If your washing machine’s drain is overflowing, the problem could be as simple as a clogged drainpipe or as serious and complex as a main sewer line blockage. No matter what’s causing the overflow, it’s important to immediately address the issue to prevent lasting damage to your home, even if that means contacting a plumber.
How a Washing Machine Drains
To realize what causes washer drains to overflow, it’s important to first understand how the machine removes water during a wash cycle.
At the end of a cycle, your washing machine removes water from its tub using a pump that forces water into a drain hose, which curves up and out of the machine to meet the standpipe that’s typically located near your hot and cold water supply valves. If your washer and its parts work as they should, water moves through the hose and into the standpipe where it’s eventually carried to your home’s main sewage line.
When any part of the drainage process malfunctions, overflow from the washing machine’s drainage system is possible and will require swift action to identify and fix the issue.
How to Diagnose an Issue With Your Drain
First, you will need to confirm that your washer’s drain line is the issue. Some advanced washing machines have signal errors that identify the cause of a leak, but for most washing machines, you’ll need to run a diagnostic test.
Start by running your washer through a drain cycle. Observe the washing machine as it pumps water into the hoses and up into the standpipe. If you see water back up and out of the standpipe, your washer’s drain is most likely the issue.
The amount of time it takes for the standpipe to fill up and overflow helps you diagnose where the clog is located. Here’s what each timeframe might mean:
- A few seconds—If the pipe fills up and overflows within seconds, the clog is most likely located near the standpipe’s surface or in a washing machine hose. If the clog is small, you may be able to clear it with a hand-operated snake.
- 30 seconds to a minute—If the stoppage doesn’t cause the water to surface for 30 seconds or more, the clog may be deeper in the drainpipe system. This may require a long drain-snake to reach deep into the pipe and free the clog. If you can’t reach the clog with your snake, contact a plumber to assess the proper course of action.
- More than a minute—Water that takes more than a minute to overflow after entering the drainage pipe may mean a more severe blockage in the plumbing system. Contact a licensed plumber to inspect your home’s sewage lines and identify the issue.
Note: Be prepared to stop the washing machine cycle once you spot a leak.
Clogs aren’t always the culprit when it comes to an overflowing drainpipe. Inadequately sized drainpipes and kinked hoses can also cause an overflow. To be sure of the issue, contact a reputable plumber, like ARS Rescue Rooter, to diagnose the issue.
How to Operate a Drain Snake
To operate a snake, follow these steps:
- Push its end into the drain opening and turn the handle on the drum to release it into the pipe.
- Keep pushing the head of the snake deeper into the pipe until you feel resistance.
- Rotate the snake clockwise or counterclockwise until you feel the clog break free.
- Pull the snake out of the drain and repeat a drain cycle to ensure the pipe is free and can drain.
How to Prevent Your Drain From Overflowing
To reduce the likelihood of a washing machine drain overflow, follow these preventative measures:
- Use a garment bag or lint bag when appropriate to prevent the excess buildup of lint inside the drainpipes.
- If it’s accessible, inspect and clean your washer’s lint trap or filter.
- Ensure there’s at least 1/2 inch between the drainpipe and discharge hose to promote proper drainage.
- Use the correct detergent to prevent the buildup of soap residue.
- Clean your washing machine hoses and drainpipe regularly.
Backup Plan for Your Washing Machine
Like all major systems and appliances in your home, your washing machine is likely to endure normal wear and tear over time. To avoid sudden, expensive costs due to your washing machine or another appliance breaking down, we recommend that all homeowners consider purchasing a home warranty.
Typically, home warranty plans cost about $25-$50 per month. Whenever a covered system or appliance breaks down due to normal wear and tear, homeowners with a home warranty plan only have to pay a service fee—usually in the range of $75-$125—to have the item repaired or replaced. This can save you a lot of money in the long run as some of your home’s most valuable appliances can cost thousands of dollars to replace without a home warranty.