Fix washing machine drain overflows

Doing the laundry is one of the many chores we have around the house. One of the things we don’t want to see it happening is water overflowing while washing the clothes. Since the washing machine uses an essential amount of water, the risk of overflowing is never null. Should that happen, you will end up with expensive repairs for all the water damage.

You don’t need to be a professional plumber to know that problems with the plumbing system can cause the washing machine to overflow. It goes without saying that proper drainage is crucial for a washing machine. So when your washing machine drain overflows by the wall, residue and debris build-up have clogged drainpipe in the wall. The problem has relatively straightforward solutions and you don’t necessarily have to call a licensed plumber. Moving the washing machine away from the wall to unblock the clogged drainpipe is the solution nine times out of ten.

How does the washing machine drain?

To understand why your washing machine overflow, you should understand how the washer eliminates water with every wash cycle. When the wash cycle is over, the washing machine uses a pump to force water into the drain hose and out of its tub/holding tank. The drain hose curves up and out of the washing machine until it connect to a standpipe– it’s typically placed close to the cold and hot water supply valves. When everything in the washing machine and the drainage system works as expected, the water goes through the hose and gets into the standpipe. From there, it will travel to your house’s main sewage pipe.

Any time and then, though, some components of the drainage process become defective, which causes excess water from the washing machine. First thing, you need to identify the cause of the overflow. Main sewer line blockage, lint buildups, and other debris could block the hose and generate the flood. Don’t call the plumber for professional advice, as the solutions and preventative measures are straightforward.

Your washer drains poorly. Why is so?

You need to make sure that the washing machine’s drain line is causing the overflow. Modern washing machines come with signal errors during the drain cycle that spot the cause of the leak. However, most models will require a diagnostic test.

Begin with running the washing machine for a drain cycle. Pay attention to see how the washer pumps water down the hose and up into the standpipe. The washing machine drain is the problem if you see water back up and out of the standpipe.

You also have to observe how much time the standpipe needs to fill up and overflow. The amount of time will give you a hint about where the clog is found. Here are some tips on the timeframe:

  • a few seconds

The clog is probably found close to the standpipe’s surface when it only takes a few seconds until the pipe fills up and overflows. It might also be found in the washing machine hose. A hand-operated snake might be enough to eliminate the clog when the clog is small.

  • 30 seconds to a minute

If the water surfaces after 30 seconds or more, the chances are that the clog is located more profound in the drainpipe system. You will need a long drain snake to get to the clog and clear the pipe. You will have to call the plumber if you do not reach and eliminate the clog.

  • more than a minute

When the water needs more than a minute to overflow after getting in the drainage pipe, the cause could be a severe blockage in the plumbing system and even the main drain. You will need to contact a licensed plumber to inspect your house’s sewage pipes and discover the cause for the blockage and the overflow.

Extra tip

We recommend you stop the washing machine cycle when you see a leak. We also want to remind you that clogs don’t always represent the leading cause for the overflow of your washing machine. A kinked discharge hose, a missing P trap, and improperly sized drainpipes can also generate an overflow. The p trap stops the sewer smells from travelling into your home and moves the water through the pipe.

Stay on the safe side and contact a trustworthy plumber to diagnose the problem with your drainpipe system or the washing machine overflow.

How do you fix the washing machine drain overflow?

Most washing machines run correctly for a very long time. So don’t think that it’s only a matter of time until you need to fix washing machine drain overflows. However, a washing machine drain overflow isn’t the most severe plumbing problem to deal with in your life. If it happens, here’s what you can do:

Make space

To make sure that you can fix the issues of your washing machine drainage clog, you should begin with moving the washer away from the wall. The discharge water goes into the hose and down the drain behind the wall. When the drain is clogged, water will back up. To have effortless access to the drain, you have to make space to comfortably move around the washing machine.

Prepare the area

You already know that the washer doesn’t drain properly so you will deal with a larger volume of water than a few splashes. Make sure that you prepare the workspace by placing a drop cloth onto the floor. This way, you will soak up the overflow and debris that are expected while working.

We also recommend using a water drain pump to reduce the risk of water spills. Remember that using a water drain pump requires an intake hose getting into the clogged drainage system and an outlet draining wherever you see fit. Many use the pump when working around the washing machine.

Pick your unclogging method

There are several methods to use to unclog the machine drain.


The snake, also known as the auger, represents the most popular method to unclog anything from a drain hose to an entire drainage system. It’s a mechanical device that can physically eliminate debris that clogs the drainage. There are several drills to unclog a drain pipe of the washing machine. You can also find hand-operated models and powered (by a drill) alternatives.

hand-operated augers

These tools are lightweight and easy to store when not necessary. The drawback of hand-operated augers is that you need to put some elbow grease into them to get results. Some people will find it tricky and energy-consuming to use hand-operated augers.

machine operated augers

You can find many shapes and sizes for this model. They’re easier to use than the hand-operated augers. To use such tools, you only need to insert the end of the snake into the drainpipe, start agitating the auger with a hand motor/drill and carefully feed the auger deep into the drain. You will do it until you clear the clog.

