How to drain a washing machine – step-by-step

If you’re like most busy families, you heavily rely on your washing machine. Keeping up with laundry for multiple people at a given time requires almost daily use, which is why it’s such a big problem when your washing machine is out of commission.

Going to the laundromat is a huge pain and time waster, especially if you have numerous loads to do in a given week.

From the moment you notice your washer won’t drain, you need to take action. While many people think this happens automatically, the truth is the appliance continues to hold water until the pump works to purge it out. If this isn’t happening, then you’re stuck with a heavy unit full of water you need to get rid of and a potential mess that could cause a minor flood. Yikes!

So, how do you drain your washing machine? It isn’t that difficult, but it does take a bit of time and knowledge to complete.

To make the process easier, we’ve compiled a few tips on what you should do if the washing machine in your home breaks. Keep reading to learn how to drain a washing machine.

How Do You Manually Drain A Washing Machine?

The process of manually draining a washing machine is a lot easier than most people think.

If it was running when the problem happened, turn the dial to the off position, then unplug the cord from the outlet behind the washer.

unplug washing machine

Next, locate your water supply hoses and turn them off.

If this isn’t an option, you might need to find the main water valve for the home and switch that off.

This is very important because you don’t want any water flowing into the washer while you’re working on draining it.

turn off water supply to washing machine

After that, you’ll want to find the drain hose at the back of the appliance. It’s usually black or gray and runs from the machine to the wall to expel water out from the washer into your plumbing system.

Grab a large bucket and wiggle the hose free from the wall, leaving it attached to the back of the washer. Hold it upright to keep the liquid in the line until you’re ready to empty the line.

To get started manually draining the washing machine, set the end of the hose so it is below the water level line inside the unit.

From there, gravity should cause the water to flow out and into the bucket.

Once the container is full, place the end of the drain hose back into the plumbing to hold it temporarily until you can dump out the container — repeat this until your washing machine is completely emptied.

How Do You Empty a Washing Machine Full of Water?

So, what do you do when your washer is stuck with water in it and you cannot get it to drain?

You’ll want to first manually drain your washing machine, as we’ve detailed above. This will at least get the water out so you can inspect other parts of the appliance to see what the issue is.

If the water drains from the machine slowly, there is a good chance there’s a clog within either the drain hose or the drain pump.

You can use a plumbing snake to try to release the clog within the hose, and if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance the issue has to do with the pump.

At that point, it is important to call in a plumbing or appliance professional if you aren’t mechanically savvy.

Inspecting the pump requires taking the back off the appliance, which might be very difficult to even move if it is full of water.

You’ll also need to consult your appliance owner’s manual, which will give you a good idea of where inside the unit it actually is.

If you are confident in your skills as a mechanic, however, grab a pair of pliers to remove the pump. You should be able to pry the spring clamps to free the pump and check for clogs — common issues include the buildup of hair, debris and even small socks.

Trust us, if you have kids, there are a number of things that could be stuck inside your unit that would cause a drainage issue (we’ve been there, too.)

Once you’ve removed the clog, put the pump back in place and finish draining the washer manually, then reattach the hoses and run your washer on a short cycle. If it works, you can rest assured that the problem was a clogged pump.

How Do I Get My Washer to Drain If There’s No Electricity?

There are a couple different methods you can try to get your washer to drain if there’s no electricity.

The first step is to follow the instructions we’ve given in regard to removing the water manually. By doing this, you should be able to get most or all of the water out of the unit.

However, keep a couple of old towels handy just in case there are any last-minute drips. After that, you should be fine to run the machine as normal when the power returns.

Should I Drain My Washing Machine Before Moving?

What if there isn’t a problem with your washing machine, but you’re moving to a new residence?

There can still be a bit of residual water in the drain tube for the appliance. To keep the mess to a minimum, it is always a good idea to go ahead and drain your washing machine manually before moving. This ensures that all the water is out of the line, and keeps it from tagging along inside your moving truck and into your new home.

What’s Causing the Draining Problem?

Those experiencing a problem getting their washing machine to drain should check a couple of things.

As we’ve mentioned, you’ll want to check the pump and hose to ensure there isn’t a blockage. In the vast majority of situations where a washing machine won’t drain, this is likely the cause.

Another common issue is using too much detergent during wash loads. If you’re adding an overabundance of soap, it can accumulate and eventually block the drain hose over time. For this issue, you might need to scrape out the residue or flush it out with water.

If you still can’t manage to get the washing machine to drain on a subsequent cycle after manually removing the water, your issue is the drain itself. In that case, you will need to work with a professional plumbing team to diagnose the problem within your system.

How to Fix a Washing Machine That Won’t Drain

Fixing a washing machine that won’t drain takes a bit of mechanical knowledge and an understanding of how your washing machine works.

Once you’ve purged all the water, checked the hoses, looked for a clog in the pump, and checked the drain, you should see some sort of resolution to your issue.

However, if this doesn’t help, your issue could be something entirely different. For example, a bad control panel on a newer washing machine might stop it from draining during the cycle.

Problems with electrical or power surges while washing a load can cause your machine to temporarily stop working as well.

Again, if you can’t easily figure out what the issue is with your appliance and have determined it is not a clog, calling a professional is usually a wise idea.

top and front loading washing machines

Is There a Difference Between Draining a Top-Load Washing Machine and a Front-Load Washing Machine?

This is a question a lot of people want an answer to. With exception to a few specialty appliance models, there really isn’t much of a difference between manually draining a front-load washing machine and one that loads from the top.

However, you’ll want to keep the door closed on your front loader during the draining process, as opening it up can create a huge mess.

Wrap Up: How to Drain a Washing Machine

Fixing a washing machine that won’t drain starts with manually removing the water. Once you’ve done this, you can track down the problem to a clog in the hose, pump or the plumbing itself.

Depending on how serious the issue is, you might need to call a plumbing or appliance expert to help.

Are you having problems with getting your washing machine to drain water? We would be happy to help you out. Contact us today to schedule a service call.

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Owner - Operator at RT Olson Plumbing
Bob Olson has over 18 years experience in all aspects of residential and commercial plumbing. He's a 4th generation plumber. With over 500 five-star customer reviews, he runs one of the best-rated plumbing companies in Corona, CA.
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