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How to Fix Washing Machine Drain Pipe Overflow

VirginiaLynne likes to share her creative ideas for DIY home renovation and maintenance.

Experiencing washing machine drainage issues? Read on.

Experiencing washing machine drainage issues? Read on.

Washing Machine Floods Are Such a Mess!

Water all over the floor? Problems with your washing machine drain pipe? I've lived in several old houses and dealing with overflows from my washing machine has always been a struggle. Our current house was built in 1972, and the overflow from the washing machine drain pipe was our first major homeowner disaster.

If you're struggling with this plumbing problem, I'm going to give you some ideas for solving it.

What Causes a Washer Drain to Overflow?

When we bought our house, I suppose we should have paid more attention to the patched plaster on the wall behind the washing machine—a clear sign that overflow from the drainpipe happened before! A few months after we moved in, water started overflowing everywhere during the drain cycle of the washer, and we realized we had a real problem.

Older houses like ours were built when washers were smaller and didn't require as big of a pipe to drain them. Today's extra-large capacity washers use more water and spit it out faster. The result? The pipe that the washer drains into can get overwhelmed and overflow all over the floor.

Even if you have a low water use washer, you can have this problem if lint clogs up the drain. That's what happened to us. We would get the drain cleaned out, and everything would be fine for a while. Then, just when I was overloaded with laundry from three preschoolers, there would be another messy disaster all over the floor.

6 Ways to Prevent a Drain Pipe Overflow Problem

  1. Call a plumber. This fix might be temporary or long-lasting, but either way, it's expensive, especially if you have to do it more than once as we did.
  2. Use a wire mesh lint catcher. It catches all of the lint exiting the washer so that it doesn't clog your drain. Change or clean the catcher monthly. This didn't completely solve our problem but is a good first step that we have used for 20 years.
  3. Use enzymes regularly. Treat your drain monthly with enzymes to clear out the soap scum. Definitely helps if you do it regularly.
  4. Install a laundry sink. This will allow you to put a mesh lint catcher on the end of the drain pipe and carefully monitor the flow of the drain. Our final solution along with the lint catcher and enzymes.
  5. Buy a front-loading washer. Front-loaders use much less water, which means they might not overflow your existing pipes. If my drain does not clog up, it never overflows with a front-loader.
  6. Use a drain snake regularly. When your drain starts draining more slowly, try snaking it out with a professional metal snake, or just snake the first couple of feet with a plastic one. I still do this occasionally, especially if I've skipped a month of enzymes.

Each of these steps is fully described and explained below.

1. Fixes a Plumber Can Do

For a temporary fix, you can call a plumber and have the drain cleaned out. We did that several times, and we found that took care of the problem for a while. However, after a few months of lint and soap build-up, we'd have an overflow again.

We talked to a few of the plumbers who came out to unclog our drain. One thought he could put in a bigger pipe in the wall, but that wouldn't help the clogging or the size of the pipe that is in our slab. Another plumber talked about putting a pump in the pipe, but he wasn't sure of the result.

Front-loading washers use less water.

Front-loading washers use less water.

2. Using a Wire Mesh Lint Catcher

The best way to stop laundry overflow is to use mesh lint catchers that attach to the end of your washing machine drain pipe. A strip of plastic tightens around the drain hose to keep the mesh sack from falling off. The mesh catches all of the lint coming out of the washer so that it doesn't go down your drain and cause clogs.

Where to Buy Mesh Lint Catchers

I used to buy these at Walmart or Walgreens but lately have had trouble finding them, so I bought them in bulk from Amazon. After seeing how much lint gets trapped by these, I can understand why my drains overflow!

Remember to Change Mesh Liners Monthly

Generally, I change them once or twice a month, or whenever I see them getting full. If you are washing a lot of new towels or other items with a lot of lint, you may need to change them more often. I've tried other lint catchers like fabric mesh and pantyhose (a homemade solution I saw on the Internet), but those don't seem to work as well and I always end up back with the wire mesh again. These really aren't that expensive if you buy in bulk, and they are a lot cheaper than a plumbing bill.

This setup needs a lint catcher.  You need to put it over the black pipe coming out from the washer and draining into the sink.

This setup needs a lint catcher. You need to put it over the black pipe coming out from the washer and draining into the sink.

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