Your washing machine occasionally leaks, here's what is probably causing that
We will quite often come across reports from users of washing machines that will leak on an intermittent basis, especially so on what is known as high capacity front loading washing machines which is generally considered to be a load rating of 6kg or higher or, about a 45-50l drum.
Rational people applying some common sense will tell you that this is not possible. How can a washing machine leak on occasion? After all, it either has something that leaks or doesn't as in, there is a hole somewhere allowing water to leak and, if there is a hole it will not cure itself.
What Can Leak On A Washing Machine
If you consider the mechanics of a washing machine (we do, it’s important to us) then you have a big tub that is partially filled with water (some have gaskets, some don’t to split the tank), some hoses, a dispenser and a hole in the front with a door that seals into it.
Logically all this is sealed up and there are very few points where water can leak from, the top subjects being:
- The tank itself
- The door
- The tank gasket
- A hose
- The dispenser
At the most basic level, no more than a few places that your washing machine can leak from in a wash cycle. It can vary between models but, not a lot. There are a few other components that could possibly leak water but it would be rare and the same principle outlined will apply.
However the general rule that applies here is that; a leaking component cannot somehow magically repair itself and stop leaking for a bit, then start to leak once again later. It simply isn’t possible.
All of these components are fixed in large part and, if they go faulty, allowing water to escape then they will stay that way. As in, faulty and leaking.
The water goes into the machine the same way on every cycle or program every time, it doesn't change.
It is normally safe to assume that the water pressure is static to the washing machine and, your washing machine cannot alter or change that other than to restrict it in some cases but, it almost never will be.
If there is a faulty component causing a leak then it will stay that way forever until the issue causing the leak is repaired and, most often, the fault will be easily tracked down. Almost all washing machine repair guys will be able to spot the leak easily.
How Can A Washing Machine Leak Occasionally
In most every instance that we’ve looked into, it’s down to how the washing machine is being used. We actually struggled to find an example where it wasn't being caused through use after thorough investigation.
You’re probably wondering how you can cause your washing machine to leak but we will explain how this can be so.
If you consider that your washing machine has a bunch of components that are fixed in such a way that they are either faulty or not then you have to consider any other variables that are in play. The obvious two are what is placed in your washing machine and, what detergents or additives that are used since both of those can vary hugely from cycle to cycle.
Then consider that an awful lot of people will generally glug in some detergent and softener or, fire in a rough scoop of powder with usually scant regard to using the correct dose, irrespective of the load.
This can and does cause real issues with intermittent leaking.
When you think about it most people will agree that it is far more likely that there has been the wrong detergent, too much or something of the like than the washing machine decides of it’s own accord to leak on every second or third wash cycle then magically repair itself. Or to leak only when certain fabrics are washed.
Too Much Foam
Let’s give you a couple of common examples to demonstrate the point.
If you put too much detergent (soap powder) in the drawer of your washing machine then the flow of water can be restricted causing water to overfill in the dispenser and leak. Or, it can start to foam up in the drawer can leak out the back of the detergent drawer through a breather tube.
This can then leak down the inside of the cabinet and look as if the machine is leaking from the drum when, in fact, it really isn't.
Washing machine repairers can often spot this, but not always if it’s hidden well.
Another is that conditioner, which is largely grease based with a bit of perfume in it can also foam up with the same or similar results.
Now lets say that you take a washing machine and start altering the doses used, especially overdosing either or both and it is easy to get a washing machine to leak, almost on demand.
This is, in our experience, virtually always the cause of an intermittent leak. But, it can take a while to suss it.
We have seen some loads cause it but that is very rare. The laundry causing a leak is usually down to creation of too much foam which then leaks from the breather hose but, it is very rare or has been for some years but at one time, it was very common.
Detergent And Conditioner Causing Leaks
Many years ago, when concentrated detergents where first introduced this had us foxed for months on end. We had loads of complaints about intermittent leaking from washing machines and nobody could work out why.
Eventually someone thought to look at the outside of the machine instead of, as customers were insisting on, looking for a leak from the drum or door seal.
Turns out there were the tell-tale run marks from the breather hose on the back of the machine.
What was happening was that the customers were using too much of the concentrated detergents and soap powders, the dose wasn’t clearing before the final spin cycle leaving loads of sopping clothes laden with detergent in the drum.
As the machine went up onto spin all that retained water flooded out the clothes and got forced through the breather hose.
Instant intermittent leak.
All washing machines have a breather hose because, the air in the tank has to be able to get out so that water can get in, it cannot be completely sealed up to be both air and watertight. Sometimes it's routed out the back as with older machines but, more commonly these days, it's routed back into the soap drawer to try to get anything that comes out back into the machine, an attempt to make it a sealed system in effect. Problem is of course that, if it is coming out on spin (as it often will) then it's soapy water and moving at a rate of knots to be able to get up there and given the fast spins on modern washing machines so, it's liable to slop out the front of the dispenser drawer.
