How much space does a washing machine need around the sides?

Washing machine under worktop

When installing a washing machine, you should consider how much space it has around it for air to circulate. Installing one into a small cupboard for example, and having the door shut when washing, is not a good idea. A washing machine needs to draw in air to help cool down the motor and other parts. Heat from inside also needs to be able to freely escape.

Do you need gaps around the sides?

A gap all the way around a washing machine, as well as over the top, would really help air flow. However, this is not always possible. In the UK, we have a history of fitting our appliances into a small space underneath the kitchen worktop. They are often flanked by cupboards either side.

The standard gap designed into fitted kitchens for an appliance is 600 mm. Washing machine manufacturers make freestanding washing machines at 600 mm width, so they know they will only just fit. They clearly aren’t concerned about having no gap around the sides. You can see here that plenty of washing machines are 600 mm wide – actual washing machine sizes comparisons

Also, all built-in (integral) washing machines are fitted very tightly into the cupboard spaces. So air circulation around the sides does not seem to be necessary.

What gaps are needed for air circulation?

An important source of vital air circulation is from over the top. So make sure there is space between the top of the lid, and the bottom of the worktop. Also, at the bottom, make sure air circulation isn’t impeded by carpets, rugs etc. A washing machine is always lifted slightly off the floor by feet or wheels, and this allows air to circulate.

What about space at the back?

Even when pushed as far back as possible, washing machines do not normally push flat against the wall. For one thing, the fill, and drain hoses tend to prevent that. But most washing machines these days also have an overhanging lid at the back. So even if there are no pipes or hoses directly behind it, the lid will hit the back wall and the washing machine will go no further. This creates a 2 or 3 inch gap between the back panel of the appliance and the wall.

There will usually be some holes in the back panel too. So this facilitates the passage of air in and out of the internal workings of the washing machine.


A gap at the top of a washing machine, combined with the small gap underneath, and the natural gap at the back, should ensure adequate air circulation for a washing machine.

Related article – Washing machines and associated problems with sizes

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