Is water spilling out onto the floor when you wash a load of clothes in the washing machine? When things go wrong, a washer can make a big mess. A drain pipe overflow can send you to the cleaners in a hurry, and gallons of water that leak out of the machine can damage walls and floors.
The problem may not necessarily be with your washing machine, but possibly your washing machine outlet box, a clogged drain line, or a water line that has sprung a leak.
What is a washing machine outlet box or “washer box”?
These recessed areas are located behind and above your washer and contain the supply valves for the machine. They provide a quick and safe water supply shut-off access, come complete with a hot and cold faucet connection, and can include knockouts for waste and water lines. Typically installed 42” from the floor to the bottom of the box, or above the machine’s flood-level rim, the washer box usually includes a stand pipe hole for the drain.
As a washer does its job of washing clothes, dirty water is pumped out, making room for clean water to run through the rinse cycle. Dirty water is released through a rear-mounted outlet tube and drain hose. The hose allows the water to flow to a drain pipe connected to the main sewer line, as it is pumped through the washing machine.
What causes a washing machine to overflow?
There can be several reasons for an overflow. Check for any leaks in or around the washer box. Check the hoses to make sure they are attached properly and inspect them for cracks or worn spots. In many cases, an overflow occurs because of a clogged drain pipe from lint, dirt, small pieces of fabric from clothes, or anything that detaches from clothing.
Other issues include old pipes, a kinked hose, a main sewer line blockage, improperly-sized drain pipes, an overload of clothes in the washer, a defective water valve, or even low water pressure. Drainage from the washing machine can fill the drain hose with debris and cause a backup. You can pull the washer away from the wall and disconnect hoses to check for proper flow.
What can you do when an overflow occurs?
When a washer does overflow, turn it off. You also may want to turn power off to the machine at the circuit breaker or fuse box, in case the outlet plug was dampened with water. Next, clear the space of water as quickly as possible to limit damage to walls, floors and any electrical areas. Using a fan or dehumidifier to dry out the area is also recommended.
Always check the owner’s manual for manufacturer suggestions on clearing possible clogs in the pipes or drains. In some cases, installing a lint trap can help eliminate many issues. Consult a plumber if problems persist. If water has done an excessive amount of damage requiring professional clean up, you may also need to call your home owner’s insurance agent to find out if your plan covers it.