manually drain a washer

How to Drain a Washing Machine Manually

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By 1-800 Plumber +Air

August 01, 2023

For most families, their washing machine is a true workhorse. So, when it is not working properly, it can make a big mess of essential everyday routines.

If your washing machine is not draining, you might immediately start seeing dollar signs - but don't head to the appliance store just yet! There are several reasons for a washing machine not draining, many of which can be easily (and affordably) fixed.

First and foremost, you will need to figure out how to manually drain a washing machine to get rid of the standing water. With this step-by-step guide, you can get the job done with minimal mess.

Supplies Needed for Manually Draining a Washing Machine

  • Large bucket (a five-gallon bucket works perfectly)

  • Needle-nose pliers

  • Screwdriver

  • A plumber's snake

  • Towels

  • A shallow container (if you are draining a front-loading machine)

  • Optional: the owner's manual for the machine

How to Drain a Washing Machine Manually

Before you can start the draining process, you will need to know exactly which steps to follow. The necessary steps you will follow all depend on whether you have a top-loading or front-loading washing machine. Below, we are breaking down the steps for draining each type of washing machine.

How to Manually Drain a Top-Loading Washing Machine

  1. First, make sure that the machine's lid is securely closed. A top-loading washing machine will only drain and spin when the lid is completely closed due to a locking mechanism, so resolving the problem could be as simple as checking the lid. Carefully lower the lid, pressing it down firmly to see if a defective lid switch is the culprit. If the machine doesn't start draining, move forward to step two.

  2. Unplug the washing machine and lay down towels. Take the proper safety precautions to turn off the power, either by unplugging the machine or switching off the correlating circuit breaker (if your machine is hardwired into your home's electrical system). Please note that this is an important step in order to prevent electrical shock. After the unit has been unplugged, place towels around the base of the machine just in case of a spill.

  3. Find the drain hose, which is located at the back of the machine. Carefully move the washing machine away from the wall, so you can have more space to access the back. On the washer's back, look for the three standard hoses: blue for cold water, red for hot water, and gray for draining (typically). We recommend shutting off the water supply (to the cold/hot water hoses) as an extra precaution. Then, disconnect the machine's drain hose from its pipe. Hold the drain line above the machine to prevent water from coming out.

  4. Drain the water into a bucket. Get your large bucket, then slowly lower the drain hose into it. Gravity will take care of draining the water. Once all the water has been drained, you can reconnect the drain hose and discard the water. Repeat these steps until the washing machine drum is completely emptied.

How to Manually Drain a Front-Loading Washing Machine

  1. Turn off the power and place towels around the machine. Unplug the washing machine or switch off the correct circuit breaker (if it is hardwired into your home's electrical system). Ensuring the unit has no power is important to avoid the risk of electrical shock. Once the unit is off, place towels around the machine to soak up any accidental spills.

  2. Locate the machine's drain hose. On a front-loading washer, you will either see a single drainpipe filter or a separate drain hose and drainpipe filter. Regardless of your machine's set-up, you can typically find the drain hose behind the panel on the bottom-front of the washer. Your owner's manual will provide clear steps for opening the panel to access the drain hose. You may need a screwdriver.

  3. Drain the water from the machine.

    1. If your machine is equipped with only a drain pump filter, you'll put a shallow container directly under the drain pump filter to catch the draining water. Slowly turn the knob until water begins to come out. Once the container is full, turn the knob back. Then, dump the water. Repeat these steps until the machine is fully drained.

    2. If your washer has a drain pump filter and a drain hose/tube, you'll first need to unclip the tube. Unscrew the end cap once you've positioned the container to catch the water. After the water is completely drained, replace the cap securely and clip the hose into place.

  4. Clean the filter. Rinse the filter with warm water, gently scrubbing it with your hand or a soft-bristled brush. Make sure to remove any debris.

What's Causing the Draining Problem?

After you have dealt with the draining process, your next question is most likely: why isn't my washing machine draining? There are a few common factors that can cause a draining issue, including:

  • A clogged drain hose: If water didn't quickly rush out of the drain hose when you lowered it to the bucket, there is probably a clog. Use a plumber's snake to access and remove the blockage.

  • A clog in the drain pump: A clogged drain pump can be slightly trickier to deal with. Review the owner's manual to see how to access the washer's drain pump. Usually, it is situated behind a removable panel in the back or front of the machine. Using the needle-nose pliers, clean out any debris.

