A washing machine is an essential household appliance. It’s also a major financial investment. Here’s how to avoid laundry-day faux pas that have the potential to damage your washer ... perhaps permanently.

1. Zippers

ZipperBesides snagging delicate clothes, zippers can catch in your washing machine’s drum. Zipper scratches on the doors of front loading washers are even suspected of perhaps causing the glass panel to explode.  

Fix: Before doing a load of laundry, make sure any zipper tabs are pulled all the way to the top.

2. Brassieres

Bra claspYour dainty “lady things” can actually be pretty rough on even the toughest washer. Hooks and underwires may damage the drum.  

Fix: Hand wash, or stash your lingerie in a specially-made mesh bag. An old pillow case works equally well, as long as you knot the end.

3. Coins

Coins in pocketAnother type of metal object that endangers your laundry machine is coins. Left unnoticed in a pocket or tote, these batter against your washer’s drum and glass door with even more force than zippers or hooks.  

Fix: Check the pockets of all clothes before tossing them in the machine. Some folks claim that keeping any cash found this way is a perk for the person who does the wash.

4. Cold water

Running water and vinegar through washing machineAlthough washing with cold water saves energy and reduces shrinkage and fading of your natural-fiber clothes, you can have too much of a good thing. Your washing machine will perform better (and smell better!) if you regularly run a maintenance cycle.

Fix: Set the (empty) machine to its hottest temperature, add a cup of vinegar and put the washer through its paces to descale and remove mineral deposits. Perform this task at least once a month.

5. Wet clothes

Wet clothesLeaving wet laundry in the machine long after the wash cycle has completed leads to unpleasant odors and possibly mold in both your clothes and your washer.  

Fix: remove finished wash loads promptly. When, for whatever reason, you can’t dry the laundry immediately, place it in a plastic laundry basket in a ventilated area to reduce the risk of smells and mildew.  If you’re unable even to do that, at least open the washing machine door.

6. Too much detergent

Pouring detergent into washing machineOverdosing your washer with detergent won’t get your clothes cleaner – in fact it tends to leave them dingy due to leftover soap residue – and it just might damage your machine’s sensitive control panel.  

Fix: Check your user’s manual to see how much detergent is optimal for your model, then use that as a measuring guide, especially if you have a modern high-efficiency washing machine. Out of laundry detergent? Resist the temptation to sub in dishwasher detergent; its high foaming action is really bad news for a clothes washer.

7. Too much electricity

A lightning strike or severe power surge can harm circuits and melt plastic components of any appliance containing a microprocessor, such as refrigerators, computers and washing machines.  

Fix: Protect all expensive appliances by grounding your electrical system adequately and installing surge protectors. It is recommended to unplug your washer when not in use.

8. Too much laundry

Full washing machineYour washing machine is willing to work only so hard and no harder. Overstuffing it with dirty clothes tends to cause excessive wear on its suspension and bearings.  

Fix: Check the manufacturer’s suggestions for your particular model’s capacity in pounds. Weigh a few sample loads to get an idea of what that looks like. Remember that items such as heavy denim work clothes or thick wool sweaters generally weigh more than the same volume of, say, polyester blouses.

Laura Firszt originally wrote this story for Networx.com.

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Click for photo credits

Photo credits:

Zipper: Lane V. Erickson/Shutterstock

Bra clasp: mayer kleinostheim/Shutterstock
Coins: STILLFX/Shutterstock
Water in washing machine: nexus 7/Shutterstock
Wet clothes: Marie C Fields/Shutterstock

Detergent: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Full washing machine: sleep24Photo/Shutterstock

8 common laundry mistakes that may damage your washing machine
Zippers, coins and clasps —oh my! Follow these tips for a long-lasting, efficient washer.