grey sludge on clothes from washing machine

Grey Sludge on Clothes from the Washing Machine – Causes and Solutions

There’s nothing worse than taking supposedly fresh laundry out of the washing machine to find out it’s covered in grey sludge and dirty marks. 

The grime is generally caused by a build-up of dirt. However, there are multiple causes of this problem with different solutions.

Fortunately, most of these issues are incredibly easy to solve!

What Is the Grey Sludge in Washing Machines?

grey sludge in washing machine

If you’ve found clothing is coming out of your washing machine with grey sludge, you’ll find yourself wondering what it is. In simple terms, the sludge is dirt, grime, and bacteria that has built up in the washing machine over time.

Without adequate care, washing machines can become breeding grounds for bacteria, and this will leave your machine dirty on the inside. As a result, the sludge sometimes found in washing machines is often made up of residue from detergents, combined with fluff, dirt, bacteria, and mould.

In addition to ending up on your clothing, you might also find this sludge congealing in the gasket in the door, in the pipes, and in the filter. If the problem isn’t dealt with, it can clog up the filter and pipes, causing further issues.


Cause 1: Only Using Cold Washes

cold washes on laundry

The eco-friendly age means that more and more households are relying solely on cold or cool washes. Whilst this does now still produce good cleaning results and is better for your energy bills, it does cause a problem on its own.

If all the water flushing through the washing machine is cold, it simply will not be able to cut through the residue and debris that builds up in hoses, pipes, and drains. 

When water runs through the pipes during a normal wash cycle, some of this grime build up will come away and could end up in the drum of your machine. 

To deal with this issue and prevent it coming back in the future, run a regular maintenance cycle.

Some washing machines have a maintenance cycle built-in, however if yours doesn’t have one, simply run an empty cycle, as hot as you can.

The heat of the maintenance wash will cut through any grime and residue, whilst also killing any bacteria that is trying to build up on the inside of the washing machine. If you have a bad build-up of sludge, you may need to run a maintenance cycle a couple of times to cut through the existing problem.


Cause 2: Limescale Build-Up

A build up of limescale is another potential cause of grey dirt ending up on clothing. Limescale can clog up the pipes in your washing machine, making it much more likely that the pipes will end up full of dirt and grime.

This problem is especially prevalent in hard water areas.

To tackle this issue, you could either use a commercial descaling chemical, or the natural favourite that is white vinegar.

If you want to use white vinegar to tackle limescale, first wipe around the gaskets, the inside of the door and inside of the detergent drawer with white vinegar. Then, spray white vinegar all around the inside of the drum, before adding distilled white vinegar to the detergent drawer. Run the maintenance cycle as listed above.

Whilst you can technically use malt vinegar to clean, we would not recommend it because it will leave your entire home smelling like a takeaway!


Cause 3: Using Too Much Detergent

using too much detergent in washing machine

Detergent and fabric softener has a recommended dosage, and if you use more than this, the washing machine may not be able to break it down properly. In this case, the detergent will build up and clog pipes. This build-up of detergent will attract mould, and when it does start breaking down, it will end up on your clothing as gunk and goo.

To tackle this issue, run a maintenance wash on your washing machine. You may need to run the maintenance cycle a couple of times to get all the existing goop.

Going forwards, make sure that you only use the recommended amount of detergent, and that you wash as per the manufacturer’s directions.


Cause 4: Clogged Detergent Drawer

cleaning clogged and dirty detergent drawer

A clogged detergent drawer is a mould-magnet. The build-up of old detergent will then end up black with mould, and as your fresh detergent drains into the washing machine during the cycle, it can end up bringing the old gunk with it, resulting in nasty grey sludge on your laundry.

To tackle this problem, you need to deep clean the detergent drawer and the cavity behind it. Take the drawer out of the washing machine and scrub all the surfaces with washing up liquid.

Alternatively, spray the drawer and inside of the cavity with white vinegar. Leave it to sit for a few minutes, before scrubbing and wiping the surfaces with clean water. Once the drawer is clean, put it back in the washing machine and run an empty maintenance wash to flush away any remaining grime.


Cause 5: Gunk in the Gasket

cleaning washing machine door gasket

The gasket on the inside of a washing machine can easily collect debris, fluff, and all manner of nasties. Over time, leftover detergent will collect in this dirt, resulting in sludge. If this isn’t cleared out regularly, it can easily end up on your clothing during the wash cycle.

Simply clearing out the gasket on a regular basis will go a long way to alleviating this problem.