How long can a washing machine sit unused?

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There are differing opinions about this about how much a washing machine can sit unused. In most part, there is no universal answer as many factors come to bear in determining whether an unused washing machine will function well when turned on after a long time.

Remember that an average washing machine’s lifespan is 10 years. This is according to Consumer Report. So whatever we’ll discuss henceforth should be within this timeframe.

Before giving these reasons, lemme tell you a story about my father’s washer.

My dad had a washing machine which he bought, I guess, in the 90s. Sometimes in 1997 we stopped using it regularly due to poor electricity supply in my country, and the particular area we moved to. Then in 2004 or thereabout, we turned it on, and it worked just fine. Well, there was no plumbing system where the machine was placed, so we had to manually fill the washer with water, run it for some time and turned it back off. I guess we also washed some clothes too, just to test it if the washer was still working fine.

This memory, goes contrary to what I find on the internet, as the professional advice. 

As a general rule, a washing machine can stay unused for 5 years or more and still function well when eventually put to used. 

There are several factors, though, that can determine how long you can safely store your washer without using it.

Factors to consider when leaving washing machine unused

  1. New, Used or plugged in
  2. Storage
  3. Humidity

New, Used or plugged in

The state of a washing machine can determine how long it can remain unused, without developing some faults.

A new washer still in a storage or warehouse is last far longer than one that has already been used. The key factor is the absence of water in its components. Adding water to a washing machine, through the washing process, introduces moist to the drum, vents, and hoses.

And if it was plugged in all through period will complicate matters further.

If not used after some initial usage, this moist in internal locations will be the beginning of mold and rust infestation.

The hose’s connections at the back of washing machines are prone to rust. When left for a long time, this can gradually become weak from rust, the mesh filter in this location can degrade from rust or get blocked by mold and other contaminants.

A plugged in washing machine, can be prone to power spikes and other electric excesses that can jeopardize the life of a plugged in washer, especially if left unused for a long time.

Assuming, it is left in an ideal condition, a washing machine will survive longer in this pecking order:

  • New – 5 years or more without developing faults
  • Used – About 5 years, but will need servicing before usage
  • Connected to electrical and plumbing system – About 2 years.

Storage

The storage location can determine how long it can sit unused. This is the point, storage determine many other factors. 

Locked warehouses are prone to wear and tear from the contractions and expansions of hot and cold wheather temperature. Have you noticed that houses that aren’t inhabited are prone to cracks and leakages that those inhabited by humans.

Elements contract in cold and expand in heat. However ventillation helps to reduce this effect as hot air is sent out and the temperature stabilizes with outdoor temperature.

However if this is left in a manufacturer’s yard, for example, they tend to last longer, as they have access to good airflow ventillations, occassional cleaning and so on.   

Note that this effect of contrasting temperatures, can leads to cracks and breakage of washing machine’s plastic and rubber components.                               

In a residential apartment, storing washing machines in garage that are used for other activities can play a little role in preserving the appliance. On the otherhand, leaving them in locked garage or rooms unattended will reduce how long they can remain unused, before developing faults.                       

Humidity             

Humidity is never a friend to metals, iron especially. A washing machine left in humid condition is likely to develop faults. 

The heating element of a most modern machines are especially prone to rust. This in turn, can affect it’s functionality. A washer left too long in humid condition, might startup when turned on, but not function properly.                                                                                                                               

When using a washing machine after it’s been stored for long

Using a washing machine that hasn’t been used for a long time is trickery. It’s like fielding a player in a rigorous sport straight from the bench. Without proper warmup, he or she will perform poorly and/or sustain injury.

In like manner, before using a stored washing machine, you must do proper checks and “warm it up”, so to speak.

The below tips will help to prepare the machine for use and reduce hazards or accidents during operation.

  1. Thoroughly clean off dusts.
  2. Inspect washer for cracks and other physical damages.
  3. Test-run the washer on empty load
  4. Service the appliance before use
  5. Connect the washer to a grounded circuit or gcfi

Thoroughly clean off dusts.

One of the first thing go develop on stored washing machines is dust. And this should be the first thing to remove from it before contemplating operating it.

Remove dusts from all visible locations. This includes the washer top, hose connectors, power plug, drum cover and all surfaces of the washer.

Next…

Inspect washer for cracks and other physical damages

  • Inspect the washer for cracks. Thoroughly check washer door rubber seal, hoses and other rubber components for cracks. They are the first to break when stored in unideal conditions
  • Next inspect detergent compartment. This could have cracks or breakage that might leak water during operation
  • Look for rusts in metal surfaces. Check hose connectors and mesh filter, they’re prone to rusts. If your washer is a top loader, inspect drum vents.
  • Check your washer feet. Rusty feet can eventually crack or break during operation. Some feet have rubber padding attached, inspect them. Cracked or broken rubber pad can cause washer imbalance, this is bad for washing operation.

Test-run the washer on empty load

Even with a thorough check, some faults will only be identified during operation. So it is a good practice to run your washing on an empty load. 

  • Fill the washer with water. 
  • Check for leakages, both from door seal,hose and hose connectors
  • Check for oil leakage under the washing machine.
  • Check for hot water, ensure water heats up and does so to high temperatures

Service the appliance before use

It is ideal to service a washing machine after a long time without usage. If you’re not technically inclined and are not familiar with washing machine operations, kindly leave this for a washing machine technician.

  • He’ll need to some servicing on the appliance before turning it up. 
  • This will include inspecting for faults and damages as mentioned above. 
  • Checking washing machine pcb (printed circuit board) for dusts or damaged components
  • Greasing moving components
  • Checking internal components for rusts and damages.
  • Inspecting water heater
  • Checking wire connections for cracks, breaks and tears
  • Etc.

Many faults can be identified this way and addressed before powering up the appliance. Even if you have some idea of electronics, this check is not your regular prewash checks, so it is best you leave it for an approved technician.

Connect the washer to a grounded circuit or gcfi

All due protocols followed, prepare for the worst. Even with proper checks and inspections, it is safe to assume that a washer that has been abandoned for long will develop some issue at startup.

The most dreaded issue is the possibility of short circuit or other electrical incidents. Therefore you can go one step further, by connecting your washer first to a grounded circuit. This is non-negotiable.

Then if available, ensure your appliance is connected to a circuit with a working fuse, circuit breaker, gcfi or other safety machanism.

In the effect of a mishap. This will restrict to damage to just the washing machine, and protect the entire building.

Conclusion

How long can a washing machine sit unused

Washing machines are heavy, durable appliances. They are able to endure a long time without use. If you have one, ensure you take proper safety measures before use.

Chances are, with a little servicing, your washer should work just fine. And when next you think of shelving your washer, remember you don’t have indefinite time to shelf it. Your washer’s lifespan is probably just 10 years.

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