Last updated on February 3rd, 2017
This is a quick guide on how to remove something stuck in a washing machine (usually between the outer drum and inner drum). If something has gone through the holes in the drum, and when the drum is going round you can hear something scraping it’s often an underwire from a bra, but many other obstructions get stuck in washing machines too.
If something substantial like keys or coins get stuck inside the drum it can write off a washing machine these days. This is because the majority only have plastic outer tubs. I’ve seen many where the tub has had a hole punched through it or a crack has appeared. Other parts such as the inner drum, heater, and front plates can also get damaged. The main cause of problems like this is coins. Larger obstructions get in down between the lip of the inner drum and the back of the door seal.
Don’t just start stripping things down without thought
Don’t just dive in and start taking the washing machine apart. If there is definitely something stuck and it is making a noise when the drum turns (and you have taken off the drive belt to ensure that the noise is definitely coming from the drum and not a fault on the motor) then something probably needs to be done. If you know what the obstruction is and it is strong then it clearly could do some serious damage. If it is something flimsy, which you can’t imagine doing any damage, then the worse that’s likely to happen is it could make its way into the pump filter and block it sometime in the future. This would definitely be inconvenient, but it something that should be able to be relatively easily fixed.
If something has gone into the machine but it is not making a noise, then unless you know it is something that could seriously damage the drum or the plastic outer tub it could be an option to just keep an eye on it and see if it makes its way into the pump, most of which should be protected by a pump filter. If you cannot hear any noise when using the machine, but you know something’s got stuck inside, the first place to check would be pump filter.
The most common object that gets stuck and makes a scraping noise when the drum turns is an underwire from a bra causing a constant scraping noise when the drum is turned. These are far less likely to cause any serious damage as they aren’t substantial enough, but they can cause leaks by working their way to the front plate seal and more commonly they can get stuck in the sump hose and filter. Once in the filter they snag bits of cotton and fabric, and eventually a build up becomes great enough to block the water from draining. If this does happen though it can usually be easily removed through the pump filter.
If looking for a bra underwire the first thing to check is that a small piece of the end of the wire isn’t poking through a hole in the drum. It may not be obvious at all and a normal look could miss it, but I’ve managed to get the odd one out this way. Open the door and look very carefully, feel all round the holes with your hand. If you are very lucky, a millimetre of the end could be protruding from one of the holes. You’d be able to pull it back through with some pliers.
If there’s no sign of it try to get the obstruction from where the sump hose is attached
Obviously make sure the washer is unplugged from the mains and all the water has drained out, then take off the back panel. If it’s one of those washers with a useless small inspection plate at the back instead of a proper full back panel you will have to gain access to the sump hose by laying the machine on its front.
- Have a bath towel ready to catch the water that will be inside as there is always some water in the sump hose
- The sump hose is the black concertina hose that goes from the bottom of the tub to the water pump
- Take off this hose at the tub end, and pull it away from the tub
If you are lucky, the wire will be in the top of this hose. Look carefully inside it and then feel carefully through the hole in the bottom of the tub. The wire could be round here – possibly trapped under the heating element.
If you cannot see or feel it here, try tipping the washing machine back and forth to see if the wire slides about and get it to slide to the hole where you can reach it.
Removing coins and other obstructions
If it isn’t a bra wire, and you can’t find anything in the sump hose and filter, or by tipping the washer back and forth so that the object drops through the sump hose hole then you can’t do any more without resorting to major surgery – that is, stripping the washing machine down. A worrying trend among many manufacturers is to produce washing machines with sealed outer tubs. This makes stripping down a tub to carry out any repair including removing a trapped object impossible. This is a ridiculous idea and these washing machines should be avoided but sadly the majority of washers seem to be going down this path – especially the cheaper ones.
Removing a drum paddle (lifter) to gain access to the bottom of the tub
Washing machines usually have 3 plastic drum paddles (or lifters), some of which are detachable. Sometimes one of the holes on the top of it is larger than the rest and a small screwdriver inserted down it can depress a tab allowing the lifter to slide back and off. If so you can remove one to gain access to the bottom of the outer tub. Make sure you prize the metal drum tab back up and clip the paddle back securely in place because if it comes off mid-wash it will not be pleasant.
If you can’t work out how to get one off it may be that it isn’t designed to come off. Indesit and Hotpoint drum paddles commonly come off this way but not all will. If you break a drum paddle or take it off and cannot get it back you will not be able to use the machine and could need a complete new drum if the paddles aren’t available as spare parts (check here washing machine drum paddle replacements).
Sometimes you can get an obstruction out through the dispenser/tub hose or the heating element
If you suspect the obstruction is trapped somewhere in the middle of the drum you may be able to get to it through the hole in the outer drum where the dispenser hose is attached. This is where the water and detergent is washed into the drum from the soap drawer.
Sometimes an underwire gets mangled and trapped on the heating element and removing the element can allow access to it. However, it depends where the heater is, some are right at the front of the machine and very hard to access and some are at the back behind the rear panel and easy to access. This method is not recommended though unless desperate because it may involve stripping a washing machine down, and you may not be able to refit the heater even if you get it out. Worse still you could refit it incorrectly and it pops out during a wash cycle flooding the kitchen, or you don’t get it located under its holding bracket and the drum bashes it relentlessly on spin. However, this article looks at where is the heater and how to remove it?
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