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Is it illegal to use a washing machine at night?

washing machine with door open in a laundromat at night

Doing laundry at night might save you money, but could it land you in hot water with the law?

With energy prices reaching eye-watering highs, many people are looking for clever ways to bring their bills back down. One commonly offered tip is to do your washing overnight, when providers tend to offer electricity at a cheaper rate. However, with noise laws dictating that anything above permitted levels should be knocked on the head between 11pm and 7am, you might be left asking yourself: “is it illegal to use my washing machine at night?”

It might seem like a ridiculous question, but is it? After all, official UK laws class anything above 34dBA (decibels adjusted: the volume a of sound relative to human hearing) as “unreasonable noise”. Given that even the best washing machines run somewhere between 40-80dBA, it might not be such a silly question after all.

So, where do you stand then, when it comes to washing your clothes after hours? Is doing your laundry going to end up ruining neighbour relations? Or, so long as you’re not blasting out heavy metal until 3am, all is good? Let’s find out.

What is “unreasonable noise”?

The UK government website classes nuisance noise in the following terms:

“For the noise to count as a statutory nuisance, it must do one of the following:

  • Unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • Injure health or be likely to injure health

In reality, washing your underpants at midnight isn’t likely to meet either criteria.

Even if your neighbours do complain, for it to be taken seriously, the local council would have to come out and assess the noise and agree it is unreasonable. Following this, the council has to issue a warning to stop the noise, and only if this is ignored is there a chance of any legal proceedings taking place.

In other words, you’re unlikely to get yourself banged up for using your washing machine overnight, even with the least accommodating of neighbours in the world.

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Why do people use their washing machines at night?

There are a variety of reasons someone might choose to do their washing at night. Perhaps they finish work late, or maybe they simply woke up in the dead of night and realised they hadn’t pressed the “start” button on their last load.

hand opening a washing machine lighted with clothes at night

Increasingly, though, people are choosing to leave their washing until the nighttime because it saves them money.

Some energy providers offer a tariff rate that drops at night – usually between 11pm and 7am. This can make it cheaper to use your washing machine while everyone else is in bed.

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How can I make my washing machine quieter?

hand adjusting the settings on a white washing machine

While it’s highly unlikely that your nocturnal laundry habits will ruffle feathers enough to land you a noise complaint, there are still a number of ways you can reduce the noise to show consideration to your neighbours. Here are a few ideas:

  • Remove any items from the top of your washing machine – Items clattering around as the machine spins through its cycle will result in additional noise that could irritate those living nearby.
  • Don’t overload the machine – Stuffing the drum to the brim will cause the machine to wobble and vibrate more, which could make it even louder. Instead, leave plenty of room for the clothes to move around inside.
  • Make sure the machine is not touching any connecting walls – If it is, the noise will travel more readily through to your neighbours property.
  • Rest the machine on something to absorb vibrations – Sitting the washing machine on a rubber mat will reduce vibrations and dampen the noise caused by the machine.

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The bottom line

Using a washing machine at night isn’t illegal, but it doesn’t hurt to be courteous to your neighbours by taking measures to reduce noise. That way, you can keep clothes clean, reduce your bills and maintain good relations with your neighbours all at the same time.

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