You’re Doing it Wrong! 8 Ways You May Be Damaging Your Washer and Dryer

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Dmitri Ma)

Doing laundry seems like a fairly straightforward process, and it’s one of the first chores many of us learn how to do. But there are a lot of ways—both big and small—that you could be damaging your washer and dryer in the process, so it’s important to be careful when you’re throwing your clothes in the wash. Things like cleaning the lint tray or leaving coins in your pockets can lead to pretty much anywhere from minor damage to, uh… actual house fires, so don’t underestimate the value of double-checking before you hit start on your machine.

Want to make sure your washer and dryer have a long, healthy—and totally efficient—life? Avoid these mistakes, both for the benefit of your appliances and the safety of your home.

You’re crowding your appliances

Not only can putting all of your appliances in one small space cause damage to the appliances themselves (think about it—they all produce heat in order to work, so having them too close together and in-use at once can cause them to overheat), it can cause house fires, too—especially if they’re all plugged in to the same outlets. According to Good Housekeeping, you should only have one large appliance plugged into a single wall outlet (and it should always be a wall outlet, not an extension cord) at one time to avoid an electrical fire.

What to do instead: Give your appliances enough space, skip extension cords and power strips, and stick to only one appliance in each outlet.

You’re overloading them with clothes

Overloading your washing machine won’t just make it so your clothes don’t get as clean (the water needs room to get around your clothes to really work!), it can actually ruin the machine, too. Overloading your washer can damage important components and strain the motor, causing the motor to blow, according to Fred’s Appliance Service. And overloading your dryer isn’t a good idea either—it can also overwork the motor, and can damage the sensors, too, according to Hunker. Overloading is an all-too common practice, despite the issues it causes—in fact, it’s one of the issues Sears Home Technicians say they encounter most.

What to do instead: Double-check your washer and dryer’s capacity, and weigh your laundry bag to compare. When in doubt, separate clothes into multiple loads.

You’re not cleaning them enough

Keeping your washer and dryer clean is just good practice for making sure they last longer and continue to run efficiently (not to mention, to make sure there are no weird smells going on!). Plus, cleaning your washer and dryer thoroughly on a regular basis gives you a chance to inspect them for any changes or damages that could lead to bigger issues.

What to do instead: Be sure to clean them once a month. To properly clean the inside of your washer and dryer, check out this guide from HuffPost. For more major sanitizing, The Spruce can help.

(Image credit: Julia Steele)

Your machines aren’t level

Does your washer or dryer shake and rattle—or even “walk” forward—while in use? That could be a sign that your machines aren’t sitting level. That machine movement can cause damage to your floors and walls, but also to the mechanisms in the machines themselves, according to The Spruce.

What to do instead: Use a level tool to check whether or not your machines are even with the floor—if not, then adjust the leveling legs on your machines until they are. Gently lean on them to make sure they don’t shift around.

You’re not clearing the lint trap every time

It’s absolutely imperative that you clear the lint trap in your dryer every time you do a load of laundry. According to The Spruce, skipping it can cause your dryer to operate less efficiently, as a full lint trap reduces air flow and can cause lint to build up in the vent and ducts. But not only is it bad for your dryer, not clearing the lint trap can cause house fires, too—so it’s not just damaging, it’s dangerous.

What to do instead: Find a way to remind yourself to clean the lint trap before you turn your dryer on—maybe a clever use of magnets can help, or you could try writing a cheeky reminder message on your dryer (“Days since lint trap was last emptied: 0”) with a dry-erase marker.

You’re using too much detergent

You might think that using more detergent is the best way to get your clothes clean, but that’s not true—your clothes only need the recommended amount on the box or the bottle, and using more than that can actually hurt your washing machine. According to, repeated overuse of detergent can cause residue to build up inside your washer, which can lead to blockages that force water into places where it’s not meant to go, eventually breaking down your machine.

What to do instead: Always follow the recommended amounts on your detergents and fabric softeners, and deep clean your washer regularly.

You’re not thinking about dryer sheet residue

Dryer sheets themselves aren’t necessarily bad, but not using them carefully can hurt your dryer. According to Sears Home Services, the silicone-like substance that’s on dryer sheets to help keep your clothes soft and static-free can leave a residue in your dryer. Over time, that residue can overload your sensors, which can make it so that your dryer can’t tell when your clothes are actually dry—meaning it’ll run much less efficiently.

What to do instead: Clean the sensors once a month with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol, or ditch the dryer sheets altogether and switch to dryer balls or another chemical-free fabric softening alternative.

You’re not checking your pockets first

Small items like coins, keys and other hard objects can cause major damage to your washer and dryer—they can get caught in (and block!) the vents and drain pipes, dent the drums, and if you have a front-loading washer, even completely shatter the glass window, according to Small trinkets might not seem like they could do much harm, but combine them with the force your washer and dryer use to thoroughly clean and move your clothes around, and a lot can go wrong.

What to do instead: Check your pockets every time—and make it a house rule to do so, if you live with family—before you get undressed or put your clothes in the laundry.