Washing machines are one of the most common appliances and yet we rarely give them a second thought. We toss in our clothes, add soap, and let the machine do all the work. A typical load of laundry uses at least 30 gallons of water. That’s roughly the amount of water it takes to fill a standard bathtub. While they are usually built to last, it only takes one hose or seal to fail and you could have a washing machine flood your laundry room. If you’ve had a washing machine overflow or flood, begin cleanup quickly to limit water damage and prevent mold. From water overflowing the top or front of your washing machine to the cause of water underneath it, we also look at what causes most washing machine leaks.
Steps to Cleaning Up a Washing Machine Flood or Overflow
If your washing machine overflows the tub or floods underneath the unit, take the following steps to clean up the water and repair the damage.
- Turn Off the Water – Turning off either the water valves to your washing machine or the main water supply prevents further flooding.
- Unplug the Washer – Unplugging your washing machine prevents electrical shock while you clean up the flood.
- Soak Up Standing Water – Use towels or a mop to soak up standing water. This helps prevent further water damage.
- Vacuum Up the Remaining Water – Use a wet-dry shop-style vacuum to suck up the remaining water and help pull it out of porous materials like wood, drywall, and cabinets.
- Dry Out the Flooded Area – Dry the area with fans and dehumidifiers. Ideally, use professional air movers, but home fans will work too.
- Empty the Washing Machine – Rinse the clothes and allow them to drip dry, then bail the remaining water from the washing machine.
- Remove Unsalvageable Materials – Inspect the damaged area and dispose of items that cannot be restored.
- Disinfect and Deodorize the Area – Disinfect the area to prevent mold and bacteria, then open windows and doors to remove odors.
- Restore and Rebuild the Damaged Area – Repaint walls, install new carpeting, drywall, or cabinets, and restore the area to the original condition.
- Repair or Replace Your Washing Machine – Make repairs to the washing machine to prevent future flooding. It may be necessary to replace the entire unit.
How to Prevent a Washing Machine Overflow or Flood
Here are a few easy ways to prevent your washing machine from flooding and overflowing.
- Avoid Using Too Much Detergent – While you may thing overloading your washing machine with detergent means cleaner clothes, it’s more likely that soap suds will overflow the lid and cause a huge mess.
- Avoid Overloading With Clothes – Overloading your washing machine with clothes will overwork the unit. This can break the drain pump and weaken seals, causing a flood.
- Use a Lint Trap – If your washing machine drains to a utility sink, install a lint trap on the drain line. This will prevent lint from building up in the sink drain, causing an overflow.
- Check The Hoses – Your washing machine usually has two water supply hoses. Check that hoses are not dried out or worn. Tighten the connections regularly and look for signs of corrosion.
- Check the Drain Line – A third, larger hose allows dirty water to drain from your washing machine. This can get clogged by lint or even become disconnected from the drain.
- Know Where the Water Shut Off Valve Is Located – The best way to stop a washing machine overflow or flood is by turning off the water. Make sure you know where the shut off valve is located. Then turn off the power as well.
How to Clean Up a Washing Machine Overflow or Flood
Water from a washing machine overflow will begin to permanently damage wood, flooring, cabinets, and other building materials within a few hours of exposure. While you may think soaking up soap and water is good enough, even just a small amount of water can cause significant damage. If you’ve had a washing machine flood, follow these steps to clean up the mess and repair damaged materials.
1. Turn Off the Water
Even if the cause of the washer flood isn’t a hose or supply line issue, you should still turn off the water lines. There should be water shutoff valves near the water hoses. Depending on the exact situation, you may need to turn off your main water supply line as well. This will stop more water from adding to the flood.
2. Unplug the Washer
3. Soak Up Standing Water
Use towels, sheets, or even a mop to soak up as much water as possible. Wring saturated items out in a sink before attempting to soak up more water. If the water is more than an inch deep, it may be more efficient to pump the water out of the area. The goal should be to remove all standing water, not to completely dry the area.
4. Vacuum Up the Remaining Water
Sheets and towels can soak up the majority of water after a washer overflow or flood, but they will not get all of the water. A wet-dry vacuum will help extract the remaining water left behind. Vacuuming is extremely effective at pulling water from porous materials like drywall, carpeting, cabinets, and wood. It will remove water from the surface of non-porous materials like metal, tile, and glass. Move appliances and other items to get the water underneath them as well.
5. Dry Out the Flooded Area
After vacuuming up the water, use fans and dehumidifiers to finish drying the area your washing machine flooded. You can use regular consumer-grade house fans, however, commercial air movers will work more efficiently. You can rent blowers and dehumidifiers from your local equipment rental company. If your washing machine flooded a carpeted area, you should lift the carpet off the subfloor to provide better air circulation and decrease the drying time.
