You really shouldn’t use your washing machine as a hamper — here’s why

A washing machine being loaded from a wicker laundry hamper
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When someone first told me that they were using their washer as a laundry hamper between cycles, I thought they were a genius. You save the excess space of storing a hamper, plus you can run the machine as soon as the drum is filled for optimum efficiency. There’s no need to bend in and out of the hamper repeatedly with this hack either.

But, then I thought about it. Surely, there would be repercussions from storing the laundry in the drum, even if you have one of the best washing machines? Here, we will consider why this habit may not be such a good one and the consequences it will have on you and your washing machine.  

Check out what to do if you've noticed your washing machine shaking violently as it tries to spin. Read this first to find out if 'hand wash only' clothes go in the washing machine.

Here’s why you should stick to using a hamper 

A washing machine’s drum will naturally be damp and humid after a cycle, with residual water sitting in the pipes. If you cram dirty laundry in there before it has a chance to air dry, you will be encouraging the growth of mold and mildew — not just in the machine, but on your clothes as well. This is particularly the case if you have a tendency to throw damp towels or sweaty gym gear in there. 

If you’re thinking your clothes will just be washed anyway so this doesn’t matter, think again. Detergent alone won’t always shift mold from clothes. Higher temperature settings and bleach may also be required to get the job done; see our guide on how to get rid of mold for full details. In any case, you could be causing yourself more hassle. 

A woman holding her nose as she looks at laundry inside the washing machine

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Iin addition to mold and mildew, your washing machine is also home to other germs and bacteria. Fecal bacteria in particular lives in plenty of washers, and the addition of your clothes will give it more opportunity to grow. Germs such as E. Coli and norovirus can also be passed onto your clothes via fecal matter and unless you’re washing at a very high temperature and using bleach, a standard wash won’t kill these germs.

There’s the additional mold, mildew and limescale growth in the machine to consider as well. This can lead to smelly washing and in extreme cases, can cause mechanical faults, up to the point of requiring a full replacement.

What should you do? 

You should leave your washer’s drum empty after each cycle, and leave the door and drawer ajar too. This will give your washing machine the best chance to air dry between cycles. Mold and germs will still build up in your machine over time, which is why we recommend learning how to clean a washing machine, and making the time to do this once a month.  

Washing machine with door open

(Image credit: Future)

You should keep your dirty clothes stored in a separate hamper, which will stop the bacteria from spreading and growing as quickly. This is because the laundry will be better aired and exposed to light as well.  

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.