Washing Machine Not Draining? 5 Causes and Fixes

Having a washing machine that won’t drain properly can be incredibly frustrating. You load up a wash, only to find standing water still in the drum when the cycle finishes. Not only does this leave you with sopping wet clothes, but it stops you from being able to run another load.

Fortunately, most drainage issues can be resolved at home without needing to call in a professional. With some basic troubleshooting, you can get your washer draining again and avoid having wet piles of laundry building up.

Here are the 5 most common causes of a washing machine not draining properly, along with steps to try yourself to get it fixed.

Clogged Drain Filter

The drain filter is often the culprit when a top load or front load washer won’t drain. This filter catches stray objects like coins, buttons, plastic clips and other debris that shouldn’t go down the drain. Over time, enough debris can collect to clog the filter and prevent water from exiting the wash tub.

To clean a top load washer drain filter:

  • Locate the filter, usually along the bottom of the tub or around the agitator. It may have a small handle or tab to grip.
  • Twist the filter counterclockwise to unscrew and remove it.
  • Pull out any large stuck items.
  • Rinse the filter under running water to remove lint and debris. You can also soak it in soapy water if needed to dissolve buildup. Use an old toothbrush to scrub.
  • Replace the cleaned filter and tighten by turning clockwise.

For front load washers:

  • Open the door and look in the bottom left corner for a small access door. Behind this is the drain filter.
  • Twist the door counterclockwise to unlock it, then pull it out.
  • Rinse and scrub the filter to remove any debris.
  • Reinsert the filter and lock it by twisting clockwise.

Once cleaned, run a rinse cycle empty to flush out any residual debris and confirm it’s draining normally again.

Cleaning a clogged drain filter is the simplest fix for a washer that won’t drain and solves the problem in most cases. Be sure to check and clean the filter regularly going forward to prevent repeat clogging issues.

Clogged or Kinked Drain Hose

If cleaning the filter doesn’t resolve a top load or front load washer draining problem, the next place to check is the drain hose. This is the hose that runs from the washer to the standpipe, utility sink or wall drain.

Over time, sludge can build up inside the drain hose and restrict water flow. The hose can also get kinked or squeezed behind the washer, blocking drainage.

To check and fix drainage through the drain hose:

  • Pull the washer out from the wall to access the hose.
  • Detach the hose from the washer drain outlet. Inspect it for any clogs or debris inside.
  • Use a wire coat hanger or drain snake to push through and dislodge any built-up sludge. Rinse the hose thoroughly.
  • Check the whole length of the hose, including the end that connects to the drain or standpipe, for any kinks, crimps or tight bends. Straighten out any restrictions.
  • Reattach the drain hose securely and ensure there are no leaks.
  • Push the washer back into place and test for proper drainage with an empty rinse cycle.

Replace the drain hose completely if you find extensive blockage or damage. Use the appropriate drain hose for your model and connect it securely.

Faulty Drain Pump

The drain pump on a front load washer is responsible for actively pumping water out between cycles. A faulty drain pump may fail to adequately pump out all the water, leaving puddles behind.

Signs of a failing drain pump include:

  • Standing water left in the drum at the end of cycles
  • Very long drain times
  • Loud pump noises during the drain portion of the cycle
  • Washer not entering spin cycles due to inability to drain

To troubleshoot the drain pump:

  • Check for any obstructions in the pump filter preventing proper drainage. Remove any debris found.
  • Inspect the drain hoses for kinks or clogs.
  • Listen for any grinding noises coming from the pump motor during drain cycles. Noisy operation can indicate worn pump bearings.
  • Test the pump voltage with a multimeter. If lower than specs, the pump motor may be faulty.
  • Measure drain pump resistance with a multimeter. It should match manufacturer specs. Too high resistance indicates pump failure.

If the pump shows signs of failure, replacement is necessary. Installing a new drain pump of the same make and model should resolve the drainage issue. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation.

Clogged Standpipe

If your washing machine drains into a standpipe, any clog or restriction in the pipe can back up water in the washer.

