Holes In Clothes: The Main Causes

Continuing on from our article on the mechanical reasons a washing machine can cause small holes or tears in clothes we will now explain the by far more common explanations on why this happens. 

We will demonstrate that very often it is not your washing machine that will be the problem but, the way that the washing machine is being used or, what and how much is being washed in it that cause the problem.

Overloading is the number one cause of holes and tears in laundry from a washing machineIn service it is extremely common for people to blame their washing machine for making holes in clothes and causing tears, having service engineers spend hours looking for problems that do not exist. This inevitably leads to people being unhappy as, while your service engineer can repair your washing machine from an electrical and mechanical standpoint, he cannot solve a problem that does not lie with the machine itself.

The top reasons for holes rips and tears in laundry from an automatic washing machine are:

  • Overloading
  • Poor quality clothing
  • Incorrect cycle or program use
  • Incorrect detergent use
  • Transfer damage from other items in the wash

Top Reasons For Holes, Rips & Tears In Clothes

The top reasons are all in control of and, down to the user to resolve. A service engineer will be of no help to you at all other than to offer sympathy and advice.

Your washing machine cannot selectively target some items and not others. If it is faulty in any way your washer will either halt, display an error code or damage everything in it without any discrimination at all. 

The best service engineers that know their stuff will be able to explain all of this to you, discuss what you are doing and advise on a path to find a solution but, you have to help them get to the root of the problem and accept that it may well be something that you are doing wrongly and not a fault with your washing machine.

Please, try to be patient and help the service guys help you. But above all, listen to what they are telling you.

Overloading Your Washing Machine

For years we've been telling people to stop this as, aside from the fact that your wash performance will be markedly reduced when you overload your machine, you risk considerable damage to your clothes as well as your washing machine.

Overloading stresses the bearings, the drum and the motor which are the most expensive components to replace.

It also severely reduces the wash quality.

But in the context of this article, it also "forces" items of clothing between the door seal and the drum or door glass in your washing machine. Even large items, if trapped, as they are dragged around in that area are extremely likely to be damaged and show rips, tears and small holes. 

You can also often see "streaks" or burnt streaking on items caught like this if the clothes don't find their way out of that area in the drum before your washing machine goes into a spin cycle. Clothing being dragged around trapped against the door as the machine whacks around at over 1000rpm is never going to end well.

This is why most doors are shaped with a slope on them into the drum, it pushes the clothing back into the safe zone but, if your washing machine is ram packed full that cannot happen. Carnage with your clothes will ensue.

The solution is simple, load your washing machine correctly and you will never have this issue.

You can find a guide here

Holes In Poor Quality Clothes

So here's a thing that is a recent phenomena in the world of washing machines, holes and small tears appearing in light t-shirts, blouses and such but everything else in the wash is often okay.

For months we and others tried to get to the bottom of the reason why this was happening as, some of the clothing was from "reputable" high street retailers and brand names who are normally associated with better quality.

Over time, after hunting for months and months for a mechanical cause, what we found was quite shocking, to us anyway.

We found that a lot of these item were being washed on the wrong cycle for the care label which was causing holes and tears but, we'll get to that below, along with that many of the items were not the best quality at all.

The fabric was light anyway in many cases but what we found was that it tore really easily so we had to start looking at the quality of the garments being washed. To our surprise we found that this is largely a case of caveat emptor, buyer beware as there is virtually no guidance on the quality of clothing that you buy.

Then we found that some had the wrong care label instructions, from factory!

Perhaps lost in translation as all that we have come across were produced in the Far East (China mainly), India and Latin countries. You can draw your own conclusions as we did.

The point that we would make though is not to assume that a designer branded item or one from a supposed quality high street name will be of high quality as, in our experience, this is not always the case.

Couple this with a wrong wash program (below) and you really are on course for getting items of clothing damaged in your washing machine but, importantly, it is not the washing machine's fault.

Incorrect Cycle Use Causing Clothing Damage

Okay so here's what we can state is 100% factual as service engineers.

We have a heap of care labels to help people wash their clothes and not get them damaged by their washing machine or tumble dryer.

Most people don't look at the care labels on their clothing and almost nobody you ask will have a clue what they mean anyway.

We have at least ten to twenty washing machine programs to accommodate all these different fabrics and their washing requirements.

Yet almost every single person that you ask will tell you that they will use two or perhaps three programs on their washing machine.

