Can You Put Disinfectant In A Washing Machine?

Disinfectants are chemical products we use to kill bacteria, virus, mold, and pathogens breeding on surfaces we don’t want them to breed on. Using disinfectants doesn’t just stop with the walls and surfaces of your kitchen, bathrooms, floors and toilets. 

Disinfectants should also be used in appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine because they also have the tendency to harbor bacterial growth with the progression of time. That’s because they retain water in their nooks and crannies which accumulate dirt and subsequently attract bacteria and other pathogens. 

When it comes to disinfecting washing machines, you have a wide variety of products to choose from. You can use bleach, a washer disinfectant, and even the popular household cleaner — vinegar.

Below will show you how to use different products to achieve proper disinfection of your washer.

When should you disinfect a washing machine?

There are many telltale signs to let you know when the right time has come to disinfect your washer. The most common include:

You previously washed a sick persons cloth

When you wash bedsheets, linings, towels, or other clothings that have been used by a sick person in the washer, it’s best to always disinfect the washing machine after the laundry session is over, especially when these items have stains like vomit, feces, urine, mucus etc.

This is because some bacteria from them can remain in the washer and can end up transferring to your clothes, to your hands, and eventually inside your body which would make you sick. 

You can spot visible grime and gunk build up

Another good sign that your washing machine needs disinfection is when you begin to notice grime buildup around the interior of the machine.

Grime and gunk will buildup in a washer overtime no matter how much you wash with it. When you begin to notice grime and gunk building up, it’s time to bring in the disinfecting products and sanitize it. 

When it emits a bad stench which is sometimes transferred to your towels. 

When it emits a bad stench which is sometimes transferred to your towels

No one needs to be told that a smelly machine obviously has something wrong with it, and if you never knew, smelly machines are typically the result of the growth of bacteria population. 

Whenever you wash, there is always that leftover water in the nooks and crannies of the machine, in the pump, and also in the hose. These eventually garther dirt which serve as food for bacteria. 

It is these bacteria that will gather and begin to cause the machine and any other fabric or clothes that you wash to emit an odor. 

Your options when it comes to disinfecting a washer

With regards to what you can use to disinfect your washing machine, the options are plenty, but you have to be careful not to use the wrong products (like domestos) that can mess up your washer. We’ll discuss some of the popular choices below.

Washer sanitizers

Nowadays washer sanitizers are very common. Different brands offer different sanitizers to disinfect your washing machine and you have a wealth of them to choose from. Popular brands of washer sanitizers include, Zoflora, Clorox and Lysol. 

Washer sanitizers are capable of removing odor, grime buildup, gunk, scale and other types of contaminants found in a washing machine.

The instructions on how to use these products can typically be found on the product labeling.


Vinegar isn’t the best option you have when it comes to sanitizing your washing machine. Vinegar is a weak disinfectant for cleaning a washer because the main component that does the disinfection, meaning the acetic acid, is mostly effective against foodborne pathogens like E. coli, salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes

For that reason, vinegar is mostly beneficial as a disinfectant when used in the dishwasher, as that is where you’ll find a healthy population of the above mentioned pathogens. 

If you must use vinegar, only use vinegar to disinfect washers that don’t have a serious problem on ground or washers after a laundry session. 

For a seriously colonised washer however, the problem is beyond what vinegar can tackle, and you have to use something a bit stronger like bleach or pine oil disinfectant.

Pine oil disinfectant

Pine oil is another great disinfectant and cleaner, although it can be quite difficult to find as a stand alone product in some regions. 

Pure pine oil of strong concentration (anything above 30%), can successfully disinfect and deodorize your washer like any bleach or phenol disinfectant would. 

In areas where finding pine oil is difficult, you can try looking for cleaning products that contain pine oil as an ingredient, and ensure its concentration is at least more than 15 %.

If you find a product containing pine oil alongside other disinfecting ingredients, then that is much better because the bactericidal spectrum is now much wider which means you can tackle a broad range of bacteria.

Phenolic disinfectant

Phenolic disinfectants work by stopping enzyme activities in bacteria. And when enzyme activity stops in a bacteria, an important chemical reaction cannot take place, and when an important chemical reaction cannot take place, an important process stops, which means, in the case of proteins or microorganisms, the cell dies. 

This is pretty much the antibacterial property of phenolic disinfectants summarized.

Phenolic disinfectant is actually quite soft, and that is the reason why it can be used on soft surfaces like the interior of a washing machine. 

Phenolic disinfectants most commonly come in sprays and liquid forms. You can also find phenolic disinfectants as an ingredient in some household cleaners.


When it comes to products you can employ to disinfect your washing machine, the most common option is bleach. This is because bleach is almost always available at home. 

Bleach is made up of sodium hypochlorite, cleaning agents as well as corrosion inhibitors. These ingredients together are able to provide disinfection, cleansing, as well as protection to your washing machine. 

How you use bleach to sanitize the washing machine will depend on the type of product you’re using. But typically, you would be required to pour bleach into the bleach dispenser of your washing machine if it has one, or if it doesn’t, into the empty basket. 

Then you would be required to run an empty cycle using hot water and then follow up with a rinse cycle. This should do the trick of disinfecting and cleaning your washing machine of odor, of grime, and of gunk.

Many companies offer bleach for disinfecting household items and surfaces. The popular examples include Clorox, Hypo, and Lysol.

Always make sure to read the product label to learn how to correctly apply bleach in your washing machine so you get a very good result in the end. And please and please, only use the bleach dispenser of your washer for bleach and nothing else!

How to maintain a washer so it stays fresh for longer?

If your washing machine consistently returns smelly or builds gunk and dirt easily, then be sure that there is a much deeper problem than you think. 

Because of this, you would need to sanitize the washer in order to reduce the frequency at which your machine becomes dirty and needs cleaning. Below are some of the tips you can use to extend the period between successive disinfection of your washing machine.

Wash thoroughly after every use using hot water

If you’re not already cleaning the inside of your washing machine after every use, then you’re doing it wrong, and you need to start cleaning the inside because that is likely the reason why you have smell and dirt build up in the first place. 

The best way to clean your washing machine after using it, is to run the wash cycle using a machine cleaner and the hottest setting, then rinse with hot water.

Remove any visible dirt build up

Prior to cleaning washing machines after every use, you want to make sure you inspect the interior for grime and gunk. 

These are the biggest culprits for harboring bacteria, and if you’re able to get rid of them, then you have successfully solved half your problem. 

When doing an inspection, make sure to check the nooks and crannies of your machine so that nothing is left behind.

Clean filter occasionally

One area that most people forget to wash in the washing machine is the filter. In case you didn’t know, your filter helps to trap dirt, hair, fluffs and all those types of stuff. 

So occasionally, it will become clogged up with these items which will easily serve as food for bacteria. As a consequence, the machine will become inefficient and begin to smell. 

Cleaning your washing machine filter is pretty easy, remove it and soak it in hot water for some time, then loosen up the dirt using a brush or by hitting the filter against a soft surface. 

Perform routine maintenance at least once a month

It is very important to perform routine maintenance on your washing machine on a monthly basis. This will ensure that you’re preventing bacteria from establishing a breeding ground in your washer which is safer for your family’s health. 

Final Thoughts

Using disinfectants in your washer is not a matter of choice but an obligation. With time, your laundry workhorse will eventually become a breeding ground from pathogens and bacteria, and unless you take matters into your own hands and apply the necessary steps and procedures to kill them, your washer will transition into a full fledged bacteria organization of its own and then become the biggest threat to your health at your home.