Washing machine won’t spin just one item or very small load

laundry still wet Many people are having issues with new washing machines that refuse to spin just one item, or maybe just a few items. Sometimes it may have been a reasonably sized load in their old washing machine but they’ve now bought one with a large capacity drum so the load is still relatively small.

They are frustrated because their previous washing machine would spin with just one item inside but their new one won’t, and they are convinced the washing machine is faulty. Although faults can occur, it’s now normal for a washing machine not to spin just one or two items, or even some small loads, especially if one or more of the items gets heavy when wet such as a large woollen cardigan, a thick cotton garment or a heavy bath mat.

Why can’t modern washing machines just spin anything I put in the washing machine?

They did used to, but when washing machines were designed to just get on with spinning after a couple of minutes trying to balance the load there were consequences.

Every so often a load would be a little out of balance (especially when mixing light and heavy items or if there wasn’t enough items to stick evenly all round the drum) but the washing machine would go into spin regardless.

This often caused the washer to give a good thump several times as it ramped into spin before settling down often with a few more thumps occurring right at the end of the spin. It was disconcerting but usually just resulted in the sides of the washing machine being dented.

More rarely sheets would tangle up, or a small load would be impossible to balance and contain one or more heavy items such as a few towels, a sheet or one heavy garment and the washing machine would go seriously crazy. As a repairman in these days it was very common to see washing machines destroyed by being left unattended with an unbalanced load which had spun out of control for the full spin cycle.

If you’ve ever been close to a washing machine leaping into spin with a badly balanced load it is quite frightening. Customers used to describe watching TV in the lounge and being terrified by the sound of someone apparently battering their back door down.

I’ve seen hundreds of washing machines written off because the tub inside went out of control and smashed the control timer, yanked off hoses resulting in flooding all the motor or electrics, or simply broke the vitreous enamel tub suspension bracket with the sheer forces involved.

I’ve seen floorboards splintered with holes punched right through as the suspension rod repeatedly pummelled the floor and I’ve seen washing machines walk across the kitchen, jump up and smash cupboard and worktops etc. This state of affairs was clearly unacceptable, and something needed to be done about it.

The Answer they came up with is out of balance protection

The out of balance protection is a modern idea to stop washing machines going into spin with unbalanced loads. Early versions were crude, and simply attached micro switches to the tub or suspension, which when triggered through violent tub swinging just cut the motor to limit the damage done.

Modern out of balance protection is commonly achieved using software monitoring the strains on the motor through the power it uses. If a load is evenly distributed around the inner drum the motor should run fairly smoothly as it turns it round requiring a pretty even amount of power. If one side of the drum is heavier than the other, which would happen with only a few small items or one garment inside it would create imbalance.

The motor would run unevenly as it encountered different physical resistance when it turned the heavy side of the drum up from the 6 O’clock position through past 12 O’clock compared to the lighter load (or no load at all) on the other side.

In the old days this could usually be observed by seeing flashes of stainless where no laundry had settled on a section of the drum, the sound of the motor changing up and down in tone, and the drum swaying from side to side during the few minutes prior to spin which ran at “distribution” speed. All these signs meant the imminent spin was likely to be out of balance.

Forbes Rentals

Forbes specialise in renting Bosch appliances so they know them inside out. They also rent other brands and many other products – more details

What’s wrong with modern out of balance protection?

It’s an essential system, but they can sometimes be a bit too sensitive, with no override option. Allowing a customer to override the protection might be useful, I’m sure there are loads that refuse to spin that would actually be OK. However, I wouldn’t blame any manufacturer from shying away from giving customers the power to override their out of balance protection.

The answer is to make them more sophisticated and better at recognising when a load might be unbalanced but not going to cause a violent spin.

This sophistication costs money. Many washing machines may well have already got this protection just about right, but no one has compared these systems so far.

The more expensive washing machines such as Miele should have a more sophisticated system combined with higher quality suspension, which would cope better with unbalanced loads. It’s likely to be less paranoid about unbalanced spins but clearly still needs protection.

Conversely, cheap budget brands of washing machine are likely to have less sophisticated out of balance systems and be more fearful of letting a bad load spin because they know their crude suspension may not cope well with it.

I would expect that mid priced machines would have decent systems that may be less sensitive than budget machines but ultimately they all potentially suffer from the same side effect of refusing to spin some small or single item loads. There is likely to be some variance in tolerance and sensitivity between different makes but there’s no chart available that I’m aware of highlighting any differences.

For most people the advantages of protection from seriously damaging out of balance loads should far outweigh the inconvenience of the odd load not spinning.

Beware of large capacity washing machines

If you have a larger than normal drum such as 7 or 8 kg this problem may be worse because it takes more washing to make the drum nice and balanced than a smaller drum size.

Don’t buy a washing machine with a large drum if you do lots of small loads and don’t intend to double up your washing by washing large loads to save on the amount of washes you do.

