How to drain a washing machine



If you are like most people, your washing machine is one of the most important appliances in your home. The last thing you need is to discover your batch of towels submerged in a full tub of water while your machine flashes an error code or simply has stopped working altogether. 

If your washer is experiencing drain problems, you’ve come to the right place. This article covers how to identify the cause of such problems, drain your washer and hopefully fix it so that it doesn’t happen again.


What to do first

While your first instinct might be to try removing the laundry from the washer tub and bail the water out, this isn’t a good first step for several reasons. Any laundry sitting in that water is soaking wet and will drip all over the place if removed. You might be tempted to grit your teeth and toss it in the dryer like that, but there’s a reason your washing machine has a spin cycle to get rid of the excess water first. Bailing the water out is also messy and cumbersome. 

It’s best to avoid trying to clear the machine of water and laundry before identifying or solving the problem. Yet, it might be the case that you’ll still end up having to do so in the end. Remember that many causes of an undrained washer can be fixed without disrupting the appliance’s contents.


Possible causes of why washer is not draining water

Before getting into the steps of solving the problem, it’s important to first understand why your  washing machine drain system might malfunction. Among the many possible reasons this might happen are the following:

  • Clogged drain hose: Sometimes the hose that drains the waste water becomes clogged with lint or other debris. If the water flow can’t move past the blockage, then the washer can’t drain until that clog is removed.
  • Broken drain pump: Often located behind an access panel, the drain pump is responsible for pumping the waste water through the drain hose. If this water pump is broken, then the water has no way to make it up and out the drain hose. 
  • Broken lid switch: When working properly, the lid switch indicates to the machine that the door lock is engaged and it’s safe to proceed to the next cycle. If broken, however, the machine may think the door is open.
  • Broken belt: Your machine’s function may rely on one or more rubber belts, which transfer motion from one part of the inner workings to another. If a belt becomes damaged or slips out of place, this can prevent the proper working of the machine. 
  • Jammed or kinked hose: Although the drain hose is not clogged, it could still be the cause of the problem if it’s kinked or jammed, preventing water flow. Particularly, if you have moved your machine recently, you should check to make sure the hose hasn’t been compromised.
  • Clogged drain: If the drain hose itself is fine, there may be a clog in the drain pipe, carrying the waste water out of your house. 
  • Broken water level control: Some machines have a plastic tube with a water level valve that the machine uses to determine if there is water in the tub. If this becomes broken, clogged or otherwise compromised, it might be the cause of the failure to drain.

Some of these causes are easier to check for than others. In general, it’s best to follow a systematic process to check for and resolve the issue, as described in the next section.


How to drain a washer filled with water

The following steps will help you identify the problem, drain your machine and work toward fixing it. 

Try the spin cycle

If your machine allows it, try manually setting it to the spin cycle and running it to see if it drains. You may also try restarting the entire wash cycle to see if it works. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than a minor blip, a temporary clog or a mere kink in the process that has resulted in drainage failure. Simply letting it try again is all you need to do. 

Turn off the power and water supply

Before investigating further, you should turn off the power and water flow to avoid electric shock or flooding during the troubleshooting process. Typically, you can turn off the power at the breaker box in your house and turn the water valve knobs that supply the machine (typically located directly behind the machine itself).

Remove and check the drain hose

Behind the washer, you will find the drain hose. It’s connected to the appliance at one end while the other goes into a drain pipe that leads out of your house. First, verify that the hose isn’t pinched or kinked anywhere, then pull the hose out of the pipe and inspect it for clogs. 

If you find any debris, you should most definitely remove it. Then, set everything back up, turn the water and electricity back on and try starting your washer again. If the clog was the problem, it should now drain. If it still doesn’t drain, or if you didn’t find a clog, then make sure the power and water supply are shut off again before proceeding to the next step.

Check to see if it will drain with the help of gravity

Find a large bucket, place it on the floor and place the end of the drain hose into the bucket. If there’s no clog, the water should drain on its own owing to gravity. At this point, you can be fairly certain there are no clogs in the hose, and the problem is either related to the inner workings of the machine — the drain pump, a belt, the lid switch, etc. — or a clog in the drain pipe.

If your machine doesn’t drain when you put the hose in the bucket, then the issue is still most likely a clog somewhere deeper in the hose that you can’t see.  

Check your machine’s inner workings

If the hose drains when placed in the bucket, it’s time to check the machine’s inner workings for problems. This includes examining the drain pump, the lid switch, the belts and the water level control (if your machine has one).

The drain pump is likely behind a panel that can be removed with a screwdriver. After you remove the drain pump, examine it for debris or obstructions and make sure the moving parts move freely. Sometimes simply cleaning the pump will do the trick. If nothing appears to be  wrong with the pump, check to make sure all belts are in place and intact. 

Find the lid switch and press it down while holding the lid open. The switch should click into place. If it doesn’t, or if it seems loose, it may need replacing. Continue to check other parts of your machine. You may also find it helpful to look at the user manual. (Note: If the manual is no longer with you, you should be able to find it online on the manufacturer’s website if you know your model number.) 

The manual may have additional troubleshooting tips specific to your machine. Top load washers and front load washers have very different configurations, for example. If you don’t feel comfortable messing with your machine’s insides, you might also call a washer repair technician at this point.

Check the drain pipe

If your hose drained when placed in the bucket, and you couldn’t find any problems with the machine’s inner workings, you might want to check for a clog in the drain pipe that carries waste water from your house. This may require the use of a plumber’s snake.

Drain manually if needed

If you have deduced that the issue is most likely still a clog in the drain hose that you were unable to easily access, you will need to remove the drain hose from the machine to thoroughly inspect it. 

Before doing this, however, you need to manually empty your machine. Otherwise, the water will spill out when you disconnect the hose. While an unpleasant process, the mess can be kept to a minimum if you make use of buckets and towels. 

Call a service professional

Finally, if you are unable to find the problem or are uncomfortable messing with your washer’s inner workings, you should contact a washing machine repair service professional for help. If you have a home warranty like those from Cinch Home Services, you can just request service online or by phone, and we’ll find a prescreened service professional to help with the repair or replacement.


Protect your washer from costly repairs with Cinch

The Appliances Plan from Cinch provides homeowners with repair and parts replacement coverage for covered major appliances, including clothes washers. A Cinch home warranty comes with a 180-day workmanship guarantee, protection for unknown pre-existing conditions and even discounts on new appliances if your appliance needs replacing. 

Find peace of mind today by requesting a free quote from Cinch.

Having a washing machine filled with water can be a real mess. Need to know how to properly drain your washing machine? Read this article for tips and tricks!