Why Overloading a Washing Machine is Bad

By Terry Mehilos | Jul. 29, 2023 4:33 pm PST

Red laundry basket overloaded with clothes

The main peril caused by overloading your washer is that it won’t last as long as it should. Packing too much laundry into the machine strains the drive parts. Seals and bearings wear out quickly when stained by an extremely heavy load.

How long should a washing machine last?

The average lifespan of a washing machine can vary depending on several factors, including the brand, model, usage, maintenance, and the quality of the machine. However, on average, a washing machine is expected to last anywhere from 8 to 12 years.

Some factors that can influence the lifespan of a washing machine include:

  • Brand and build quality. Well-known and reputable manufacturers tend to produce washing machines with better build quality and durability so they typically last longer.
  • Frequency of use. The more frequently that you use a washing machine, the more wear and tear it will experience over time. Frequently used washers won’t last as long as moderately used or seldom used washers.
  • Maintenance. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the detergent dispenser, lint filter, and drum, can help prolong the life of the machine. Annual preventive maintenance can extend your washer’s life even longer.
  • Water hardness. Hard water can cause mineral buildup and damage the internal components of the washing machine. A washer exposed to hard water won’t last as long.
  • Overloading. As noted above, overloading the machine with excessive laundry puts strain on the motor and other drive parts. A washer that’s frequently overloaded won’t last very long.

It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding proper usage and maintenance to maximize the lifespan of your washing machine.

Use and maintenance tips to keep your washing machine in great condition

Using your washer properly and performing recommended maintenance will help keep the machine in top condition.

Follow these essential use and maintenance tips so your washer will work efficiently and last longer.

Don’t use too much detergent

Overdosing the washer with detergent can cause a host of problems.

  • Soap residue will cause odors, mold and mildew to form inside the machine and clothes won’t smell clean.
  • Detergent residue can cause corrosion and deteriorate seals and bearings.
  • The washer won’t drain properly when excessive detergent causes too much suds in the machine.

Use the recommended amount of detergent according to guidelines in the owner’s manual for your washer.

Don’t overload the machine

When you pack your washer too full, clothes don’t have room to agitate and tumble. That can cause them to not get clean enough. But it also means all of those zippers and buttons and other items on your clothes can rub against and latch onto other garments. The result? Holes and tears in your favorite outfits.

Another peril of overloading: orphan socks and lost underwear. Admit it, you’ve wondered where the heck they go. If your machine is overloaded, it can force small items down the drainage line.

As annoying as those things are, overloading can also damage your washer. When that mountain of laundry gets wet, the extra weight can damage the components and strain the motor to the point that it might need a repair. The washing machine will overflow if fill valves are damaged by overloading the washer.

Signs you’re overloading your washing machine

So, how full is too full? If you’re packing the clothes in tight, that’s your first clue that you’re overloading your washer. Machines vary, so check your manual, but a good rule is to loosely load the clothes and leave at least 6 inches between the top of the load of laundry and the top of the drum.

Here are some tell-tale signs that you’re overloading your washer:

  • Clothes is still wet at the end of the cycle.
  • Laundry doesn’t get clean.
  • Garments have soap residue when you pull them out of the washer.
  • The washer makes loud banging noises or squeals loudly when spinning.
  • The washing machine won’t start because excessive vibration broke the lid or door switch.
  • You need to repair the washer frequently.

Clean the lint trap

Some washers have a lint trap that needs regular cleaning. Clear out the lint trap regularly.

If you don’t clean the lint trap regularly, the washer won’t drain properly and lint will appear on the clothes when you pull garments out of the washer at the end of the cycle.

Check your hoses

Worn or cracked fill hoses can leak and cause a flood in your laundry room. Check the fill hoses yearly and replace them if you see any signs of wear or damage.

Examine the drain hose yearly and check for damage or clogs. Clear any clogs from the drain hose and replace the hose if it’s damaged.

Run an empty hot wash

Run an empty hot wash cycle monthly to help clear detergent residue out of the washer. Add a washer cleaner or bleach while running the empty wash cycle to clean the washer tub and basket even better.

