How dirty are your appliances?

We've come to rely on our trusty home appliances to tackle the chores we'd rather avoid. Whether it's keeping our clothes fresh or washing our dishes till they sparkle in the dishwasher – these machines are unsung heroes. But have you stopped to consider just how clean they are? Prepare to uncover a dirty little secret lurking right in your very own kitchen.

Psst! Some of your most-used appliances are filthier than your toilet.  

We carried out a survey of 1,000 UK residents – including Cardiff, Manchester and Liverpool. The results showed:

  • Four out of five Brits feel confident in properly cleaning their appliances
  • Just under half (44%) consider household cleanliness ‘very important’
  • 8% consider home hygiene to be ‘unimportant’

So, how does this translate into cleaning habits?

To explore the cleanliness of key household appliances, we conducted swab tests.

Using dipslides (a way of detecting bacteria in liquids), we swabbed these items:

  • Washing machine
  • Dishwasher
  • Oven
  • Hob
  • Toilet
  • Kitchen bin
  • Laundry basket

We then left the tests to incubate for 24 hours before looking at the bacterial colonies that developed. Infection levels were labelled using a scale of between 0.4 (a modest gathering of germs) and 250 (a full-blown germ fest).

Let’s look at the worst offenders.

Infographic highlighting how dirty your appliances are in the home

One in four Brits have never cleaned their dishwasher

dishwasher filled with plates

Dishwashers. They’re a bit of a lifesaver. But can they really get your glasses and plates sparkling clean if they’re hiding so many germs?

Here are the facts: The dishwasher was the filthiest household item we swabbed, scoring a whopping 135 out of a maximum of 250. In contrast, the kitchen bin scored a paltry 66.5.

Harbouring as much as double the bacteria as your bin, the dishwasher was the most neglected item we investigated.

According to our survey:

  • 45% of Brits expect their dishwasher to last at least a decade
  • 25% of those surveyed said they’d never cleaned their dishwasher
  • 24% of Mancunian respondents said that they have never cleaned their dishwasher

We also looked at generational differences. Those aged 55 and above were the most confident in their cleaning abilities (88%). But, compared to 18 to 24-year-olds, they were five times less likely to clean their dishwasher after daily use.

So what’s the expert verdict?

Ian Palmer-Smith is Director of Heating and Home Emergency Services at Domestic & General. In other words, he knows a lot about appliance repairs.   

“Your dishwasher can last up to 10 years, but only if you maintain and clean it regularly. As a rule of thumb, aim to clean the appliance daily. Even after every use, remove any excess food in and around the filter. If you’re carrying out a deeper clean, using a hot cycle and white vinegar, this should be done once a month. This routine will keep it running smoothly and reduce any need for a dishwasher repair or replacement.”

Your washing machine could be more than 10 times dirtier than your toilet seat

woman loading a washing machine with clothes

In our experiment, the washing machine ranked as the second grubbiest appliance – scoring 74 out of 250. To put this into perspective, the average bacteria level on a toilet seat is just 6.3.

We rely on our washing machines so much in our day-to-day lives, expecting them to keep our laundry meadow-fresh and blossom-clean. But many of us neglect to give the machine itself some much-needed TLC.

  • Under half (46%) expect their washing machine to last at least 10 years
  • 7% admitted they’ve never cleaned their washing machine
  • Cardiff and Liverpool being the worst offenders for washing machine neglect (8.2%).

“When looking after properly, your washing machine should last somewhere between seven and 12 years", Ian advises. "To keep the appliance functioning as good as new and prevent any unpleasant smells, I recommend giving it a thorough clean once a month.

Build-up of grime can stop water from flowing in the machine, leading to leaks and broken parts. So, staying on top of maintenance is really important if you want to avoid a washing machine repair. Laundry detergent isn’t as effective against bacteria or mould build-up, so run a hot, empty cycle using a washing machine solution instead.”

Cleaning once a month will do the job for your hob

cleaning a dirty hob

Unlike other appliances which are often seen as ‘out of sight, out of mind’, with the hob on display, it seems this encourages the nation to keep on top of hob hygiene.

The humble hob emerged as one of the cleanest household items, boasting a minimal infection score of just 2.6. Clearly, its prominent display encourages the nation to keep it spotless.

  • 25% of people clean their hob on a daily basis
  • Just 1% admitted to having never cleaned it
  • 62% of people expect it to last at least 10 years

“The lifespan of a well-maintained hob all depends on the type,” Ian explains. “Electric hobs typically last around 10 to 11 years. While gas hobs tend to last a little longer, at up to 12 years.

“So how often should you clean your hob? It’s best to wipe it down after every use and give it a more thorough clean every three months. Cleaning spray and baking soda are generally effective, but the best approach depends on the type of hob you have.”

Most Brits actually clean their oven more than needed

hand cleaning inside an oven with spray and soap

Despite the oven being one of the more well-maintained appliances, with an infection level of just 2.6 out of 250, there were still some surprises:

  • 25% of respondents clean their oven less than once a month
  • 2% admit to not cleaning it at all

Despite this, 61% of Brits still expect their oven to last well over a decade.

“The oven is one of the longest-lasting appliances in the home. A gas oven could last you up to 15 years. While an electric oven typically has a lifespan of around 13 years. The bottom line is, with proper maintenance, your oven should serve you well for a long time.

“In most cases, cleaning your oven once every six months is enough. But if you use your oven a lot, it’s a good idea to give it a deep clean every three or four months,” Ian says.

So, don’t forget to include your home appliances into your regular cleaning routine. By taking care of them and cleaning them properly, you’ll reduce the likelihood of needing an appliance repair anytime soon.


  • A nationwide survey of 1,000 individuals was conducted by TLF Research in February 2024.

  • A small-scale experiment was carried out, swabbing seven household appliances and items – the washing machine, dishwasher, oven, hob, toilet, kitchen bin and laundry basket.

  • Tests took place across five different households to find average infection levels.

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