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It is extremely common for field service people to have to deal with problems arising from overloading, just pure and simple overloading causes a multitude or performance issues on washing machines and washer dryers as well as some faults. Here we explain what it is and why it is absolutely vital that you do not overload your washer.

You can thank us later as, if you follow the loading advice your wash results will be better, your clothes will last longer and you won't detroy your washing machine.

So before you are tempted to squeeze in those last few items it would be better if you understood why doing so might just cause you problems and, even potentially, a fault.

For information about overloading your tumble dryer please see this article.

A lady overloading a washing machine

  Removing Dirt

It is well known that to effectively remove dirt and staining you need three basic ingredients, heat to loosen the dirt and activate any detergents, motion to shake the particles of dirt free and the detergent to lift the staining. Obviously the process is far more complex than that with far more ingredients used in the detergents, but essentially those are the three basics you have to have.

Remove any one of them, or impair the ability of one and the performance will suffer as a result.

  What Is Overloading

Overloading a washing machine can cause a number of issues some immediately apparent and some take time to manifest themselves it is therefore absolutely vital, if you want your machine to last and to perform at its best, that you load the machine correctly.

The diagrams below show balls inside the drum of a washing machine:

A washing machine drum overloadedA washing machine drum not overloaded

As you can see, where there are a lot of balls and they''re all solidly packed in (Fig. 1), there is no room for movement. Whereas in the second picture (Fig. 2) you can see that the balls, as they are not packed in tightly, are free to roll around the drum. The same basic premise applies to the laundry in your washing machine, if there's not enough space the it cannot move.

To successfully wash laundry it has to be able to move around inside the drum, allow the water and detergent to reach all the clothing and distribute evenly, not just for the best results, but also for the machine to work correctly and have as long a life as possible.

Overloading causes poor results, damage to laundry and damage to your machine!

  What Overloading Your Washing Machine Causes

Classic overloading a washing machine even although the customer insisted it wasn't the full weightThis raises several issues with the laundry not least of which are that the water and, therefore detergent, cannot get to the laundry to do its job. In fact, if you packed clothing in like this (Fig. 1 above) it isn't inconceivable that the garments in the centre would not get wet in extreme cases let alone the detergent and motion severely hampered from doing their job.

Also the load placed upon the bearings of the machine is massively increased and can cause premature bearing failure in the washing machine or washer dryer.

The image to the right shows classic washing machine overloading. In this instance the customer insisted, forcefully, that it was not as the clothing did not exceed the maximum load rating but, quite clearly common sense would indicate to most people that the machine is ram packed full and the laundry will not be able to move.

Continually doing this will damage your washing machine, no doubt about it.

Clothing can also be pushed forward and effectively "lodged" between the inner drum and the door seal of the washing machine and dragged around causing marking and/or tearing of the clothes as they are forced around between the rubber of the door gasket and the lip of the inner drum. You will often see the first signs of this happening as smaller items (like socks) will get pushed into the area between the door glass and the door seal and sit there for the whole wash.

When overloaded the washing machine's performance and the wash results are severely reduced as I've explained but there's yet another factor, the dosage of detergent assumes a "normal" wash load and so there isn't enough detergent in the machine to remove the dirt. So your clothes don't get cleaned properly.

This problem only gets worse though as, because the water isn't getting to the clothes correctly we often see white marks, detergent residues, on the clothes as the water isn't getting to the detergent correctly to dissolve it. This is a very common complaint, often seen as white marks on clothes, or "white streaks" and all it really can be is overloading that is causing the issue. But if this detergent is left to sit there on wet clothing and it is a bleach containing detergent, then there is a danger that the clothing could be irreversibly damaged by bleaching.

overloading is also a known cause of leaking on many modern high capacity and high efficiency washing machines.

In severe cases overloading your washing machine, just as is the case with tumble dryers, can also burn the drive belt out.

  Loading Your Washing Machine Correctly

Simple isn't it, or seems so. You get a bunch of clothing, sheets or whatever you need to wash and just rattle it into the washing machine, add detergent in whatever form, switch on the washer and let it go.

If only it were that simple.

There are related articles below that explain more about separating coloured and white items at the very least for starters, but here it's just an explanation of how to physically load the machine.

For larger items, such as sheets, you should try to feed the item into the washing machine drum in a feed around the drum. This is not particularly to help distribute the weight of the larger items correctly, although it does help in this regard especially with large bed sheets, but more to ensure that the item is not one big "lump" and that the water and detergent can get to it all and do the job correctly.

A washing machine drum from the back which is loaded correctly
This photograph shows the drum loded correctly, note the gap

In any event you should leave an approximate 10cm gap between the top of the laundry to the top of the door opening for the drum, or a handwidth as a rough guide to ensure that your clothes actually get washed and not just wet and refreshed.

You should also add enough laundry so as not to incur an out of balance load. In most modern washing machines small loads and single items will not spin due to the balance sensor.

  Weight Versus Volume

On occasion we will see, especially in warranty when the fault is not covered due to it being an overloading issue, people claiming that they haven’t exceeded the maximum weight allowed according to the specification.

This is a maximum for that one measurement only!

The fact is that both the weight and the volume come into play and if you ram pack the drum full, regardless of the weight, the machine is overloaded.

Often the analogy that is used will be, what’s heavier, a 6 kilos of jeans or 6 kilos of duvet?

The answer of course is that they are both exactly the same but, the density of fibres differ, the absorbency differs, the weight when wet differs and so on. This is the reason why you have to apply some common sense and consider the volume being washed as well as the weight.

It is our opinion that the weight is actually a poor measurement due to this and other factors for loading washing machines and tumble dryers. To rely on this one factor would be a folly.

It is good for marketing purposes when manufacturers declare the “biggest” but, in daily use, it’s not so useful.

Overloading or casting blame?
My landlord has informed me that the washing machine was broken due to my misuse, water would not enter the machine - everything in the machine was dry after running for a complete cycle. The landlord told me that this is because I filled the machine too full and it this caused the water system to breakdown in the machine. I will admit that there have been times where the machine has been a little overloaded, but I do not believe that it was regular enough to break the water system. Is overloading even a possible cause for a water system breakdown? I understand that overloading does put strain on the machine and can cause a number of issues but is a water system breakdown one of them?
Maddy Boone
Washing machine not washing or spinning
My Bush F621QW only does filling & drains .. but on a wash cycle it does quick/fast 2secs spin and stops ... on spin cycle it does nothing.
what is it thats gone on my machine, every time i plug it in it trips my mains?
sue wilson
How do I get the error code reset I unplugged it over night ....the code looks like 2 capitol EE s but the first E dosen"t have the top of the E...straight line and the bottom 2 parts of the E ....does that make sence? any way too many suds...Thanks Sue already had the pump replaced

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