6. Empty the Washing Machine
While the air movers and dehumidifiers are working at drying structural items, completely empty your washing machine. Rinse detergent from wet clothes in a sink, then hang them in a tub or outside to dry. Then bail as much of the remaining water out of the washer. You can also use a shop vac to remove water as well.
7. Remove Unsalvageable Materials
Once the area is completely dry, inspect the damage and look for items that cannot be salvaged. Depending on the amount of water involved in the washing machine flood, you may need to remove damaged flooring, cabinets, or furniture. Check the subflooring and ceilings in lower levels for damage.
8. Disinfect and Deodorize the Area
Water from your washing machine may contain contaminants that could cause mold or bacterial problems in the future. Musty odors may develop as well. Disinfect the area with a solution of 1 and ¼ cups bleach per gallon of water. To address odors, ventilate the area as much as possible. If smells persist for more than a few days, consider renting an ozone machine from your local equipment rental company. Always follow the operating instructions for an ozone machine.
9. Restore and Rebuild the Damaged Area
After deodorized and sanitized, you can begin rebuilding the affected area. Depending on the extent of the damage, this may only involve repainting. However, it may also include installing new flooring, drywall, cabinets, or other items. For carpeted areas, it’s best to shampoo or steam clean to extend the life of your carpeting.
10. Repair or Replace Your Washing Machine
Depending on the cause of the washing machine flood, you may need to repair or replace the machine. Hoses are typically universal, but seals, pumps, motors, and other items are usually specific to brands or models. Check the operation manual for the exact model number of your washer. Some manuals may also include the model number for replacement parts. If not, you can search the Internet using the washer model number and the replacement part needed. If the washing machine tub is damaged or your unit is very old, purchasing a new machine is a better alternative to making repairs.
Reasons for a Washing Machine Overflow or Flood
When it comes to a washing machine flood or overflow, an issue with one of the following is usually the cause.
Water Supply Hoses
Most washing machines have two water supply hoses, a hot and a cold, that attach to the rear of the unit. The hoses can wear out and become brittle and the connections can get loose or corrode. If you have water underneath the washing machine, an issue with the water supply hoses is one possible cause. While hoses issues are one of the easiest to detect and prevent, they can also cause the most water damage. If a hose breaks, water will run until you shut off your main water supply line.
Depending on your exact washing machine, there are one or more tub seals that keep water from leaking out of the unit during regular operation. Over time, these seals can stretch or wear out. As this happens, they no longer form a water-tight seal and water can leak from the tub causing a flood.
Water Level Switch
Washing machines have a water level switch or sensor that controls the water level inside the unit. Although it is designed to last, the water level switch will eventually wear out and cause malfunctions. If your washing machine overflows when filling, the water level switch is usually the cause. Washing machine floods caused by water level switches are more common in top-loading units.
If you have a front-loading washing machine, the door will have a latch that keeps it closed during operation. Unfortunately, the door latch can become loose over time. This may allow water and detergent to leak from the door and is more likely if you use too much detergent or if you overfill the washer.
Front loading washing machines also have a gasket on the door that forms a waterproof seal and keeps water inside the unit during operation. Water can leak from your washing machines if the door seal is misaligned, kinked, or damaged. As with the door latch, overloading with clothes or detergent increase the chances of a flood.
The drain pump empties water from the washtub into the drain line during the wash cycle. The pump has a number of connections and seals to keep water from leaking during the wash cycle. These seals can become brittle with age and can cause your washing machine to flood if they fail.
The drain line allows dirty water to flow from the machine. Over a number of years, lint and other debris can clog the drain line. This will cause your washing machine to back up into the tub and may even cause it to overflow. A partial drain clog will also put more stress on the tub seals and drain pump seal. If those seals are already weak, a clog may cause them to fail completely. A clog or problem with the drain line is another likely cause if you have water underneath your washing machine.
Is Water Damage Caused by a Washing Machine Flood Covered by Insurance?
In most cases, your homeowners’ insurance policy will cover any water damage caused by a washing machine overflow or flood that is sudden and accidental. As long as you properly maintain your washing machine and repair known issues, your insurance company will likely approve the claim.
There is one catch, however. While your insurance company will cover the cost of repairs within your home, they typically will not pay to repair or replace your washing machine. For this reason, we recommend purchasing a unit with a long warranty that covers both parts and labor.
Call Restoration Local if you have Water Damage from a Washing Machine Flood or Leak
Restoration Local is a network of nation-wide water damage restoration contractors. Our network includes a wide array of restoration companies including popular brands like AdvantaClean and Steamatic as well as independent companies. If you have a washing machine flood or overflow, we will connect you with a local restoration company to repair the damage.
With our network of local contractors, you can find a qualified water restoration company in your neighborhood. They provide complete water damage cleanup services, including water damage extraction, dry out, and restoration. We also have on-call contractors available to assist after any water event. Call 1-888-443-3110 to talk with a local water restoration company now. Our on-call contractors offer 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response time, and a free estimate.