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Why Your Washing Machine is Shaking, and How to Fix It

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Photo: Eskymaks (Shutterstock)

The first time you hear it, the noise can be jarring. Seemingly out of nowhere, it sounds like a helicopter is landing on your roof, or a freight train is about to come barreling through your wall and into your home. The room—and its contents—may shake the way they would during a minor earthquake.

When you investigate, you find that all of this racket is coming from your washing machine, which happens to be shaking violently. It may have even shaken itself out of its usual spot.

While this isn’t great for the machine or your floors (or anything breakable in the room), it usually doesn’t mean that you need to invest in a new appliance. Here are a few of the reasons why your washing machine is shaking, and how to fix it.

Why is my washing machine shaking?

Here are a few of the most common reasons your washing machine is shaking, as well as how to fix the problem.

Overloaded washer

Problem: You crammed too much laundry into your washing machine.

Solution: It’s great that you’re trying to conserve water and energy by limiting the number of loads you do, but check the owner’s manual to see what their maximum recommended load size and weight, and stick to that.

Uneven weight distribution

Problem: If the shaking doesn’t happen with every single load, it may be occurring when there’s uneven weight distribution in the drum. This can happen if you’re only washing one larger item (like a pillow), or if you’re washing sheets along with other items, and the sheets form a ball around everything else.

Solution: Even out the weight of the load. For example, pop in a second pillow. Or, if you’re washing sheets and other items, make sure you put them in separately (i.e. not in a big ball) to begin with.

The washer isn’t sitting flat on the floor

Problem: It’s like when one table leg is shorter than the other: Everything wobbles and it’s annoying. Except instead of a table, it’s a large drum full of heavy wet clothing.

Solution: This is usually a two-person job, but basically, you want to unplug the washer, slide it out from wherever it usually lives, and locate the source of the wobble. Perhaps the floor is uneven (which wouldn’t be unusual if you live in an older home). Or maybe the feet of the washer aren’t uniform in length. Once you locate the problem, use a level to make sure it is, in fact, level before starting to use it again.

Shipping supports are still inside

Problem: When washers are delivered, they often come with hard plastic spacers that protect the machine while it’s in transit. These are supposed to be removed before using the washing machine. If that doesn’t happen, it can cause it to shake.

Solution: Get out your owner’s manual and follow the directions for removing the transit bolts. They’re usually pretty easy to find: On the back of the washer, they’re large plastic bolts on the back part of the drum. You’ll need a wrench to remove them. Then put them somewhere safe, in case you need to move the washer again.

The filter is blocked

Problem: You’re (hopefully) familiar with your dryer’s lint trap. Now meet your washer’s filter. It’s supposed to catch the stuff that falls out of your pockets in the wash (like coins, paperclips, etc.) and stop it from getting into the water hose.

Solution: Check your owner’s manual to find out how to clean the filter. Or, if you’d prefer to wing it, start by turning off your washing machine, and finding the filter—it’s usually located behind the small panel at the base of the washer.

Remember that water hose we mentioned? You’re about to meet it. Open the panel, and while holding a shallow dish under the hose, carefully loosen and drain it. You may end up having to empty the dish a few times during the process. Then, remove the filter, get rid of any remaining debris, and rinse it off. Lastly, check the reservoir to make sure nothing’s left in there, and then replace the filer.

It’s something else

If you’ve tried and checked all of the above, and your washer is still shaking, it’s probably time to call in a professional to troubleshoot and fix the problem.


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