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Common washing machine problems (and what to do about them)

Common washing machine problems - featured

Diagnose, prevent and fix routine issues with your washing machine – from excessive noise to mouldy seals

From the best washing machines to the worst, all are susceptible to a variety of problems. If your appliance is making strange noises, failing to connect to your Wi-Fi, draining slowly or flooding your kitchen floor, you’ve come to the right place. This article explains some common causes behind these, and other, routine washing machine problems.

With a bit of luck, you’ll be able to fix the issue on your own. In cases where you won’t, we’ve flagged up appropriate solutions for problems requiring the help of a washing machine repair service or replacement parts.

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Why has my washing machine become noisier?

There are various reasons why a washing machine may have become noisier. Some causes can easily be prevented or fixed, while others point to more serious problems.

You can test whether your washing machine is operating at unusually loud volumes by measuring its noise levels in decibels using a smartphone app such as Sound Meter (Android) or Decibel X:dB (iOS). Once you’ve taken a measurement, compare the reading with the noise level ratings given in your washing machine’s product specification via retailers such as AO and Currys.

If your washing machine is operating louder than its rated performance, then you may have one of the following problems:

Wobble due to uneven footing

One reason why a washing machine might be operating noisily is uneven contact with the ground. This often occurs after a washer has been tilted or shifted, and then placed onto an uneven surface. The unbalanced footing causes the machine to wobble during use, which creates noise.

To fix the wobble, try shuffling the washer back to its original position on even ground. If that doesn’t work, you can level up the machine by adjusting its levelling feet. Turning one of the feet clockwise raises that corner of the machine higher, while turning anti-clockwise lowers it.

Using a spirit level could help you find the right balance, provided that your floor is level. Washing machines have very low slope tolerance, in fact LG advises that flooring beneath its washers shouldn’t slope more than by a single degree.

If you believe an uneven floor is the root of your washing machine’s problems, then you may need to level the floor surface using a building material such as self-levelling cement (ideally, with professional help).

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Wobble due to overloading

Another common cause of washing machine wobble is overloading – or loading with a heavy, absorbent item that’s capable of rocking the machine, such as a deep pile bath mat.

To some extent, this problem is to be expected. When we make any kind of machine work under high strain, it will tend to operate less smoothly and more noisily.

However, you can help your washing machine out (and your ears) by reducing the weight of big washloads, or dropping the spin speed when you’re washing a heavy item.

Overloading a washing machine can lead to several mechanical problems, such as damage to the motor and the bearings on the drum. These issues may well lead to noisy operation in the long term and not just during high-load washes.

Noise resulting from wear and tear

As we’ve just mentioned, wear on washing machine parts such as the bearings and motor can make the appliance noisier.

Common washing machine problems - heater covered in sediment

If a worn or damaged part is causing excess noise, then it might be possible to fix the problem by replacing the affected part. However, this type of work is beyond the capabilities of the average home handyperson, while professional repairs can be expensive.

The difficulty in replacing washing machine parts stems from the fact they are often tightly integrated into the appliance, sometimes behind other components such as the drum. This is especially true of the bearings – a notorious weak spot which requires hours of work to replace (if replacement is possible at all).

With all that said, if you’re confident that you can get a repair service provider to replace your washer’s faulty part, then spare parts can often be found via the excellent UK Whitegoods.

Tapping and scraping sounds

Tapping, scraping and similar noises can occur when a hard object is left inside the drum during a cycle. This could be something as innocuous as the zipper on a pair of trousers, or a plastic clip on a wet-or-dry bag.

If tapping or scraping noises only occur when your washing machine drains, then this could be due to a hard item such as a coin or paper clip stuck in the drain pump. This component is covered with a filter and hidden behind a small cover on the front of the machine.

With the washing machine turned off and not mid-cycle, open this cover, remove the filter and check for any lost items inside the drain pump. And while you’re at it, you may as well clean the pump of any debris that has accumulated.

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Noisy appliance

Some washing machines – in fact, most washing machines – are noisy appliances at the best of times. If you or those around you are sensitive to noise, then it would be smart to choose a Quiet Mark-certified model (see below) the next time you buy one. Here are some green flags to look out for:

  • Low noise rating: a noise rating is given in decibels (dB) on a washing machine’s spec sheet. You can find this information on retailers’ product listings, often pretty far down the page. The lower the noise rating, the quieter the washing machine’s performance was proven to be under test conditions. Compare the noise ratings of a few different washing machines to find a quiet one.
  • Quiet Mark certification: Quiet Mark is a global certification programme which accredits notably quiet home appliances based on scientific testing. If a washing machine is Quiet Mark certified, then you’ll likely see the Quiet Mark badge (displaying a purple-pink ‘Q’) in the product listing. The Bosch Series 6 WGG2440XGB, one of our highest-rated Bosch washers, is among several washing machines currently holding a Quiet Mark.
Bosch Series 6 WGG2440XGB at John Lewis

What is the black stuff inside my washing machine’s door seal?