Have your washer professionally maintained yearly

Have your washing machine professionally cleaned and maintained yearly to prevent unexpected breakdowns that cause laundry to pile up and tempt you to overload the machine.

Annual preventive maintenance will also help your washing machine last longer.

During the Sears Clean & Maintain service, the technician will perform these essential cleaning and maintenance steps:

Maintenance and Cleaning Steps Common to All Washers

  • Inspect water fill hoses. Broken fill hoses are a leading cause of flood damage in homes. Fill hoses eventually wear out and leak or break. A technician will inspect fill hoses for cracks and wear that can indicate potential failure. The tech will recommend fill hose replacement when it’s likely that a fill hose is at the end of its useful life. This maintenance step is often the most important one that the technician performs.
  • Check the washer tub and internal hoses for wear and leaks. Some internal washer leaks begin as small drips you may not even notice. Small leaks can eventually turn into large ones that damage walls and flooring. During washer maintenance, the technician will check internal fill hoses, dispenser hoses and drain hoses for leaks and wear that need addressing.
  • Test the washer drain system. The washer won’t clean and spin clothes if the drain system doesn’t fully remove water during the drain portion of the cycle. The technician will check drain pump operation and the complete drain path through your home’s drain system. The tech can clear obstructions and let you know if your house drain needs clearing.
  • Check water fill level and water temperature. To keep your washer working efficiently and avoid garment damage, the technician check water fill levels and the water temperature. The washing machine won’t clean the clothes well if water level is too low. Too much water can cause leaks and damage suspension components. Water also needs to be at the right temperature to clean clothes properly. When water temperature isn’t hot enough, detergent won’t dissolve and clothes won’t get clean. You might even see detergent residue can on clothes when water temperature is too low. Water that’s too hot can shrink delicate garments and damage certain fabrics. Hot water also can cause bright colors to fade or run.
  • Check the suspension system and spin cycle operation. Excessive vibration or banging during the spin will often result in clothes being too wet when the cycle ends. While banging during the spin cycle can be caused by an unbalanced load, it can also be caused by tub suspension problems. The technician will test the spin cycle and make sure that suspension components such as shock absorbers and springs are intact and working properly. The tech also will check washer leveling and stability and adjust leveling legs as needed to minimize vibration during the spin cycle.
  • Run a cleaning cycle. Detergent residue and dirt can build up inside the washer. Mold and mildew can develop and make clothes smell musty when you don’t clean the washer regularly. The technician will typically run a cleaning cycle using a washer cleaner to remove deposits and detergent residue from the washer. You’ll also be able to buy a supply of washer cleaner from the technician during the cleaning and maintenance service.

Essential Maintenance Steps for Front-load Washers

  • Check and clean the door boot gasket. The door boot is a bellow-shaped gasket between the door and the drum of a front-load washer that prevents leaks. The door boot also called the door boot seal or door gasket, is flexible so it isn’t damaged as the outer tub tumbles and spins. If the door boot tears or separates from the tub or door opening, water will leak. Water often collects at the bottom of the door boot and eventually causes mold and mildew if the door boot isn’t cleaned regularly. Mold and mildew will cause your washer and your clothes to smell musty.
  • Examine the washer door and test the door lock. Misalignment of the washer door can cause leaks and damage to the door boot seal. Failure of the door lock will prevent the washer from running or spinning. To keep your washer operating properly, it’s best to have a service technician check the door and the lock assembly for problems yearly.
  • Clear the drain pump filter. Many front-load washers have a large item filter on the drain pump assembly that catches things like coin and paper clips that fall out of garments and into the drain system. The technician will empty the drain pump filter so the washer drains properly.
  • Examine the drive system. Some front-load washers use a drive motor, belt and pulley to spin the basket. Other washer models use a direct-drive system to spin the basket. A direct-drive washer has a rotor connected directly to the spin shaft that rotates around a stator attached to the back of the washer tub. When the drive system fails, the spin basket won’t rotate or it won’t rotate at the proper speed. The technician will check the drive system for wear and recommend replacement of drive parts if necessary.
  • Check electronic control operation and wiring. The electronic control board, also called the mother board, governs the timing and execution of the washer component functions. It controls the fill valves, the drive motor and the drain pump. If the control board fails or wiring gets disconnected from the control board, the washer won’t work properly. The technician will check the wiring and make sure that the electronic control operates properly to control the washer.

