Holes in clothes after washing

Holes-in-jeans There appears to be a problem with many washing machines routinely “causing” small holes in laundry. Judging from the correspondence I’ve received so far it is happening to a lot of people, with different makes of washing machine and with various drum sizes and spin speeds. Therefore, finding a pattern and identifying a definite cause is proving difficult.

However, almost everyone is blaming the washing machine. This article attracted 298 comments (bottom of this article) before being closed. They indicate that many of the holes may not be caused by the washing machine after all, though washing machines can clearly cause holes in laundry.

What’s causing holes in clothes after washing?

Clues There is no one simple answer to the cause of holes in clothes but a detailed look at this article and its comments may help.


One common theory is that the quality of many modern fabrics are to blame, that they are too thin. It may be necessary to try and work out the cause by process of elimination and looking for clues. It’s not as simple as just blaming the washing machine.

The people having problems are finding holes routinely appearing in denim skirts & shirts, cotton shirts, t-shirts, sheets, dresses, corduroy skirts etc. so the problem doesn’t seem to be confined to one type of laundry. Up to now, many people who have complained to their washing machine manufacturer have been told the same thing.

They’ve been told the fault lies with themselves, and that they are probably spinning certain items too fast.

In my experience, many faults are caused by customers either misusing appliances or not reading instruction books (or the wash labels on the laundry!) properly so they are naturally the first suspects.


At this stage it is unclear whether or not there is a problem with the design or quality of some washing machine drums and tubs that could account for lots of small holes in laundry. However, it makes sense for anyone getting holes in their laundry on a regular basis to make absolutely sure that they are not inadvertently causing the problem themselves before pursuing a manufacturer or the seller of the appliance.

Make sure you are not inadvertently causing the holes in clothes

If you are experiencing regular random holes in your washing you need to check that you are not washing items on wash programmes with a final spin speed that is too fast for them. This is the explanation some manufacturers have given to customers who complained about holes in washing.

If you know you are definitely using the washing machine correctly then at least you can say with confidence that the manufacturer, or their engineer is wrong if they try to blame incorrect spin speeds for the damage.

To help you decide you really should check out the instruction book but here is a rough guide from my Miele 1400 rpm spin washing machine operating instructions which has a 6kg drum.


Different manufacturers and different models of washing machine may vary but this chart shows that certain items should not be spun at full spin speed

  • Cottons: – 1400 rpm
  • Minimum iron: – 1200 rpm
  • Delicates: – 600 rpm
  • Woollens: – 1200 rpm
  • Silks: – 400 rpm
  • Shirts: – 600 rpm
  • Denim: – 900 rpm

Make sure you aren’t overloading the drum

Many people don’t realise that different types of laundry have different wash load capacities and that exceeding them amounts to overloading.

In most cases the consequences are more likely to be reduced wash efficiency but if you put a full load of denim, or shirts on a wash programme that does the maximum spin then the manufacturer could claim some may get damaged.


Here is a link to a previous article showing the maximum recommended loads for certain fabrics (again, consult your washing machine’s instruction book because the load sizes will vary amongst manufacturers and models – especially models with larger or smaller drum capacities) Laundry comes out of washing machine badly creased?

Other possible causes of holes

Bra wire (or underwires)

Bra Bra wires are an extremely common problem with washing machines. Many of them (especially from cheaper bras) escape during the wash and get trapped under the drum.

Commonly you will hear a gentle metallic scraping noise as the drum turns but depending where it settles it may not make any noise at all. The ends of bra wires can be sharp, especially if they break. As the clothes are forced through the small holes in the drum (particularly cottons) during spin they can snag on the underwire and cause damage to the laundry.


If underwires from a bra are removable they should always be removed before washing. I’m sure many of them are supposed to be hand washed only!

Here’s an article I’ve published about washing nets designed specifically to protect a bra in the washing machine – Bra washing nets

Other obstructions in the tub, a damaged drum, loose drum lifter etc.

Pound-coin Coins and other metallic obstructions commonly cause problems with washing machines. They can damage the drum or loosen and break the plastic drum lifter (paddles) leaving a small hole or gap where laundry can snag.