  • A kinked drain hose: If the drain hose is bent or kinked, it can prevent proper function. Make sure that there is enough space behind the washing machine to allow the hose to hang freely without constriction.

  • Using the incorrect amount of detergent: So many people use too much detergent without even realizing it. Read the label on the detergent bottle and review your owner's manual to ensure you aren't using an excess amount. Too much detergent can lead to buildup, which can cause draining problems.

Know When to Contact an Expert

If you have followed the steps above without success, it is probably time to call in a professional. You might be hoping to save money by figuring out the problem on your own, but sometimes, that can end up costing you more in the long run. If you are not comfortable trying to drain the machine on your own, or you are not able to find a straightforward solution, let a professional plumber handle it from there.

Get Help from the Professionals at 1-800-Plumber +Air

Washing machine issues can be a huge hassle, especially when a quick DIY solution doesn't cut it. Whether you have tried everything without any luck or you would rather leave the job to the experts, 1-800-Plumber +Air can help.

Our team of experienced professionals has the skills and training you need to tackle even the toughest plumbing problems, including drain cleaning, water leaks, and more. We can quickly diagnose and resolve the issue, saving you time, stress, and money. 1-800-Plumber +Air also provides regular maintenance and inspections, so you can have the peace of mind of knowing that your plumbing is always in tip-top shape.

Get more information about what to do when a washing machine doesn't drain when you contact the 1-800-Plumber +Air team today!

Frequently Asked Questions About Draining a Washing Machine Manually

Once you commit to manually draining your washing machine, it's hard to stop in the middle of the process. So getting prepared before you loosen the drain hose is essential. Here are some of the most common questions people ask about draining a full washing machine tub and some helpful answers to get you started. If you have any questions or want to have a professional plumber troubleshoot your machine, contact us at 1-800-Plumber+Air, and we'll send someone to your front door!

What Supplies Do I Need for Manually Draining a Washing Machine?

Gather all the supplies you need before you start manually draining your washing machine, especially if you don't have a helper available. Essential supplies to have at the ready before you start draining your washing machine include:

  • A five-gallon bucket

  • Screwdriver

  • Plumber's snake

  • Needle-nose pliers

  • Towels (as many as you can spare)

If you still have your owner's manual, read through the instructions for manually draining your washing machine first. Every machine is a little different, so reading the manual can help you out. If you no longer have your paper copy, there may be a PDF available online.

When you're draining a machine, there's always a risk that something is wrong with the drainage and water will start to seep, drip, and even pour out of your machine. If you can, have extra towels and even an extra bucket so you can quickly mop up any water before it causes damage.

When Should I Call a Plumbing Professional?

There are some preliminary steps you can take before calling in a professional, such as checking the drain hose for problems, disconnecting the hose to slowly drain the tub into the bucket, and inspecting the hose for clogs. But it's often best practice to call in a plumbing professional if there's not a clear and obvious problem you can solve (such as a one-time clog or kink in the hose). If you have repeated issues, have had to drain the washing tub before, or don't see a clog, call in a professional for a more thorough inspection.

A plumbing professional can:

  • Check for deep clogs out of sight in the hose.

  • Troubleshoot the washing machine's drain pump for mechanical issues such as a broken impeller.

  • Identify issues that may be leading to frequent clogs, soap buildup, or other problems.

What Safety Considerations Do I Need to Follow?

Conducting repairs on or troubleshooting problems with a washer requires taking several precautions. These machines operate with both water and electricity, which can increase your risk of a shock injury. Before you get started, it's important to be sure the unit is fully off and that you have unplugged the machine. You can also flip the circuit breaker.

Other safety considerations you should follow before manually draining your washing tub or performing any other maintenance or repair tasks include:

  • Look out for sharp metal edges, especially as you disassemble the unit.

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from grime and sharp edges.

  • Have plenty of towels or an extra bucket nearby so you can mop up spilled water before it becomes a slip hazard.

  • Ensure the area is dry before plugging in the machine or flipping the circuit breaker.

  • Be careful to gently insert and remove the drain snake to avoid puncturing or ripping the material.

  • If you have the owner's manual, thoroughly read the relevant sections before disassembling any part of the washing machine.

If you're nervous about disassembling your washer or breaking the hose, talk to a professional instead. At 1-800-Plumber+Air, we provide fast service 24/7 and can give you upfront pricing details.

Featured Image: Lena Ogurtsova / Shutterstock

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