Sears Maintenance Steps for Top-load Washers

  • Examine the lid switch. The washer won’t spin if the lid switch isn’t working. The technician will check the condition and position of the lid switch and adjust it if necessary.
  • Check the agitator. The agitator is mounted inside the spin basket of a top-load washer. The agitator rotates back and forth to moves the clothes inside the spin basket to clean the load. Garments won’t get clean if the agitator isn’t working properly.
  • Test the drive system. The technician will check all drive components for proper operation during washer maintenance. Most top-load washers use a belt-drive or direct-drive system to agitate and spin the clothes. A worn belt or bad shifter on a belt-drive washer will result in clothes not getting clean or the washer not being able spin the water out of the clothes properly during the spin cycle. Some direct drive washers use a transmission to drive the agitator and spin the basket, while other direct-drive models use a rotor attached directly to the basket and agitator shaft to spin and agitate clothes. Drive system problems in direct-drive washers will also prevent clothes from getting clean or spinning out water properly.

Trust Sears to help you keep your washer in top shape so you’re not facing wet clothes at the end of the wash cycle. Having your washer professionally cleaned and maintained yearly will also help the machine last longer.

How to Properly Load a Standard Top-Loader Washer

It’s all about the agitator, which sits in the center and moves the clothes around. Loading laundry around the agitator in a balanced way is the key to the whole operation. If your load is unbalanced, it can cause vibrations strong enough to actually move the machine, which in turn can lead to a costly repair.

Some key points to remember:

  • Add your clothes as evenly as you can around the agitator.
  • Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t twist sheets and towels around the agitator. Instead, put them on each side to help maintain a balanced load.
  • It’s OK to mix large and small items. You’ll up the ante on the washing action.

How to Properly Load a High-Efficiency Top-Loader Washer

Here are some key differences between HE and standard washers: HE models use less water (hence the name) and often do not have a center agitator.

Follow these tips to avoid overloading:

  • Place your clothes around the edges of the wash plate rather than piling them in the center of the washer. That way, your T-shirts and jeans will be able to move around and get clean.
  • If you’re stuffing your clothes in, your load is too big. Leave about 6 inches from the top of the machine.
  • It’s a good idea to mix large and small items. It helps the load stay balanced.

How to Properly Load a High-Efficiency Front-Loader Washer

These models use the least amount of water — 20 gallons or less, compared to 40 or more for older, standard washers.

  • One key to properly loading your front-loader is to put your clothes in it one at a time. This way, you’ll make sure you’re not tangling them up.
  • Keep it loose. Don’t pack clothes into the washer. Leave about half a foot at the top.
  • Front-loaders fill the bottom of the washer with water and rotate the clothes around. If you’ve got heavily soiled items, load them first. That way, they’ll be in contact with the water and detergent the longest.

Follow these tips to avoid overloading your washing machine — and help prevent damage to your clothing, lost socks and unnecessary repairs.

Broken washing machine? Sears Home Services Can Help

When the time comes to repair your washing machine, schedule an appointment with Sears Home Services. Same-day and next-day appointments are available in some areas.

We’re your best option for quick and easy local washer repair of front loading, top-load and portable washing machines. Whether your washing machine is leaking, your washer won’t start, or your washing machine won’t spin, you can count on Sears Home Services for the best washer service technicians in the business. Our technicians are local, licensed and vetted, with the skills to get your washer up and running again.

Sears is the #1 appliance repair service in the country, delivering guaranteed quality and workmanship. You can trust our experts to help take care of your washer and other home appliances so you can enjoy your home.

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