Chemical methods

Some people consider chemical methods the most efficient and effortless way to unclog a washing machine drain. We want to highlight that using chemicals on your washing machine isn’t as effective as the auger method. However, the chemical treatment can lead to impressive results with some types of clogs.

If you want to clear the clogged washing machine drain with a chemical agent, you must read the instruction on the bottle carefully. Chemicals that unclog washer drains are strong and can become harmful when not following the manufacturer’s usage instructions. You want to clear the washing machine drain without causing damage to the other pipes or, even worse, to yourself.

Even if all chemical agents require specific methods of use, most of them require waiting time inside the washer drain to give results. You will have to rinse the waste pipe through with plenty of water most of the time.

Hot Water

Many people like home remedies as they’re environmentally friendly and less harmful. For example, you can make a solution out of hot water and soap– it might give results in some cases. Another home remedy is a solution of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Many people were happy that it cleared the discharge hose, drain hose, waste pipe, and even the main sewer line blockage.

We want to note that, even if the home remedies are successful, the results don’t last long, especially when compared to other methods. Truth be told, you won’t spend a lot on home remedies, but you will need to repeat the procedures more often than with other methods. Besides, the efficiency of the home remedies depends a lot on the type of blockage that exists in the drainage system, discharge hose, etc. Hot water won’t generate long-term results when hair and tough materials cause clogging. However, hot water will eliminate the blockage if soap and debris buildup causes the blockage.

Do vinegar and baking soda with boiling water fix the washer drain?

The baking soda (base) reacts with the vinegar (acid), and the solution is non-toxic. It doesn’t hurt to try it, nevertheless.

Place the washing machine hose back to the drain

You will learn with plumbing work that you always need to test your work before considering the job done. Run a test with some water before running a complete load in the washing machine. It can save you the trouble of dealing with the same problem again.

  • Reinsert the washer drainage hose into the drain
  • fill the washing machine tank with some water. Set the washer to a spin/drain cycle and let it run.
  • Examine the drain pipe while the water drains from the washer. If you hear gurgling, you need to investigate the problem further. It’s not an air gap causing the problem! Should the washing machine drain correctly and with no backup–kudos to you!

Can you prevent washing machine drain overflow? How?

There are actually several ways to avoid washing machine drain overflow.

Collect the lint

You can start using a mesh lint catcher and attach it to the end of the washer’s drainpipe. Use a plastic strip around the drain hose to prevent the mesh sack from falling off. The mesh will collect all the lint in the lint bag /garment bag that comes out of the washing machine, so it doesn’t end up in the drain and cause clogging.

Change the mesh liners every month!

You need to check out and replace the lint trap once or twice a month. If you wash many towels or do a lot of laundries, you will have to change the lint trap even more often than once.

Types of lint catchers

  • metal mesh

Metal mesh catches more lint than nylon mesh, and it’s easy to replace. It’s affordable, even though it’s not always easy to procure. Also, metal has a risk of corrosion when submerged in the water for a long time.

  • fabric mesh

You can use two fabric meshes to catch more lint in the lint bag. Once the inner one is full, you can replace it. We recommend using both a metal and a fabric mesh when the lint catches is regularly in the water. The fabric mesh handles high-pressure water very well and it’s a bit tricky to put on.

  • in-sink lint trapper

Some people use the in-sink lint trapper together with a drain pipe catcher. Every time you put on the drainage hose, the risk for it to fall off and clog the sink is never null. It’s why many people prefer the in-sink lint trapper to other methods. It will sit inside the drain and collect lint while the washing machine drains out. You can clean the in-sink lint trapper every few washes so that you can use it for several months.

The best part about it is that you don’t need to buy it very often and it doesn’t clog up the sink or the drainage system. It’s also efficient at collecting lint and doesn’t fall off either. However, you have to protect it by cleaning it when wet. Also, gunk and lint might deposit on the sink’s bottom, which causes a bad smell. Clean it when wet so that it’s more effective.

  • drain mesh

This is a mesh that you place over or inside the drain. It catches lint that the mesh catcher might miss. You have to clean it after every load by wetting it down. It’s easy to put on and reusable. The downside with the drain mesh is that you need to use it with another type of lint catcher for the best results.

  • pantyhose

This is an old-fashioned solution that traps even the tiniest lint pieces. Since most of us don’t use pantyhose anymore, this method isn’t the most affordable to try. It’s great if you use pantyhose or knee highs to don’t have to buy new ones. Putting them on the drainage pipe isn’t easy and finding a tight fit on the drain hose can be tricky. You need a close fit so that the pantyhose doesn’t slip off and clog the drain. Use a zip tie for the tightest fit.

  • combination

When you want a clear washing machine drain all the time, you should consider using a mesh line on the drainpipe with a lint catcher in the drain.

Use Enzymes for Prevention

We recommend you treat the washing machine drain with enzymes every month, along with the lint catcher. It will keep your washing machine in good shape and fix the draining issues in its early stages. The lint catcher will collect the lint, whereas the enzymes will dissolve the soap scum regularly. The enzymes have many uses:

  • keep the drains running

Everything in the draining system, washing machine drain pipe included, will work smoother than before when using enzymes. They work deep down in the lines and are an affordable fix too.