The door seals and detergent drawers of washing machines make ideal breeding grounds for black mould, a group of dark-coloured mould species. These places are mild and moist, and they also tend to contain traces of soaps, from which black moulds can obtain nutrients.

Common washing machine problems - mouldy seal

Black mould has a variety of negative effects – some confirmed, others suspected – when it’s allowed to develop inside a washing machine. One thing we know for sure is that black mould can make your laundry smell musty. Worse still, the mould may cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems in some people. Certain black moulds are more harmful than others, so allowing mould to remain inside your machine is a bit of a lottery, to say the least.

There are a few steps you can take to limit the development of black mould in your washing machine:

  1. Dry inside the door seal and the detergent drawer after a wash cycle.
  2. Leave the door and detergent drawer open after use
  3. Use a good dehumidifier in your kitchen or utility room, if the air is humid

Taking these measures from the moment you buy your washing machine will keep the appliance in hygienic condition for longer.

If black mould has already formed in the door seal or the detergent drawer, you’re facing a bit of an uphill struggle. However, you should be able to eradicate at least some of the mould using a purpose-made washing machine cleaner product, such as Nordicare Washing Machine Cleaner (£16, Amazon). Be sure to follow the product’s instructions carefully and wear eye protection, a mask and protective gloves if required.

READ NEXT: How to clean a washing machine seal

Why won’t my smart washing machine connect to my Wi-Fi (or app)?

Smart tech has brought several of the benefits of the connected age to our washing machines – and also some of the headaches. If you’ve purchased a smart washing machine, and it won’t connect to your smartphone, there are a few quick checks you can do that will help you identify the problem:

Check whether the washing machine is within range of your router

If you have other Wi-Fi-connected devices such as a smart oven or smart display close to the washing machine, then these devices’ level of Wi-Fi signal should give you some indication as to whether your router is able to communicate with your smart washer at roughly the same distance.

This assumes that your smart oven’s Wi-Fi connectivity is working correctly. Check the appliance’s manual for guidance on ways to tell whether the device’s Wi-Fi is working – for example, by using its app.

For households where only a weak Wi-Fi signal (or no signal at all) is reaching the smart washing machine, consider investing in a WiFi extender or mesh wireless system.

Check whether your phone’s operating system is compatible with the washing machine’s app

Smart washing machine apps usually support operating systems going back several years.

However, if your phone is getting on a bit and the operating system hasn’t been updated recently, then this might be the reason you’re struggling to install the relevant app.

Smart washing machine apps often have names that don’t reference the name or model number of the washing machine. Carefully check the instruction manual to ensure you’re downloading the correct app for your appliance.

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My washing machine is leaking – what to do?

If your washing machine is leaking uncontrollably, stay calm and take a few steps to safeguard yourself and your property.

  1. Disconnect the washing machine from the mains. If electrical components such as the plug and power cable are already wet, switch off the power supply from your consumer unit (or “fusebox”) first.
  2. Switch off the water supply using your stopcock. This tap-like mechanism should be located on your plumbing system, near to where the water enters the building (and before any appliances or basins in the inward direction of flow). You might need to use a wrench if the handle is stiff.
  3. Check to ensure leakage has stopped. Remember to not open the washing machine door. If water is still leaking, try to identify where the leak is coming from. Contact an emergency plumber if the leakage continues after the washing machine has clearly drained.

When you have your washing machine’s leakage under control (at least relatively so), you can start to investigate the cause of the leak. Here are some common reasons:

Leak caused by faulty tub seal

That rubbery, circular seal around the opening of your washing machine’s drum is known as the tub seal. If this component is degraded or faulty, it can cause water to leak out through the washing machine door.

Common washing machine problems - leaking machine

If a fault with the tub seal is to blame for your washing machine’s leak, then you’ll almost certainly need to replace the seal. Confident DIYers can sometimes tackle this task themselves, provided they can find a replacement which has been manufactured for their exact model of washing machine. However, for the majority of us, seal replacement is a task best left to a washing machine repair service.

A common cause of tub seal degradation, leading to leakage, is black mould. A method for eliminating that particular menace is outlined above.

Leak from a damaged washing machine hose

If a leak seems to be coming from the back of your washing machine, one of the washing machine’s hoses (flexible tubes that channel water in and out of the appliance) may well be the cause of the problem.

Sometimes, washing machine hoses tear or burst, allowing water to leak out when the appliance fills or drains of water. If your washing machine hose has sprung a leak, you’ll need to replace it with a new one.

