortlessly liquefied by most acids based solutions. Practically though, this is a complex issue because it is critical to ensure adequate contact between the acid and the limescale deposit. The point is that the acid must make direct contact with the deposit in order to have an effect. In most cases, the required duration of contact should ideally be more than an hour to ensure complete dissolution and removal of the deposit. Two common household items that can effectively remove limescale deposits are vinegar and lemon juice.

Understanding how washing machine detergent and limescale removal are linked

The incidence of people tending to use the energy saving wash cycles on their washing machine has never been higher. In practice, this equates to a low temperature wash cycle for almost all types of laundry. If you are dependent on a hard water supply for your washing, this is simply not the best option. Even if you use a bleach or detergent with components that can remove limescale deposits, there is every possibility that they may fail to activate at a low temperature. Water softeners, contained in most detergents, also require higher temperatures if they are to function as designed. Typically, these products need a temperature range from 140 – 194 degrees Fahrenheit to deliver their peak performance. Even biological detergents that are designed for use at low temperatures cannot dissipate this specific type of mineral deposit in your washer.

A specific problem with hard water is the fact that it has a propensity to hinder the optimal performance of most detergents. It also causes the formation of a higher amount of soap scum. As a result, there is a greater chance of limescale residue and sediments getting trapped within your machine.

The speed with which these limescale deposits are seen to develop may also be linked to the type of washing detergent used. Rapid build ups of mineral deposits are typical where there is an extensive use of liquid detergents. This is also the case when color safe detergents, designed for use with colored clothing, are the primary choice of cleaning agent. Both these types of detergents are milder than regular cleaners and do not have any active bleach content. As a result, neither of these products have a high enough acid content to be able to effectively dissolve limescale deposits. In contrast, most commercial powder based detergents have active ingredients that are proven to be effective in removing limescale deposits. The same is true of any chlorine based bleach.

Hard water can have a massive impact on your washing machine detergent and limescale removal. It is therefore important to run a hot wash with bleach from time to time to ensure that existing limescale deposits can be reduced.

How to descale a washing machine

Following the proper procedure is important if you are learning how to descale a washing machine. This is especially true when there are concentrated deposits that are causing bad smells to emanate from your machine, or if there is staining of clothes during the wash cycle. In such instances, running a maintenance wash may not be enough. You might be required to clean out your washer manually. Bear in mind that there are several areas within your machine that are susceptible to these mineral deposits. Simply cleaning the interior of the machine drum is not an adequate option.

The detergent drawer is particularly vulnerable to limescale related problems. This may not, however, be directly connected to the drawer itself, but may relate to the jet nozzles that supply water to the drawer. Due to their prolonged exposure to hard water, limescale deposits are likely to form which then create blockages within these nozzles. In order to clean the jets it is necessary to remove the detergent dispensing drawer. This drawer can simply be pulled out, or there may be a release clip located at the back of the drawer. After removing this compartment, you can clean it with a non abrasive brush and warm water. Avoid cleaning the detergent compartment in a dishwasher, where the heat may cause these plastic parts to warp

For the best cleaning results, it is advisable to use chlorine-based bleach, which has been diluted with warm water. (Most manufacturers recommend a mix of 1 gallon of water with ¾ cup of bleach.) Using a stiff nylon brush (old toothbrush), or any other non abrasive cleaning tool, scrub the compartment thoroughly. Make sure that you work the corners and other areas where limescale deposits are most visible. But, you must reserve the maximum attention to the water dispensing nozzles where these deposits are likely to cause the most damage. Push the brush bristles into the nozzles to make sure they are free of any blockages. After you have finished the cleaning process with the bleach, rinse carefully with clean water. Make sure that you dry all parts before you replace the soap dispensing compartment.

You can now proceed to cleaning the internal surface area of your washing machine drum. Make sure you scrub it thoroughly with the dilute bleach mix using a non-abrasive brush. Pay particular notice to the cleaning of the rubber washer door seals, where such deposits are likely to be found. Clean under the seal by lifting it gently and do not overlook any cracks or fissures that may be present. After the cleaning process, it is necessary to wipe down all areas carefully with a clean, moist cloth before drying out the surfaces.

