26 July 2012

If you have a clothes washing machine, read this

How old are the hoses that connect your clothes washing machine to hot and cold water?  It is a question I had not thought about until reading a column in my favorite home-improvement blog:
Burst washing machine hoses have to be one of the most common causes of catastrophic water damage in homes. When I find rubber hoses used to connect the washing machine, I often mention to my clients that it's a good idea to replace them...

Every time a washing machine shuts off the water, a shockwave is sent through the water pipes... As rubber ages, it loses its flexibility. After being subjected to water hammer over and over for many years, the rubber washing machine hose is eventually going to fail, and it's going to be one heck of a mess...

I've heard that a good rule of thumb is to replace rubber washing machine hoses every five years. That sounds good, but how do you remember? Another tip I've heard is to replace your washing machine hoses every leap year. Not a bad idea.
After reading that, I realized that the hoses to our washer are twelve years old.  I shuddered to realize what would have happened had a hose burst when we were out of the house.  It would be the equivalent of taking a garden hose and leaving it on in the house.

There is an emergency toggle switch (back right in my photo above) that can be used in an emergency - if you're at home.  It's not a bad idea to shut this off when you go away on a trip.  As the link indicates, the washing machine manuals say to shut off the water supply whenever you're not using the washer.  Nobody ever does that.

At the link are other recommendations re automatic-sensing shutoff kits and using stainless-steel flexible hoses.
If you can connect a garden hose to a faucet, you can replace your washing machine hoses.  Just use a wrench to loosen the old hoses, and give the new hoses an extra 1/4 turn with a wrench after you have them hand-tightened.
I'm replacing ours this week.


  1. Believe it or not, I have my whole family trained to turn off that valve after the laundry is done. And we replace the hoses every 5 years or so. A flooded basement is a big fear of mine.

    1. as a contractor one of the things we install is a water pan with a water sensor that automatically shuts off the valves through an electronic switch when the sensor alerts. a better repair when you change your hoses is to replace them with hoses with a braided stainless sheathing.

    2. Me, too, Larry. And we have the reinforced braided hoses, too, rather than the plain rubber. Not positively sure that the braided ones are stronger, but I doubt they are weaker!

  2. My machines and the ones at my parents house are sitting right next to the sump pump well in the basement, but a guy at a Lowes was telling me how he lost most of his house due to water damage from said hoses.

    The newer homes with the second floor setup are more convenient, but those little hoses can cause a LOT of damage if they go.

  3. Here in europe the hoses are rarely ever rubber, they're colour-coded usually, red and blue, pvc with a polyester fibre woven reinforcement. I've never had one burst.
    In the picture, those two copper bulbs that point upwards are water-hammer arrestors, which are a good idea, but rarely used here. The main culprit here is the appliance industry which uses solenoid valves that open and close so quickly that they send shockwaves through all the house pipework. Soft-close valves would save a lot of people from floods.
    If you really think you're at risk, there are automatic shut-off valves, which sense high flow rates, or can be triggered by a 'wet-floor' sensor.
    One such device is by a company called 'Floodcheck'.
    I have not used it ever, and have no connection to them, but it seems a safe back-up idea if you're afraid of burst pipes.
    (I'm a plumber by trade.)

    1. The guy who writes the blog I cited does like the Floodstop auto shut-off, but said this about a hose variant:

      "There's a new version of these hoses called Floodsafe®, which is supposed to completely shut off the water supply in the event of a burst hose. I did a little testing with these hoses, and I'm not a big fan. I'll post a follow-up on this topic next week."

  4. http://www.floodcheckusa.com/

    "UK Olympics chose the Auto Floodcheck unit over all competitors to protect the 2012 Athletes Village from flood damage. 2,818 units were installed in individual 1, 2 & 3 bed apartments for the Athletes Village. The balance of the 3,000-piece order will be used in other areas of water damage protection"

  5. Please replace your hoses. I came home from work one day to find water running out of the doors. It is something you never want to go through.

  6. this happened to me about a month ago - fortunately WHILE I was in the laundry room and could shut it off. i shudder to think ...

  7. Isn't it a bit dangerous to have the electric outlet so low and close to the hoses if there's a danger of them bursting? The outlet for my washer is 18 inches above the plumbing and 3 feet to the side for safety.
    I also have everyone trained to turn the water off when the last load is done.

  8. braided aircraft-style hoses every time. also shut off water and unplug all major appliances when leaving for vacation. thanks, Dad for telling me this

  9. Floor drains, anyone? I realize that this is a tall order in a basement... Pans with water sensors are standard for HVACs in server rooms.

    Why would laundry still be done in the basement? This is from the days where laundry was a woman's/servant's chore and given as little convenience (i.e. cost the family as little...) as possible. When we had a house, our laundry room was next door to the bedrooms. The clothes basket lived in there and never moved.

    1. Wow, are you serious? Revisionist history, much?

      It was the standard way to set-up washing machines for decades, and makes sense from many standpoints. Both have their ups & downs: one requires walking on stairs and the other can ruin your home without precautions, but doesn't always require taking stairs.

      And don't forget some homes were built before washing machines were a standard piece of machinery. Reconstruct some rooms and move walls to fit this new technology, or put it in the vast expanse of basement that might not be utilized completely, which would you do?

    2. Meh, washers have been on back porches and in garages for as long as I can remember. When I see a washing machine in a basement, I immediately picture a chore that is unappreciated. I simply believe that if it was the man who had to carry the baskets up and down the stairs - and then run up and down thosse stairs to rotate loads, a better solution would have come sooner. It would seem that only in the past 40 years that kitchens and laundry rooms have even begun to be given the working space they deserve.
      My main point is that washing clothes is as critical to living as many other functions designed into the home and yet, the home and the appliance have made relatively few advances to make living better.
      Why not elevate the device to where plumbing comes from underneath? A pan would catch any leaks and gravity feed them into the p-trap and the user would not have to bend down at all to work.
      And when are we finally going to get one machine to both wash and dry? Or self load, auto measure soap, and unload? Or text the user when auto dry is done?

    3. Do you think that the design improvements of late are due to:
      a. the more fairly shared chores between sexes (more men cooking and doing laundry)
      b. women's income and input becoming a critical factor in where/how to live
      c. combination of a and b
      d. other

  10. in the netherlands we use water stops between the water tap and the hose.
    if the hose loses pressure while the washing machine is off it shuts the tap.
    no more than maybe 1 liter will spill.

    if the washing machine is on and the tap loses pressure the machine registers this and closes the tap aswell.

    so no more horrible failures
    just google for a water stop


  11. My husband (the shadetree handyman) recommends the braided steel water hoses for washers. He hasn't seen one fail yet.

  12. Much good, experienced-based info in the post and in these comments. We incurred a burst hot-water lead March 2011. An unmitigated--but, fortunately, insured--disaster. Note it was a "burst" hose with water spraying in nearly all directions; as such, a catchment pan would have been of little help. I vote now to include placement of the washer and drier in the basement or in an out-building.

  13. What's the copper? fittings used on the hoses? I've never seen anything like them.


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