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What is a washing machine pan and when to use one



The last thing you probably want is water damage caused by a leak in the water-supply line of your washing machine. Fortunately, there’s a way to catch the water and direct it away from your home. 

A washing machine drain pan is a shallow tray that slides under the washer and is designed to catch any leaks or drips from the hose connection. This article covers how a washing machine drain pan works and when you should use one.


What is a washing machine pan?

Washing machine leaks are one of the most common causes of water damage in the home. The hoses that connect a washing machine can break or loosen, causing gallons of water to flood the room. And in an upstairs laundry room, the potential for damage is greater because washing machine overflow can leak through the floor and ceiling to the rooms below. 

However, even if there isn’t a hose failure, water from a leaky washing machine can cause problems. Condensation beneath the machine can lead to the buildup of mold and mildew. 

The good news is that a washing machine pan is an inexpensive way to prevent water damage. These shallow trays are typically made of plastic, composite material or stainless steel. They are placed under the washer to collect water and drain it away. 

Drain pans come with a pre-cut hole in the side or bottom. This is for the PVC pipe that connects the pan to the drainpipe. If the water in the pan reaches a certain level, it drains through the pipe and out of your home.


When to use a washing machine pan

Use a washing machine pan to protect your home from water damage if you have access to a drainpipe in your laundry room. If there’s no drain in the laundry room floor, you may need to call a professional plumber to create a route for the water to drain. 

If your laundry room is upstairs, using a washing machine pan is even more important to prevent water from dripping through the ceiling into the room below.

How to install a washing machine pan

If you have basic DIY skills, installing a washer drain pan isn’t too difficult. Here are the materials you’ll need: 

  • A drain pan purchased online or from a home improvement store
  • A hacksaw
  • A dolly
  • A carpenter’s level
  • A PVC drain fitting
  • Someone to help you move the washer

Once you have everything in place, you can install the washing machine pan in nine easy steps:

  1. Check the manual and follow the setup instructions for your drain pan.
  2. Turn off the power supply to the washer and unplug the washer. Close the hot and cold water valves and disconnect the hoses from the wall. Keep a bucket and towel ready to catch spills from the hoses.
  3. Lift the front of the washer to insert the dolly under it. This is the stage where it’s nice to have someone to help. Washing machines are heavy. Move the washer forward until you can see the floor drain.
  4. Cut the drainpipe to the correct length with a hacksaw. The drainpipe should be long enough to reach just below the thickness of the subfloor of your laundry room. If you’re replacing an old pan, use the existing pipe.
  5. Place the drain pan so the drainpipe fits through the pre-cut hole. To make it easier for DIY installers, most plastic washing machine pans have a punch-out hole pre-drilled. Some include the PVC fittings to connect to the drain.
  6. Measure the size of the hole required if there’s no hole. Use your drill to cut one that aligns with the drain in the floor. 
  7. Put the washer in position over the pan. The washing machine should be at least 4 inches from the wall.
  8. Use the carpenter’s level to ensure the washing machine is level. Newer washers have adjustable legs to help you level the machine. Adjust the legs and pan until the washer is flush and level. If your washing machine shakes violently during a wash cycle, it’s out of balance.
  9. Reconnect the washing machine hoses. Use a wrench to make sure they’re secure. Plug the washing machine back in and turn on the water valves. For the next few washes, check the drain pan to verify there are no leaks.

Using a washing machine pan with a pedestal

Some people place a front-load washer and dryer on a 12-inch pedestal to make the appliances easier to reach. This pedestal usually has a drawer to store detergent and other laundry supplies. Placing the washer on a laundry pan usually blocks the drawer from opening. Some homeowners improvise by not using the pedestal drawer beneath the washer and storing supplies beneath the dryer instead. An alternative is to measure the clearance needed for the drawer to open and find a pan designed to work with pedestals.

Preventing leaks in a second-floor laundry room

If your laundry room is on the second floor, you enjoy the convenience of fewer trips up and down stairs to wash and fold clothes. But a leak in an upstairs laundry room can affect the ceiling, walls and furnishings of the room below. Here are a few tips to avoid leaks in an upstairs laundry room:

  • Use a drain pan. While building codes do not require drain pans, some local jurisdictions require them for second-floor laundry rooms.
  • Install a local shut-off valve. If water starts to spray from the washing machine, you don’t want to have to run to the basement to shut off the water. Before a problem occurs, work with a professional plumber to locate the local shut-off valve to your washing machine.
  • Inspect your hoses. The hoses for your washing machine won’t last forever. Some have expiration dates printed on the hose. Look for signs of hose failure or leaks.
  • Secure your drain lines. The force of water draining from your washer can cause the drain line to dislodge from the drainpipe. Take steps to secure your lines or bring in a plumber.
  • Use a water sensor. A water sensor or leak detector is a smart device you can place in your laundry room. If it senses moisture, it will sound an alarm. Some models use Wi-Fi to send an alert to your smartphone. The most advanced water sensors shut off the water to your home when there is a leak.

Maintaining your washing machine pan

It’s important to check your washing machine pan periodically for signs of leaks or cracks. After doing laundry, look for water in or around the pan.

If there is a musty odor in the laundry room, it could be from water that is not draining efficiently. To remove standing water from a drain pan, use a wet vacuum to suction the water. If you don’t have one, soak up the water with towels.

Clean your drain pan regularly with household cleaners. If the pan has held standing water, use baking soda to eliminate odors. When you move the washer to clean the pan, check the drain pipe to ensure it’s not clogged by lint or other material from the washer.


Protect your washing machine from costly repairs with Cinch

Keep your washing machine and other major appliances in working order with a home warranty from Cinch Home Services. Our Appliances plan gives you peace of mind, knowing that if there is an unexpected breakdown, you can request service online or by phone at any time, and Cinch will find a pre-screened service professional to diagnose and remedy the problem as soon as possible. Protect your budget and home with a home warranty from Cinch. 

Get a free quote today to get personalized coverage for your home.

A washing machine drain pan protects your home from water damage if the washer leaks. Learn how to install and maintain a washing machine pan.