Washing not getting clean in washing machine

When washing is not being cleaned properly, or comes out with marks on, most people blame the washing machine. But there are other explanations for this problem and sometimes the user is at fault. So you need to eliminate all user faults before blaming the washing machine.

There aren’t many faults on a washing machine that allow it to work apparently normally and complete the cycle in normal time, but just not wash properly. Listed below are a few possibilities.

Possible washing machine faults

1: Maybe the washing machine has become so dirty inside, and full of grease, gunge, or black mould that it is causing marks on laundry – Causes and cures for grease, slime black mould and smells in washing machine.


2: A partial blockage in pumping system could be preventing water being pumped out properly causing poor rinsing (Washing machine won’t empty water)

3: The drive belt could have come off, or some other fault causing drum to not revolve. If you can see that the drum is not turning during the wash cycle read this article Drum not turning.

4: Heater not working? Some washing machines may not give an error code if the heater fails to heat up the water and instead can just carry on washing. This can result in poor wash results as described in the following article washer not heating up water

Possible causes of washing not getting clean properly

The majority of causes for a washing machine not washing properly are not actual faults on the machine. So it’s worth properly checking out all the following explanations.


If you have a new washing machine and your previous washer washed better it’s possible that either something’s changed (maybe you’re using different detergents, washing different loads or using different wash cycles). Or maybe the new washer just doesn’t wash as well. Wash results can vary a lot between different washing machines (check out Which? washing machine reviews).

This list covers the most common causes of poor wash results and they are all user faults

Overloading the drum causes poor wash results because laundry needs to move about and rub against each other and detergent needs room to circulate. See how to properly load a washing machine for best cleaning and avoiding out of balance loads and White streaks on laundry.

Using poor quality, or not enough detergent – especially in hard water areas. Try to use good quality detergent, they aren’t all the same at all. Use the proper amount recommended on the pack for the level of soiling and the hardness of the water (related Causes of grease spots on laundry).


Using an inappropriate programme: Some wash programmes are quicker, and use lower temperatures – but they won’t clean dirty laundry properly. Use only for very lightly soiled laundry (related Pros and cons of washing at 30 degrees – do you even save that much money?)

Using option buttons inappropriately: Read the manual to understand exactly what many of these option buttons do before using them, especially ones claiming to save water or electricity. Cutting down the amount of water and temperature can reduce wash efficiency and is usually designed for smaller loads with light soiling not a normal wash with dirty clothes inside.


Using options to reduce water usage (or even using a washing machine claiming to use hardly any water) can reduce the effectiveness of rinsing. (related article Washing machines not rinsing properly.)

Using the wrong type of detergent: Biological detergent needs lower temperatures and a lot more time to clean laundry. It also contains living enzymes, which die once they reach higher temperatures so pick appropriate wash cycles.

Conversely, non biological detergent isn’t as effective at low temperatures. Liquid detergents, and “colour friendly” detergents don’t contain any bleaching agents, so they won’t keep whites brilliantly white and will allow whites to gradually go greyish. (related article – Are you using just one type of detergent when they do different jobs?)

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Putting the detergent into the wrong compartment in the soap dispenser drawer. This would mean the detergent goes into the drum too early or only on rinses. It would not only affect washing performance, but would expose the heating element to damaging limescale build up.

If there is no obvious fault on the washing machine, such as the drum not turning, and the washing machine goes through the wash cycle as normal, and spins the clothes dry at the end, with no errors showing, then carefully eliminate the list of user faults above before calling an engineer or complaining to the retailer.

Maybe the washing machine is just not very good at washing

You would think it impossible for a modern washing to just be incapable of producing good quality wash results, but according to Which? many washing machines that they test are just “poor” at washing no matter how well you use them.


This is of course ludicrous. How hard can it be for a washing machine to wash laundry properly? All they have to do is fill with water and detergent, heat up the water and agitate the laundry. Then drain the water, rinse a few times and spin.

However, it does appear many are much better at it than others and some are so bad that Which? warns against buying them. Check out the Which? appliance reviews and recommendations to find out which are good and which are poor – Which trial offer

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33 thoughts on “Washing not getting clean in washing machine”

  1. When running a wash in my indesit machine it does,nt seem to heat the water. Then the clothes come out at the end still smelling. How,s this?…..Bob

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