Loading a washing machine

 If you overload a washing machine it can cause physical problems, but it will also affect the efficiency of the wash. An overfilled washing machine can result in the laundry moving round in one large mass. The clothes will not agitate against each other and the washing machine detergent won't be able to circulate or dissolve properly. The washing will not be washed properly. With some liquid detergents there can also be potential serious consequences – Baby badly burned by washing machine detergent.

However, you do need to fill the drum in order to get the most economical use from your machine and to prevent under-loading, which is also bad. Under-loading the machine causes problems by making the weight of clothes more likely to accumulate on one side of the drum. This can make the load out of balance and cause violent banging on spin.

How much washing should I put in the drum when loading a washing machine?

Try to fill the drum for economy, but pat the clothes down lightly and make sure you can feel a good gap between the top of the clothes and the top of the drum. Bear in mind that the drum may look really full, but once water comes in and the drum turns, many items will shrink in bulk. I would try to fill the drum around 3 quarters full so that there is plenty of room for the laundry to move around. The laundry needs space to fall into when the drum revolves.

Under loading the washing machine

Under loading the washing machine can also cause problems. In the old days it often resulted in violent out of balanced loads causing damage to the washing machine. These days under-loading is more likely to result in the washer simply refusing to spin so you end up with a finished cycle but wet laundry. If you have experienced some loads reaching the end of the cycle and not going into fast spin, then one possible explanation could be if you have under loaded it or are trying to wash and spin just one or two items. For a full explanation of the out of balance protection systems used by modern washing machines check out my article – Washing machine won’t spin just one item or very small loads. For a full explanation of the causes of a washing machine thumping around violently on spin read – Washing machine jumps around and bangs on spin

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  1. avatarBryan says

    thanks for the advice I’m trin to explain to my mom if u overload a washer it doesn’t wrk properly an I can’t get it through to her she says I been washen cloths longer than u I said yes but not properly she don’t get it lol

  2. avatarjenkins says

    Please what is the best surface to insall the authomatic haier thermocool washing machine on? Please reply asap..
    Very insightful article… Thanks alot

  3. avatar says

    Thanks. I don’t know the machine but generally a level concrete floor is best. However, in all my 30 years repairing I never saw any washing machine that had a fault caused by being placed on the wrong surface. Very heavy machines don’t like springy floors though. Corners are good places as they are more stable and less springy there. If there are any specific, important considerations to the type of floor a washer should be installed on it will be in the instruction book.

  4. avatarSeven says

    Hi Andy

    There is a difference in your recommendation for optimal loading and what Ken over at UKWG recommends. He clearly says….

    “you should leave an approximate 10cm gap between the top of the laundry to the top of the door opening for the drum, or a handwidth as a rough guide to ensure that your clothes actually get washed and not just wet and refreshed.”

    you say…

    “Leave a gap of approximately 3 or 4 inches between the top of the laundry and the top of the drum (roughly a hand’s width).”

    The difference is significant…Ken says a hands width from the top of the door opening, whereas you say from top of the drum to the top of the laundry. Ken’s recommendation results in 40% of dead space whereas yours leaves 20%.

    It’s true that the clothes shrink when wet, but the washing action would be better if there was more space for the clothes to move around.

    Please clarify.

  5. avatar says

    Hi Seven, I read it in an instruction manual from a manufacturer although I can’t recall which one. There needs to be enough space for laundry to fall into when the drum turns. If you did it as I described (without patting down the laundry), when the water goes in this gap will likely double as they shrink down. Depending on fabric it may more than double leaving 10 or more inches of space easily. Once water goes in and the drum starts turning the laundry can shrink to take up half the area.

    The important thing is to use judgement as different fabrics shrink differently. The goal is to fill the drum as much as possible (for economy and more even loads) whilst not overfilling it.

  6. avatarSeven says

    Your recommendation of a hands width from the top of the drum certainly works for economy because it allows for more clothes to be used in the wash. I’m currently trying to size a machine for a 2 person household doing around 5 kg (dry weight) weekly per person or around 4 washes per week for both of us. Which size drum to go for ? 6kg or 7kg.

    6kg volume around 42 litres. 7kg around 56 litres. I went out and measured the drums in the shop for various makes and find those to be the general drum volumes. From the top of the door opening to the top of the drum is around a hands width of 10cm. Your method means one can fill the drum to the top of the door opening and still have adequate clearance.

    The difficulty with filling but not overloading is how heavy the clothes become when wet. Thicker cottons become very heavy. This leads to the thought whether more stress will be placed on bearings, leading to earlier failure. A side issue of sealed outer tubs complicates matters as i understand a bearing replacement is difficult if not impossible to perform on a sealed tub as opposed to ones that can be split. Looking around the spares websites i find the 6kg models don’t have tub components listed or just a full tub nor bearings whereas the 7kg models have front & rear tubs listed. Meaning a bearing replacement is easier therefore more desirable long term than one that requires a write-off because repair charges are higher.

    The problem with a bigger drum and less clothes is under loading, this means problematic spins or a machine that will spin slower to save itself from out of balance errors as you mention in another article. A 6kg washer is less likely to be under filled than a 7kg. Which means i get a sealed drum and a writeoff in 5 years instead of a repair and more use long term.

    Difficult position to be in :(

  7. avatarPhilip says

    Good advice, it’s nice to find “tips” for basic everyday tasks that people are supposed to be born with the knowledge of. And it often turns out that people are doing it wrong, because they can’t be bothered to check. Try advising older folk who’ve done things one way their whole lives but are used to equipment made from 3 tonnes of cast iron. I’m in the same situation as Bryan, who commented above… trying to convince my old dear how to correctly load the drum (her machine sounds like a demolition hammer when it spins) but she won’t have it: she’d rather blame the “stupid modern machines” whenever things go wrong! (Although she might have a point about that!)

  8. avatarRC says

    Thanks so much for this info. A new washing machine I have “inherited” is driving me nuts! (ie- Balance issues not spinning). It seems I am destined to have wet washing- is this really the 21st century?! However, thanks to your advice I’ll persevere..

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