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27 Mar 2020

What to do if your washing machine breaks down during coronavirus confinement

Which repairs you can do yourself, whether you should call in a repairer and advice on getting a replacement delivered

You're confined to home and the washing machine packs up. The good news is there are some simple repairs you can do yourself at home if you're well enough to do so.

Recent government measures to control the outbreak of COVID-19 mean that all non-essential shops are closed.

Online retailers are still open for business, though, so you can get a replacement washing machine.

Read on for our top repair tips, whether you should get a professional in, and where and how to get a new model if yours can't be fixed.

Go straight to our washing machine reviews to find a replacement model.

My washing machine won't turn on

According to our annual survey of more than 4,000 Which? members, the most common washing machine problems are with the drum (11% of all faults in the first eight years), electrical failures (8%) and the water not emptying (also 8%).

Faults with the drum can cause all kinds of problems, from making the washing machine noisy to meaning it can't spin at all. Unfortunately, drum problems are tricky to fix yourself.

Electric faults will be the most likely cause of your washing machine not turning on. Follow these steps to see if you can fix it yourself:

  1. Check the fuse in the plug and socket. Does another appliance work if you plug it into the same socket?
  2. Check the standby switch on the machine. If it doesn't seem to be pressing as it should, replacing it could do the job.
  3. The door latch (that indicates to the interlock and machine that it's safe to start washing) could be broken. Check if it has worn - is it latching properly, does it look worn? To search for replacement parts online you'll need your washing machine's model number (check your manual if you can't find it on the machine).

Unfortunately if it isn't one of these three, you'll need to get a professional in to fix this issue. And it could simply be cheaper and less of a hassle to buy a replacement.

Common washing machine problems and how to fix them.

My washing machine is leaking

First check is detergent. Too much can result in excess soap suds that could cause the drum to overfill and leak.

Next, ensure the machine is completely level - if it tips too much to the right or a little to the left, water can seep out.

Then it's time to inspect the hose at the back. Tighten the connections and look for any cracks or rips in the hose or O-rings rubber seal.

If the hose has broken or is rusty, it might need a full replacement. Many washing machines use the same hose setup, so you could buy a universal one. But it's still worth using the model number to check online spares stores.

If you need to buy spare parts, a good website to check is eSpares.co.uk. It also has a useful advice section with many videos on how to do certain repairs yourself.

If water still leaks during the next cycle you might need to check the water inlet filter screens at the back of your machine. If they are blocked up then cleaning them could help. You can also buy replacements for these online.

If the leak is slightly smaller and coming from the front this could be the washing machine door. The seal around the dome can become worn with age, resulting in leaking and/or condensation but it's easily replaceable.

Can I get it repaired?

According to official government advice, work carried out in your home, such as by a tradesperson, can continue as long as he or she is showing no symptoms.

It's important to follow Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two-metre distance and washing your hands.

Government advice also says: 'No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so.

'In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.'

Read more on: Should I let an engineer or tradesperson into my home?

How to hand wash clothes

If your washing machine has had it, and you decide the best thing to do is hold out until you get it repaired, rather than replacing it, then you can consider hand washing your essentials.

To do this you:

  1. Pre-treat clothes as needed for stains, then turn them inside out.
  2. Get a clean washing-up bowl and fill it with hot water and add your detergent.
  3. Add your clothes and mix them around well
  4. Let to sit for a few minutes, and mix again
  5. Repeat step four a few times
  6. Drain the soapy water and add clean warm water
  7. Mix and press residual detergent from your clothes
  8. Repeat with new clean water a few times until the water is less soapy
  9. Do not wring clothes dry, instead press as much water as you can out of them
  10. Hang up to dry or tumble dry as normal.

Who is still selling washing machines?

The coronavirus measures the government put in place on 23 March 2020 mean that all non-essential shops must close. But this doesn't effect online retailers.

You can still buy appliances from popular sites, such as Currys, John Lewis, AO.com and Argos, but due to staff possibly needing to self-isolate, delivery times could be longer.

With many retailers you can also specify if you are isolating and they will deliver in a way that minimises human contact.

For appliances, a delivery person and installer will need to come into your home to install the appliance. When this happens, try to keep a distance and clean surfaces before and after the installation.

If you and your household are isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms, wait until after your isolation period is over to get the machine installed.

Can I go to the launderette?

If you don't have the luxury of your own washing machine, luckily the launderettes are still open.

The government warns that you need to wait a further 72 hours after your seven-day isolation period has ended before going, though.

Coronavirus: read our latest advice.