Surprising Ways You’re Damaging Your Washing Machine and Dryer

Doing laundry seems pretty simple. But even if you think you’re an expert, there’s always something more to learn. (The best ways to keep white shirts white, for instance. Or the list of things you actually shouldn’t put in the washing machine.)

Another thing you may not know? Some of your laundry habits might actually be damaging your washing machine or dryer — and causing safety hazards and efficiency issues in the process.

Read on to check out the surprising ways your laundry routine is damaging your appliances.

1. You put too many clothes in the washing machine

Man Doing Laundry
They don’t have room to get clean. | iStock/Getty Images

This sounds like a good idea to minimize the loads of laundry you have to do. But Fred’s Appliance Service reports that it’s actually a bad idea.

Overloading your washing machine damages clothes because zippers and buttons can catch on other garments. It also leaves your clothes dirty because the detergent can’t circulate if the machine is too full. Plus, small items like socks can get sucked into the machine’s drainage line. And all the extra weight can strain the washing machine’s motor to the point where it’s destroyed. 

2. You put too many clothes in the dryer

Overloading your dryer could cause damage. | iStock/Getty Images

Similarly, you shouldn’t overload your dryer. The Spruce explains that a heavy dryer load is hard on the drum belt, the pulley, and the spindle bearings — all parts that routinely cause dryer breakdowns. The parts are affordable to replace. However, labor can get costly.

And the downtime also costs you, particularly if you have to head to the laundromat to dry your clothes in the meantime. Even the motor can overheat if you work it too hard. Plus, overcrowded clothes won’t dry properly, and cramped loads will have more wrinkles. 

3. You don’t empty your pockets before running the laundry

Don’t let anything wreck your machine. | iStock/Getty Images

If you already don’t check the pockets of your dirty clothes before they go in the washing machine, you need to start. Reader’s Digest reports that coins, keys, and other metal objects can damage the inner drum and outer tub of your washing machine.

In fact, leaving coins and other metal items in your pockets can result in damaged clothes, a leaking washing machine, and plenty of other damage. According to HouseFull, these items can shatter the glass on a front-loading machine or even block the drain pipe. The easy solution? Just check the pockets of all your shirts, pants, and jackets before they go in the hamper, or at least before they go in the machine. 

4. You put lingerie in the washing machine

colorful Bras on Clothesline
You need to be delicate with your delicates. | Metaphortography/iStock/Getty Images

HouseFull also reports that you should never put your lingerie in the washing machine — both for your bras’ and your washing machine’s sake. Not only does the machine damage your delicates, but errant wires and hooks can also cause damage to the inside of the washing machine. (The same hooks and wires can catch other pieces of clothing and damage them, too.) Your best bet is to wash your lingerie by hand — or at least put those pieces in a mesh bag to avoid any damage.

5. You have your washer and dryer plugged into the same outlet

Laundry Room
You could overheat your outlet. | Irina88w/iStock/Getty Images

Good Housekeeping reports that overcrowding your appliances can have some dangerous effects. If you have your washing machine and your dryer too close together, you make it harder for the heat they generate to dissipate.

Additionally, you should always plug your appliances directly into a power outlet (no extension cords or power strips). But you don’t want to plug them in to the same outlet. Plugging more than one heat-producing appliance into an outlet can overload the wiring. That means that you increase your risk of an electrical fire — and that’s not a risk you want to take.

6. You don’t clean the lint trap every time you use the dryer

Laundry dryer
Protect your machine and your house. | Brizmaker/iStock/Getty Images

Dryers cause many house fires each year because of a seemingly harmless substance: Lint. The Spruce reports that regular cleaning and maintenance can protect you (and your dryer) from this fire hazard. Lint, which is combustible builds up in the lint trap (and elsewhere in the machine), reducing air flow and dryer efficiency. Lint also increases the humidity and causes mildew and mold to develop in your home. Suffice it to say, you should clean the lint trap after every load.

Just remove the screen and wipe the edges. If it gets clogged, submerge the screen in hot water and scrub it to remove built-up fabric softener. Also, think about switching dryer sheets if it gets clogged frequently. 

7. You forget to clean the lint out of the rest of the dryer

Clothes Dryer Lint
Lint can cause fire. | Pastorscott/iStock/Getty Images

Even if you dutifully clean the lint trap each time you run a load of clothes, that’s not quite enough. As Good Housekeeping reports, failing to clean the lint out of the rest of the dryer can actually cause a house fire.

You should regularly clear out the lint that collects on the filter, around the drum, and in the vents. (The Spruce has some useful instructions.) If you don’t, the lint builds up and the heat can’t escape. Also check the dryer hose at least once a year — and check it immediately if you notice that your clothes don’t feel 100% dry.

