Washing Machine | Diagnostic & Repair Guides

Holes In Clothes: Mechanical Causes

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We often see reports of washing machines tearing or magically making holes in people's clothes but, is it really your washing machine that is to blame for this?

The answer is, probably not. Although huge numbers of people will automatically blame their washing machine for causing the damage.

Holes in clothing after being washing in a washing machineYou see, damaged clothing from a washing machine is, in the vast majority of cases, down to the use of your washing machine, the detergent used and the program selection more than a problem with your washing machine although there are obviously a few problems with your washing machine that can cause it to happen. However, these are usually very, very obvious indeed.

We will explain what the most common causes are here and how you can almost for sure solve the problem yourself with a bit of detective work.

Washing Machine Problems That Explain Holes In Clothes

As we mentioned, there are a few problems with your washing machine that can cause these kinds of issues but all of them are obvious and, detectable.

Keep in mind that your washing machine in this respect is a mechanical device. It cannot selectively decide to damage only certain items of clothing, only on certain programs or, only in certain places so if you have a problem that fits that description, it is not your washing machine that is at fault.

Drum Damage

Obvious really, if the drum in your washing machine is damaged then it will tear up clothes given that all drums are thin metal. Any damage to your drum will result in shredded clothes.

This can be a result of a broken drum spider as well but, if that happens then your machine will sound like a box of spanners has been thrown in it.

It is obvious that there's a problem though as you will be able to see the fact that the drum is damaged visually quite easily.

Drum Paddle Damage Or Missing

Never ever use your washing machine if the drum paddle is broken or missing as you will shred your laundry as well as very likely causing other damage to the machine.

Drum paddles getting smashed or damaged is very common, especially on lower cost brands like Beko, Indesit and Hotpoint etc and it is caused by the quality of paddle to a degree, sure. But, it is also caused by people washing stuff in the machine like shoes and overloading both of which can and, often do, cause drum paddles to get smashed and broken.

Top tip, don't do it!

If you do have a damaged drum paddle then get it sorted or replaced before you use your washing machine again or, you will almost certainly get damaged clothing.

Door Seal Damage

The door seal in almost all conventional washing machines has a small lip on the inside of the rubber gasket that is designed to stop clothes from catching at the front of the drum between it and the door seal or the outer tank. Should that get damaged in some way then you run the risk of holes and even tears in your clothes.

This is cause by consistent overloading of you machine. There is no other explanation for it.

Continuing to overload your washing machine will only make the situation worse and small items, such as children's clothes, underwear and socks etc can be forced by the weight of the clothing down between the inner drum (the part you put your clothes into) and the outer tank (the large tub around that which contains the water) then on into the sump or drain pump causing a blockage.

Overloading is a very bad thing, don't do it.

Trapped Items

It is a very common task for service engineers to have to retrieve bra wires from people's washing machines. In fact, we'd go so far as to say, extremely common.

Of course we pull out all manners of things from washing machines and what people put in them that they shouldn't earns us a fair old bit of money so, if you're smart, you will of course check your laundry carefully before putting it in your washing machine. If not, you will almost certainly be having one of the engineers call to mend your machine and, charge you for the privilege.

So for us, keep on doing it as we make money from it but, we'd rather not have to explain why you are getting charged for retrieving something that shouldn't have been in your washing machine in the first place, even under warranty.

But going back to bra wires, they can "poke" up through the holes in the drum and damage your clothes.

This is of course usually easily spotted and detected but they can be a bit awkward to get back out and you may need a service engineer unless you have a washing machine that has user removable drum paddles so you can do it yourself.

It should be pointed out that underwired bras are generally regarded as suitable for machine washing only if they are placed in a wash bag, you can get a special bra washbag from the likes of John Lewis and others for this and, they should only be washed on delicates programs.

Overloading on top of this should you wish to ignore the advice, is just asking for trouble!

If you do not follow the advice one of the repairers will look forward to charging you for their services soon.


Shrinkage or other damage caused by your washing machine overheating will almost certainly be a thermostat failure and it will happen on all programs. The machine will heat until it reaches an overheat or timeout then either halt or report an error.

This will not happen on only select programs.

Bearing Failure

If the bearings in your washing machine fail then it can and, ultimately will, allow the drum to drop slightly. This in turn allows clothes to become trapped much in the same way as if the door seal was faulty and you end up with holes or tears in the laundry.

Again though, this is easily seen and a physical fault apart from your washing machine sounding like a jet engine or train rumbling through your kitchen.

Washing Machine Mechanical Failures

These are pretty much the only ways that your washing machine can cause holes or tears in your clothes and it be a fault with your washing machine.

In order to cause holes and tears there has to be a physical fault and, it will be mechanical in nature every single time, without exception. There are however many user generated things that can cause small holes, large holes and even tears to appear in your laundry which are, by and far, much more common and we explain all these here.

Where the cause is mechanical and an actual problem with the washing machine it will not be selective in what it damages, it will damage all clothes, all the time.

Therefore, if you are getting damage only on certain kinds of clothing or laundry or, only on certain programs you will have to look into the other possible causes and we strongly suggest that you do this yourself before you call for service as that could prove a costly mistake. To help you we wrote a piece on how a washing machine really works here that explains what components are being used at each stage of a program and, it doesn't alter very much from washing machine to washing machine. This should help you track down the cause of the problem if you take the time to read through these guides.

Remember, any service engineer can only repair a fault that they can find. They cannot repair a problem they cannot find any evidence of.

Testing Your Washing Machine For Holes & Tears Problems

This is a really quick and simple way of testing if there is anything in the drum of your washing machine that is causing a problem that will cause holes or tears to appear in your washing.

Get an old pair of tights, a cloth or something else that is very likely to catch and tear.

Run this around the inner drum of your washing machine, which is the part that you put clothes into, the big stainless steel drum.

Make sure that you go both around the drum clockwise, anti-clockwise and back to front or front to back.

If there is a problem that could cause holes or tearing, you'll know as you will feel the cloth or whatever catching.

If it does not and there is nothing catching the cloth then the problem lies elsewhere.

Can't Find It? Need More Help With Your Fault? 

Many people try to work out the problem with their washing machine before calling an engineer to repair it to figure out if it is worth it or, before buying spare parts to attempt to repair it yourself. With our repair guides, written by washing machine engineers, you will often be able to work out the problem yourself and solve the most common problems that crop up with washing machines. And, for more specific advice you can use our free forums to get even more help.

Get technical help for your washing machine, dishwasher, cooker and other appliances in our help and support forums To get technical help for a washing machine then please click here for our washing machine forum
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