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It may be the perfect time-saving plan – load the washing machine and leave home to run some errands. But, when the washing machine malfunctions and floods your basement, you’ve lost much more than those few minutes.

A residential washing machine can use 10-30 gallons of water during the entire cycle, which is a lot of water on the floor if there is a malfunction. Many basement flooding problems are a result of faulty washing machines, whether they are the standard models that use up to 30 gallons of water, or the high-efficiency models that use quite a bit less.

Here are some tips to be aware of to prevent basement flooding because of a faulty washing machine.

Why do washing machines fail?

A common problem is a burst or loose connection in the water supply line. Water moves through these hoses at a high pressure and can eventually cause a weak spot in the hose. Early indication of this might be a bulging area on the hose, which indicates potential failure.

As the hose is repeatedly filled with high-pressure water, it may become loose at the connection point. You will notice water dripping or spraying at the connecting point if there is a loose connection. A blocked hose mesh screen or cracked O-rings inside the connection may also cause a leak here.

A deteriorated drain pump will cause flooding. If the pump is cracked or rusty, water will seep through this area. The water needs to leave the washing machine somewhere, and if the pump cannot extract the water from the machine, there may be another weak spot where water can leak from. This may often be the drain hose connector, which can become loose just like the supply hose. Make sure the drain hose is properly sealed, and the hose has not become blocked with debris.

Front-loading machines have a rubber seal around the door that can deteriorate. Top-loading machines also have a tub gasket. Cracks or rotten areas can cause small leaks here, but the water pressure can intensify the water flow quickly through a small crack.

Over-sudsing can also cause leakage during the wash or rinse cycle. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for correct detergent levels based on the size of the load.

What to do when the washing machine floods

A common first instinct is to press the “Cancel” switch on the wash machine control panel. Without knowing which cycle the machine is operating in, this may cause it to advance to the drain cycle, causing further flooding.

It’s best to turn off the power and water supply. Do not merely unplug the washer, as this may cause the plug to fall into standing water, creating a shock hazard. Disconnect the power supply at the breaker box. Know where the main water shut-off valve is located, and label it so other family members can easily find it also.

Be alerted of potential flooding problems by using a water leak detector around the washing machine. The high-tech versions send an alert to your smartphone if water is detected by the unit, signifying a leak in the area. There are many different models, and not all continue working after being submerged in water, so review the specifications carefully before a purchase.

Finally, if your machine has leaked the 10-30 gallons of water throughout your basement, call a professional to extract the water properly. A water damage expert can determine what steps may be necessary to remove or replace carpeting, drywall or other belongings that may be damaged due to the appliance malfunction flooding.