An Appliance Repair Pro Shares the Reasons Why Washing Machines Break

published May 27, 2023
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When I was pregnant, I returned home from an appointment with my midwife and opened the door to our apartment and stepped onto a wet floor. The washer had leaked and, worse than that, we’d just replaced the vinyl floor that was ruined the last time the washer broke. As the water reached my poor, pregnancy-swollen ankles, I started to cry. 

This overreaction may, in hindsight, have been related to pregnancy hormones. Overreactions aside, a broken laundry machine can feel devastating — especially for those who have to do a lot of laundry or don’t have a car to make emergency trips to the laundromat.

I spoke with Ian Palmer-Smith, supplier and heating services director at Domestic and General, an appliance repair company, to find out the most common reasons they are called out to repair washing machines, and how those repairs could potentially be avoided.


“In my experience, the most common causes of leaks are a faulty filter, damaged drum seals, a damaged door seal, and faulty hoses,” says Palmer-Smith. Incidentally, the washer leak that tipped me over the edge was caused by the hose; we were able to replace it and the machine worked just fine.

You’ll first want to ensure the machine is level to avoid leaks. If you have uneven floors, you can even get appliance bases with a built-in spirit level on Amazon. When loading the machine, ensure you always check pockets before washing for things like keys or hair grips that could puncture parts of the machine or get caught in the hoses, and don’t overload the drum.

Sometimes leaks just happen, even if you’ve done all the right things to prevent them. If you do get a leak, the first thing you need to do is to unplug the machine and turn off the water supply, then call an expert to get it fixed safely.

A Non-Spinning Drum 

The drum of your washing machine is the main section, where you put the laundry to be cleaned. “If it stops spinning mid-cycle, the causes could be an overloaded drum, unbalanced laundry, excessive detergent, an unstable washing machine, or a blocked drain hose,” says Palmer-Smith, adding that “if the machine doesn’t start turning at all, possible reasons include an improperly closed door, a broken catch on the door or lid, a faulty motor, or a broken drive belt.”

Just like with avoiding leaks, make sure that your washing machine is level. When you load the machine, make sure that the drum isn’t overloaded, and that heavy items are evenly distributed. 

If the drum stops spinning, you’ll first want to check that the door is closed properly. I have, on more than one occasion, cursed the washer and texted my husband to tell him it’s broken again, only to find it mysteriously repaired when I slammed the door closed. If the drum still isn’t spinning, you can check that the drain hose isn’t blocked (and unblock it if it is).

Finally, if all else fails, it’s best to contact a professional for a repair. “Washing machines are complex electrical items that can be dangerous to fix without the right training,” says Palmer-Smith.

How to Avoid Washing Machine Breakages and Costly Repairs

Firstly, don’t overload the machine with too much laundry. It can be tempting to keep putting in “one last thing,” but Palmer-Smith says that overloading can put a strain on the machine’s motor and other components, causing damage. When loading, you should also check pockets for coins, keys, and other small items that could cause damage or blockages. 

Make sure you are using the correct type and amount of detergent. “Using too much or the wrong type can cause damage to the machine over time,” says Palmer-Smith.

Make washing machine maintenance part of your cleaning routine, too. Palmer-Smith advises running a maintenance or service wash at least once a month, and using distilled vinegar and the hottest cycle possible to clean parts of the machine that are difficult to access. You should also regularly clean the filter and pump, wipe down the door seal and glass after each use, and leave the door slightly ajar to allow for proper air circulation and drum drying.