Washing Machine Drains Too Fast? (Here's Why)
You have that brand new high capacity energy-efficient front-loading washing machine? You run your first load of laundry and soon find that your laundry room is a pond. The drain has overflowed and flooded the floor. What is the fix for a washing machine that drains to fast?
If your washer is draining water faster than what your drain pipe can handle, you have two options. You can either slow down the flow of water as it’s exiting your washer and entering your drain pipe. Or, you can increase the size of the drain pipe so that it’s capable of handling the high volume of water exiting the washer.
New high-capacity washing machines often feature bigger pumps than older models. In older houses, the drain lines for the washing machine are not big enough to handle the higher flow. If your problem is the larger flow from the washer, you can easily limit the water flow from the washer.
Stemming the Flow – Managing the Discharge from your Washer
Often, the key to preventing overflows from your washing machine drain is to manage the speed that the water is coming from the washing machine. The easiest way to do this is to install a flow restrictor into the drain line of the washing machine.
Finding a Flow Restrictor – Buy or DIY?
Overflowing washing machine drains because of too much flow from the washer is so common that there are now many flow restrictors available. A search of the internet returns hundreds of variations. Many are readily available at your local hardware or home improvement store.
You can also make your flow restrictor from common plumbing parts. Many homeowners may already have these parts in their workshop.
Making Your Own Flow Restrictor
The concept of a flow restrictor is simple. It boils down to reducing the size of the washing machine discharge hose to lessen the flow of water into the drain. These steps are one solution to managing the flow rate from your washing machine.
Step 1 – Find the Parts
You will need a few basic plumbing parts to accomplish this simple task. These parts are easy to source at your local hardware store or home improvement center.
- A plumbing reducer – We prefer to use copper solder fittings. Find a reducer fitting whose larger end fits tightly inside the washing machine drain hose. This fitting could be one inch by ½ inch reducer fitting.
- A Screw Clamp – Often called a radiator hose clamp. Purchase or find a clamp that is only slightly larger than your washing machine drain hose.
- Tools – You will need a screwdriver or hex head driver to tighten the hose fitting.
Step 2 – Install the Hose Clamp
Put the hose clamp on the washing machine drain hose and push it far enough up that it is out of the way.
Step 3 – Insert the Reducer Fitting
Push the larger end of the reducer fitting into the end of the washing machine drain line. Insert the fitting half the length of the fitting to allow enough surface area for the clamp to grasp.
Step 4 – Tighten the Clamp
Move the hose clamp back down to the end of the washing machine drain line. Make sure the clamp is fully over the copper fitting inside the washing machine drain line and tighten the clamp.
Step 5 – Re-Install the Drain Line into the Drain
Replace the washing machine drain line into the drain in the laundry room. If the hose clamp does not fit into the drain, you may need to add a length of smaller hose to the reducer.
Reducing the Flow – Not a Perfect Answer
Reducing the flow from your washing machine drain may be an easy fix and can solve your overflow problems, this solution can also create new problems.
The Problem with Time
When you reduce the flow from the washing machine, you increase the time that it takes for the washing machine to fully empty. If your washer depends on a timer, you can induce more problems.
Your washing machine may not empty fully if the timer stops the pump before the washing machine is empty. If you notice water left in the washing machine after a drain cycle, you may need to adjust the restriction in the drain line.
Your Washer Drain is Too Small
A problem that is typical of older homes is that the drain into which the washer dumps its wastewater is too small. The reason this is a common problem in older homes is that the plumbing pipes weren’t designed to handle washing machines. Homes built in the early to mid-1900s tend to have smaller drain lines in the laundry areas or no laundry areas at all.
When houses are built without the intention of having a high-pressure washing machine, the pipes are undersized. In many cases, laundry rooms are added later as an addition. It’s common for people to try to save money when they do this and they try to adapt to the plumbing that’s already present in the home.
A common example is when a laundry room is added to a basement and ties into a floor drain or downstairs bathroom. The inevitable result is that the washer will drain water faster than what the drain is capable of handling.
The Solution for a Small Drain Pipe
Unfortunately, there’s isn’t a quick fix that can remedy a small drain line. Alternatives such as a water pump or flow restrictor are often preferable to redoing the drain plumbing in your laundry room. Redoing the plumbing can quickly turn into an expensive and timely project and could potentially lead to more problems as you dig into your plumbing system.
However, if you decide to go this route, you’ll have to remove your old drain pipes in your laundry room and replace them with larger ones. This can prove difficult, especially if the exiting plumbing is made of steel or cast iron and you want to install PVC. You should enlist the assistance of a plumbing professional if you decide to go this route to fix a washer that’s draining too fast.
