How to Clean a Washing Machine Drain

by Team HomeServe
Clothes washer drain line

How long has it been since you cleaned the drain on your clothes washer? We won’t judge — even if the answer is “Um … Never? The good news is that cleaning your washing machine drain is a relatively easy task that you can complete in under an hour.

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You have two options for how to clean a washing machine drain: a drain snake or chemical drain cleaner. Here’s what to do.

How Do I Clean My Washing Machine Drain?

Before you start, you'll need to move the washing machine away from the wall and find the drain. It's usually a pipe behind the unit, and it attaches to the hose that carries the wastewater away. Make sure that you don't accidentally remove the hot- or cold-water lines. You can usually tell the difference because the drain pipe is generally thicker than the supply lines.

You'll then need to remove the pipe by pulling it or unscrewing it from the machine before you can clean it. It's best to place some old towels under the area where the pipe enters the machine to soak up any standing water.

How to Clean a Washing Machine Drain Using a Drain Snake

Once you've removed the drain pipe, put on some rubber gloves and insert the drain snake, keeping a firm hold of the handle. Push it slowly down the pipe, moving it around gently to feel for blockages. If you feel resistance, twist the handle clockwise to allow the snake to collect any sediment or dirt.

Each time you remove a blockage, pull the snake out of the pipe and pull the clog off the wire. You can then reinsert it and continue removing any blockages from the pipe until you think you've got them all. You can test whether the pipe is clear by pouring water through it.

How to Clean a Washing Machine Drain Using a Drain Cleaner

Alternatively, you can use a chemical drain cleaner on your washing machine drain. Following the manufacturer's instructions, pour the cleaning fluid into the drain and leave it to work for the specified time before flushing it out with water. Leaving it too long could damage the drain.

Once you've cleaned your drain pipe using either method, reattach it to the washing machine tightly. Run an empty cycle to make sure that the drain is working properly. Keep an eye on the connection between the drain and the machine to check for leaks.

Ensure that any drain cleaner you use in a washing machine drain is suitable for your pipe material and drain type. It's best to avoid using products containing sulfuric acid due to its potential to damage your plumbing system and negative environmental impact.

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How Do You Clean a Smelly Washing Machine Drain?

Sometimes, washing machines begin to smell like rotten eggs or sewage because bacteria are growing on debris trapped inside. If the smell is coming from your washing machine drain, either of the cleaning methods above should help rectify the problem. You could also consider soaking the drain in a vinegar and water solution to get rid of the odor.

However, bear in mind that not all bad washing machine smells come from the drain. Dirt or residue inside your dryer vent or drum could also be to blame. It's worth cleaning your washing machine regularly alongside the drain to keep things smelling fresh.

How Do I Unclog a Washing Machine Drain?

The most obvious sign of a clogged washing machine drain is water left inside the machine that spills onto the floor when you open it. However, you may notice an unpleasant egg-like smell coming from the machine before the drain becomes completely clogged. If you do, try removing and cleaning the pipe to avoid a flooding situation later on.

You can then unclog a washing machine drain using a drain snake, drain cleaning chemicals or a homemade solution of water, baking soda and vinegar. However, be cautious of overusing drain cleaners because repeated use can damage your pipework. If DIY methods don't work, it could indicate a more complex problem with your home's drainage system that requires attention from a professional plumber.