You Can Drain a Washing Machine All on Your Own — Here’s How, According to Experts

published Oct 23, 2022
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So, you’re doing a load of laundry, like you always do. But when you come back to put your clothes in the dryer, the washer is still full of water — and you feel panic coming on. A washing machine that won’t drain can mean a few things, from a problem with your drain hose to a sweater stuck in your drain pump. 

Figuring out how to drain a malfunctioning washing machine can feel overwhelming, but if you have the right tools on hand, you can get the job done yourself, all without creating a huge mess in your laundry room

Here’s how to drain a washing machine, according to experts. 

What you’ll need:

  • Wet/dry shop vacuum 
  • Large cup or pitcher (optional)
  • Bucket (optional)

How to drain a top-loading washing machine 

  1. Before you try draining the washer, hit the cancel button and see if it drains itself, suggests Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company. If not, it’s probably malfunctioning, and you’ll need to empty it yourself. 
  2. Remove the clothes from the machine so it’s only full of water. Be sure to unplug the washer before attempting to remove the water, too. 
  3. Empty your shop vacuum and remove the paper filter on the inside.
  4. Plug the shop vacuum in, and vacuum out the standing water. Gary Rima, a master appliance repair technician with Ducks Appliance, says you may need to empty the vacuum’s reservoir a few times to get all the water out. 
  5. No shop vacuum? Shimek says you can also use a cup or pitcher to scoop the water out into a bucket. 
  6. Once the washer is empty, you’ll need to figure out what’s causing it to retain water or you’ll end up with the same problem during the next load. If a clothing item was blocking the drain pump, your washer may work as normal. But if you suspect a more complicated issue, it may be best to call a pro to figure it out. 

How to drain a front-loading washing machine

  1. Hit the cancel button to see if the appliance drains itself. 
  2. If not, remove all the clothes from the machine, and unplug the washer from its power source.
  3. Empty your shop vacuum and remove the paper filter. 
  4. Tip the washing machine back against the wall at about a 45-degree angle, which will prevent the water from immediately spilling out. 
  5. Open the door of the washing machine, and use your shop vacuum to vacuum out the standing water. Or, use a large cup or pitcher to remove the water into a bucket. 
  6. Once the washer is empty, figure out what’s preventing it from draining. 

Sometimes, Rima says, when the washer is full of water and won’t drain, the lid or door may be locked. “In that case, you have to either figure out how to manually release the latch, which is different on various makes and models, or force it open, which probably will damage the latch and leave you with a bigger repair,” he says. “Rather than do that, it may be time to call your local appliance repair company and let a pro come help you.”