Carefully examine the drum for dints or even tears, maybe an elongated drum hole that now has a sharp edge. TIP: Try using a nylon stocking stretched over a hand to feel all the way round a drum and paddles to see if anything snags.

Check none of the drum lifters or paddles are damaged or loose revealing a hole with sharp edges.


If you have a loose or broken drum paddle (lifter) it can cause damage to clothes. You may be able to buy a replacement for your washing machine on Ransom Spares Drum lifter (paddles)

Zips and buckles

As a precaution try turning garments with zips inside out after zipping up the zipper. Watch out for garments that have metal buttons or buckles. Also try placing delicate laundry in net wash bags.

Biological detergents could damage woollens and silks

I’ve just written another related article describing how some holes in clothing could be caused by using biological detergent.

This issue is only related to silks and woollens though – Biological washing machine detergents can damage woollens and silks causing holes

Insects – Moths?

Don’t forget that certain insects and moth larvae can damage clothes. Obviously if holes only appear in specific places on clothes it’s not likely to be caused by insects or moth larvae randomly chewing on them. Try searching for the following subjects – clothes damaged by insects – clothes damaged by larvae – what do moth holes look like?


Removing a drum paddle (lifter) to gain access to the bottom of the tub

Bleach

Undiluted bleach should not be used in a washing machine. It’s corrosive. Even dilute bleach can weaken laundry. Read the label carefully before using.

Deodorant

Chris (who used to work for a cosmetics company) added a comment to this article suggesting deodorant can damage the fibres on laundry and he could be on to something especially as many people spray across their front whilst wearing a top these days – Comment on deodorant and damage to laundry

Research this topic further by reading the topic started on my washing machine forum where several different people have contributed – Small Holes In Clothes After Wash: My washing machine is slowly eating my clothes NOTE: The forum is currently read-only. If you have anything to contribute to this topic please leave a comment here or ( Contact me ).

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?


Deodorant

Chris (who used to work for a cosmetics company) added a comment to this article suggesting deodorant can damage the fibres on laundry and he could be on to something especially as many people spray across their front whilst wearing a top these days – Comment on deodorant and damage to laundry

Research this topic further by reading the topic started on my washing machine forum where several different people have contributed – Small Holes In Clothes After Wash: My washing machine is slowly eating my clothes NOTE: The forum is currently read-only. If you have anything to contribute to this topic please leave a comment here or ( Contact me ).

I’ve written another article on this subject here Holes in clothes photos which features many photos sent in to me with holes of all sizes and on various laundry.

If tiny holes are appearing only in t-shirts at the front

Shirts-coloured This can be caused by physical wear caused by rubbing against jeans, belts, and even kitchen worktops whilst working in the kitchen.


Photos of damaged laundry

For further details see the many comments below this article. Several people have identified their holes in the front lower half of t-shirts as being caused by rubbing against the kitchen worktop. Granite worktops are particularly implicated.

Try this experiment

Jeff suggested a great experiment in comment number 222 which should prove whether the small holes in t shirts are caused by the washing machine or by the wearer.

Buy a new t shirt of the type that has been getting the holes (but never wear it). Each time you do laundry, throw it in with everything else and see if it ever gets holes. If it does, then as it has never been worn it’s probably the washing machine/detergent/faulty fabric. But if holes do not appear, then the holes in the other t shirts are most probably being caused by something the wearer of the shirts is doing to stress the fabric and not caused by washing


Protect t-shirts and other laundry when washing

washing bag (to protect delicates)

Helps prolong life of clothes, and prevents wear and tear from friction

Comments now disabled

There are many comments below to research but new comments have been disabled because they have reached a large enough number for it to be impractical for most people to read them – let alone even more.

However, I strongly advise you take the time to read through them if this is a serious problem for you as there are many thoughts, speculations and ideas that may help. If you have any useful advice or information please contact me and I can either open up the comments for you or add your thoughts to the article.

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292 thoughts on “Holes in clothes after washing”

  1. And on that note (my last comment) I think it’s time to close comments on this one. If anyone has additional useful information on this topic please contact me and I can add them to the article or these comments – thanks.

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