You can replicate this today easily with modern concentrated detergents and conditioners on almost any washing machine on the market or by washing clothing with a high water retention like fleeces, towelling and such with too much detergent. It will do it almost every time.
You can get the same effect by using a low quality soap powder or liquid that is prone to overfoaming at the best of times.
What you use as a detergent and how much you use is paramount, the importance of it should not in any way be underestimated.
Think on it another way with something we all know. If you buy a car and it tells you to use synthetic oil only then you go and put mineral oil in it, how well do you think that will go for your engine? Then, how much will the car manufacturer care?
We always advise and, every manufacturer out there will tell you to use a decent soap powder, liquid or detergent and many of them will tell you to avoid concentrates. This is why.
Some of the repairers have found a noticable trend that low cost detergent, packed out with things to bulk it up we presume, is causing this more and more across multiple brands. In fact, the make of machine doesn't seem to matter at all, it seems to be happening to virtually all washing machine makes which only further strengthens the case for the detergent or, the doseage being used to be the root of the issue.
Cleaning The Dispenser Jets
It is also known that on some machines that dirty jets on the soap dispncer top, especially when encrusted with mould or limescale deposits etc, can lead to the water being sprayed about all over the place. Obvioulsy if water goes where it should not then there is the risk of a leak and these should be regularly cleaned to prevent this from happening.
It is also the case that a small amount can cause the softener compartment to fill with water but, not to provide adequate flow to allow the compartment to start to syphon. This can lead to water being left in the softener compartment after use.
For more on how to keep your detergent drawer clean, please see this article
We have discovered that overloading your washing machine can also cause this to happen.
Water gets "trapped" inside the clothing because it cannot get out as it should do if the washing amchien was correctly loaded and then, as the machine enters a spin cycle the water is forced out of the breather hose.
Again you would see this as an intermittent leak.
But It Leaks From The Bottom
Water obeys the laws of gravity so it all finds its way to the bottom somehow, eventually.
The two most common complaints about leaks and, it makes you smile for a while but then just gets so predictable, is that the washing machine leaks from the bottom or, is leaking from underneath.
It is obvious though as, you have a big empty metal box with a round thing in the middle, all water will find its way to the floor eventually virtually all the time.
In other words, it doesn't matter where your washing machine leaks from inside the machine itself, it will always look as if water is coming from the bottom. Even if the leak is from the rear breather hose almost at the top of the machine or, from the back of the soap dispenser.
Unless you can obviously see the water leaking from the door or something like that, you need to open up the machine to find out where it is leaking from usually. Even then, we've seen clear water leaking out the dispenser drawer and people not noticing it running down the front of their washing machine, it's far more commonplace than you might think.
Finding Out Where The Leak Is From
An old trick is to use talcum powder in the areas that you think that your washing machine might be leaking from. Talc is harmless to the machine.
The leaking water will show up as run marks often pinpointing either the exact location of the leak or giving you a very good idea of where the washing machine is leaking from.
This is of course if you do not see run marks from the detergent carried along, these will usually give washing machine repairers the exact location of any leak, especially if it has been leaking for a while as soap residues are deposited as the water runs.
It’s very good for finding leaks from soap dispensers as you can put talc on the front of the machine and, even when the water is totally clear, you can see where the leak is from.
Another old tried and tested trick is to get newspaper and spread that out under the washing machine as a load or test cycle is carried out. Any water will drip onto the newspaper giving a clue as to where the leak is coming from. However this will not work on many modern machines that have a solid base whcih is often added to add rigidity to the unit and to allow the installation of leak protected washing machines on high specification models.
Wasted Money And Irritation
Of course by using too much soap powder or detergent and even conditioner you are wasting money. After all, those are the most expensive components in washing your clothes, why waste it?
Not only are you wasting money but, if you think on the environment, your using more resources that you needn't have to and pumping out unused detergents into the waste water system.
It's really a bad thing all around when you stop to think about it.
Worse still is that, if there is too much detergent in your washing machine the residues can stay there for a while, can cause bacteria build ups and generally be a bit of a pest at best along with being the major cause of a smelly washing machine. At worst most probably it can cause skin irritation because, even after rinsing, you may well still have soap residues on your clothing.
An old trick of some appliance engineers when they suspected this was what the owner was doing was to put the machine on completely empty to test it. No detergents, no clothing, just a blank canvas.
In most instances you will see a nice layer of foam after only a few minutes. That's all the excess detergent lying in the machine from the previous wash or washes and, it shouldn't be there, it should all have been washed away.