What To Do When Your Washing Machine Won't Drain

Washing machine leak
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When a washing machine won't drain there could be several different causes. 

Water Remaining in the Washer

When water is left inside the washing machine when the cycle is through, the cause is most likely inside the appliance itself. Problems draining can originate either in the drain tube or the mechanical pump. 

  • Drain Tube:

    If something is clogged inside the washing machine drain tube, it can prevent the water from being pumped out of the machine. To test this, remove the drain tube attached to the washer and make sure it is clear. An easy way to check that the drain tube is clear is to blow air through it. If nothing is obstructing the drain tube, the problem is most likely at the washing machine pump.

  • Pump:

    When there is water left inside the washer and the drain tube is not the problem, it is likely that the pump is bad. When the pump is not working properly the water will not get ejected from the machine at the end of the cycle. If you believe that the washing machine pump is causing the problem, then call a local appliance repair shop for a quote.

Water Spilling Out of the Washer or Drain

If the washing machine won't drain properly and water seeps out onto the floor every time it runs, then the problem is likely at the drain. A clogged drain will prevent water from draining out of the machine and ends up backing up into the pipe and spilling on the floor. Clearing the clogged drain will usually resolve the problem.

The washing machine drain hose goes down about two feet into the plumbing drain standpipe. (In some machines, the drain hose may simply be clamped onto the side of a wash tub, though this is not an acceptable practice anymore.) From there, the water then goes into a drain trap.

The clog could either be in this trap area, or it could be further down the drain line. First, determine where the clog is. 

Quick Test to Locate the Clog

First, fill the washing machine with water. Turn the dial to the spin/drain setting and get ready to drain it. Position yourself where you can see the drain standpipe while still having access to the washer dial.

What you're looking for is how long it takes the water to back up and out of the drain pipe.

Note: Be ready to stop the washing machine from draining at any moment.

  1. If the washer backs up in just a few seconds, then the clog is likely very close and can be cleared with a small power drain snake used through the standpipe. You may even be able to clear it with a small hand-powered snake.
  2. If the drain takes some time to back up, then the stoppage is likely quite far away. In this case, you will need to use a medium drain snake through a clean-out to clear the stoppage.

Many times there is a clean-out behind the washing machine that can be used to snake the stoppage. If there is not a clean-out behind the washing machine but there is a kitchen nearby, often the two drains run together and you can run the snake through the kitchen clean-out to clear the stoppage. If the kitchen drain seems a bit slow or has had water backing up when running the washing machine, then this verifies they are tied together and clearing one could clear both.

Most people do not have the drain snakes necessary to clear these kinds of stoppages. Fortunately, most drain snakes can be rented by the hour from home improvement and tool rental stores if you decide to do it yourself.