Other Methods for washing machine limescale removal

Limescale deposits need to be tackled on a regular basis. If they are allowed to develop unchecked, these mineral deposits can become extremely hard and difficult to remove. In cases of extreme neglect, these deposits may be responsible for causing permanent damage to your washing machine.

One of the best ways of dealing with smaller deposits is by application of baking soda with steel wool, a scrubby, or SOS pads. If this does not work, you might need to consider other alternatives to remove stubborn, old deposits.

Lemon juice and white vinegar are safe and natural acids that have a proven efficiency for dissolving and removing limescale deposits. It may take a longer period of time for their cleaning effect to fully occur, but they are generally considered to be safer, less toxic alternatives when compared to a commercial acid based cleaner.

A natural, effective cleaning fluid may be devised by combining equal parts of lemon juice and vinegar. You may use a spritzing bottle to spray this solution across the interior surfaces of your washing machine drum or any other part that needs cleaning. Allow the solution to rest for at least 20 minutes so that deposits may be worked upon and loosened. Follow up by scrubbing with a non abrasive stiff nylon brush, or old toothbrush (you may even use a scrubby). Finally, rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Baking soda and vinegar are an effective cleaning combination to get rid off hard water deposits. However, it should be pointed out that baking soda is an alkaline substance while vinegar is acidic. (Mixing them together in a paste or solution will negate the descaling abilities of the vinegar.) The proper method for using them in combination is to first spray 100% white vinegar solution on the areas of your washing machine that exhibit the maximum concentration of limescale deposits. Allow the vinegar to remain in contact with any mineral build ups for at least 30 minutes. You may then proceed to dust these areas with baking soda. The affected regions should be scrubbed vigorously with an old toothbrush or scrubby to remove any existing mineral deposits. After cleaning away all deposits make sure to rinse the area properly to remove any traces of the vinegar and baking soda.  

Acid Based Cleaners are considered to be among the best solutions for tackling hard water deposits. They are, however, extremely reactive solutions and you must follow the appropriate safety procedures while handling them. Make sure that you are wearing the proper eye protection gear and gloves while handling these cleaners in order to prevent any burn injuries. Also, avoid the use of a brush as it may cause the acid to splash and burn you. Sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and phosphoric acid are the three products most commonly used by professional cleaners to get rid of heavy limescale deposits. It should be pointed out that these are highly corrosive and toxic acids. Extreme care should be exhibited while using these products. Always make sure that your eyes and hands are protected while handling these acids. 

In order to descale the washing machine drum or soap dispensing unit, the use of citric acid may prove to be highly beneficial. Transfer out 1 cup of citric acid (either liquid or powder) into a half gallon spritzing/spray bottle. Add water to the acid until the bottle has been filled to the brim. Make sure the lid is fixed on securely before shaking the bottle vigorously for approximately 30 seconds. This action enables the acid to mix in thoroughly with the water. Spray the surfaces of your washing machine with this mix until they are well soaked. Give the citric acid at least 15 minutes to work on the limescale deposits before attempting to clean. Descaling may then be performed with a tough nylon brush or even an old toothbrush. Scrub thoroughly before rinsing off the surfaces with clean water.

A Few Procedures That Can Help Prevent the Formation of Limescale Deposits 

Running a maintenance wash with bleach on a monthly basis using the hottest water settings possible is highly recommended. You may check your product’s instruction manual for more specific details regarding the steps for executing of an effective maintenance wash. 

You may also use citric acid in instances where you are trying to get rid of small deposits or as a preventive measure. In this case, the procedure is quite simple. Add 4 cups of powdered or liquid citric acid to your washing machine tub. Select the hottest wash cycle possible and then run the program. This often proves to be quite effective in descaling the washing machine pipes and tub.

Always ensure that your washing machine remains as dry as possible. While it may seem to be an unnecessary amount of labor, you must try and dry out the interiors of the washer after you have completed the final wash to get rid off any trapped water. Always remember, the greater exposure there is to hard water, the more chances there are of limescale deposits forming.






Disclaimer: The information provided has been prepared as a guide only and the steps taken are likely to vary for different appliance models. We strongly recommend using a qualified engineer to undertake major repairs and fault finding.


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