We’ve all heard it before: “Don’t overload your washing machine!” It’s easy to dismiss this advice as a wives’ tale. After all, these are big, powerful machines that run reliably year after year. So it’s perfectly understandable if you’ve ever asked these still have questions:
Luckily for you, your Hometown Hero has answers (and video of what could happen to your washing machine if you don’t listen to good advice).
The principal reason not to overload is that the strain of all that extra wet laundry often exceeds the design limits for components on the machine, including springs, shocks, motors, and everything in between. In the long run, this will cause premature failure of the machine’s components, including, in rare cases, the machine’s exterior housing. This means more, costlier repairs, and a shorter lifespan for the appliance.
In the short term, overloading can cause balance issues during the cycle, which negatively impacts your washing machine’s ability to actually wash the laundry. When the load is unbalanced or packed too tightly, water and detergent aren’t distributed as evenly to every article in the wash, and those clothes that receive the short end of the cleaning, no surprise, end up less clean. Which, if your laundry isn’t getting cleaned, what’s the point of washing it in the first place?
The problem is worse for modern washing machines, which further sacrifice cleanliness to prevent some of the wear and tear caused by overloading. For example, an LG front load washer will try to achieve a high-speed spin, but will fail if it identifies that it is out-of-balance. In response, it will reduce speed and try to redistribute the clothing. It will repeat this process a few times and, if unsuccessful at correcting the balance issue, will give up and spin at a lower speed to avoid the excessive vibration. This results in longer cycle times and clothes that are both more waterlogged and not as clean.
Don’t be a Pig-Pen. Load properly.
Is it possible to put so much laundry into my washing machine that I render it unusable prior to even turning it on?
If you put in so much laundry that the lid can’t close, most washers have a lid lock or lid switch that, if not engaged, will prevent it from starting. Additionally, if you load a front load washer so that clothing is trapped between the door glass and the rubber door bellows, the door may not close properly, or, if it does, it may tear or rip off the door boot.
These safety features do fail on occasion, which make it possible, but still unlikely, for the machine to run with the door open, or for the door to pop open during the cycle. One reason these safety features fail is that many of us have a tendency of slamming the machine closed, which, since the mechanisms are generally located right at the point of closure for the lid or door, damages the sensors. So treat your washing machine nice!
The chances of this are slim, but it needs to be addressed anyway. The reason the chances are rare is that there are numerous safety mechanisms in your washing machine to prevent it from happening. And when those safety mechanisms do fail, they generally fail in a safe way, by disabling the machine.
But explosions still happen.
On the high-efficiency machines, such as the Samsung and LG top load washers, the safety systems sometimes fail to detect overloading, particularly with waterproof bedding materials. This can cause the machine to self-destruct: the washtub beats violently against the case of the washer until parts start breaking. In rare cases, when the tub breaks loose and the motor is still running, this can cause what looks like an explosion in the laundry room, with washer parts everywhere. LG has issued software updates for affected models, and Samsung is currently investigating the issue.
But there’s an easier solution: don’t overload.
Always load according to the user manual that you probably didn’t read. Some manuals will even provide an optimal load weight, so, if you’re a perfectionist, you can weigh your laundry before putting it in the wash (or, at the least, get a sense for what the ideal weight feels / looks like).
If you can’t track down the manual, just remember that washing machines, and especially high-efficiency washers, are not designed to be filled to the brim. Often about halfway full with dry clothes is the optimal mark.
We put a Samsung Front Load washer into a high speed spin test mode, then took a refrigerator compressor, wrapped it in a shipping blanket, and threw it in. (As a side note, many safety features that would normally kick in earlier do not when in test mode. The setting allows you to see how far the machine can go before tripping a code and stopping itself.)
It only eventually stopped by giving an E3 error, indicating it detected a problem with the motor.
I’m interested in reading about why I shouldn’t overload a washing machine now. Take me to the story.