Run the washing machine empty - does that bring anything?

Again and again the recommendation emerges to let the washing machine run empty often. Whether this recommendation actually makes sense, and what sense an idle can have explained in detail this post


Expected results

By emptying the washing machine, the machine should allegedly be freed from limescale, lines and parts sterilized and the washing machine basically "cleaned". For idling, the highest washing temperature (90° C) is recommended.

However, the results do not differ from those of a normal laundry wash at 90° C. Whether laundry is in the drum or not makes no difference to the washing machine.

Washing temperatures in the kitchen laundry area can kill bacteria inside the washing machine in any case. These bacteria can in some cases cause bad odors. This is rare, as most types of bacteria do not feel very comfortable in washing machines. Reason for that is:

  • the almost constant movement of water (bacteria need calm, stagnant water)
  • the frequent presence of wash liquor (low pH)
  • the protein-destroying enzymes contained in many detergents


Descaling does not take place when the temperature is raised. For this purpose descaling agents must be added to the washing machine. For that, the drum should be as empty as possible.

Decalcification, however, makes sense only in the case of particularly high water hardness; as a rule, it is generally assumed that descaling should be done 1-2 times a year only at a hardness of more than 20° dH.

Test run after installation

It is recommended to idle the washing machine only as a test run at the highest temperature immediately after the installation of the washing machine. As a result, possible malfunctions, damage and transport damage of the machine can be determined immediately. Usually this is also stated in the manual.

In all other cases, however, making the machine run idle makes no sense, and alone means a high waste of water and electricity. That makes neither ecological nor financial sense.

Tips & Tricks

Whoever only washes with low washing temperatures should, at least once in a while, wash the dishes at the appropriate temperature. Suitable for this are towels, tea towels and underwear, if indicated on the laundry care label. Other laundry should not be boiled with it, as it can damage or even be destroyed.

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