8. You aren’t cleaning your washing machine

You need to make sure bacteria doesn’t grow. | iStock/Getty Images

It’s not just the dryer that needs an occasional deep clean. Your washing machine needs an occasional scrub, too. Regular cleaning helps keep the machine running efficiently and ensures that it lasts longer. It also prevents any weird smells from happening and affecting your clothes.

DIY Network has some useful tips for cleaning your washing machine. The network also notes that regularly removing soap residue and mineral buildup can keep your appliance and your clothes in better shape. 

9. You’re using too much laundry detergent

Female Hand Pouring Detergent In The Blue Bottle Cap
Too much detergent can leave residue. | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

Another good way to stop soap residue from ruining your washing machine? Use less detergent. Consumerist reports that using too much laundry detergent leaves a film on your clothes, increases lint levels, and can even damage high-efficiency washing machines. (As explains, repeated overuse causes buildup, which eventually turns into blockages that force water to back up.)

If you’re using too much detergent, it may not be your fault. The caps on many bottles of detergent make it hard to see exactly how much you should use. If you need to, you can mark the line with a Sharpie, or even use a measuring cup to ensure that you don’t overdose on detergent. 

10. You make your own laundry detergent

fabric softener
Making your own detergent isn’t the best idea. | Manuel-F-O/iStock/Getty Images

Think DIY laundry detergent can help you avoid the pitfalls of conventional detergent? Think again. notes that DIY detergents don’t clean as well as store-bought detergents. And they often leave more residue, which can trap dirt and bacteria in your clothes.

Plus, DIY detergents rely on soap, which doesn’t clean as effectively as the more sophisticated surfactants in store-bought detergent. Also, washing machines are designed to work with detergent, not soap. Soap residue will build up in your washing machine, causing damage over time.

11. You’re overusing dryer sheets

Bounce dryer sheets
Dryer sheets can leave residue. | Memoriesarecaptured/iStock/Getty Images

Dryer sheets seem pretty harmless, and using them won’t permanently damage your dryer. But, as The Spruce reports, they can affect your machine’s operating efficiency.

Just as they leave a residue on your clothes, they also leave a residue in your dryer. That residue can clog the screen of the lint filter and reduce air circulation. (Good circulation gets clothes dry faster and also prevents overheating and fires.) Dryer sheets can also coat the electronic moisture sensor and cause your dryer to over-dry.

If you use dryer sheets, you should clean the lint filter every month with dish detergent and a fine brush. Also, wipe off the sensor with rubbing alcohol monthly.

12. You’re leaving the washing machine door closed

Leaving the door closed could cause mildew. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Have you gotten into the habit of closing the washing machine door, even when you don’t have any clothes inside? Stop right now! Leaving the door closed can result in mildew growing on the rubber seal — a gross but very preventable kind of damage to the appliance.

Apartment Therapy recommends leaving the washing machine door open when the machine isn’t in use. That prevents mildew (and the musty odors that go with it). If you have a front-loading machine — the type particularly prone to mildew, thanks to the tight seal — you can even install a lock to ensure that pets and children can’t jump inside and close the door behind them. 

13. You don’t take advantage of the self-cleaning cycle

Washing machine or dryer
Front-loading machines are more susceptible to problems. | iStock/Getty Images

The Sweethome reports that if you have a front-loading machine, it’s particularly important to let the washer dry out between uses. (Top-loading machines rarely develop major odor problems because moisture can easily evaporate out of the unsealed top door.) With a front-loading machine, you should wipe the door and gasket. And at least once a month, you should also run an empty self-cleaning cycle with chlorine bleach or a specialty drum cleaner. 

14. You haven’t leveled your washing machine

Washers that haven’t been balanced can break. | iStock/Getty Images

Think picture frames are the only thing in your house that could use some leveling? Think again! If you have a washing machine that vibrates, shakes, or rattles, it probably needs to be leveled.

The Spruce reports that if the machine isn’t perfectly level, it can bang and even rock back and forth. That damages the machine, plus the walls and floors surrounding it. Vibrations can even cause leaks and mechanical problems. Check to see whether your machine is level, and then adjust its legs accordingly.

15. You’re not balancing your washing loads

Separating laundry
Washing bedding requires you to keep it balanced. | Martin Poole/iStock/Getty Images

The Spruce notes that if you’re washing bedding, you need to pay attention to what you’re putting in the machine in order to keep it balanced. (Otherwise, it may vibrate and shake — even if you’ve already leveled it.) Washing just one bulky item can create an unbalanced load. If you’re washing a large comforter, for instance, you should add some towels to balance the load. If you’re washing pillows, wash a pair instead of one.

SF Gate notes that failing to balance your washer can result in damage to a variety of different components. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make sure that you balance your loads as much as possible.

Read More: The Most Clever Laundry Hacks You’ve Never Heard Of

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