Replacing a washing machine hose is doable for competent DIYers, although the job usually brings with it some extra spillage of water. You can pick up a washing machine hose at B&Q (just be sure to buy one that’s long enough to reach from the back of your washer to the water inlet pipe or the waste pipe, as appropriate). Also, don’t forget to secure the hose to the waste pipe using a hose clip.

Leak caused by a loose or missing hose clip

A hose clip is a small, screw-tightened metal loop that secures your washing machine’s hoses to the relevant pipes in your plumbing system. When a hose clip is loose or missing, water can leak from where the two pipes connect.

If a loose hose clip is the cause of your washing machine’s leakage, the problem can be solved by tightening the clip, typically using a small Phillips head screwdriver. Alternatively, you could fit a new hose clip to join the two pipes water-tightly. This cheap 22-30mm Primaflow Hoseclip from Wickes (£1.55 for a pack of two) should do the trick.

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Leak from the drain pump

If your washing machine is leaking from the front, a likely cause is clogging or malfunctioning of the drain pump, and its filter. These components can usually be found behind a small door on the front of the appliance, close to the ground.

The pump filter is designed to catch foreign bodies such as coins and other small items often left in places like the pockets of your jeans. Checking the filter on a regular basis – and unclogging it, if necessary – can help prevent problems such as leakage and slow drainage.

Unclogging a washing machine’s pump filter is straightforward, although you might get a bit wet in the process:

  1. Put down a baking tray in front of the washing machine. You’ll experience some overspill during the next steps, so having a receptacle on the floor (or alternatively, a towel) will minimise your inconvenience.
  2. Open the drain trap compartment of the washing machine. This is behind a small, squarish or circular door on the front of the appliance, situated close to the floor. Use an item such as a coin to lever the door open, if necessary. (Please note: if you have an integrated washing machine, the pump filter compartment is likely to be covered by a kick plate, which you’ll need to remove first.)
  3. Remove the pump filter. It’s the first component your hand will touch when you reach inside the compartment.
  4. Check the filter for obstructions. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a few coins in there – jackpot! Hair and fluff are likely to feature among your discoveries, too.
  5. Clean the filter. The average person doesn’t check their washing machine’s pump filter very often. Assuming you’re the average person, this would be a good time to clean the filter. Brush off any detritus, remove the filter cover and soak the whole thing in hot water for 5-10 minutes, before reinstalling the filter.

Taking these steps to unclog your washing machine’s pump filter will hopefully help stop the leakage you’ve been experiencing.

If the pump or its filter appears to be damaged, then it may need replacing with a spare part specific to your model of washer.

Other reasons why your washing machine might be leaking

We’ve now covered some of the most common causes of washing machine leakage. If you haven’t identified your washer’s problem by this point, then the cause could be excessive water pressure.

When water flows into a washing machine at a pressure of over 80psi, this may cause the appliance to leak. You can solve this problem by adjusting the setting of the pressure regulator on your plumbing system (if you have one).

Another possibility is that the washer may be situated on an uneven surface (see our guidance on noise reduction above).

For those of you who are still left unsure of why your washing machine is leaking, we suggest calling out a repair service.

READ NEXT: How to drain a washing machine

Why won’t my washing machine drain?

There are various reasons why a washing machine might not be draining properly.

A common cause of impaired drainage is blockage of the pump filter. We explain how to unclog this component in the section above.

Another component to look at is the machine’s drainage hose, which connects to the waste pipe in your plumbing system. If the drainage hose is kinked, twisted or clogged, this will slow the rate at which water drains from the appliance.

If neither of these options seems to be the case, you might want to take a look at your machine’s drain sump hose, which is located in-between the drain pump and the drum. Sometimes, items get stuck inside this component, restricting drainage. Accessing the drain sump hose can be a difficult (and very wet) job. You might want to leave it to a professional.

Beyond these possibilities, it might turn out that your machine’s drain pump is broken and requires replacement.

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How a warranty or care policy can protect against common washing machine problems

By this point, it’s probably become clear that quite a lot can go wrong with a washing machine. We’ve seen that many of these issues are fixable – but also that others may require repairs or replacement of the appliance

Most washing machines are sold with a manufacturer’s warranty, and this will likely give you some protection against common washing machine faults. Depending on the terms of the warranty, you may be able to get your washer’s problem fixed by the manufacturer, at no added cost.

A warranty is great to have, but it will only provide protection for a certain period – typically two to five years, in the case of washing machines.

If you want to protect your washing machine further than a normal warranty can, then you may be able to sign up to a retailer’s care plan. This can increase the duration and expands the scope of protection against problems with your appliance.

Brands offering washing machine care plans (or extended warranties) include:

These providers vary in their level of washing machine cover. For instance, some care plans provide cover against accidental damage to your appliance, whereas others only protect against manufacturers’ faults. It’s always best to read any terms and conditions (via the links above) before you commit to any plan.

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