Black Flakes in Washing Machine: How to Get Rid of Them

Opening up your washing machine to find black flakes and residue inside can be concerning. Where do these mysterious black specks come from, and what can be done about them? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about identifying, preventing, and removing black flakes from your washer.

Black Flakes in Washing Machine

What Causes Black Flakes in a Washing Machine?

There are a few common culprits that can leave black debris in your washing machine:

  • Using cold wash or hot water -If you primarily use cold water for washing clothes and/or your hot water supply has low pressure, it can lead to the accumulation of dirt and undissolved detergent on the inner walls of the washing machine’s drum. These residues often appear as black particles. During the wash cycle, these black particles may detach from the drum and contaminate the freshly washed clothes.
  • Dirt, soil, and grime – Over time, dirt and grime from your clothes can build up inside the washer. Small flecks of mud, soil, and other debris detach from fabrics and accumulate along interior components. These particles oxidize and turn black.
  • Mould and mildew – Moist, damp environments like washing machines can foster mould growth. Mould spores land on surfaces and multiply, forming black mould colonies. Flakes of this mould can detach and appear like black sediment.
  • Deteriorating rubber seals – With frequent use, rubber door seals and gaskets eventually wear down. Tiny rubber particles flake off and deposit as black specks along the washtub.
  • Disintegrating hoses – Similarly, old rubber hoses connecting to the washer can crack and degrade. Bits of the hose material break loose and end up as black flakes inside your machine.
  • Trapped items – Socks, tissues, or other small items can get lodged in gaps along the washtub. Over time these items disintegrate and leave behind black debris. Button-down shirts can also lose black buttons or collar stays.
  • Dye transfer – Brand new dark clothing items like jeans and t-shirts often contain excess dye. This dye can bleed out and stain lighter garments, while also leaving behind black dye flakes inside the drum.
  • Ink stains – Any ink marks on clothing from pens, printers, etc can transfer ink into the wash water. This detached ink congeals into black dots.
  • Rust particles – If the interior drum or other metal components have any rust corrosion, small rust flecks can break free and look like black sediment.
  • Mineral buildup – In areas with hard water, mineral deposits from calcium, magnesium and limescale can appear blackish in color. Chunks flake off into the drum.
  • Clogged detergent dispenser – Leftover detergent and fabric softener in the dispenser tray can get gummy and flake off as black bits.

While alarming at first glance, black sediment in your washer is usually harmless. However allowing buildup over time can pose problems like staining clothes, foul odours, and unsanitary conditions. Follow these tips to tackle black flakes at the source.

Cleaning Black Flakes Out of Your Washer

Cleaning Black Flakes Out of Your Washer

If black specks have already appeared in your washer, a deep clean is in order. Here are the steps to remove existing flakes and restore your machine:

  1. Run a hot water cycle on the highest capacity and longest setting.
  2. Add 4 cups of white vinegar to the drum once the cycle has started. Allow it to agitate for several minutes.
  3. Pause the cycle by opening the lid and let the vinegar solution sit for about an hour. This will help break down any bacteria, soap scum, and mineral deposits.
  4. While the vinegar solution is sitting, clean the exterior of the machine, the bleach and fabric softener dispensers using a cloth dipped in the vinegar solution.
  5. Close the lid and let the cycle complete.
  6. Repeat the process if the machine is excessively dirty.

Alternatively, you can use commercial washing machine cleaners available at supermarkets, following the product instructions carefully.

The vinegar solution is an effective and inexpensive way to deep clean your washing machine, removing odours and buildup from the drum, hoses, and other components.

More Cleaning Tips

  • For tough stains or buildup, make a paste with baking soda and water, and use it to scrub the drum and other components before running the vinegar cycle.
  • Add a few drops of essential oils like lemon or tea tree oil to the vinegar solution for a fresh, natural scent.
  • Use old towels or rags to wipe down the machine’s exterior and interior, as they can better absorb moisture and grime.

Commercial Washing Machine Cleaners

While vinegar is a great natural option, there are several commercial cleaners specifically designed for washing machines that can also be effective:

  1. Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner (View on Amazon)
    • Comes in tablet form for easy use
    • Helps remove odor-causing residues and buildup
    • Safe for all washing machine types
  2. Tide Washing Machine Cleaner (View on Amazon)
    • Formulated to fight odor and residue buildup
    • Compatible with high-efficiency (HE) machines
    • Comes in a pack of 5 tablets
  3. OxiClean Washing Machine Cleaner (View on Amazon)
    • Powder form for easy dissolving
    • Removes tough stains and odors
    • Safe for all washing machine types

Always read and follow the instructions carefully when using commercial cleaners.

Pro Tip

For a more thorough cleaning, consider running a second cycle with just hot water after the vinegar or cleaner cycle. This will help rinse away any remaining residue and ensure your washing machine is fresh and clean.

Comparison of Washing Machine Cleaning Methods

To help you choose the most effective cleaning method for your washing machine, here’s a comparison table:

Cleaning MethodEffectivenessCostFrequencyConvenience
Deep Cleaning with CleanerHighMediumMonthlyModerate
Deep Cleaning with Vinegar/Baking SodaHighLowMonthlyHigh
Detergent Dispenser CleaningModerateLowWeeklyHigh
Gasket ReplacementHighHighAs neededLow

As you can see, deep cleaning with a dedicated washing machine cleaner or a vinegar and baking soda solution can be highly effective in eliminating black flakes, but may require some effort and time. Regularly cleaning the detergent dispenser is a convenient and low-cost option, but may not address more severe buildup or mold issues. Replacing the gasket can be a costly and involved process, but may be necessary in some cases.

Ultimately, the best approach may involve a combination of these methods, tailored to the specific needs of your washing machine and the severity of the black flake issue.


Black flakes in your washing machine can be a frustrating and unsightly issue, but with the right approach, it’s a problem that can be resolved. By understanding the potential causes, such as residue buildup, mold and mildew growth, gasket deterioration, or dye transfer, you can take targeted actions to address the issue. Regular deep cleaning, replacing worn components, addressing external sources of contamination, and implementing preventative measures can help ensure that your washing machine remains in top condition and delivers pristine laundry results.

Don’t let black flakes ruin your laundry experience – take action today and enjoy the fresh, clean clothes you deserve. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll have the knowledge and tools to tackle the problem head-on and restore your washing machine’s optimal performance.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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