So, as engineers, we have to ask, what then is the chance that the customer is using the wrong program for the wrong fabric type and that's causing the damage?

Answer: extremely likely.

Many modern fabrics are very susceptible to damage if they are washed using the wrong program because, on different programs the intensity of the wash, the length of the cycle and the spin speed used is varied to suit the fabrics that you are cleaning. 

If you select a program that is too harsh and damage is almost certain to happen.

Your clothes will be literally "beaten" for too long in a modern washing machine as this is a huge element with the energy saving requirements in modern washers. To save water and therefore energy, your washing machine will wash for longer to compensate and deliver the same wash results but, if you put the wrong fabric on too harsh a program it is entirely possible that the fabric will get stressed and break causing small holes or tears to appear.

Holes and tears can be caused by using the wrong program on your washing machine

Meanwhile, modern washing machines and laundry codes have been made simpler and simpler in a bid to prevent people from going wrong but, there's only so much that can be done. Although we do still often see fancy electronic panels and ones that are just desperately confusing like the one in the image which are fine if you are remotely technical or are used to the flight deck of a space shuttle, not so good and easy to get wrong if you aren't.

As we mentioned above, if you couple this with a poor quality item then the chance of damage can and probably will rise exponentially.

Your washing machine will do what you tell it to do but, if you tell it to do the wrong thing for the items you place in it, expect it to end badly.

The solution is to ensure that you select the correct program for the fabric being washed, then the chances of getting items back out with holes or tears drops massively.

Incorrect Detergent Use

This seems not to so much cause tears and holes although, repeated use of a rubbish cheap detergent can damage the fibres of the laundry over time and lead to that being much, much more likely or cause it but, more about shrinkage.

Any natural fibre such as wool or silk cannot and must not be washed with a normal detergent. If you do this, even in error just once, you will probably cause irreversible damage to the garment.

This includes mixed fibres where any of the components are natural fibres.

And, we're right back to people not reading or understanding the care labels on their clothes and selecting the wrong program. Do both and your are almost guaranteed to get damaged laundry back out of your washing machine but, with natural fibres it can often be immediate and severe.

Very often people assume that this is caused by their washing machine overheating and causing clothes to shrink but, it probably isn't as if your washing machine was overheating it would shrink everything, not just the odd garment.

Once more the solution is entirely in your hands, use a good quality detergent and use it correctly and you will probably never have any trouble.

You can find more about how to use detergent properly in our article Whiter Whites, Brighter Colours from the link.

Transfer Damage Causing Holes & Tears

This is a popular reason as well and, in conjunction with overloading a perennial favourite reason for small holes and tears in clothes.

We all know that you get instructions to wash things inside out and we all know that the standing advice is to zip up zips right?

Thing is, this sound advice is largely ignored by most people.

People are too busy, can't be bothered, didn't know or whatever reason but this can and does cause small tears and holes to appear in clothes from your washing machine.

Open zips catch lighter items and tear the fabric as can some buttons and obviously things that shouldn't even be in a washing machine in the first place like nails, pins, screws… yes, we've pulled out that and much worse from people's washing machine. Now those sorts of items tumbling around at 54rpm for a hour or two then at over 1000rpm are probably going to cause a bit of damage wouldn't you think and, by choice, nobody is daft enough to put them in deliberately as common sense says that damage would happen.

If you get small holes and tears in your clothes then check the filter in your washing machine and make sure that there's nothing in there that could possibly catch clothes and try to check all pockets before you wash.

Also try to remember to zip up all zipper garments as even the metal teeth can catch light items and tear the cloth. 

Your Washing Machine Cannot Damage Clothes

In large part this is true.

With the vast majority of cases where we have damage to clothes reported there is absolutely nothing wrong with the washing machine at all. We explained all the possible reasons that this can occur from a mechanical standpoint here and, once you eliminate those possibilities then all that remains is one of the above.

Do remember that, as above, your washing machine is simply not able to discriminate certain fabric types and only damage particular types of clothing if there is a fault with your washer. Just as it cannot decide only to be faulty on one program, since it uses all the same components for every wash cycle. Nor can it make holes appear in the same place all the time. 

These things are just not possible for your washing machine to do.

The type of clothes you put in your washing machine, the program you select and the detergent you use can cause many of these issues and, are in all cases we've looked into, turned out to be the cause.

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.

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