Essential Housewares & Appliances
Full Menu
Essential Housewares & Appliances
Abstract Brushed Metal Background
bgblue / Getty Images

The Ultimate Guide


How to Clean a Washer Lint Trap

how to clean a washer lint trap

Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

You religiously clean the dryer filter and remove the collected lint after every load. You religiously sort laundry loads and do everything you can to prevent excessive lint on clothes. And yet, your laundry comes out of the clothes washer wearing a distinctly fuzzy coat. What's the problem? Most likely, your washer lint trap or water pump filter is clogged.

Where's the Filter?

The first step is to find the filter. Older standard top load washers have a cleanable filter (we'll discuss new models later). If you have your owner's operating or repair manual, it will tell you where the washer's lint filter is located. 

If you can't find the manual, it's time to go on a lint filter hunt. Some washer filters are located along the top rim of the washer tub. Slide your fingers around the top of the washer drum, and you may find a screen to pull out or just simply a great deal of lint that needs to be removed. For others, the filter is located near the top of the center agitator. The top can often be unscrewed and cleaned.

Some filters are inside the center agitator. If your agitator cover is removable, check near the bottom where it attaches to the tub. In some models, the top of the center agitator unscrews for cleaning.

Finally, the lint trap or filter may be simply a small screen near the water pump or at the end of the drainage hose. To access the water pump filter on a standard top load washer, the outer housing of the washer will need to be removed. The filter on a drain line is located where the hose attaches to the washer housing.

How to Clean a Washer Lint Trap

Wherever you find it, we'll bet you'll find a sticky layer of wet lint. The goo is a combination of lint, detergent, and fabric softener residue. Use a paper towel or small brush to clean the lint off the screen mesh. If the screen is removable, soak it in a sink of hot water and liquid dishwashing detergent for ten minutes before replacing. The hot water solution will help to clear away any detergent or fabric softener residue that slows drainage.

The washer lint filter should be cleaned at least four times per year to keep your machine working its best and reduce the amount of lint that redeposits on your clothes.

The small filters at the water pump and in the drain line can also be cleaned with hot water and a small brush.

New Washers Have No Lint Trap But Still Need Care

New standard and high-efficiency washers, both front loading and top loading, promise to be self-cleaning and do not have a removable, cleanable lint filter. However, because they use much less water than an older washer, it is helpful to run a cleaning cycle every month to flush the lint away. The cleaning cycle also helps control odors and disinfects your machine.

If you still see lint, it is possible that the filter at your water pump is clogged. When that happens, the wash and rinse water with all that suspended soil and lint drains too slowly and leaves deposits on your clothes. You can still help the performance of your washer by cleaning the water pump filter regularly.

Most front load washers have a small door near the bottom of the appliance that can be opened to remove any lint or debris caught in the water pump filter. Top load washers and standard top load washers usually require removing the outer housing to access the water pump filter from the back of the machine. You may find lots of lint, coins, buttons or even a sock that is causing a slow drain and leaving lint on your clothes.

Cleaning this pump filter regularly will allow water to flow out more quickly taking suspended lint with it and not leaving it to redeposit on your clothes.

The drain line filter should also be cleaned regularly. This is much more simple to access. Simply unscrew the drain hose from the back of the washer. Keep some old towels handle to catch any drips. Remove the filter and clean it well before reattaching the drain hose.

If you have your washer connected to a septic tank system, the lint is being washed out of the washer and into your tank. Synthetic fibers don't break down easily and will continue to collect until they cause a problem. There are external lint filters that can be connected to the washer to prevent this problem. Remember to clean these regularly to prevent lint from redepositing on clothes.