Washer Won't Drain? 5 Troubleshooting Tips

Are your clothes still soaking wet at the end of your washing machine's cycle? Here are some things you can do when your washer won't drain properly.

Washer Machine Overflowing with Soap and Bubbles

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If you reach into your washer expecting to transfer the damp clothes to the dryer but find that your clothes are sopping wet, and water is still standing the bottom of the tub, your machine isn’t draining properly. Yes, you can put in a quick call to your plumber, but before you dial, why not try to troubleshoot the problem yourself? You may be able to find and fix the issue before you need assistance, saving yourself the cost of a service visit in the process. Here are some things to ask when your washer won't drain.

What to Check When Your Washer is Not Draining

[Before starting any of these steps, be sure to turn off electrical power to the machine by unplugging it from the wall or by flipping the electrical panel circuit breaker. Also, remove any standing water from your machine’s tub by bailing it out.)

Is it the Drain Hose?

The hose that carries water from the back of the machine could be causing it not to drain properly. The washing machine hose could have a kink obstructing the water flow, or the unit could be jammed too close to the wall, interfering with water flow through the hose. Another possibility is that the hose could be clogged. Disconnect the drain hose (have a bucket or other large container ready to catch any water), and shine a flashlight inside to inspect it for any obstruction. If you can’t reach what’s clogging the tube, try taking it outside and using a garden hose to run water through it. Then, reconnect the drain hose to the machine, turn the electricity back on and run the rinse cycle to see if to drain properly.

Is it the Lid Switch?

If the lid switch is broken, it could prevent the machine from draining correctly. The lid switch is typically a small, plastic switch located under the lid or door of the washer. To check if it's functioning correctly, open the washer and press the switch. If you don’t hear a clicking sound, the switch may need replacing.

Is it a Belt?

Check the manufacturer’s diagram of your machine to see where the belts are located. Look for a break, damage, or see if it slipped out of place.

Is it the Pump?

Again, see the manufacturer’s diagram of your washer model, and locate the pump. It's usually found in the front or the back of the machine. You may need to remove a panel to get to it, so have a screwdriver ready. Detach the pump and open it to remove the screen. Rinse the screen thoroughly. Turn the fan blades or arms to make sure they are moving freely and that none of them are broken or missing. Look in the pump’s outlet part to see if anything is lodged inside. Inspect the pump for cracks or leaks. If the blades are broken or the pump is leaking, you may need a new one.

Is it the Drain?

If there is water remaining in the tub or on the floor, you may have a clogged drain. Run a plumber’s snake through the drain opening to see if you can clear the stoppage. One of the easiest preventive measures you can take to keep your washer draining properly is to check the pockets of all clothing items before washing them. Coins and other small objects can get caught in the pump or other washer components and cause draining difficulties. Pay attention to any unusual sounds that your washer is making – there may be a forgotten item banging around in the tub that could cause drain problems.

Washing Machine Not Draining Even After Troubleshooting?

In addition, always follow your model's manufacturer's instructions and recommendations for the type of laundry detergent you should use and for how to properly load the machine. If the answers to these questions don’t reveal why your washer isn’t draining properly, you may need to call the plumber after all.

While it’s certainly possible to replace the washer pump, lid switch or belts yourself, you may choose to have a professional make those repairs instead. If the drain is clogged and you can’t clear it yourself, you may also need to ask your plumber for help. Be sure to keep in mind that the average washing machine's life expectancy is about 14 years. This time frame is taking 7 loads a week into consideration. Depending on your make and model, you may be able to get away with a dependable machine for a longer span of time, but if you're reaching the 14 year mark and you've had some problems with your washer in the past, it may be time for an upgrade. This is where washing machine warranties come in handy.

Plumber inspecting washer

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