  • Unclog drains by dissolving gunk

The lint catcher cannot collect everything that can cause clogging, as dirt and soap will pass through and build up in the drains. Use enzymes that eat the soap and have the drain cleaner than ever before.

Which type of enzyme to use for your washing machine drain pipe?

You have several types of products to choose from. Some will require you to add water, whereas others come already mixed. Regardless of the type you buy, they will all be efficient. As a result, you should buy the kind that works best for you or suits your budget the most. Keep in mind that you won’t find enzymes at the grocery but the hardware stores.

How should you use enzymes?

One thing you need to be when using enzymes is to be patient. Enzymes need some time to work, so you have to pour them into the drain and let them work throughout the night. If you use enzymes for the first time or suspect that the drain is clogged and slow, you should pour boiling water into the drainpipe in the morning. If that’s not the case for you, simply run the water until it gets hot and let it flow for several minutes. Should the drain run slow or stop, all the gunk is already melting and blocks the drain pipe. It might happen if this is the first time you use enzymes.

We remind you that patience is crucial when using enzymes for washing machine drains or any other type of drain. Therefore, repeat the enzyme treatment to clear the drain up. Read the instructions on the bottle. Most manufacturers recommend repeating the treatment for three days the first time and once a month as part of regular maintenance of the washing machine drains.

Install a Laundry Sink

If none of these methods works with your washing, you can solve the overflow by installing a utility (laundry) sink in the laundry room. The water will drain into the sink and eliminate all worries about overflow. You can still place a mesh lint catcher on the drainpipe’s end to control the overflow.

It’s not very difficult to install a sink with a large tub. You can find one in stores– also remember to buy the faucet, pipe, and other supplies.

How to Install a Laundry Sink

Begin attaching the drain from the sink to the lower drain section in the wall. You might have to take out some drywall for the best results. If plumbing work isn’t your thing, you can call a plumber to install the laundry sink.

Tools Needed

  • pliers
  • wrench
  • PVC hand saw
  • PVC Y-fitting
  • two brass pipe splitters
  • plumber’s glue
  • hot and cold flexible tubing
  • threading tool
  • de-burrer/some sandpaper
  • measuring stick
Measure for the drain

Turn off the water supply and measure how far the sink’s drainpipe is from the ground. Locate the washer’s drainpipe and measure up from the ground. Mark the washer’s drainpipe where to put the Y-fitting that separates the washer’s drain from the laundry’s sink drain.

Cut the current drain pipe

Cut the existing drain pipe from the mark to the venting pipe connecting above. Cut the horizontal T0fitting where the water from the washing machine backs down to the exit drain line. Use sandpaper to de-burr/smooth out the inside of the pipe.

Connect the Y-fitting and add the utility sink

Attach the PVC Y-fitting to the current drain line. You will connect one arm to the horizontal flow of the washer drain’s exit and the top of the Y to the venting pipe. Attach the other arm of the Y-fitting to the line running from the laundry sink drain. Use plumber’s glue or putty to make the connections waterproof and tight.

Locate the water sources

See where the hot and cold water pipe links are near the washing machine. Detach the water pipe on both cold and hot hookups. You might have to cut the tube between the laundry sink and the washing machine in the midway area. Use a threading tool to thread the pipe.

Add Pipe Splitter to Hot and Cold Water pipes

Screw the splitter onto the primary water line with a two-headed brass pipe splitter. You need to do it for both the cold and hot pipes. Secure the connection with a wrench. The splitter will separate the water supply from the cold and hot pipes, one going to the sink and the other to the washing machine. Reconnect the washing machine with the current lines or get new pipes from the hardware store.

Connect Hoses to Sink

Attach the flexible tubing from the pipe splitter to the lines of the sink (both cold and hot water), using a blue hose for cold water and a red one for hot water. Hook them with the correct line. Tighten the links with a nut with a wrench.

Finish the installing

The last step is to connect the hot and cold water tubes to the laundry sink faucet. Turn on the main water supply and see how the new draining works.

Use a Drain Snake

Another preventative measure is to use the drain snake once the washer starts running slower than usual. The chances are you already do it with your sinks and showers, so why not try it with the washing machine drains too? You can purchase a professional metal snake or use a short snaking. You can use a plastic model with barbed edges or a wire with a metal tip down the pipe to fix the build-ups. The latter is flexible and goes deeper than the plastic model. It also grips the gunk more efficiently than the plastic one.

You can use both snakes to get out hair and lint that remains in the washer’s hose and drains. Push the snake down the drain hose, turn it around and pull it up. You will be able to unclog plenty of hair clogs that most drain products cannot dissolve.

Switch to a front-loading washer

Front-loading washers use less water than top-loading counterparts, so the risk of overflow is significantly reduced. Consider buying a new washer with front-loading– a home warranty might be helpful. It might be more affordable than plumbing services.

Call the plumber

Contact a plumber to clean the washing machine tub and drain hose cleaned thoroughly. It’s not a permanent fix and you will deal with the same problems after several months.

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