Here’s a quote from the article linked to above –

… For example, my 7Kg washing machine will not spin 3 large towels. Last week my wife was extremely frustrated with our 7Kg drum washing machine as she had just washed our son’s hoody-top and wanted to spin it in the washer. It simply would not spin, so I advised her that it needed something to balance it out. She put in a couple of towels but still no spin..

…Eventually 5 towels were needed to balance out the absorbent top and allow a spin. This is a minor inconvenience compared to the benefit of being able to fit more washing in (even our king sized quilt) but it highlights how if you have a very large drum it could be more prone to not spinning small loads.

Washing machine won’t spin at all?

This topic is about washing machines not spinning small items or very small loads. Or occasionally not spinning the odd load but otherwise working OK. If your washing machine just will not spin at all then it is likely to have developed a fault unrelated to this topic. See related articles here –

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79 thoughts on “Washing machine won’t spin just one item or very small load”

  1. This article describes the problem & its causes but falls short of clearly explaining how one goes about fixing the problem. Here is my idea and will use towels as an example, basically anything that gets heavy when wet will work…

    What is the minimum amount of towels required to avoid an OOB error ? 2 and they need to be roughly similar in weight when wet. Does not matter how big or small the drum is. Or whether parts of the drum showing. The trick is to get more or less equal weight in two areas of the drum. In this way when the drum spins its balanced.

    Which areas of the drum ? position the drum so the paddles face 12, 4 & 8 o’clock. This creates 3 sectors. Place one towel in the 12-4 o’clock sector and the other in the 8-12 o’clock sector. Do not place anything in between 4-8 o’clock. That’s it.

    3 towels won’t work as you would need to balance the load out with an extra towel. So two towels each in the two sectors described earlier. The weight in the other sector needs to be similar to work.

    What if there is one towel with other clothes, then you need to life the towel to see its weight and the other clothes, if they don’t balance up then you need to add a smaller towel to even up the balance. That is all one needs to understand.

    In this way you can use a big drum with light loads provided there is a a counterweight in the opposite sector. It means less vibration on a machine that has OOB detection or not. But it needs one to be able to open the door and rearrange the clothes.

    The only problem i see is you can’t pin the clothes down and you have to rely on the paddles to hold them in place from the start whilst the drum revs up and hope they stay in position.

    Comments anyone ?

    Wanted to add with the simple example of just two towels that you push them to the back of the drum for extra support. Position the clothes as close to where the force turning the drum is located rather than further away.

    For the 6,7 & 8 kg Korean models (Samsung or LG) the diameter of the drum is the same, only the depth increases.

    For the Bosch/Siemens models, the difference in drum diameter is 4 inches between 6 & 8kg models, of course with more depth as well.

  2. Hi Seven, thanks for that. The article doesn’t fall short of explaining about fixing the problem as it links to a separate article about how to get a balanced load :)

    It doesn’t matter how you place items in the drum they will not stay there and will settle into their own form and often tangle together into one mass which causes the balance problem. Even with a load which is perfectly capable of being balanced you can get random occasions where they just fall wrong or get tangled and the machine can’t balance them – even though it may have done so dozens of times before.

    The single towel scenario with lighter items is one of the worst causes of out of balance because where ever it falls it unbalances the load because it’s much heavier. Often it works ok though, it’s very much a random process how the laundry interacts and falls in the drum because they are simply being tossed around randomly. You can have some loads which a washer can’t balance 9 times out of 10 and others that it can balance 9 times out of 10.

  3. Ah, the randomness is what gets in the way. So the way to pin the heavier items down so as to restrict their movement is to ensure, as often as possible that the drum is filled to optimum load. Since they can’t move around as easily chances are better of reducing OOB errors in a more consistent & reliable way. Yeah, i can agree with that.

    6kg drums are easier to fill than 8 kg so avoiding bigger drums reduces the problem. But it means more time spent washing :( 7kg seems like a happy middle of the road way out. Big enough to handle sheets and some laundry too.

    otherwise just stop the wash once its done, do a hand wring and hang them out. No spin.

  4. Steve Satchell

    Brilliant, had this issue this evening, never had a clue about OOB, threw in a couple of towels to help balance the drum and all sorted! Many thanks, almost had a new motor on order, You have saved me quite a few £££!

  5. I have an old Whirlpool Model # LSQ8243HQ0 Ultimate Care 2, Heavy Duty Super Capacity Plus Top Loading Washer – does this have out of balance sensor? We have had to reset the machine several times by unplugging and then opening the lid quickly to get the washer to completely spin and drain the load. Is there a part that can be replaced that will help with this washer constantly getting an out of balance fault? It seems to be super sensitive when the load is not really that bad out of balance? When it gets out of balance it seems to not complete the fastest final spin to completely dry the load.

  6. I’ve rarely repaired any top loaders Jim as there are very few of them in these parts so I chose to specialise in the ubiquitous front loaders. I’ve always assumed they don’t need them but it’s possible they have them in some form although I wouldn’t expect top loaders to get anywhere near as out of balanced as front loaders which bounce around on the suspension dampers. If unbalanced loads are your problem you need to add more washing or be careful what you mix together as described in my article. There’s nothing else you can do as it’s just built into the system.

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