Pumping to Hard – The Demise of the Water Pump
Reducing the size of the drain line can put pressure on the pump in your washer. The increased pressure in the drain line can cause the pump in your washing machine to fail.
Washing machine pumps don’t handle higher pressures well. Most washing machine pumps have plastic parts that cannot withstand the forces of restricted flow. You may end up replacing the washing machine pump.
Check the Warranty on your Machine Carefully
Some washing machine manufacturers have clauses in their warranties that prohibit the installation of flow restrictors. If you install a flow restrictor on the drain line, you may void the warranty on the machine.
Even if your machine fails and the problem is not a result of the water flow restrictor, the manufacturer may refuse to honor the warranty.
Looking For An Alternative Solution
What is the Real Problem – Technology on the Advance
You may have lived in your home for many years and have not experienced a single overflow from your washer drain. As washing machine technology has advanced, the manufacturers have made several changes to washing machines.
Bigger is Better…Sometimes
One of the new developments in washing machine technology is the larger capacity of the machines. Larger washing capacity translates to more water. More water requires a bigger pump to remove the water faster and keep the cycle times as short as possible.
In years past, plumber sized the drain lines to the washing machines of the period. As technology has progressed, the capacity of the drains lines cannot handle the pumps. Overflowing drains is the result.
Other Problems May Exist – Diagnosing the Cause
If you live in an older home, there may be other problems that are at the root of the problem. The drain on your washing machine may be capable of handling the increased flow from a new washing machine. Other factors can impede the flow of water in the drain.
- Buildup in your drain lines
- Cracked, broken, or collapsed drain lines
- Tree roots invading your drain lines
Diagnosing these types of problems often requires the help of a plumber or drain specialist. The solutions to these types of problems depend on the nature and severity of the problem. Professionals best address some.
The Solutions – Clean, Repair, or Replace?
The easiest and quickest way to find out if the problem with your washing machine drain overflow is to have a qualified plumber or drain specialist look at the drain lines. These professionals have the equipment to look down the length of your drain line with a video camera.
They can see what kind of problems exist, where the problem exists, and give you advice on how to fix the problem. Each problem requires a different approach.
Build-up in Your Drain Lines
Soap, combined with lint from clothing, hair, and other debris, can form drain clogging plugs. If your drain lines are older and suffer from a rough interior or other damage, the problems get worse.
Two Options for The Clog – Dissolve it or Remove it
Chemical drain cleaners are an option, but you must take great care with them. Chemical drain cleaners are caustic and can cause serious energy if used improperly. Follow the manufacturer’s directions exactly for the safe use of these materials.
Sometimes the clogs resist these chemical solutions. In this case, the drain line may need to be snaked by a plumber or drain specialist. This process can clear the drain lines quickly and help clean the inside of the drainpipes.
The Root of the Problem, Roots in the Drain Line
Homes with well-established landscapes, especially those with large mature trees, can suffer from roots in the drain lines. Tree roots seek water. A perfect place to find water is in and around drainpipes. Older homes with sectioned drain lines are susceptible to this kind of clog.
The joints in the drain lines provide perfect access points for tree roots. The tree roots will then populate the inside of the drainpipe, feeding on the water and other nutrients. In time, the tree roots will act as a filter, trapping all sorts of materials until the drain line no longer functions.
Rooting out the Problem – The Drain Snake
Removing tree root build-up in the drain line requires special tools and training. The use of a drain snake is the most common method for cleaning roots from a drain line. The drain snake uses a special end. This special tool has sharp cutting blades to shear the roots almost flush with the drain line wall.
Not the Ideal Solution – Regrowth and More Problems
The problem with this solution is the tree. The tree roots are still alive and in the drainpipe and will return. Often this can happen in a matter of weeks. There are some chemical solutions to this problem.
Consult with your plumber or drain specialist about how to best control the growth of tree roots into your drain lines. There may be chemical or other solutions that can keep the tree roots from returning so fast.
When the Whole Situation Collapses – Drainpipes Beyond Repair
Your plumber or drain specialist may find that your drain line is beyond repair. Tree roots can be a cause of this as they age. If your plumber or drain specialist finds that your drain lines are damaged and collapse, the only solution may be a complete replacement.
Finding the Root of the Problem
Finding the cause of the overflow problem with your washing machine drain is the key to a permanent solution. If your drain lines are too small, the only solution may be to restrict the water flow from your washing machine.
If other problems exist further down the drain line, consult with a plumber, or drain specialist to determine the cause and formulate the correct strategy to solve the problem.
We hope that this article has given you some insight into the causes and possible solutions to the problem of a washing machine that flows to fast.
Dennis is a retired firefighter with an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and remodeling. He worked in the trades part-time while serving as an active firefighter. On his retirement, he started a remodeling and home repair business, which he ran for several years.
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