Standpipes are typically found with laundry tub or utility sink installations, and act as an overflow drain for the washer. They are prone to collecting lint and debris. A partial clog impedes proper washer drainage.

To clean out a clogged standpipe:

  • Disconnect the washer drain hose from the standpipe.
  • Check inside the standpipe opening for any accumulated lint or sludge. Remove any debris present.
  • Insert a drain snake into the standpipe opening and twist down through the pipe to dislodge clogs.
  • Flush the pipe by pouring several buckets of water into the standpipe opening, using a funnel if needed.
  • Reconnect the drain hose to the standpipe once fully cleared of obstructions.
  • Confirm proper drainage by running an empty rinse cycle on the washer.

Routine maintenance cleaning of standpipe drains can prevent washer drainage problems. If clogs persist, replacing the standpipe with a wider diameter pipe may be needed for improved flow.

Bad Drain Valve

Front load washers use an electric solenoid drain valve that activates to allow water to exit between cycles. If this valve sticks closed or doesn’t fully open, drainage will be impaired.

Signs of a faulty drain valve:

  • Washer not spinning or draining
  • Drain pump running but water not emptying
  • Very slow drain times

Fixing a drain valve issue:

  • Remove power from the washer and access the drain valve at the bottom left of the unit.
  • Disconnect the valve from the pump and drain hose. Inspect for any obstructions.
  • Check the valve coils for continuity with a multimeter. No continuity means a bad solenoid.
  • Ensure the valve body moves freely when operating the solenoid manually with a screwdriver. Stiff movement indicates a bad valve body.
  • Replace the entire drain valve if faulty. Match model numbers exactly.
  • Reconnect the electrical connections and hoses. Check for leaks before using.

Faulty drain valves are a common failure point, especially on older front load washers. Replacement restores proper electronic control of draining between cycles.

Frequently Asked Questions About Washing Machine Drain Problems

Having trouble diagnosing why your top load or front load washer won’t drain properly? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about fixing washing machine drainage issues.

What are common signs my washing machine isn’t draining?

  • Water remaining in the wash drum after a cycle finishes
  • Very wet clothes after the final spin, indicating excess water
  • “Sud” error codes on display models
  • Loud noises as the drain attempts to empty but can’t
  • Longer cycle times due to slow drainage

Why does my washer suddenly stop draining?

A sudden draining failure usually indicates a new clog or obstruction in the drainage system. Common causes include a blocked drain filter, kinked hose, or a clogged standpipe or drain line the washer empties into.

Why does my front load washer smell if left closed?

Smelly odors when leaving the door closed are typically from mold and mildew. The damp environment inside the drum can allow growth if the washer isn’t draining fully. Fix any drainage issues and regularly run drum cleaning cycles.

How do I unclog a washing machine that won’t drain?

Try cleaning the drain filter, drain hose, drain pump and standpipe one by one until you find the clog. Use a drain snake, water pressure or other means to clear obstructions. Replace damaged parts like hoses if needed.

When should I call a repair person for washer drainage issues?

If DIY troubleshooting doesn’t reveal the clog, or the washer still won’t drain after clearing blockages, professional repair is likely needed. Drainage issues involving motor or control board failure in complex models also often require a pro.


Washing machine drainage problems are a headache, but fixing them is usually manageable as a DIY project. In a majority of cases, clogged filters, hoses and drains cause the failure to empty water properly.

Carefully inspecting and cleaning these drainage components can get your washer emptying fully again. Catching a clog early before extensive buildup can often restore normal function quickly. Routine maintenance cleaning also prevents severe clogging issues from developing.

For drainage issues not resolved with DIY steps, professional washer repair may be needed. Trained technicians have specialized tools and expertise to fully diagnose complex problems. They can identify failures with pumps, valves or electronics requiring part repairs.

While a washer not draining is very disruptive to laundry routines, identifying the source of the clog and clearing it allows clothes washing to get back on track. With proper maintenance and these troubleshooting tips, drainage problems can be minimized and fixed when they do occur.