12 July 2009

Things Not to Wash in the Washing Machine...

...aka They Really Do Eat Socks!

I had a bunch of old rugs gets soaked by the water heater debacle, and I finally got around to washing them. Then I went to check on them, and the washing machine hadn't drained. It was still full of dirty water. Not really clear on what had happened, I tried to run it through another cycle. Nope, no drainage. The water was stuck inside. So I got the rugs out, found that nearly all the backing had flaked off of two of them, and started trying to figure out what to do next. I bailed the water out a bucket at a time, and in between runs checked on the internet. The most likely culprit was a clogged water pump.

So I kept bailing, and trying various things to get the "cabinet" open. This site was very helpful, but it's a bit too generic. Luckily when I (unnecessarily) got the control panel off, there was a schematic inside that gave instructions specific to my washing machine. It gave essentially the same instructions as the web-site, only it specifically said where the clamps were that held the front on. Incidentally, unless your putty knives are a lot more robust than mine, use a flat-head screwdriver to push the clamps in instead. The putty knife just bent, so that I wasn't even sure I was in the right place.

The water pump turned out to be an itty bitty thing, maybe 6" by 3" by 4", with two hoses coming off of it. I needed to disconnect the hose that drained the tub through the pump. I did not have a hex-tool that would fit in there to get the top clamp off, but I lucked into a good set for $10 at Fred Meyer. Then I discovered that the other wire clamp was much easier to manipulate with plumber's pliers, which I luckily had on hand. So I got the little hose off (it's 1.5-2 inches in diameter, but only about 8 inches long), and found that it was completely stuffed full of bits of rug backing. Yup. That was the problem all right. It came out fairly easily once it didn't have to go through the pump, and I ran a rinse cycle that drained just fine, so I think it's fixed now.

As for the socks, apparently it's not uncommon for socks to get into that drain pipe and clog it up. I didn't understand how until I had the washer apart enough to see that there's a gap between the drum (the part that the clothes sit in) and the cabinet. If a sock were on top, it could potentially slide over the edge, into the drain area, and eventually wedge itself in the pipe. My washing machine has not yet eaten a sock, however. I had a few other rugs in similar condition to the ones I tried to wash; they are now in the garbage bin. I'd just as soon not have to take the thing apart again.

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