Solved! Why Is My Washer Not Draining?

Opening a washer to find standing water can really put a damper on your day. Read on to determine what could be the cause of a washer not draining, and whether the solution is minor fix or a major repair.

By Evelyn Auer | Updated Mar 14, 2023 1:11 PM

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Washer not draining


Q: I threw a load of clothes in the washer a while ago, and when I came back to put them in the dryer they were still submerged in water! It looks like the washing machine never drained. The machine was working just fine yesterday, so I’m wondering why is my washer not draining now?

A: What an inconvenience! We often don’t appreciate how much we rely on our appliances until they stop working properly. When your dryer won’t spin or your washer won’t drain, your first thought might be to gather the wet laundry and head to the nearest laundromat. But before you start gathering quarters, there are several possible reasons for your washer not draining like it’s supposed to. It may be a quick fix, if it’s just a clog or a kink, or it may require the skilled touch of a repair technician.

Washer not draining?
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The drain hose or pump filter might be clogged. 

If the water in your washing machine won’t drain, there may be a blockage somewhere in the washer drain hose. First, make sure the hose isn’t bent—sometimes the solution is as simple as straightening out a kink. To check for a clog, you’ll first need to get as much water out of the machine as possible, as any water that is left may gush out when the drain hose is disconnected. Look up “how to drain a washing machine,” or simply bail out the water using a cup. Grab a bucket and some towels to place under the hose, then unscrew it from the wall. Empty any remaining water from the hose into the bucket before unscrewing the other end. Then inspect each end of the hose for blockages and run some water through it to clear it out.

Small items get stuck in the washing machine all the time, often ending up in the drain pump. The pump will either be accessible on the bottom front or back of the machine (on a top loader, it may be necessary to remove the washer’s front panel). From here, you can pull the pump out to look for any items like coins that have gotten lodged inside or see if its filter has become clogged.

Check that your machine is at the proper drain height. 

Finding the proper drain height for a washing machine is a bit of a Goldilocks conundrum. If the drain is too high, the machine won’t be able to propel the water up through the hose. If it’s too low, the water will flow right back into the drum after being pumped out. Either of these scenarios will result in a washer that stays full of soapy, murky water. The exact height needed for a washer to drain will vary across brands and models. Luckily, the owner’s manual that came with your washer probably lists the height range that lets your washing machine drain properly. If it turns out that the current drain height is less than ideal, it may be necessary to reposition the drain hose or its standpipe (the pipe that connects to the drain hose) to remedy the issue. There are plenty of washing machine drainage options out there if the current setup isn’t working.

Washer not draining


Problems with the home’s plumbing system may affect the washing machine. 

It’s understandable to assume that when a washer won’t drain it’s because the machine itself is broken. However, sometimes the fault actually lies with the plumbing connected to it. A clog in the pipes taking dirty water away from the washer could be causing the backup. Try disconnecting the drain hose from the pipe while being careful to hold the hose upright so water can’t leak out. If the blockage isn’t too far down the line, it may be possible to dislodge it with one of the best drain snakes. You could also pour a bit of water down the line to see if it backs up. There may also be an issue with the plumbing system’s venting, which would prevent water from flowing freely. If it looks like the washing machine plumbing is the culprit, it’s best to call a professional plumber and have them take it from here.

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Poor load distribution can cause a washing machine to drain improperly. 

Poor load distribution could be the reason the washer is not draining. If at any point during the wash the items in the drum become unbalanced, the washer may not be able to spin and the machine may not be able to carry out the rest of the cycle. If the clothes have gathered to one side, or you’re laundering a single bulky object like a pillow, try adding items or redstributing the bulky object to balance the load. If this was indeed the cause, the cycle will hopefully resume again when you close the door. If not, you might need to search for “how to reset a washing machine” to get it started again.

If unbalanced loads are allowed to run frequently, the constant jostling can hurt the machine over time. In the future, whenever you hear undue banging coming from the laundry room, be sure to stop the cycle and rebalance the load immediately to avoid causing damage.

The lid switch might be defective. 

When working properly, the lid switch can detect whether the washer’s lid is closed and will prevent a cycle from running if it’s not. If you’ve ever opened the lid of a washer mid-cycle, you’ve likely noticed that it will pause until the lid is closed again. However, if something goes wrong with the lid switch it can result in a problem, such as a washer not draining. On a top loader, it’s possible that the piece that turns on the switch when the lid is closed has broken. To see if the switch itself is still working, use your finger or the tip of a pencil to try triggering the switch. If that doesn’t work, the switch may be faulty.

A front-loading machine does not have a lid switch like a top loader, but it will typically lock automatically while a cycle is in progress. If you notice that the door is locked with standing water inside, this could be a mechanical issue that will require the help of a professional repair technician.

Consider hiring a skilled appliance repair pro instead of trying to fix a washer yourself. 

If you’re still confounded as to why your washer won’t drain, or you’re worried about making the problem worse while performing a DIY fix, it’s probably wise to get in touch with a professional. An appliance repair pro will be aware of the potential issues to look for. They may even have insights into common issues with your specific brand and model of machine. If it seems like the problem may be plumbing-related rather than an issue with the machine itself, a plumber will know how to vent a washing machine drainpipe or flush out a clog and may have tips to help prevent the issue from happening again.

A dysfunctional washer can be a huge hassle that disrupts your daily routine. Dirty clothes pile up quickly, especially if there are a lot of people in your household. Getting in touch with a pro right away to fix the problem will have you back in business before you know it. For even easier repairs, consider opting for a policy from one of the best home warranty companies (like American Home Shield or AFC Home Club), which can help reduce appliance repair costs in the long term.

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