How Does A Washing Machine Work?

How A Washing Machine Works?

Typically, in the UK, the most popular types of washing machines are the well-known front loading machines just like this one. This is unlike our cousins across the pond in the US that tend to like the top loading machines.

Both machines however work by agitating (turning) your clothes in warm, soapy water. In this article, we'll talk you through the machine's process. Read on to get an idea of each part's job, something that could go wrong with it, and to understand more about your machine so you won't be as daunted if something goes wrong.

Firstly, the water enters the machine through two inlets located at the back. The hoses leading to these should be checked at least 1-2 times a year as they can become blistered or split, and this can be a major flood hazard. If they seem damaged - even just the slightest - it is best to replace them so you don't risk a costly flood.

In terms of the water inlet valves, there is both a hot and a cold inlet where solenoid valves open to let the water flow through. Here, you have two filter screens at the inlet entrance that prevent any grit or sediment entering your machine. These can get clogged over time. Read our article on how to solve this here:

From the water inlet, the water travels on to the detergent drawer, pushing the detergent along with it into the drum of the machine.

On a day to day basis, we only see the inside of the drum when loading and unloading the machine, but the drum is actually made of two parts. THe outer part is a big, water tight, plastic tub which then houses the drum we know so well; the metal cylinder with small holes to let the water flow through.

Who Invented The Washing Machine?

The first drum washing machine was invented by a man called James King in 1851, powered by hand. However, it was in 1874 when William Blackstone invented the first washing machine intended for domestic use. Building it as a birthday present for his wife, the machine was able to wash and remove dirt from clothing. This was the beginning of the appliances we now have in our households.

The water sits in the bottom of these drums, heated by the heating element (obviously also situated at the bottom of the drum). It quite looks like a kettle's heating element, and can become damaged from limescale and this is one of the common issues for replacement as this cannot be fixed once damaged.

Controlling the water levels is the pressure chamber and the pressure switch. If you're having any overfilling problems, find out more about these parts here:

On the outside of the drum, you will find some large, concrete counter balance weights (all located in slightly different places for different machines). These have the job of stabilizing the washer so that on a fast spin it won't go running off. Over time, the bolts can sometimes loosen, which means they can make a loud racket when your machine starts a spin cycle. However, this is easily fixed by just tightening the bolts again.

The motor is the part that powers the machine to turn. Bolted to the bottom of the tub, it is also very heavy and acts as another counter weight. Something that is most likely to need attention with the motor is the carbon brushes. These are the part designed to touch the turning part of the motor to pass power through. Therefore, over time they do wear down and will naturally need replacing. Find our repair instructions for this here:

The motor then connects to the turning belt and pulley wheel located at the back of the drum. This is then connected to the drum through the bearings, which allows the motor to turn the drum. The bearings are also something that can be worn down. Read about the importance of your bearings, how to look after them, and also the repair instructions to replace them here:

When the machine empties, this is where the drain pump kicks into action. Pumping away the waste water through the waste pape, it's protected by a fluff filter which catches any small debris that manages to make its way through your machine. If you have any draining issues, then read our article to diagnose any problems you may be having here:

And what controls all of this? Of course it's the control module at the front of the machine, controlling letting the water in, when to start the spin cycle, what temperature it needs to be, etc etc. It also controls the door lock, ensuring it stays tightly locked during the wash so you have no leaking.

Washing machines may seem to be a complex machine, but can easily be dissected to find the source of the problem if you're occuring any troubles. If something goes wrong with your machine, then don't panic! We're here to help. Take a breath, and before you call an engineer, or go running to the store to buy a new machine, take a read of our articles and see if you can figure out what's wrong. We promise, this way could save you A LOT of money in the long run, as replacing a part by yourself is a lot cheaper than any repair costs, or the price of a whole, new machine.


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