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Clothes Getting Oily? Your Washing Machine Could Be the CulpritDecember 28th, 2021 by
Your washing machine is a true workhorse. But other than listening for the end of a wash cycle, you probably don’t give it a lot of thought, right?
Major household appliances are built to last for many years. The truth, however, is that nothing lasts forever. That very much includes your washing machine.
If you start to notice oil spots on your clothes, there may be a problem with your washing machine.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why your washing machine might fail
- How to troubleshoot the problem
- What to do if you find motor oil instead of dirt in your machine
Washing Machine Motors
Every washing machine has an electric motor, a transmission, and a gear mechanism. Much like in a car, the transmission in your washing machine contains oil to keep the moving parts lubricated. This also guards against overheating.
Within the transmission, there are additional seals that, unfortunately, break down over time. These seals keep the engine compartment dry and are typically made of rubber.
Rubber has a finite lifespan. When the rubber breaks down, oil and grease can make their way out of the transmission.
That oil and grease can enter the washing machine’s drum during a wash cycle. Oil doesn’t mix with water, so that’s why you see spots on your clean clothes.
Troubleshooting a Washing Machine
If you’ve started to see dark spots on clean clothes, here are a couple of issues to rule out before inspecting the motor and transmission.
Check for Known Problems
Write down the manufacturer and model number of your machine. Then do a quick online search. See if there are any recalls, known mechanical issues, or explanations from the manufacturer that could explain your experience.
If there’s a known issue, you’re probably not the first or only person to encounter it. A quick Google search should pull up a few appliance-related forums where you might find some information.
You may even find a forum moderated by your machine’s manufacturer. These sites are great resources for info about part recalls and approved fixes for problems.
Thoroughly Clean the Machine
If an internet search doesn’t bring up helpful results, clean the washing machine drum to rule it out as the cause of the stains. Sometimes, dark spots are the result of grease buildup from years of doing laundry or using liquid fabric softener.
Many retailers now sell products specifically designed to clean washing machine drums. Running a cup of white vinegar or bleach through the machine on an empty cycle will also do the trick.
Wipe the drum and door seal with a clean, dry towel. Use a cotton swab or other small, absorbent tool to clean out the drainage holes.
Remove the Agitator
This is an advanced, last resort tip. Proceed with this on your own only if you’re familiar with working on these kinds of appliances.
If your washing machine is top-loading and has an agitator, it’s possible for dirt and grease to become trapped underneath the agitator. Removing the agitator can be hard, so consult the owner’s manual or do an internet search to learn the best way to do it.
The upside to removing the agitator is that you’ll see pretty quickly if residue buildup is the problem.
Dirt or Oil? What to Look For
Once you’ve wrestled the agitator out of the drum, you’ll see either dirt buildup or motor oil. If you see dirt buildup, clean the agitator and the drum underneath it. Then reinstall the agitator in the machine.
Motor oil is dark brown in color and has a liquid consistency. If you see oil, your best bet is to start deciding on the features you’d like to have in a new washing machine.
You can always call an appliance repair company to take a look. A washing machine transmission problem, however, is an expensive fix. You will most likely save money by buying a new, more efficient machine.
The Bottom Line
Washing machine problems can bring a household to a temporary standstill. Fortunately, there are ways to troubleshoot on your own.
In many cases, the machine just needs a thorough cleaning. But a second opinion is never a bad idea. An experienced appliance repair expert can tell you for sure whether you’ll need to go appliance shopping.