When the washing machine won't drain, you're confronted with a murky mess of clothing, gray water, and suds. If you think you don't know how to drain a washer or that baling with a bucket is the only way to go, the good news is that you probably won't have to do that.
Whether it's a top-loading or front-loading machine, there are a number of drain override prompts as well as manual techniques for draining the washer.
Avoid moving the machine. Even a moderately sized 4.2 cubic foot machine full of water weighs close to 200 pounds. If you need to move the machine a few inches to access the back of the machine, have an assistant help you. Otherwise, call a service technician.
Equipment / Tools
- 2 Buckets (top-loading machine)
- 2 Shallow plastic trays (front-loading machine)
How to Drain a Washer (Top-Load or Front-Load Washer)
Check the Drain Hose For Blocks
The drain hose may be improperly connected or kinked, preventing the washing machine from draining. Straighten out the drain hose. Make sure that nothing is resting on top of the drain hose to block it.
What Is a Drain Hose?
The drain hose is the flexible, ribbed plastic hose on the back of the washer. Usually gray, the drain hose connects from the washer to a standpipe, utility sink, or into a back wall.
Correct the Drain Hose Position
The drain hose must be more than 30 inches above the floor but no higher than 8 feet. If your washer drains to a standpipe, pull the drain hose out to make sure that no more than 5 feet of hose are in the standpipe. The hose cannot drain more than 5 feet away from the machine, too.
Stop the Drain Hose Suction
The drain hose needs to be loose within the laundry standpipe so that there is an air gap between the hose and the inside of the standpipe. Otherwise, a fit that is too snug may have a suction effect, preventing the washer from draining.
What Is a Laundry Standpipe?
A laundry standpipe is a vertical 2-inch pipe, usually PVC or ABS, that accepts the washing machine's drain hose at one end. The other end of the standpipe connects to the home's waste stack.
Prompt the Drain and Spin
Even if the automatic drain does not work, all clothes washers have a manual override that allows you to prompt the washer to spin out and drain the remaining water.
Check your washer's instructions. In most cases, manual override requires advancing the washer cycle to a later cycle.
Force a Short-Term Automatic Drain Sequence
If you're unable to manually prompt the drain, many washers have an automatic drain sequence designed to expel water and prevent water from standing in the drum for too long.
With many machines, one way to initiate the automatic drain sequence is to open the lid and leave it open for a short amount of time, usually 15 or 30 minutes.
Wait for a Longer-Term Automatic Drain Sequence
Many machines also have a long-term automatic drain sequence. With this feature, leaving the lid closed and putting the machine in a pause state will force the machine to drain water. This drain sequence may take as long as 24 hours to initiate.
How to Drain a Top-Load Washer Only
If your top-loading washer did not drain by unblocking the drain hose or initiating drain prompts, siphon the water into buckets with a hose.
Open the Lid
Open the washing machine lid. If the lid does not open, the water inside may need to cool down before the automatic lid sensor (found on select machines) allows the lid to open.
Unplug the Washer and Turn Off the Water
With the lid open, you can now unplug the machine. Make sure that the end of the plug remains dry. Turn off the hot and cold faucets that supply water to the washing machine.
Remove the Clothing
If the drum contains clothing, remove the clothing from the water. Place the clothing in buckets.
Place two buckets next to each other in front of the washing machine.
Set Up a Water Siphon
Create a siphon from the standing water in the drum down to one of the buckets. Use a clean 4- to 6-foot hose. If one isn't available, remove either the hot or cold fill hose from the washing machine.
- Hold the two ends together in one hand.
- Fill the hose with water in the utility sink or bathtub so that the entire hose is full.
- Place one end of the hose in the washing machine drum. Force it to the bottom. Keep the other end of the hose higher than the level of the standing water in the washer drum.
- Quickly place the other end of the hose in one of the buckets. The siphon should automatically start.
Drain the Washing Machine Drum
When one bucket is almost full, transfer the hose to the second bucket. Drain the first bucket in the laundry room utility sink or bathtub and bring it back. Work rapidly. Continue this cycle until the washing machine is drained.
Troubleshooting Draining a Top-Loading Washer
- The siphon will remove most but not all of the water. Sop up the rest of the water with towels.
- If the water doesn't siphon, you may have lost too much water from the hose before the second end was placed in the bucket.
- The bucket must be lower than the washer drum, so always keep it on the floor.
- The end of the hose in the washer drum should be tilted to the side to avoid blocking the flow of water.
- Siphoning is an all-or-nothing process. If the siphon stops working mid-process, you'll need to remove the hose and start from the beginning.
How to Drain a Front-Load Washer Only
If prompting the machine to drain did not work, remove the drain pump filter cover and empty the water with the drain pump hose.
Locate the Drain Pump Cover
Unplug the machine and turn it off. Locate the drain pipe filter cover. It will be a square or a rectangular cover located on the lower left or right front of the machine. Remove the cover.
Place the Tray Nearby
Place the plastic tray near the drain pump. The tray should have low sides to allow the water to drain out easier.
Extend and Open the Hose
Pull out the rubber drain hose. Most drain hoses are about 10 to 12 inches long. Place the end in the plastic tray. Open the end by uncapping the stopper.
Some front-loading units do not have a drain hose. Instead, after opening the drain cover, you may find a large cap that can be unscrewed counter-clockwise, causing all of the water to flow out at once. Be prepared with large catch trays.
Drain the Water
Let the water drain into the plastic tray. When the tray is about half full, cap the stopper, empty the tray, and return it. Uncapping the stopper will allow the water to flow again.
Remove and Clean the Drain Pump Filter
Turn the pump filter counterclockwise to remove it. Clean the pump filter in a sink. Insert the clean drain pump filter.
Recap the Drain Hose
Tightly recap the end of the drain hose and push the hose back into the washer.
Close the Drain Pump Cover
Replace the drain pump cover.
Troubleshooting Draining a Front-Loading Washer
- Do not confuse the drain pump area in front with the drain port in the back of the machine. The rear drain port is for ordinary washer operations and cannot be used for emergency draining.
- Draining the machine will not automatically open up the front lid if there is a faulty switch or lock assembly. Call a technician for this issue.
- If the hose isn't draining freely, it might be because the edge of the drain pan is too high. The pan edge needs to be either the height of the drain hose or lower.
When to Call a Professional
Some front-loading machines have a drain pump located underneath the machine instead of the front. In this case, have a service technician drain the machine for you.