Troubleshooting a Washing Machine That Won't Drain

The top of a washer against a blue wall.
  • 2 hours
  • Beginner

Troubleshooting washing machine problems isn’t too difficult. There are, however, many kinds of problems you can encounter. One of them is when the washing machine won’t drain. There could be a number of reasons for this and by going through and checking different items systematically, you’ll be able to troubleshoot the washing machine and discover the cause.


A blockage in a hose is a very common cause of a washing machine failing to empty. The simplest way to check this is to remove the hose that connects the bottom of the tub to the pump. You’ll need to have a bucket very close to recover the water lost from the hose upon removal.

From there, inspect the hose to see if an item of clothing is causing the blockage. If so, you’ll need to carefully remove it. Another item that can cause a blockage is a soap ball. These can jam and cause the washing machine not to drain.


If the drain hose is kinked, the washing machine won’t drain effectively. It’s simple to see if this is the problem and, equally, simple to solve. All you need to do is straighten the hose, and the washing machine should drain without any problem.


There’s a simple way to troubleshoot the washing machine to see if the pump is the reason your washing machine isn’t draining. Simply turn the machine on an empty cycle and you’ll be able to hear whether the pump is working. If it’s not turning, you’ll need to remove the pump. It could be blocked by something like a coin, which will have to be removed in order for it to work again.

If the pump is working, there could still be a problem with it, such as a loose rotor or broken vanes. You’ll need to take out the pump to check for these potential issues. There could also be a coin or other small object in the outlet pipe. Finding these items can be very tricky. The only surefire method is to use a small, rounded piece of wood that can be pushed through the outlet pipe to remove any obstructions.

Lid Switch

If the lid switch has stopped working, the washing machine won’t drain; in fact, it won’t work at all. To troubleshoot the washing machine for this problem, depress the switch by hand. You should be able to hear a click. If you can’t, the switch has broken and you’ll need to replace it.


There will be two belts on most of the washing machines (unless it's a direct drive). Remove the access panel with the machine unplugged and check to see whether they have broken. The main belt rarely breaks, but if it has you will need to replace it. The pump belt can also present problems by being broken or very worn. In either case, you’ll need to get a new one. These jobs aren’t particularly difficult to carry out.

Water Drains but Returns

If the water drains but returns to the tub, you’ll have to improve the draining of the tub itself. You can do this by cutting off any hose that extends more than four inches into the tub. You might also need to install an air gap if the drain hose is lower than the washer cabinet.

This guide makes troubleshooting your washing machine that won't drain easier. Unfortunately, this means it's time to do laundry.